12/09/2015

1936 Gibson L-75 Round-hole Carved-top Guitar




Update #2: I made a nice one-piece bridge for this that's installed right now and gives this a bit more oomph and grumble. I've just updated the pics. This also comes with a non-original adjustable rosewood bridge, too.

Update from Mr. Victor:  "Just a quick note to let you know your roundhole L-4 is actually most likely a L-75. L-4 had maple B&S and a label inside (being more upscale) while L-75 had mahogany and no label. L-75 also had the sunburst sides, which is a rare and cool feature. L-75 are rare birds, and the flat-back is even rarer, although more of a low-end attribute." Thanks, Victor!

Ah, you've gotta love the look and style of these Gibson round-hole archtop guitars! I still miss the '34 L-50 (smaller cousin of this) that I sold a while back. It was an integral sound to my recording of Has Been Framed. This '36 L-75 comes by way of a consignor and it arrived much-repaired already, but needing a fret level/dress, setup-side adjustments, one extra crack cleat installed, and a set of replacement tuners.

It's now playing beautifully and has the throbby-but-open tone that I associate with these tic-tac-toe-braced carved-tops. This guitar is the same dimension-wise as an L-48 or L-50 (or, for that matter, the "black top" L-30s) with a 16" lower bout and "curvaceous" form, but has a flat back rather than a carved one. This, to my ears, imparts a more "woody" tone which gives it more crossover appeal to someone who's used to flatpicking on a flattop. The back and sides are also mahogany instead of maple which gives it a different overtone series and more of a lower-mids "yum" to the tone and less-aggressive upper-mids/highs.


She's a beaut, huh?

The body finish is all-original with all the weather-check and use-wear one would expect. The neck, however, has a coat of overspray that's slightly "milky" on the back of it.

I've set it up spot-on: a straight neck (truss works), 24 3/4" scale length, and 3/32 EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret (strung with 12s).

As far as cracks? The top has a couple hairline cracks running along the center-seam (all cleated/stable/filled) as well as one at the waist (short, fixed), and one near the fretboard extension (also filled and cleated). The back has one 4-5" hairline crack that's tight and glued-up (but not cleated). The treble side has one long, very well-repaired hairline crack (lots of bigger cleats) and one shorter one, but the bass side is crack-free save one smaller, tight hairline.


The nut looks like it could be original or at least is fairly old. The tuners are brand-new nickel Kluson-style repros which I put on in favor over the somewhat-crudded-up old Grover Rotomatics that were installed before.

Nut width is 1 3/4" and the Brazilian rosewood board has a medium radius to it and a few minor finger-groove fill jobs (not noticeable). The neck itself has a mild-medium V-shape to it and is quite comfy.


I'm fairly certain these are older replaced frets and they did need to get a level/dress to iron out minor inconsistencies in them. They have plenty of life left.



The pickguard is not original but looks grand on it. The mounting hardware is unoriginal as well.

As far as other "originality" goes -- the tailpiece and endpin are original but the tuners and bridge are not.


Here's my new one-piece, compensated, rosewood bridge.

The neck is at a shallower angle than when it was built but there's not neck-angle issues, really: the fretboard extension dips slightly "down" as opposed to ski-jumping and I've adjusted the tailpiece's end-angle to keep the little downward-pointing "wings" at the retainer from having a chance of bumping on the top if one gets rough-and-tumble when playing.




I really do think these are especially "sexy" guitars. They're a great "crossover" option and work equally well for old-time and jazz-comp. They certainly have a very "period" sound that suits a variety of tones from old-country lead/fill picking through country-blues, ragtime, big band, and vaudeville sounds.

There's a reason these are scarce on the market: folks like 'em and there aren't a lot to go around!






The back shows more wear-and-tear and a healthy "moisture rub" from a player's belly or belt-area.


They're not period, but these Kluson-style repros work quite well and are a heck of a lot better looking (and functioning) than the old Rotomatics that were installed.


The sunburst "sides" are only found on L-75s, really.








It's hard to see, but you can see some of the repaired cracks on the treble side, here. The 1-2 longer ones run from the shoulder through to about 6" from the endpin but have all been cleated-up and repaired very well.



An original hard case comes with it and I've replaced the broken handle with a "hillbilly fix" handle.



Here's that old cleating job on the inside.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very cool guitar, Jake.

A few years ago, I watched a video of Sam Chatmon, a talented but underrated Delta blues musician, playing a mysterious but great-sounding roundhole archtop. Not the kind of guitar you'd typically associate with bluesmen of the 1920s and 1930s. There still seems to be some debate about whether Sam played a Gibson L-50 or L-4. What do you think?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQWuFXbPXrQ

Jake Wildwood said...

He's playing the L-50 with the L-00 body shape. You can tell by the way the body's pinched differently. It's not so womanly/curvy at the upper bout. Both great guitars and very, very similar. A little more power with the L-4.