Year shipped: 1929
Neck: Fingerboard and headstock: see below for more details.
Body: Maple back and sides
Hardware: Non-original trapeze tailpiece, DeArmond pickup and short pickguard
Luthier, vintage guitar expert and guitar tech Lynn Wheelwright tells us about the 1929 pictured here:
“This L-5 belonged to Alvino Rey and remains in the family today. Alvino got this guitar from Eddie Lang in New York in the late 1920s when he went to play with Phil Spitalney’s orchestra. I was Alvino’s guitar tech for the last 20 years of his life and this is the story he told me of its acquisition. One of the first things Alvino did when he got to New York was to visit Eddie, who was a guitar hero of the day. Alvino went to Eddie’s hotel room, where two Gibson L-5’s that had just been delivered sat on the bed. Eddie was going to send one back, as it had a crack in the f-hole. Alvino asked if he could purchase it and Eddie sold it to him for what Gibson wanted, which was half of the retail cost. Alvino played this guitar for some time just as he had bought it but after becoming interested in the classical guitar (he studied with Segovia), he sent it to Gibson sometime around 1936 to have the neck replaced. He wanted something that felt more like the big, classical necks that he played. Gibson apparently cut off the original neck (you can see the remnants of the original in the bottom of the neck pocket) and built a new one with a two-inch wide nut. Gibson used the Super 400 split pearl headstock inlay but kept the dot fingerboard inlay pattern. The machine heads were replaced in the 1950’s with Gold tulip button Klusons. Alvino later regretted the decision to have the guitar altered.
“In the late 1980s, Alvino wanted to start playing the guitar again but the top had sunk considerably – one of the braces had cracked and the other was compromised. I removed the back and the braces and replaced them. While I was in there, I cleated the old cracks and made a plot map of the top with one inch squares. I did a thickness plot across every square inch. “
The image (above) shows the interior of the guitar when Lynn had removed the back to repair it.
Alvino is pictured (below) playing the guitar, as he bought it from Eddie Lang. See more on Alvino Rey here.
The photo (above) shows Alvino Rey playing the L-5 after the neck had been replaced by Gibson in the mid-1930s. Image courtesy of André Duchossoir.
Lynn Wheelwright comments:
“This black and white picture (above) is interesting. If you compare it to the colour picture (top of the page), everything is different apart from the truss rod cover. The tuners in the black and white picture are Epiphone and the tailpiece and bridge as well as the pickguard are different.
The colour picture shows the guitar as I got it from Alvino when I fixed a broken brace in the top. When I first met him, he had another L-5 that he used for recording because he said it sounded sweeter. If I remember correctly, that L-5 had the tailpiece and Epiphone tuners that are shown in the black and white picture, which makes me wonder if it also had the long pickguard. I have no idea when these changes may have happened.”
Pictures courtesy of Lynn Wheelwright unless otherwise specified