Inspired by the construction methods used in building
violins, Orville Gibson developed innovative fretted instruments with carved tops and
backs that brought his company
great success in the early 1900s.
By the early 1920s, Gibson’s
acoustic engineer, Lloyd Loar,
and his team took the violin
inspiration a step further by
designing a family of high-quality
fretted instruments with f-holes.
This family included the legendary L- 5 guitar and F- 5 mandolin.
From the time of its introduction in 1922 until today, the
L- 5 has been considered one
of the finest jazz guitars. Jazz
greats Eddie Lang, Allan Reuss,
and Wes Montgomery played
versions of this classic archtop.
It evolved from its original 16"
width to its current 17" width
in 1934. By 1939, the L- 5
gained a cutaway, and in 1951
it became electrified.
The L- 5 guitar spotlighted
this month is a non-cutaway
acoustic version dating to 1952.
While cutaway acoustic and
electric versions were available
that year, Gibson still provided
a guitar for players specializing
in rhythm-only jazz playing.
The interest in these non-cutaway acoustics gradually
dwindled throughout the ’50s.
In 1952, 27 non-cutaway L-5s
were produced, whereas in 1958
only five were made. The non-cutaway L- 5 was discontinued
at the end of that year and was
not seen again until the 16"
version was reissued in the ’90s.
The 1952 L- 5 pictured here
has all the characteristics common to that year, including the
flower pot/torch headstock inlay
and modern-style Gibson logo
(replacing the script logo in
1949). Other noteworthy features are its gold Kluson Sealfast
tuners with plastic buttons, a
two-piece curly maple neck with
This L- 5 sports a carved, solid spruce top and solid maple back and sides.
INSET: The ornate art-deco tailpiece is one of many touches that make this instrument a classic.
In 1949, the modern-style Gibson logo replaced the script logo on L-5s.
a mahogany center strip and a
bound ebony fretboard, a 17"-
wide body with solid maple back
and sides, a carved spruce top,
and the classic art-deco tailpiece.
To learn more about
Gibson L-5s, check out The
Gibson L5: Its History and
Its Players by Adrian Ingram,
The Gibson Super 400: Art of
the Fine Guitar by Thomas
A. Van Hoose, and Gibson
Shipment Totals: 1937-1979
by Larry Meiners.
DAVE’S GUITAR SHOP
Dave Rogers’ collection is tended
by Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally
and is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
Photos by Mullally and text