Gibson L5


The 16 inch Gibson L5 is of special interest because it is generally considered to be the archetype of all archtop guitars up to this day. It had a taptuned carved top and back and the first cello-style f-holes on a fretted instrument since the seventeenth century. It was named the L5 because it was the companies 5th productionline archtop. The first version was manufactured between 1922 and 1924 under the supervision of Lloyd Loar. The L5 was unrivaled for many years until 1931, the year Epiphone launched its full range of Masterbilt archtop guitars, which started the clash between the two companies for more then two decades.

gibson fon
During the pre-World War II period, Gibson used a separate serial number system in addition to the factory order system. Those two numbering systems are often confused with one another, even by knowledgeable instrument experts. All Gibson instruments received a factory order number (FON) at the beginning of the production process, but not all Gibson instruments received a serial number. Higher-end guitars and mandolins received them consistently from 1902 onward. Gibson serial numbers are the best indicator of when an instrument was shipped, while factory order numbers are the best indicator of when an instrument was manufactured. (Spann, p.189)

For the vast majority of pre-Wold War II Gibson guitars and mandolins having serial-numbers, they may be found in one of two places on the instrument : handwritten on a paper label that is glued inside the body or stamped into the back of the peghead.  (Spann, p. 190)

gibson headstock sn

Gibson had many endorsers over the years. Spann mentions only one endorser from the Netherlands, Jac Pet from Rotterdam, who purchased a Gibson guitar in 1930, but does not mention the model. (Spann, p. 246) Jac Pet played upright bass, guitar and banjo in the well known Dutch radio orchestra The Ramblers. In the Guinness Book of Records (see picture) The Ramblers are mentioned as the oldest still performing dance band in the world.

September 2016 Freek van Eijk send us a photo of the Ramblers with Jac Pet holding a Gibson L4. Another riddle solved.

Kevin Siggins :
Paul Alcantara: Prewar Gibson L-5 Owners’ Club
Joseph E. Spann, Spann’s guide to Gibson, 2011
Paul Fox, The other brands of Gibson, 2011
Jonathan Kellerman, With strings attached, 2008, pp. 98-139
Adrian Ingram, The Gibson L5, its history and players, 1997
Walter Carter (1st ed.), Gibson, 100 years of an American icon, 1994

ramblers groepsfoto


Eddie Lang

groucho L5

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