Vintage Instruments: Gibson Guitars

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1962 Gibson Johnny Smith

Gibson’s Johnny Smith was introduced in 1961 and held the honour of being the company’s most expensive artist model, and only less expensive than the Super 400 CES. A fully acoustic archtop, the Johnny Smith featured a neck-mounted floating mini humbuckers with pickguard mounted controls, fully carved 17” body with X braced top, 25” scale length, and gold hardware. The model was essentially a hybrid of the L5 and Super 400, with the body of the former and neck of the latter and a few minor modifications thrown in. It’s the first Gibson branded model to have been built with a mini humbucker pickup, and this early example features the tortoise-celluloid non-adjustable “poles” that were standard only until mid 1962.

A wonderful sounding archtop with plenty of warmth, openness, and enough forward projection and cut for ensemble playing, the acoustic side of this guitar is quite heavenly. Plugged in, the neck pickup really sings. The floating mini humbucker and 25” scale combined with the guitar’s 17” body make this a remarkably good sounding jazz box. It’s fun to play, and thanks to its 17” body and really comfortable neck carve it’s perfectly manageable to get around.

The guitar has been played a lot, and shows the wear of some 55 years of pro use. There are a handful of repaired top cracks, areas of worn away finish on the neck, and buckle-rash on the back. The original finish shows plenty of dings, dents, and scratching, but hasn’t been touched up anywhere. The frets, nut and pickguard are replacements, along with the volume pot, and there is an extra strap button on the guitar’s side adjacent to the neck heel. Original pickup, tuners, tailpiece, and bridge. The frets show some wear but play quite cleanly, and the setup (done here) is low and fast. The neck carve is typical of 1962, with a nut width of 1-11/16” and a low D profile.

With Calton case

Shipping into the USA?

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