Year shipped: 1933
Headstock: ‘Flared’ headstock (wider at top) with diagonal ‘Gibson’ script logo. The headstock inlay is the same as that found on the 1924 Gibson TB-5 trapdoor banjo
Neck/fingerboard: Neck with wide rosewood centre lamination framed by two narrow ivoroid strips. 19-fret fingerboard with a pointed end and inlay pattern the same as that found on some 1930s Mastertone banjos. Has semi-circular neck heel
Body: Maple back and sides
Hardware: Gold-plated metal parts including regular tailpiece. Long bound pickguard
Notes: The gold-plated Harmony Tune-Rite Jr.s (2180GP) tuners are not original to the guitar
The L-5 pictured here was built to meet the needs of guitarist Carl Kress. It has neck, headstock and heel dimensions unlike those of any other Gibson instrument of the period. The word ‘Special’ is hand-written on its interior label. The fingerboard inlays are enclosed in rosewood rectangles with an ivoroid border and are the same as those found on some 1930s Style 3 Mastertone banjos, the Style 5 Deluxe Mastertone banjo and some L-75 archtops. The headstock inlay also has an ivoroid border and is the same as that found on the mid 1920s style 5 trap-door banjo. A few 17-inch Advanced L-5s from the late 1930s have an identical headstock inlay though in all other respects these are standard L-5s (see serial number: 97670). Though the tuners are a style found on some wartime instruments, they are not typical of an instrument from the early 1930s.
According to Joe Spann (author of Spann’s Guide to Gibson), Gibson built at least four examples of this model, all of which were shipped to New York Band, in Manhattan. Spann also points out this guitar was shipped from the factory in 1933 and was likely returned to the factory by the dealer in an exchange program. Gibson shipping ledgers indicate that it was shipped a final time on the 22nd of June, 1937, as an “Old Style L-5” in a #515 case to New York Band.
You can read more about this fascinating guitar here
For another Carl Kress L-5 see serial number 91615
Images courtesy of Gruhn Guitars
Images courtesy of Rod Mcdonald