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Thread: Not your average Gibson tenor

  1. #1
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Not your average Gibson tenor

    This was sold as an L-7C tenor, but it clearly isnít. The body is 16Ē, smaller than an L-7, and Gibson only used the Florentine cutaway on these smaller bodies. Thatís OK by me Ė I prefer smaller archtops, especially when it comes to tenors. The trim is also less fancy than an L-7, tenor or otherwise. In fact, this guitar is built around an L-4C body. The fretboard appears to be from a TG-50, but itís elevated above the body like an L-4. Some number of L-4 tenors were produced in the 1930s, but the only post-War one Iíve seen is the custom-ordered electric also in my possession. This one appears to be much earlier than the electric, with a logo dating from 1947-51. Alas, there is no serial or factory order number visible.

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    So what is this thing? Well, there is one stamp visible inside: TG-50. (Thereís also X980 penciled crudely inside the back, but I donít think itís from the factory). The TG-50 designation doesnít make much sense, since itís really a dressed-down L-4C. Perhaps instead of a custom-order, it was a factory prototype Ė a first shot at an updated TG-50 design that never materialized. Since the L-4C was introduced in 1949, Gibson might have been thinking of remodeling the TG-50 along the same lines. The pickguard might be a clue as well. I initially thought it must be a later replacement due to its silhouette, but itís made of the right material and has warped enough to be 70 years old.

    The only hardware that Iím sure is replaced is the tuners and the thumb wheels in the bridge. The tailpiece is cut for 4 strings, not 6. There has been a binding repair with a corresponding local finish touchup, but itís only obvious under blacklight. Otherwise, the guitar has a few dings but has no cracks or other damage or repairs. It plays nicely and is more lightly built than my 1970 L-4CNT (which is in keeping with general changes to Gibson archtops during the Ď60s). The neck is also much smaller than its 1970 counterpart, as are the frets.

    A few things to note in the photos: The older guitar has a solid back and binding that doesnít cover the whole thickness of the top or back in the cutaway, unlike the 1970 guitar with a laminated back and thick top binding in the same spot. Note the differences in the heels, not just in decoration but in thickness. Neither guitar actually sports an L-4 tailpiece. Both guitars have an elevated fretboard, but the newer guitarís is a little higher.

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    www.OldFrets.com: the obscure side of vintage instruments.

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  3. #2
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not your average Gibson tenor

    I did some more research today. Some of my sources turned out to be incorrect when I looked at comparable instruments, and I discovered what appear to be the original tuners and bridge wheels in the case. The tuners are of a style introduced in late 1958, and the change in cutaway binding occurred in 1959 or 1960 - so I can still pin it down pretty well, but it's a bit younger than I thought. I'm still leaning toward a prototype rather than a custom order, though.
    www.OldFrets.com: the obscure side of vintage instruments.

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