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Waited 50 years to get my "Gibson Girl" (wife said, "Go for it," Bless Her)

Mark Blackburn

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Hello, I'm new here, and enjoying the threads (especially "how to convince your wife you need a new guitar" LOL!)


I write reviews for the world's biggest website, and just wrote my first (likely my last too!) for a musical instrument, having purchased a beautiful 'upscale' variant of the J-45 (three editions are listed, and only one tiny review, from a few years ago -- perhaps by one of you?)


I just sent James Taylor (the one-and-only) a copy of my review, as I reference an obscure but wonderful song of his -- one everyone here would love!


[This is the longer of two reviews I wrote for the (only three variations of) J-45's listed at Amazon, as of this date, Feb 16/09]


So, "Five stars" and titled something like "Letter to a friend: Heaven and my Gibson Girl." (opens with a quote from an English poet).




"I meant to do my work today . . . but a brown bird sang in the apple tree . . . and what could I do? . . . but run and play!"


Well, I heard that "brown bird" . . . on my lunch hour, just before Christmas; To escape the minus 40 windchill (here in the "World's Coldest Major City" I ducked into our pre-eminent fine instruments store, and only authorized Gibson dealer (Long & McQuade) and lo and behold!


First things first, I should tell you that all my life, I've coveted "Gibson" guitars (always it seems, out of my reach, by a thousand dollars or more). Yes, I love their electrics too! (My all-time favorites, the Wes Montgomery style L-5, and the (1960) ES-355 - the one with the gold Bigsby tailpiece - minty copies of which are auctioned these days, for upwards of 20,000 dollars. (Ah, if I win the lottery . . .)


But I've REALLY always wanted a classic Gibson flat-top -- round-hole, acoustic -- like Chet Atkins himself recommended to me, almost 40 years ago (more about that in a moment)


Yes, give me an acoustic like the one Chet was holding on his "DOWN HOME" album cover - with those mother-of-pearl, "split parallelogram" inlays, on a rosewood fingerboard; and that classic Gibson headstock - (the same design Chet would settle-on, for his Gibson electrics, 30 years later).




Anyway, see me there that day, before Christmas, warming my hands in the music store and . . . suddenly there she was, high on the wall, amid Gibsons selling for 3-to-4-thousand dollars: "Sale: $1800." I swear I heard her saying aloud, (in a feminine voice,) "Take me down and play me NOW, Mark!"


What could I do, but run and play! A few minutes of finger-style picking (Jerome Kern's THE SONG IS YOU, is my favorite test) and I found myself saying to her (out loud) "Oh my. Would I ever like to own You!"


She plays like a dream! - with an action as easy as a Les Paul - not hard on the muscles of finger & hand like so many acoustic instruments. And the sound! Every note of each chord, no matter how quickly or strongly played, sounds sweet and clear. No muddy overtones, no buzzing sounds -- simply the best-sounding guitar I've ever played.


"I'll run it by my wife," I said. Irene told me that night, in front of girlfriends as witnesses: "Make it your Christmas gift, your birthday gift and next year's Christmas' present too." (Bless Her!)


Mine is basically a "Southern Jumbo" but the nameplate says "Northern Jumbo" and "Limited Edition." [For those who care about such things, the Northern Jumbo is the 'Woody Guthrie' style J-45 with a smaller "Firestripe" pickguard and with silver Grover tuners.]


Equivalent guitars listed "new" for $4200 U.S. Mine is one year old and was owned by a Canadian blues legend, "Big Dave McLean." Thank you, Dave!


This "Northern Jumbo" is a "Limited Edition" (65 copies made for sale in Canada) and is signed (on that familiar orange label inside,) Hand-Crafted by "Ren Ferguson." Post purchase, I was delighted to learn that Mr. Ferguson may be the greatest `luthier' in Gibson's 135 year history. (He may soon be asked to make their archtop jazz guitars.)


"I can't wait around (years) for my instruments to get better," declares Mr. Ferguson -- a reference to something great guitarists will tell you . . . something Chet Atkins himself told me(in 1971 when, as a radio interviewer, I had him to myself for half-an-hour before his lone appearance in my hometown of Ottawa Canada). "Find an older instrument that's been played a lot," Chet said, "they sound much better -- the more they've been played."


Well, that may no longer be the case: Today's experts -- including many life-long Gibson collectors -- are claiming that "the best acoustic instruments ever made" by Gibson are being made right now, at the "custom instruments" plant in Bozeman Montana.


That has everything to do with Ren Ferguson (who, incidentally has had a standing offer for "decades" from the Martin Company, to move to Pennsylvania and join their team; "I love Montana," (and Gibson) "too much to leave," says Mr. Ferguson.


Collectors are lining up to spend upwards of 50,000 dollars on a new "museum quality" instrument made by Mr. Ferguson; 500 to 600 requests per year now pour in for custom-made instruments carrying his signature.


[His most special to date was made with ornate inlay and carvings for Johnny Depp, (a personal commemoration for the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie) for which the Disney Corp paid upwards of 100,000 dollars. Despite which, Ren Ferguson says such instruments don't sound any better "but they don't sound any worse either!" And his "favorite instrument" is the one he's working on "right now."]


A google-type search will take you to an interesting magazine article about Ren Ferguson, in which he discusses the different `temperaments' of his favorite woods - including Mahogany from Honduras, Rosewood from Madagascar, `select' Sitka Spruce, plus different Maple woods.


Mahogany (back & sides) on an instrument such as this one, gives a party sound - lively, warm -- more responsive to delicate finger-picking: i.e. You get greater voice with less force than Rosewood or Maple demands from picks or fingers. Each type of wood has its own character and virtues; [it's worth finding that article (on line) about Ren Ferguson - an informative, well-written joy to read!)


Yes, my "Gibson Girl" has made me very happy. And as I played her before bedtime last night, I recalled something else Chet said to me -- how he would "fall asleep each night playing the guitar" often, he said, "after watching Johnny Carson!" His wife, Leona, would find him asleep with an acoustic instrument such as this, in his lap, and a "contented smile" on his face. Now I know what Chet meant: I can't stop smiling and may awake, from dozing off, having dropped a pick (a "Medium") into the sound hole - I did that twice before calling it a night, last night!


Did I mention that it plays like a dream! I wish every guitarist reading this may find an instrument they love as much! "Heaven" (for me) would be to reach the Pearly Gates and find the angels are issuing these (or something even better?) for those of us lucky enough to play in the heavenly chorus. As Chet himself sang, (a James Taylor tune written just for him)


"Me and my guitar -- always in the same mood,

I am mostly flesh and bone, and he is mostly wood.

Never does grow impatient for the `changes' I don't know:

If he can't get to heaven . . . maybe I don't want to go!"


Mark Blackburn

Winnipeg Canada

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Welcome to the forum Mark....


Nicely said...... I can't add much, other than your among friends here who all know the sweetness that is the acoustic guitar and the Gibson's in all of our signature lines are a large part of what makes us all a little bit happier in this world.


From what may very well be the coldest large city south of Winnipeg..... (Minneapolis) I say, welcome to the club!

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Thanks, Paul for the warm welcome! Yes, you live in the "second-coldest major city" LOL! The U.S. Consul here told me once that Winnipeg (a city of 700,000) is the coldest of any of our 'postings' (including Moscow!)


Happiness is enjoying today's sunshine (from INSIDE the house) sipping a drink and making love to my Gibson Girl. I can't stop smiling! My wife said, the day I brought her home, "You look (your face) like a 10-year-old boy!"


It's true! To coin a song title, She makes me feel so young . . . like spring has sprung! Life is good, isn't it!


Mark B-of-the-frozen-North

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Thanks, gentlemen, for the welcome! Delighted to read Wily's message that he owns one of these treasures too! And thanks again, Mike -- I'm a computer dinosaur but will try to get my wiz kid grandson to arrange to send a photo of my beloved "Gibson Girl" as soon as can be arranged.


Because I'm new here, I'm still in the "gee, isn't this site great?" phase. "Look at all the nice features."


My late father noted that "new employees" go through three phases, if they hang around long enough. That's phase one (above). Phase two: "How the hell does this place ever function -- what a mess?"


Phase Three, Dad said, if the "newbie" hangs around long enough: "Hey, you know what? This place isn't bad. And it started to get pretty good right around the time that I arrived."


Be well and happy all of you!


Mark Blackburn

Winnipeg Canada

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Thanks everyone, for your welcoming words!


Thanks, "Live Sound Guy" and "Honky Dog" (love that color picture of man's best friend next to man's best mandolin! -- wish I knew how to enlarge and copy that picture (I'm a soon-to-be-62-year-old computer ignoramus!)


Thanks "Paul of Phoenix" (home of YOUR "Coyotes" NHL hockey team -- formerly OUR "Winnipeg Jets") and . . . to answer your question we're on Central Time here ("Frozen Prairie Time," as I like to call it). What an arresting B&W photo -- your 'avatar,' Paul -- is that you, over the proverbial barrel, in profile on a railroad track, playing my favorite instrument, a J-45 variant.


Speaking of which, I wrote a more compact review, with some additional facts about my "Gibson Girl" for another of the (three) J-45 models listed at the 'world's biggest website' as the "J-45 Modern Classic Mahogany Acoustic Electric Guitar, Vintage Sunburst, $1,999.00, including an L.R. Baggs pickup." (Is that what I have inside mine, I wonder? I didn't even realize I was purchasing an 'acoustic-electric' till I was getting out the American Express card, and the salesman pointed it out.


"Where's the cord go?" I asked. "Right here," he said (the hole in the end of the lower, guitar-strap holder). I tried it out on my (1958 cream-colored) Fender "Tremolux" amp -- which I've had since I was 16 (my late father surprised me with it, "used" one Christmas!) Sounds mighty fine. (Anyone ever heard of "Garnet" amps? Made right here in Winnipeg (they made amps for Gibson, for a time) -- designed by the 'god' of tube-type amps, Gar Gillies, who installed a genuine Fender reverb unit in my 'Tremolux' a few years before he died.


Gar Gillies' "GARNET" amps were used by all the rockers from this city, including Neil Young, Randy Bachman (who has the biggest Gretsch collection you will ever see) and the other Guess Who alumnus, Burton Cummings (who has a theatre named after him in Winnipeg!) More info than any of you needed.


Look, rather than transcribe my 'shorter' review for the J-45 (above) if the moderators will kindly permit, here's the Amazon.com link to that instrument. Scroll down -- mine is the only review!




Hope that is clickable! Cast a vote or a stone, if the spirit moves you!


Oh yes, and thanks, "Jinder, of Bournemouth England" -- so happy you "enjoyed" my (other) article above. Did I say I feel very much 'at home' here? Thanks again, to everyone!


Mark Blackburn


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Nice of you to join us, Mark.

It's always nice when the more articulate and seasoned musicians and, dare I say, journalists, join the forum.

Good to have you here. Check out the other forums on the sight.

There's a good time had by one and all at the Gibson Forums.



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My first time back here in a few days -- just had to express appreciation for the additional words of welcome. Thanks "HG" of Highland Heights KY (close to Owensboro, I wonder -- a pool playing hero of mine came from there! Thanks "Murph," for the "great story" comment. Thanks as well to "Californiaman" of Santa Maria -- is that close to Santa Barbara, (where other friends reside?) That's a beautiful instrument you're playing! And, last but not least, thanks to a fellow Winnipeger (for heaven sake!) "Zeebee." Hope we run into each other at Times Changed. I confess I don't know what a "Santa Cruz" is (other than a place near "Californiaman" (see above)


Anyway, just had to say it's nice to be making new friends here, even if we may never meet face-to-face; I feel a genuine kinship with you all. I don't think the 'novelty' will wear off, anytime soon!




In my previous post here I’d shared a LINK to my most recent (more compact) review for my new “Gibson Girl”(titled, “Get your Gibson NOW, ‘cause THESE are the ‘Good Old Days’) – but someone at the world’s biggest website has gone and substituted the longer review, my first post, at the top of this thread.


The only ‘new’ information about my guitar which I’d posted as an ‘aside,’ was this:


“For those who care about such things, my new Gibson Girl is a ‘Limited Edition’ (65 copies made) for sale in Canada, and sports an almost-invisible, stylized, Maple Leaf (like on Canada’s flag) that is hidden on the back of the head. (My granddaughter spotted it, in bright sunlight!)”]



Something you guys would appreciate: A good friend and fellow-reviewer at Amazon.com (he’s ranked 29 among the 5.38 million (correct) of us ordinary souls, pouring our hearts out there) – “Sam” is a professional pianist, part time FM-radio host and recently retired professor of English at a college in Wisconsin (Kenosha).


He shared my review with a professional guitarist he knows, saying “My friend’s response was exactly as I predicted – disagreeable, but equally as passionate as yours, Mark.”


[The unnamed guitarists note to Sam, and my reply is as follows. Hope you find it interesting.]




“Just sold a 1970 Guild flattop made in Calif when gtrs were still made here. It was probably better than that Gibson. A guitar that is played constantly gets better with age. The new ones just do not make it. They don’t have 25 year old aged spruce anymore. They are turning out green guitars that the woods move so fast, it is unreal. My black guitar [a Heritage with his name embossed] is still moving. The heel shifted last year and needed yet another neck adjustment . . . ”


[My reply]


“Please tell your friend I’ve owned a Guild acoustic electric (“Slim Jim” 1959 model, made in Hoboken N.J) since I was 16 – my guitar teacher sold it to me used for $175 (seemed like a lot of money then!) Recently it was valued at 17-hundred U.S. dollars. Yes, I agree with him that Guilds are often the equal of Gibsons (I believe the best ones are still made in America?) . . . Equal except when it comes to a life-time of “coveting.” No other brand is close to a Gibson!


“Please tell him as well that I’ve always loved the Guild “Artist Award” jazz guitar, especially the earliest ones with the DeArmond (weird looking) suspended pickup. And I never tried a Guild flattop that I didn’t love. But the ‘action’ on my ‘Northern Jumbo’ J-45 is better than any acoustic instrument I ever played. That’s what sold me. That, and the magnificent ‘voice.’


“And tell him not to worry about Gibson’s precious woods supply, or if they know how to properly dry them. They DO, and those who have loaned precious old Gibson instruments from the 40s to Ren Ferguson to try to duplicate for them, say the new instrument (brace yourself) is every bit as good sounding – without those decades of daily use.


“Personally, I think it may be analogous to the Stradivarius, Amati and Guanarius Maple wood gems from Cremona: Nothing before or since is in their league. So . . . find a Gibson with Ren’s signature in it, and prepare to re-arrange your pantheon of great guitars – my fellow Guild-owner!”


Mark Blackburn

Winnipeg Canada

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