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L-5, ’52


Sunburst, Serial # A9470. This one just came into the shop recently. A Beautiful example of an Early 50’s L-5.

Orville Gibson’s innovative carved top and back fretted instruments (inspired by the construction methods for violins) brought the company he founded great success in the early 1900’s. By the early 1920’s 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 the classic guitar. It evolved from its original 16” width to its current 17” width in 1934. By 1939, it gained a cutaway. The guitar became electrified with pickups by 1951.


This L-5 is a non-cutaway acoustic version dating to 1952. While both cutaway acoustic and electric versions were available that year, Gibson still provided a guitar for players specializing in rhythm only type 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 5 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 has all the characteristics common to that year. These include the well-known  mother-of-pearl flower pot (torch) headstock inlay, modern style Gibson logo (replacing the script logo in 1949), gold Kluson Sealfast tuners with plastic buttons, two piece curly maple neck with mahogany center strip and bound ebony fingerboard, 17” wide body with solid maple back and sides with spruce top, and the classic art deco tailpiece.

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