Year shipped: 1938 (see note on dating, below)
FON: 2544 (hand-written in red pencil)
Headstock: Large ‘flared’ headstock with horizontal ‘Gibson’ script logo. The name ‘Bill Ashley’ is engraved on the truss rod cover. Bone nut
Neck/fingerboard: 20 fret fingerboard with pointed end and narrow block inlays from the first fret (see Notes below). Wide neck heel and 24 ¾-inch scale length
Body: Maple back and sides with small bound f-holes. Has five-ply top binding and triple-bound back. The top bracing is kerfed
Hardware: Gold-plated metal parts including hinged tailpiece with silver centre insert and Grover Imperial tuners. Long bound pickguard and rosewood bridge ((see Notes on tuners and pickguard below)
Notes: This guitar was first shipped on April 7th 1939, to Hunleth Music in St. Louis, a major Gibson dealer. It was returned to the factory for repair, then shipped a second time on September 5th 1941, to an individual named Tom Christian
The long ‘Advanced’ style pickguard may be a replacement. It has the ‘marbled’ appearance sometimes seen on the Super 400 model. It has a screw hole by the neck block but there is no evidence on the guitar that the pickguard was ever mounted in this manner. It is now pinned to the side of the fingerboard as is standard for L-5s of the late 1930s.
According to Retrofret, the patent applied Grover Imperial tuners were not available yet in 1939. If this is the case, they may have been fitted when the guitar was returned to the Gibson factory before being shipped again in 1941.
The wide neck heel, ‘Advanced’ style fingerboard, ‘flared’ headstock, Advanced-style pickguard and tailpiece, bound f-holes and five-ply top binding are features more usually found on 17-Inch L-5s suggesting that the neck may have been replaced at some point (see our feature on ‘Post-1934 16-inch L-5s’).
This is one of eight 16-inch L-5s shipped in 1938
Joe Spann says: “While serial number 95575 would normally indicate first shipping in August or September of 1938, there are reasons why the shipping of a Gibson instrument might be delayed.
“The earliest shipping date (or dates) may simply not be recorded in the shipping ledgers. The ledgers are notoriously unreliable and full of errors and omissions. Many high-cost instruments were shipped and returned over and over again so that the 1939 shipping date might be a second, third, or fourth repetition of shipping.
“The guitar was completed in August or September of 1938, but was then purchased directly at the factory (thus requiring no shipping ledger entry), and later returned to the company on dealer exchange, or simply returned as being unsatisfactory.
“The guitar was completed in August or September of 1938 as part of a larger order, but then the order was reduced in size and the guitar was not immediately shipped.”
Images courtesy of Retrofret