Gibson L-5 Model Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1934), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 90363, Cremona Brown Sunburst finish, curly maple back and sides, spruce top; maple neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case. This 1934 L-5 is a fine example of the pre-eminent orchestra guitar of its era -- the original f-hole carved top guitar -- an extremely fine-sounding instrument by any standard. Many of these L-5's were used by the top players of their day; this guitar has an unusually well documented provenance, detailed by the original owner's son. It was bought new in 1934 by Oliver "Ollie" Matthewson, who went on to perform with and do arrangements for several swing-era artists, including the smoothies and most notably Woody Herman. Included with the instrument are some original 78 discs it was used on, a CD re-issue of some relevant Woody Herman recordings and a collection of notes pertaining to Mr. Matthewson's career as a professional swing musician.Even discounting this provenance the guitar is a wonderful instrument in itself. Debuting in 1923-4, the L-5 was the first modern F-hole archtop, a design still followed today. When this one was built about ten years later it was still the top of Gibson's line, considered by most players the finest orchestra guitar made. Ollie Matthewson bought this instrument in Buffalo NY in 1934; at that time and place an L-5 or Epiphone's Deluxe were the only really functional choices someone looking to break into the ranks of top professional guitar players. Eddie Lang, the era's most influential guitarist, used a 1920s dot-neck L-5, then an early block neck L-5 starting around 1931, to set the trend. From that time on the L-5 gave Gibson a dominance in orchestra guitars they never really lost.That said, these early 16" L-5s are fairly rare guitars. Retailing at $275.00 (plus case), this was an extremely expensive instrument for the time (the top-of-the-line Martin pearl-trimmed Style 0M-45 retailed at $100.00 less). At the height of the Depression, only working professionals with steady salaries could afford such an indulgence. Mr. Matthewson's son recalls his father paying $300 for this guitar new. It shows typical features for the early -mid 1930s 16" L-5; the transitions between variants are inexact at best. Based on the features and serial number this guitar was likely built in early-mid 1934. At that point the new 18" wide Super 400 and companion 17" wide "Advanced" L-5 were in the design stages but his original style L-5 still ruled the roost. In practice this was not an instant transition; some players preferred the older L-5 and examples were still shipped from Kalamazoo for several years onward.The top, back, and sides on this guitar carry a beautifully blended dark sunburst finish; the back is tiger maple with a pronounced figure. The top and back are triple bound in white celluloid. The braces are the "kerfed" style used in the early 1930's, a production expedient allowing faster build times. While this has become a much-discussed feature of late, we do not find tremendous sound differences between the L-5's of this era regardless of how they were braced.The side-line bound, straight-end ebony fingerboard is a correct style replacement with pearoid block inlay. The 3-piece laminated curly maple neck has a fairly slim "V" profile, though not as pronounced as some examples. The pearl inlaid flowerpot in the triple-bound headstock with a straight across "Gibson" logo above are hallmarks of the 1932-35 L-5 as are the older style, gold plated Grover G-98 tuners with riveted gears and metal "butterbean" buttons. The long triple-bound celluloid pickguard is screwed to the top by the neck block. The tailpiece is the 1930's "string through" piece; the adjustable ebony bridge is the split base style used on most L-5's in this period.This instrument has a very even and versatile sound typical of these early L-5s; simultaneously warm and incisive with plenty of depth. It plays very comfortably and is extremely responsive for an archtop even sounds lovely fingerstyle! Most of these 1930s L-5s were played extensively for many years, some owners preferring them to any other guitar. They can be seen in the hands of recording studio players well into the 1960s. As constant working guitars, they were often modified, refitted, or refinished with little regard for originality. This example has had some careful restoration to its original state and comes with an interesting archive of its life "back in the day". It is another delightful and inspiring example of one of our all-time favorite instruments, with an estimable history behind it.Overall length is 40 3/4 in. (103.5 cm.), 16 in. (40.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.). This L-5 shows some general wear and tear but remains a delightful survivor in exc

Listed3 months ago
ConditionExcellent (Used)
Excellent items are almost entirely free from blemishes and other visual defects and have been played or used with the utmost care.learn more
  • L-7
  • Cremona Brown Sunburst
  • 1934
Fretboard Material
  • Rosewood
Color Family
  • Brown
Body Shape
  • Archtop
Right / Left Handed
  • Right Handed
Number of Strings
  • 6-String
Model Family
  • Gibson L-7
Neck Material
  • Mahogany
Sides Material
  • Maple
Finish Style
  • Gloss
Top Material
  • Spruce
Back Material
  • Maple
  • Gibson Pre-War Era
Number of Frets
  • 19

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Retrofret Vintage Guitars

Brooklyn, NY, United States
Joined Reverb:2015

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