Year Shipped: 1930
Headstock: Horizontal ‘The Gibson’ logo
Neck/fingerboard: Replacement fingerboard (see Notes below for details)
Body: Maple back and sides
Hardware: Gold-plated metal parts including wrap-over tailpiece and Waverly three-on-a-strip tuners with engraved base plate and pearl buttons, mounted so that the cog is positioned below the worm gear. Short bound pickguard.
Notes: This L-5 is currently owned by Larry van de Leensel. When he bought it, it came with a letter from its previous owner, Bill H. Watts, who bought it from the Southern California Music Company in 1940. Bill states that the original owner was Eddie Scurvanic, Musical Director of A.B.C. Radio in Hollywood. The guitar later belonged to instrument repairman, Milt Owens, who built and installed a new ebony fingerboard and bridge “to strict Gibson Factory standards”.
“I took instructions on this guitar from the late George M. Smith, Staff Guitarist for Victor Young Musical Director for Paramount Studios in 1940 & 1941,” says Bill.
“George Smith used the guitar to make recordings with Jazz Violinist Joe Venuti and with Victor Young’s Orchestra on the Fitch Bandwagon Transcontinental Radio Broadcast in early 1940.
“In the early 1950s, I sat in a jam session with Tony Romano of Radio K.F.R.C. San Francisco and Joe Venuti. During that session, we compared three L-5 Gibson guitars. My 1927, Tony’s L-5 and Eddie Lang’s so-called original L-5 (Eddie Lang’s widow had given Joe Venuti Eddie Lang’s L-5 to sell). We compared serial numbers of all three guitars and my guitar was the oldest of the three. Joe later sold Eddie Lang’s guitar for $7,500.”
“I carried the above guitar all through my days during my four years in the service playing with many groups and bands. Since then, I have played in Al Bahr Shrine Dance Band and other small bands doing solo and accompaniment work.”
The L-5 arrived complete with this letter (below) from Gibson dated February 3 1982.
It includes the statement: “Our manufacturing records indicate that your L-5 guitar was produced in the year 1927. Allene Guidebeck, Manager, Service Dept.”
Note that the year of production and year of shippig do not necessarily coincide.
The guitar was bought from Southern California Music Company in 1940 and was paid for in instalments. Here is the payment booklet (below) which shows that Bill Watts paid $8 per month. His final payment was on August 23rd 1940.
New images below with grateful thanks to Larry van de Leensel