Serial number: 86289 Howard Emerson
Year shipped: 1930
This guitar began its life as a tenor guitar and was converted at the Gibson Factory to a regular six-string (see note from Joe Spann below). As a result, much of the hardware is non-original to the guitar as it was shipped. Howard Emerson describes how he came by the guitar.
Howard says: “My TGL-5, was converted from a Tenor to a six string at the factory in 1933. It still maintains its banjo heritage via a 10th fret marker.
“I got the guitar from the daughter of the original owner, whose name was Louis Bauman but performed under the stage name of Lou Bernie, which is written on the truss rod cover!
“Lou was originally a banjo player and, despite its having been converted to a six string, the guitar still has its 10th fret inlay in place!
“Lou’s daughter, Sandy Bauman, owned an antique store that I used to frequent and we got friendly over time.
“At some point she told me that she had an old guitar that had belonged to her father and asked if I’d be interested in buying it. She brought out this old, worn case and upon opening it, I knew exactly what it was!
“The heel and upper bout sides were cracked and there was a hand-made curly maple bridge. I took the guitar out of the case and said to her ‘Sandy, in good shape these things are worth a lot of money’ Without missing a beat she said ‘Give me $35.00 and it’s yours.’
“I took the guitar to my friend, John Monteleone and he glued and doweled the heel crack.
At some point I traded the guitar to John for a 1954 Martin 00-18 and a 16-inch Stihl chain saw. John eventually sold the guitar to the late Michael Katz for $1,000. Michael found an original tailpiece and had Bob Jones do a neck set on it.
Michael saw me playing at the 20th Century Guitar Show in Dix Hills, NY and after my set, he came over and said “You make that guitar sound so good, Howard so it is yours to keep”………I was stunned, to say the least!“I have used it as my bottleneck guitar ever since and it has all the sustain of a good flat top – probably due to its having the lighter bracing of a tenor guitar. It still has the punch of an archtop, of course!”
Gibson researcher Joe Spann, author of Spann’s Guide to Gibson, says: “This Gibson guitar appears to be part of a batch of five similar instruments that were produced in 1930. They are described in Gibson’s ledgers as model TG-5 instruments. While the Factory Order Number (FON) in this specific guitar is not legible, other units shipped at the same time have been identified as being from batch 9705. Other unmodified units from this batch have been observed with the ‘diamonds & snowflakes’ peghead inlay, dots in the fingerboard and Grover DeLuxe ‘two-band’ tuners on their original tenor necks.
“Serial number 86289 suggests that the instrument was shipped immediately on completion in July or August of 1930. While the original shipping ledgers for this period have not yet been discovered, the uniqueness of the TG-5 model and small total production numbers suggest that this group of five instruments may have been a special order. The original destination of this guitar is not known.
“In 1935 the guitar was sent back to Gibson for modifications. It was then returned to the New York Band Instruments Company of New York City on 29 July 1935 in a #515 case with the notation ‘TG-5 made into L-5 recorded in the shipping ledgers.’
“The guitar was returned to Gibson again in 1948. Repairs to the unit were completed in June 1948 and it was shipped back to Lou Bauman in a ‘faultless’ case on the 8th of that month.
“The guitar is not mentioned in any other later shipping ledger through September 1951.”
To see more on Howard Emerson, go to his Players’ Page where you can also see him playing his L-5 live.