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“Kalamazoo Gals” 1943 SJ Project


jt

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I’m thrilled to announce my collaboration with Dale Fairbanks of Fairbanks Guitars. Dale is building 25 replicas of my 1943 Gibson Southerner Jumbo, the only WWII-era Gibson ever re-inspected by its original inspector. Here is the guitar in its all-original, minty splendor:

 

1943%20SJ%20%202735_zpstpl5uvos.jpg

 

Each Guitar will bear some wood that came from the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo during WWII, while the Kalamazoo Gals were in residence secretly building the world’s finest guitars. Really. Gibson WWII-era wood. More details soon about what the woods are and how they’ll be incorporated into the guitars.

 

In addition, a surviving, original Kalamazoo Gal will sign each label, which was created by renowned artist and musician Robert Armstrong.

 

The label:

 

Fairbanks%20Kalamazoo%20Gal%20Label_zpsdw7vrrfd.jpg

 

A signed label lying on the original SJ:

 

Guitar%20Label%20Letter_zpswsmvd1qn.jpg

 

I've no financial interest in the project other than advocating its charitable component. A portion of the proceeds from each guitar will go toward funding a plaque commemorating the Kalamazoo Gals, to be placed on the factory building in Kalamazoo, Michigan that Gibson long ago abandoned. Gibson did and continues to deny the contributions of the Gals. We're creating art, effecting social justice, and righting history in a single project.

 

Oh, and, as always, Dale’s gonna make killer guitars, too.

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I've got really mixed emotions about this one. This is the guitar that I really wanted Gibson to replicate as part of the Kalamazoo Gals project. I know Dale will build a great guitar, but I really wanted that Gibson banner on it.

 

 

If you ever decide to sell that one, JT, I want first dibs. Other than the FON 910 rosewood SJ's, that guitar is "the one" as far as I'm concerned.

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I've got really mixed emotions about this one. This is the guitar that I really wanted Gibson to replicate as part of the Kalamazoo Gals project. I know Dale will build a great guitar, but I really wanted that Gibson banner on it.

 

Gibson did, sort of, do this. I'd rather not say more.

 

If you ever decide to sell that one, JT, I want first dibs. Other than the FON 910 rosewood SJ's, that guitar is "the one" as far as I'm concerned.

 

You'll have to talk to my kids about this ... after I'm gone. :) I can't imagine ever letting it go. It's too good a guitar and it means way too much to me.

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Henry and co ...

But, I wouldn't want this to diminish the great work of all of the great people at Gibson. [... edited to remove comments not relevant to discussion of the Fairbanks Kalamazoo Gals SJ project]

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JT,

I've said this before in one of your posts, that Dale is the best choice for a builder to do this. His interpretation of the Gibson line of guitars is second to none. Can you tell me how these will be marketed, going to dealers or sold direct from Dale ?

John I think this is just an awesome project !

 

Frank.

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I am lucky enough to own two of the guitars that came out of John's Kalamazoo Gal's project. I have the LG-2 Mahogany Banner (which as John has described here before, is a replica of his Banner LG-1) and the 1942 Banner J-45.

 

Here is the Mahogany Banner LG-2

 

 

Here is the 1942 Banner J-45

 

 

 

 

At the time time I acquired the LG-2 I was reading the Kalamazoo Gals book which really added to the excitement of getting it. A while later I tracked down the 42 Banner J-45 and I think it is the best sounding guitar I've ever played. They are both amazing instruments each getting better and better. Gibson Montana at its finest and with vintage specs...a dream come true for me. The LG2 can be so delicate and sound like spanish guitar, pushed and twangy, or strummed with the best Gibson midrange punch. I love it and it's darkening into one of the prettiest guitars I've ever seen. The 42 Banner J-45 is my favorite guitar. It is my best friend and It will be the last one with me at the end. It's awesomeness is beyond words, and in truth I could almost live with it as one guitar because it covers 90% of the ground I cover these days. John, I hope you find gratification in knowing that there are people like me out there who cherish these instruments and see them becoming family heirlooms.

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This is the project that the Montana Marketing Department threw away. We have talked about this in previous threads. It's safe to say that Henry had no knowledge of the project or the promises that were not kept. The very same set of circumstances occurred with the Eldon Whitford 1942 Legend recreation. It's not the company that is to blame.

 

They have disrespected the honor of Eldon's Guitar as well as J.T.'s Now they are going after more money by recreating Gary Burnette's guitar. Gary learned from Eldon and J.T. and wouldn't let Gibson have his guitar. They had to fly out and take the specs. at Gary's business. Got to get up pretty early to pull one over on Gary.

 

It's just a shame that one Gibson employee has done this. The ladies need the recognition and the respect of Gibson/Montana and they will never get it. This is not the decision of the employees or management but rather the inability on one misguided employee that doesn't respect Gibson's history. We all know his name. J.T. included, but can't put it into print because of the inevitable consequences. This post will probably get me banned.

 

Henry and the Montana general manager would never tolerate this behavior. It's just that no one is willing to be confrontational at this point.

 

J.T. is to be congratulated for keeping the dream alive. No. The guitars won't have Gibson on the headstock but they will have the spirit of all of the Kalamazoo Gals. That is going to have to be good enough at this point. Thank you for following thru on this project J.T. you are a true gentleman.

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I am lucky enough to own two of the guitars that came out of John's Kalamazoo Gal's project. I have the LG-2 Mahogany Banner (which as John has described here before, is a replica of his Banner LG-1) and the 1942 Banner J-45

 

Bram, I understand that those are very nice guitars. I’ve got the LG-1 replica which, of course, I had to buy.

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Thanks, all, for the comments and interest.

 

These will be individually hand-made and hand-voiced guitars with Dale’s amazing attention to detail.

 

We’ll reveal more details. For example, for the bridge plates we’ve acquired amazingly dense maple that comes from the floor of an 1800s textile mill. Yep, flooring where an exclusively female work crew stood.

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I can, sort of, understand the progression of American companies from their inception, to being well loved for making a product loved by many, to the rampant, tyrannical, inhumane, consumed-by-greed entities with lobbies that grossly influence government, because the examples of this are so common. But what I don't get about this story is the denial of historical fact that these women worked at Gibson and built these instruments. Or is John Thomas a writer of fiction? The only thing that I can think of, in this litigious society of ours, is that the corporate guys and their legal advisors are fearful of some kind of legal action by the few surviving women. Given the absurdity of Holocaust deniers on an even larger historical fact I guess I'm just quaint, naive, mountain folk musing about the vagary of human behavior.

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I agree with J45nick about having mixed emotions about these guitars not having the Gibson logo on the headstock. As an owner of a 1942 Banner J-45 and a follower of JT's work bringing the Kalamazoo Gals story to the attention of the vintage guitar community, I can't help but feeling sad that this reissue project never ended with full poetic justice for all involved.

 

I'm sure these new guitars will be beautiful and great sounding instruments, but the circle will not be completely closed, which really is a shame.

 

With that said, I wish John the best of luck with this alternate route. Personally, I eagerly await more details about the guitars, like price, hint hint...

 

Lars

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I can, sort of, understand the progression of American companies from their inception, to being well loved for making a product loved by many, to the rampant, tyrannical, inhumane, consumed-by-greed entities with lobbies that grossly influence government, because the examples of this are so common. But what I don't get about this story is the denial of historical fact that these women worked at Gibson and built these instruments. Or is John Thomas a writer of fiction? The only thing that I can think of, in this litigious society of ours, is that the corporate guys and their legal advisors are fearful of some kind of legal action by the few surviving women. Given the absurdity of Holocaust deniers on an even larger historical fact I guess I'm just quaint, naive, mountain folk musing about the vagary of human behavior.

 

There is no question about the truth of John's book. Gibson is not trying to hide the history. The story of these women is indeed the truth. The Gibson employees involved are hiding the fact they were not honest in their dealings with John. I have already said to much. He can't say anything. We must remember that he is a lawyer so he is wise to move on.

 

You all need to know that Henry has no knowledge of this whole event. He is an honorable person and would never tolerate this sort of behavior. Henry is a very busy man running a multi-national company with many divisions much bigger that the Montana Division. He doesn't involve himself in the day to day minutiae of these small divisions. Please keep this in perspective. The General Manager of Montana doesn't even know. 'Nuff said

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I’m thrilled to announce my collaboration with Dale Fairbanks of Fairbanks Guitars. Dale is building 25 replicas of my 1943 Gibson Southerner Jumbo, the only WWII-era Gibson ever re-inspected by its original inspector. ...

 

The fact that Gibson dropped out of the Kal Girls reissues project is hugely disappointing on many levels. . . <edited>

 

I was in on the original Kickstarter project and regarding JT - he delivered on everything promised, including the book, CD, t-shirt and, not the least, his time, effort and work. Sadly Gibson did not. I would've liked to see the women and the project get more attention here in the states. And, I was looking forward to a chance at obtaining one of the reissues, apparently very few of which were actually made.

 

I wish JT and Kevin the best of luck with this new facet of the project.

 

 

.

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[... edited to remove comments not relevant to discussion of the Fairbanks Kalamazoo Gals SJ project]

 

Anyway, I've been so privileged to play a small role in the Gals' legacy and hope to add to my contribution through this project with Dale Fairbanks.

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My wood source is a retired physician and hobbyist woodworker whose patient many years ago gave him woods he acquired from the Gibson factory in the 1930s and 1940s. The patient born in 1914, worked for Gibson for almost five decades, beginning in 1933. The woods include mahogany, rosewood, spruce, and walnut. Here's a sample that the Dr./woodworker used in making a wooden bowl (that now belongs to me):

 

Bowl%20made%20from%201940s%20Gibson%20Woods_zpsdf5e1j5d.jpg

 

The patient took home pieces of wood that he claimed Gibson would have otherwise burned. We're definitely gonna have some WWII/Kalamazoo Gal era wood for each of the 25 guitars. This sort of wonderful detail would not have been possible in a large-scale manufacturing context.

 

Details to follow.

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