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Vintage Gallery
October 1994
by Chris Gill

   Scott loved big-bodied Larson flat-tops. The bigger the better. This 1939 Prairie State is 19 inches wide and was originally an f-hole flat-top built under tension. The guitar was retopped in the early '60s by visionary vintage collector Jon Lundberg.

arl and August Larson made more than 11,000 stringed instruments between 1900 and 1944. But even though they built thousands of guitars, their name is unfamiliar to many collectors because they rarely put their names on the instruments they made. Their guitars bear either the name of their distributor's brands such as Stahl or Dyer, or one of three in-house brand names -- Maurer, Prairie State, or Euphonon.

   The Larson brothers experimented with several huge guitar designs, including a mammoth 21" wide, 6-1/8" deep Prairie State that they constructed in 1935. This custom-made 1939 Prairie State is 19" wide, a full inch larger than Gibson's biggest jazz box, the Super 400. This guitar was originally an archtop, but it was converted to a flat-top in the early '60s by John Lundberg of Berkeley, California, one of the very first vintage guitar dealers. The original top was in bad repair, so Lundberg replaced it using an old piece of spruce. He also created a new design for the bridge. However, the cutaway is original, proving that Gibson was not the only company producing cutaway guitars in 1939. The pearl inlays are also original, having been saved when the new top was installed. The back, sides, and neck are made of maple.

   "Although this guitar is huge, it's light as a feather and sounds fantastic," notes Hank Risan of Washington Street Music in Santa Cruz, California, who owns this beautiful beast. Photo by Paul Haggard.End

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