Introduced in 1923, the L-5 was Gibson’s first f-hole archtop guitar (see 16-Inch Timeline for more on the introduction date). Indeed, it was the first guitar by any manufacturer to combine a carved top and back, f-holes, an adjustable truss rod and a neck that joined the body at the 14th fret. At a time when Martin’s pearl-encrusted 000-45 retailed at $150, the L-5 carried a princely price tag of almost $304.50 (including a Gibson 515 case) and it remained Gibson’s flagship model until the launch of the Super 400 (costing $400.00 including the case and cover) in 1935 .

The ensuing years saw the L-5 undergo many changes, evolving from the original 16-inch wide, non-cutaway design, through the 17-inch ‘Advanced’ model and finally on to the L-5 Premier, complete with a rounded ‘Venetian’ style cutaway. By the early 1950s, Gibson had successfully added an electric version – the L-5CES – to its line.

In the process, the Gibson L-5 established a benchmark by which archtop guitars from other manufacturers are judged. Epiphone, D’Angelico, Gretsch, Stromberg and later Guild all offered models based on the L-5, a tradition that is continued to this day by luthiers like Bob Benedetto, Mark Campellone and Bill Collings.

Click on the images above to learn more about the history of the Gibson L-5, information about Lloyd Loar and details of the Master Model Series