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Guitar Player
Encore

January 1994
by Tom Wheeler



Link to Guitar Player Magazine

ibson's first f-hole arch top, the L-5, was introduced in late 1922, along with Lloyd Loar's other Master models (see last month's encore). One would have to look over the last century and half of the seminal designs of Torres or Martin to find guitars of similar innovation and influence. As Jay Scott says in the first sentence of the Guitars of The Fred Gretsch Company, "In the beginning was the L-5 as the model for its own instruments." All Master Models featured f-holes rather than then-conventional oval or round sound holes. As Gruhn and Carter point out in Acoustic Guitars, it was ironically this mandolin innovation that when incorporated into the L-5, would set the standard for arch tops and ultimately bring the guitar out of the mandolin's shadow. They add, "For a combination of column, attack, and sustain, the L-5 had no equal."

   Early L-5s featured a 16" - wide birch body (although catalogs specified maple), a pointed fingerboard, flowerpot peg head inlay, "snakehead" peg head, a lovely The Gibson script inlay, an unbound pick guard, silver-played hardware, and Virzi Tone Producer- and interior, top mounted mini-soundboard that theoretically enhanced the model, with maple sides that more closely match the published specs, a bound pick guard, and gold-plated hardware. Any original L-5 from the '20s is rare and very valuable, but this one is rarer than usual; in fact, as far as we know, it's unique, with an original, custom black varnish finish instead of the Style 5's typical Cremona brown sunburst. And it is, as collectors say, dead mint.

   In an adjectival rapture, Gibson hailed it as "The Master Line Guitar L-5 Professional Special Grant Concert Model." And as a glance reveals, it was indeed stunning. If there is more aesthetically perfect arch top in existence, a better blend of simplicity and luxury, concept and detain, I haven't seen it.End

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