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20th Century Guitar
Gibson SJ-200

March 1997
by Bianca Soros

Link to 20th Century Guitar Magazine

ibson's Super 400 Jumbo, first introduced to the public in 1937, was primarily designed for Country Western players, and as the name suggests, it was a large bodied beauty with sex appeal. The Gibson company regularly offered instruments to Hollywood celebrities for publicity purposes and endorsement for their catalogs and promotional literature. Through association with singing cowboys and film stars like Gene Autry, Ray Whitley, "Crash" Corrigan, Roy Rogers and Tex Witter, the SJ-200 became widely recognized on and off the silver screen.

   Historians for years believed that Ray Whitley's 1937 J-200 guitar to be the prototype, partly because Whitley had told historian Ranger Doug Green of Riders in the Sky that his guitar was the first J-200 and no earlier examples were known to exist. But, in fact, a year earlier, Gibson had given Hollywood movie star Ray "Crash" Corrigan, who starred in over 100 major films and was the first celebrity to endorse Wheaties and a standard model SJ-200, single x-braced with triple tone bars, mahogany back and sides, non-reinforced bridge, and wide, elaborate backstrip.

   Recently, a standard production SJ-200 has surfaced, which also predates the Whitley model. This non-celebrity guitar, shown on the right with rosewood backs and sides, reinforced bridge and a sunburst headstock backplate, has the early 1937 production number of 6-C. The bracing pattern for the top was redesigned to a single x-brace with double tone bars, which remained the standard until after WW II. The wood marquetry backstrip, which came from Germany, was made thinner but patterned after the Corrigan example.

   Gibson created the $200 SJ-200 premier flattop to compete with Martin's top-of-the-line D-45. These first SJ-200's set a timeless standard of design with their current production and the desire for SJ-200's continues. End

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