Gibson Super 400, '49
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Natural, Serial # A3309.
By 1934, the jazz music developing since the early 1920’s had become more sophisticated. The raucous clanging rhythm sound of the banjo had given way to the sweeter, more refined sound of the archtop guitar. The Gibson L-5 had been the preeminent jazz archtop guitar since its debut in 1923 (most notably used by virtuoso Eddie Lang), but the increasing size of that era’s horn sections created the need for a guitar that produced a louder sound. This need for more volume was met 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 multi-ply binding. The very highest quality curly maple and spruce were reserved for this superlative instrument.
The guitar pictured has features common to most Gibson Super 400s of that year, which are: a split diamond mother of pearl headstock inlay, “modern” Gibson logo (1948, replacing original “script“ logo), seven ply headstock binding, split block fingerboard inlay on ebony fingerboard, five-ply fingerboard binding (1949, replacing the original 3-ply binding), 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 on October 7, 1949 from Miller Music Co. in Bloomington, Illinois.