1930 Kel Kroydon KK1

The Kel Kroydon line was Gibson's first budget instrument brand, with the first flat-top guitars, mandolins, and banjos rolling out of Kalamazoo in late 1929, and the last some two years later. Unlike the later catalogue-store budget lines of Gibson such as Kalamazoo and Cromwell, the Kel Kroydon instruments were built identically to their Gibson-branded equivalents, but without adjustable neck rods, and with different finishes. The guitar and mandolin models had simple squared-off headstocks as well.

  1930 was a particularly magical year for flat top guitars at Gibson. The larger incarnation of the L body had arrived on the scene at the tail end of 1929 along with X bracing, and guitars leaving the factory were becoming progressively lighter and lighter into the third quarter of 1930.  At the same time, the neck carving folks landed on a design that, some 90 years later, has become the archetype of perfection. All that would change by 1931 though, as Gibson thickened up the tops and beefed up the bracing of their flat-top acoustics while at the same time thinning out the fingerboards by nearly half of their thickness on many of their models.

  The flat-top guitars built during that short period in 1930 are among the most lightly built and beguilingly special acoustics ever made by Gibson.  Although not for everyone - due to their fragile build and the extra light strings they run - these featherweight instruments offer the utmost in intimacy, subtlety, and responsiveness to a light to medium hand. This Kel Kroydon weighs in at 2.6 lbs with strings, which is about 25% lighter than one built a year later.

  The Kel Kroydon's body is identical in construction to the early Gold Sparkle Gibson L-2 models built at the same time. The braces are shockingly small and narrow - measuring nearly half as tall as braces in later guitars – and the bridge plate is not much more than a veneer of maple at forty-thousandths of an inch thick (1mm).  The top is also stunningly thin and has noticeable deflection around the bridge and soundhole to match.  The guitar's neck has full and round carve that's not massive and, with its nut width of 1-3/4”, feels like a 50s Gibson neck that's just a hair wider.  The bridge pins are set at 2-3/8, and the scale is 24-3/4.

  This guitar has survived its 90 years very well. It is for all practical purposes a crack-free instrument, and it plays easily thanks to a fairly recent neck reset. The original finish is in wonderful shape, as are the tuners, nut, and fretboard. There are a few cleanly glued back brace ends, and the bridge is a convincing reproduction. Fret dress, new aged saddle and set-up care of our shop.  We've used John Pearse 11-50 strings and suggest that nothing heavier be used on this Kel Kroydon. Action set at just under 5 to 6 64ths.

  This guitar is all about the playing experience, the feel of the instrument's back vibrating, the low frequencies shuddering through the body and neck, and the depth and expressiveness of the mids and highs. It's not a lead guitar or a strummer, and its sustain is shortened - giving into overtones and smokiness. It's a guitar that's up close and personal, and one that offers its best to a gentle and controlled right hand. It's not one that everyone will like, but for the right player, it can't be bettered. 

  With modern deluxe hardshell case.