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Ricky Chuck

My Vision Quest to find my father's Super 400

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Greetings to all,

 

This is my second post on this forum although hopefully it won't be my last. What I want to share will hopefully help me locate a guitar that had been in my family since around 1947 when it was purchased by my father until the early 1990s. I may not be able to ultimately purchase it but it has become important to me to determine its welfare, if that makes sense, especially after my parents died in the last few years.

 

My parents were part of a family of professional Gospel singers and musicians called The Rushing Family Singers (brothers, sisters and eventually spouses) beginning in the mid 1940s. My father began teaching himself guitar while growing up in the hills of Alabama. He was very good and as the family's singing career developed he was able to buy a Gibson Super 400 in the mid-late 1940s, I don't have the exact date...I didn't listen as I should have when growing up I am sorry to say. In any case the guitar was an integral part of my family's performances as they traveled all over the country although my father, Charles Rushing, was first and foremost a tremendous singer. The guitar became a trademark instrument while the Rushing Family toured and even when the group finally disbanded and went separate ways as children came along, the Super 400 was prominent in all the actions of my parents as they continued touring and singing Gospel music in the Church of the Nazarene and other venues including radio and television.

 

I actually played his Super 400 many times left-handed as I became old enough to appreciate it as a finely crafted instrument although I was farmed out to piano teachers, lol. I even learned to play the soulful low guitar melody that was famous during the Star Trek Original Series episode Amok Time when Spock "killed his captain" :). I also received a few attitude adjustments from the leather strap which he used to support the guitar when I was doing stupid things so I suppose I didn't feel too close to it all the time :), in any case I did not embrace my dad's love for the guitar and this guitar in particular until it was too late.

 

After my parents retired and I went away to college and an adult life it became gradually clear to me they had health problems, etc, and so I tried to pay closer attention to what was happening as my parents got older, however they were not very forthcoming with their situations, lol...I imagine this is not unique to my situation, either, so suffice it to say dad decided to sell the guitar and didn't tell me. My mother said later it was a painful decision with which she didn't agree, to have to sell the guitar but he decided it needed to be done so sometime after 1990, I believe maybe mid 90s, while in Missouri seeing his brother, he went to Neosho, Missouri to a guitar store called "Fly by Nite" owned by Dave Crocker and ended up trading it for a J100 and cash. I still have the J100, although it never really had the emotional attachment as the Super 400.

 

I didn't hear of this for several months and by that time it was all done. My dad said he thought I didn't care for the guitar (yes extreme guilt showed up, lol) and besides it wasn't the original neck...it had to be replaced somewhere between 1953 and 1961 due to some type of malfunction such as a slight bow, I don't recall exactly. I was actually stunned about it being gone because, too late I realized that my dad was getting old and I suddenly knew his guitar was his oldest possession. Typical story :), wisdom came too late. So...

 

Dad died a few years ago and it has been building in me to find the guitar and try to get it back or at least find out it is in a good place. Recently I decided to give it a shot so after my uncle confirmed it was Fly by Nite and it had been hanging on display for ten years or more I tried to track the store down and learned it had gone out of business. THEN I found a guitar forum comment that Crocker had sold all his inventory to Meteor Guitar Gallery in Bentonville, Arkansas. I contacted the owner of Meteor and inquired about it. He got back soon and after speaking with Dave Crocker he told me that Mr. Crocker had indeed had it displayed for 10+ years but ended up selling it at the Chicago Guitar Show five or six years ago when he started shutting down the store. I don't have any more exact date than that.

 

I haven't had much luck finding a trail from the Chicago Guitar Show so I decided to come here and cast my net on the waters, so to speak. I don't know the exact serial number but it was made in the mid-1940s, possibly earlier since my did had it by 1947. It doesn't have the original neck. It even had the original case as far as I recall, not sure it stayed with the guitar. It looks like others I have seen online but I will post pics below of its travel through time.

 

If anyone has ANY lead or idea on how I can go forward trying to find this guitar I would be grateful. Apologies for the word count but I thought an instrument like this one deserved a richer explanation than a couple of "in search of" lines. Thank you for this resource, hopefully this is the correct forum in which to do this search.

 

Rick Rushing

Yukon, Oklahoma

 

Picture of guitar and family circa 1947

 

IMG_4427.PNG

 

 

Picture of guitar and family 1953

 

IMG_4425.PNG

 

 

Picture of guitar and me :) 1962

 

IMG_4426.PNG

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Hi Rick, thank you for posting about your dad's guitar. It's always interesting to hear stories like this and see pictures.

 

I wanted to point out a few things. First, the tailpiece on the guitar is the early type, used prior to 1939 (the model was introduced in 1934). So, if he bought the guitar in the 1940's, it would seem that he bought it used (not important here, just an observation).

 

I don't know when the neck was changed, and I can't quite make out the "Gibson" logo type on the headstock in your 1953 photo. Gibson changed the style of the logo a few times over the years, most dramatically around 1947/48, when they started using the logo that they're still using today. Prior to that, they used a few variations of what is referred to as a "script" logo.

 

At any rate, although these guitars are not exactly common, they also are not terribly rare. So, tracking down your dad's guitar without knowing the serial number is going to be a real longshot. The biggest advantage you have is the fact (assuming that the original tailpiece is still intact) that it had the mismatched neck and body. There can't be too many Super 400's out there with changed necks, so if you see one that has the pre-1939 tailpiece and a headstock logo that doesn't conform to pre-1939 specs, then the chances that it was your dad's increase significantly. Of course, I'm basing all of this on the assumption that the replaced neck was new when added in the late 40's or into the 50's (or later), and not a 1930's neck like the original. If he somehow had a 1930's or early 40's neck put on, then there's no mismatch.

 

Good luck to you, and I hope I've helped you in some way.

 

Here are some visual aids (tailpieces and headstock logos):

 

Early style tailpiece as in your photos:

 

1938_Gibson_Super_400_95461_tailpiece.jpg

 

1939 -> 1960's tailpiece (engraving varied over the years, but note the shape change):

 

tailpiece.jpg

 

 

Headstock logos:

 

1930's script logo:

 

cache_936342795.jpg?t=1393480429

 

Late 40's "slanted script" logo (this one on an L5):

 

DGS-Vault-1948-Gibson-L-5CN-E_WEB.jpg

 

1948- present:

 

400-1205_headstock.jpg

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Hey Jim, great info, thanks! I am searching for any other pics of the guitar that might give more clues for the headpiece, will post as soon as I find something. I have some video from which I will try to get some screencaps.

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Jim,

How can you tell if it's a hinged t.p, did you blow up the image size? it does appear to have the prewar engraving, hard to tell.

From what I can see it has the larger post '36 F-holes, straight pre '48 script logo in the newspaper pic shots.

the last pic w/the headstock cropped looks like it has the modern post '47 logo, I think I can barely make out the moder 'G' which is close to the split diamond inlay, whereas the pre '48 logo sits higher up and horizontally on the headstock

I'm pretty certain the neck was changed sometime between when the photos were taken as the necks have different Gibson logos

tuners are post '45 Klusons. can't make out what's on there in the early pics.

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Jim,

How can you tell if it's a hinged t.p, did you blow up the image size? it does appear to have the prewar engraving, hard to tell.

From what I can see it has the larger post '36 F-holes, straight pre '48 script logo in the newspaper pic shots.

the last pic w/the headstock cropped looks like it has the modern post '47 logo, I think I can barely make out the moder 'G' which is close to the split diamond inlay, whereas the pre '48 logo sits higher up and horizontally on the headstock

I'm pretty certain the neck was changed sometime between when the photos were taken as the necks have different Gibson logos

tuners are post '45 Klusons. can't make out what's on there in the early pics.

wm, just to be clear, I wasn't trying to nail down the year the tailpiece was made, or to say that I thought it shared all the features of the one in the image I posted. I only wanted to illustrate that it had the earlier "sharp Y" design (as opposed to the later design where the top of the "Y" is curved), thus making it a pre-1939 guitar.

 

Good observations on the f-holes, logos, and tuners. I think your eyes are better than mine, but I wanted to suggest the same thing you said about the modern logo appearing in the photo where the head was cropped.

 

Rick, more photos would be great. We love guitar mysteries around here, by the way. [smile]

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Thanks for the extra photos, Rick. I can't add much to what I and wintermoon already posted, except that now I can say emphatically that you're rather fortunate* that the neck and body are "mismatched", in terms of being hopeful of locating the guitar. It still may not surface, but at least it will be much easier to recognize if it should. If I were you, I would try to regularly check ebay, in addition to:

 

Reverb.com (https://reverb.com/marketplace?query=gibson+super+400&make%5B%5D=gibson&condition%5B%5D=used&year_min=1934&year_max=1955&commit=&price_min=&price_max=&ships_to=US_CON&item_region=),

 

and also GBase (https://www.gbase.com/gear?minyear=1934&maxyear=1955&minprice=&maxprice=&near=&daysago=&q=Gibson+Super+400)

 

* Of course, I have to mention that it's also slightly unfortunate that the neck was replaced, as this will adversely affect the market value of the guitar.

 

Good luck!

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Hey Jim and all, greatly appreciated for the help so far. I just Messaged with the owner of Meteor Guitar Gallery and he opined that Dave Crocker probably sold the guitar to a dealer since it was at the Chicago Guitar Show several years ago. A slim lead but possibly I can find a list of dealers or something.

 

With regard to the value of the guitar my dad said he always regretted having to have the neck repaired in such a way but back then they were traveling all the time and he didn't have time for the guitar to be out of his possession for very long, although he never gave me specific details on the repair process, etc. For me it is a matter of finding it for personal reasons. My son was born around the time he had to sell it and they were very close and if I could keep it in the family that would be my goal.

 

I can say that while not rare, that guitar has probably survived more miles on the road than any other Super 400...my parents estimate they drove over a hundred fifty thousand miles while singing and even after I was born they traveled for several more years on their own and I slept on a feather mattress in the back of a big Buick with the guitar snug underneath a wooden frame, so we both had a lot of miles together, too :). It also went to Hawaii back in the early 50s where they helped build churches for several months.

 

Would you know if any dealers frequent this forum? I need to start trying to figure out if there is even a way to track down dealers at a particular show years ago. I will definitely be looking at the resources you suggested, Jim.

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Jim,

How can you tell if it's a hinged t.p, did you blow up the image size? it does appear to have the prewar engraving, hard to tell.

From what I can see it has the larger post '36 F-holes, straight pre '48 script logo in the newspaper pic shots.

the last pic w/the headstock cropped looks like it has the modern post '47 logo, I think I can barely make out the moder 'G' which is close to the split diamond inlay, whereas the pre '48 logo sits higher up and horizontally on the headstock

I'm pretty certain the neck was changed sometime between when the photos were taken as the necks have different Gibson logos

tuners are post '45 Klusons. can't make out what's on there in the early pics.

 

Wintermoon, thanks for your sharp eyes. After you mentioned it I went back to the original pics and did some re-scanning and you seem to be right. The guitar still had the original neck (at least the script without the dropped G) until sometime after the 1952-53 pic because it was different in the one where I was little. Not sure what it bodes but info I never considered before :). I may be able to talk to his surviving sister and brother and see if they recall something about that time.

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Your mention of guitar dealers reminds me of something I forgot to say. I was going to suggest contacting or calling a few major dealers (particularly those with experience and contacts in the realm of vintage acoustic archtops). Not only might one of them have seen it, but they might be able to refer you to a few "expert enthusiasts" (people who are fanatical and scholarly about specific models of guitars). There are still plenty of people out there who play/collect/conserve old noncutaway acoustic archtops like your dad's.

 

Along these lines, there is a very popular and successful dealer in Seattle who specializes in vintage archtops, with acoustic models being something of a specialty. He also seems to have one of the highest turnover rates in the business, has a devoted clientele, and no doubt has a very large network of people that he does business with. I would strongly recommend contacting him. His name is Joe Vinikow at Archtop.com: https://www.archtop.com/ac_inst.html

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Morning! I started that last night ;). I am going through Reverb and finding likely stores that deal with vintage guitars and am inquiring if they have run across this guitar. Have had several already write back saying they will keep an eye out and some have even suggested a couple of places to ask. Thanks again for your resources, they are providing paths forward! I will check your Seattle link to make sure I haven't yet inquired.

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Since it was last seen in chicago, i'd also drop a line to chicago music exchange, who sort of run Reverb, but also will pick up the phone when you call. It would also be worthwile to maybe get in touch with retrofret in nyc, tr crandall, and norms rare guitars- all the guys that either have tons of inventory or specialize in archtops. I think with the mismatched neck and body, someone will remember it. im feeling good about this! Lets go find it!

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This may be a long shot but I played an older uncut S400 that obviously had a replacement neck that looked like a factory replacement. This was a couple years ago at the new Podium Guitars in south MPLS MN their phone# is 612 767 2800. Real nice people. Let us know if this helps and good luck with your quest.

Thanks John

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