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Late ‘50s J-50s

#1 User is offline   Charlie99 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 11:46 AM

Hi - the late ‘50s J-50: another topic about which I know very little, and I’m hoping someone with greater knowledge, ideally an owner, might be able to enlighten me!

Now I vaguely recall somebody telling me something about J-50s built for a short period sometime around 1956 didn’t have the hallowed scalloped braces of earlier models. Instead they had some form of short tapered brace - maybe equivalent to the Martin ones of 1947? These braces reputedly gave the late ‘50s J-45s a tone which some found very desirable, in preference to the scalloped brace tone.

I’m guessing here, but maybe these J-45s have a more woody/thumpy sound than the scalloped ones, with less sustain?

Is there any truth in any of the above?

Thanks!
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#2 User is offline   bayoubengal1954 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 12:16 PM

I've read here that 1955 was the transitional year from the scalloped to unscalloped bracing. I have a '48 J-50 and love the scalloped sound, but I've heard late 50's models that sounded great.
http://truevintagegu...ough-the-years/

This post has been edited by bayoubengal1954: 15 May 2018 - 12:18 PM

1974 Martin D-28
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#3 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 04:14 PM

Not sure why you would refer to scalloped bracing as "hallowed". Gibson did not start using scalloped bracing until just prior to WWII although they did scallop tone bars (or not, depending on the year). The transition years such as 1955 though can be fun. I have played a 1955 J-160E that still had the solid top which was supposed have disappeared that year. I have played a 1955 J-45 which had the new style large pointy pickguard but the older scalloped bracing and yet another with the small pre-1955 pickguard with the un-scalloped bracing. When you are talking about a transition year with Gibson you have to take each guitar as it comes. My two favorite Gibsons in some 50 years of playing them have been a 1942 J-50 and a 1956 SJ.

Also remember that in the 1940s a part was considered finished when it looked close enough. You will, as example, two guitars made the same year but one will have scalloped tone bars with sharper peaks than the next. Different hands holding the tools. The bracing in my J-50 looks like it was whittled with a dull pen knife. It did start settling down in 1950-51 shortly after Ted McCarty took over Gibson and changed the way things were done.

This post has been edited by zombywoof: 15 May 2018 - 04:34 PM

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#4 User is offline   Charlie99 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 05:22 PM

My use of the word “hallowed” was - like many of the words and phrases I habitually use - slightly tongue-in-cheek...

Thanks for the info. It certainly seems there is a great deal of variation among Gibsons. Certainly than compared with vintage Martins - though they too are all different (but maybe not to quite such an extent). I think I might check out the various ‘50s Gibsons on offer in the U.K. again. In the meantime I’ll keep an eye out for a late ‘40s J-45, though I don’t expect to find one anytime soon. Still, more chance of finding a 1946 J-45 than a 1942 J-50 at least...
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#5 User is offline   Charlie99 

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 05:26 PM

 bayoubengal1954, on 15 May 2018 - 12:16 PM, said:

I've read here that 1955 was the transitional year from the scalloped to unscalloped bracing. I have a '48 J-50 and love the scalloped sound, but I've heard late 50's models that sounded great.
http://truevintagegu...ough-the-years/


Interesting link, thanks!

This post has been edited by Charlie99: 15 May 2018 - 05:27 PM

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#6 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 16 May 2018 - 07:56 AM

View PostCharlie99, on 15 May 2018 - 05:22 PM, said:

My use of the word “hallowed” was - like many of the words and phrases I habitually use - slightly tongue-in-cheek...

Thanks for the info. It certainly seems there is a great deal of variation among Gibsons. Certainly than compared with vintage Martins - though they too are all different (but maybe not to quite such an extent). I think I might check out the various ‘50s Gibsons on offer in the U.K. again. In the meantime I’ll keep an eye out for a late ‘40s J-45, though I don’t expect to find one anytime soon. Still, more chance of finding a 1946 J-45 than a 1942 J-50 at least...


While script logo/no Banner LG-2s seem to not be that hard to find, I have run across far fewer J-45s and have yet to hold an SJ in my hands.

My '42 J-50 was in a sorry state when I stumbled across it. But even with five open back cracks I had never heard a low end on a Gibson like this one had. After it had been with my repair guy for a year I finally got to go fetch it. When this guy, who is a second generation luthier and well known for restoring vintage Martins, gave me the guitar back he told me to never let it out of my hands. He called it a "once in a blue moon Gibson" meaning it had a low end that would send a pre-War Martin D-28 running for cover. He said chances of running across another were slim and none.

But to me this is part of the charm of 1930s and 1940s Gibsons. A lot of it is luck of the draw. Different hands using different tools. Gibson did not even own a router until 1944. I have a friend, as example, who owns a 1930s J-35. When they had to remove the back to do some bracing repairs you could clearly see that one of the scalloped tone bars had peaks that were higher than the one sitting next to it. May have been herky jerky compared to a Martin but this is the kind of stuff that comes together to give a guitar its sound.

Anyway I do wish you luck with the search. Enjoy the hunt.
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#7 User is offline   Charlie99 

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Posted 16 May 2018 - 04:12 PM

 zombywoof, on 16 May 2018 - 07:56 AM, said:

While script logo/no Banner LG-2s seem to not be that hard to find, I have run across far fewer J-45s and have yet to hold an SJ in my hands.

My '42 J-50 was in a sorry state when I stumbled across it. But even with five open back cracks I had never heard a low end on a Gibson like this one had. After it had been with my repair guy for a year I finally got to go fetch it. When this guy, who is a second generation luthier and well known for restoring vintage Martins, gave me the guitar back he told me to never let it out of my hands. He called it a "once in a blue moon Gibson" meaning it had a low end that would send a pre-War Martin D-28 running for cover. He said chances of running across another were slim and none.

But to me this is part of the charm of 1930s and 1940s Gibsons. A lot of it is luck of the draw. Different hands using different tools. Gibson did not even own a router until 1944. I have a friend, as example, who owns a 1930s J-35. When they had to remove the back to do some bracing repairs you could clearly see that one of the scalloped tone bars had peaks that were higher than the one sitting next to it. May have been herky jerky compared to a Martin but this is the kind of stuff that comes together to give a guitar its sound.

Anyway I do wish you luck with the search. Enjoy the hunt.


Thanks, and thanks for all the advice and info. I’ve got a nice ‘52 J-45 and a ‘52 J-50 in mind, as well as a ‘48 J-50. They’re all very nice - the ‘48 being pricier. My initial impression was that the ‘51 J-45 was the nicest - though I’m still torn between it and a J-50. Probably need to try them again.
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#8 User is offline   OldCowboy 

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Posted 17 May 2018 - 08:11 AM

I've owned my 1955 J-45 since @1971. According to my luthier, the braces "almost have the bark still on 'em"☺ It has the batwing guard, a fairly hefty neck, the reverse belly bridge/not adjustable. No mud in the bass - lots of ring in the treble - fairly, but not D-28, loud. I love it. Completely different beast from my 1942 J-45 or 1951 SJ. All in all, I'd say it comes closer to my 1962 J-50 in terms of sound and response, but has a different 'feel' - maybe because of neck heft. I know all this is kind of superficial information, but hope it helps.
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#9 User is offline   j45nick 

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Posted 17 May 2018 - 02:52 PM

View PostOldCowboy, on 17 May 2018 - 08:11 AM, said:

I've owned my 1955 J-45 since @1971. According to my luthier, the braces "almost have the bark still on 'em"☺ It has the batwing guard, a fairly hefty neck, the reverse belly bridge/not adjustable. No mud in the bass - lots of ring in the treble - fairly, but not D-28, loud. I love it. Completely different beast from my 1942 J-45 or 1951 SJ. All in all, I'd say it comes closer to my 1962 J-50 in terms of sound and response, but has a different 'feel' - maybe because of neck heft. I know all this is kind of superficial information, but hope it helps.



Carter Vintage Guitar in Nashville has a really nice J-50 for sale right now. It is listed as a 1955 (probably W-prefix FON), but has 1954 appointments, including a teardrop pickguard and 19-fret board. I have seen early 1955 guitars with 1954 details like this.

It has had a new bridge and bridgeplate and a neck re-set, and apparently has light overspray, which would not necessarily scare me off. It appears to be in very good condition, and seems fairly priced at $4250.

It does have some moderate pickwear, which looks like the result of heavy flat-picking close to the bridge, which probably explains the overspray to protect the worn wood.

The advantage of these guitars is that they generally still have the fatter late 40's-early 50's neck, before Gibson started making them more slim (talking neck heft, not width at the nut) a few years later.
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#10 User is offline   OldCowboy 

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 04:45 PM

 j45nick, on 17 May 2018 - 02:52 PM, said:

Carter Vintage Guitar in Nashville has a really nice J-50 for sale right now. It is listed as a 1955 (probably W-prefix FON), but has 1954 appointments, including a teardrop pickguard and 19-fret board. I have seen early 1955 guitars with 1954 details like this.

It has had a new bridge and bridgeplate and a neck re-set, and apparently has light overspray, which would not necessarily scare me off. It appears to be in very good condition, and seems fairly priced at $4250.

It does have some moderate pickwear, which looks like the result of heavy flat-picking close to the bridge, which probably explains the overspray to protect the worn wood.

The advantage of these guitars is that they generally still have the fatter late 40's-early 50's neck, before Gibson started making them more slim (talking neck heft, not width at the nut) a few years later.

You'd do great in sales, Nick, if you could stand the hem & hawers and the tire kickers you have to endure😂 Anyhow, I now want the guitar you just described😨 And just a couple days ago, I was feeling confident that my lustful (guitar buying) nature was well under control😒
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