Vintage Instruments: Gibson Guitars

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1945 Gibson Banner J-45

A remarkably clean, mahogany-topped Banner J-45 from the tail end of the Banner era. By the time this guitar was built things were starting to get back to ‘normal’ at Gibson, although not quite. This Banner is built with a two-piece mahogany top that’s not bookmatched but is mostly quartersawn and straight-grained. The one-piece back is straight-grained as well, and the guitar has amazingly survived the years with no cracks anywhere in the body. We suspect it was built during the winter months of 1945/6. Under the hood the scalloped braces and bridgeplate are original and in excellent shape, some braces have been reglued, the kerfed linings are mahogany and the neck block is still poplar, as those of most mid/late Banners are. One-piece mahogany neck with a truss-rod and a carve that’s large and round, but much smaller than the ‘baseball bat’ necks on Banners from earlier in the era. Nut width is 1-3/4”, with 2-5/32” string spread at the saddle, and 24.75” scale. The fingerboard and bridge are rosewood, and the original Kluson tuners have early post-war full-size gears riveted to pre-war sized tuner posts, an interesting transitional feature.

With its ‘Made in USA’ stamp on the back of the headstock, this Banner J-45 has likely been in Canada since the end of WWII, and appears to have been seldom used. There is almost no playwear to the guitar’s finish, and were it not for the heavy crazing in the lacquer it would look nearly new. It’s had a remarkably well-done neck reset – so well, in fact, that there’s a tiny heel repair that we didn’t even notice until black-lighting – and the frets have been replaced expertly. The set-up and playability are excellent, with a medium action under light strings and plenty of saddle height for adjustment. Original lacquer on the bridge and buttons on the tuners. It’s a really clean and original guitar.

Mahogany-topped Banners are famous for their snap and definition mated to the raw power and bold bass-end response that the spruce Banners are known for, and this guitar fits that bill perfectly. Under a lighter attack the mahogany top keeps its full tone and brightness and tends to offer up more of a full-bodied sound that you’d expect, so it’s an excellent choice for players who want Banner tone without needing to pound on the strings. It’s a quickly responsive J-45, with excellent sustain and a clean and clear fundamental. Players with a harder attack will enjoy the guitar’s headroom, clarity, and mid-range presence. It takes it place perfectly in a mix, and likely would perform really well in a loud jam.

With hardshell case

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