By 1934, jazz—which had been developing
since the early 1920s—had become more
sophisticated. The raucous, clanging rhythm
sound of the plectrum banjo had given way to
the sweeter, more refined tones of the archtop
guitar. The Gibson L- 5 (most notably used by
virtuoso Eddie Lang) had been the preeminent
jazz archtop guitar since its debut in 1923, but
the increasing size of that era’s horn sections
created the need for a louder guitar.
Gibson met this need for more volume by
enlarging the width of the existing carved-top line (including the L- 5, L- 10, L- 12, and
L- 7) from 16" to 17", and by creating a
new flagship model—the Super 400. This
ultra-fancy, ultra-expensive ($400) archtop
measured 18" wide at its lower bout and
boasted elaborate mother-of-pearl inlays
and multiple-ply binding. Gibson luthiers
reserved the very highest-quality curly maple
and spruce for this superlative instrument.
This ’ 49 Super 400 features a “modern” Gibson logo that replaced the earlier “script” version.
The guitar pictured this month has features
common to most Gibson Super 400s from
’ 49, including a split-diamond, mother-of-pearl
headstock inlay, a “modern” Gibson logo
(which replaced the original “script” logo in
1948), 7-ply headstock binding, split-block
inlays on an ebony fretboard, 5-ply fretboard
binding (which replacing the original 3-ply
binding in 1949), a solid 2-piece spruce top
with 7-ply binding, a solid 2-piece maple back
with 3-ply binding, and solid maple sides.
This beautifully preserved guitar, along with
its clean Lifton case, was originally purchased
from Miller Music Co. in Bloomington,
Illinois, on October 7, 1949.
The best source for detailed information
on Gibson Super 400s is The Gibson Super
400: Art of the Fine Guitar by Thomas A.
Dave’s Guitar Shop
Dave Rogers’ collection is tended by Laun Braithwaite
and Tim Mullally.
Photos and text by Tim Mullally.
Dave’s collection is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
The hand-engraved tailpiece adds a classy touch.