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BluesKing777

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They always struck me as odd looking guitars. But of course I was the 70s teenager who wore straight leg Levis and cowboy boots instead of bell bottoms and platform shoes. The woman who ran the dry goods store in town would always say of me, "There's that boy who always buys those pulp-wooders' blue jeans instead of the nice ones." It was Luther Perkins and not Jimi Hendrix for me. So I didn't fancy the look of that guitar at the time. But now, it's an antique. Where did the time go?

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Some details thanks to Stuart Cohen on Facebook - end of idea for me is the 1 5/8" nut, don't even want that hanging as wall art for everyone to sneer at the skinny nut!:

 

 

Gibson MK - Mark Series

Between 1975 and 1979, Gibson worked with Dr. Michael Kasha's acoustic theories for guitar and Luthier Richard Schneider's design applications to create a unique instrument for the Gibson acoustic lineup. The Mark Series guitars had 16 3/16" lower bouts with very narrow waists, and a headstock like no other in Gibson tradition. The instruments had modified fan bracing and asymmetrical bridges. Ironically, the script logo on the headstock was old-style.

The somewhat radical headstock shape was discontinued at Gibson with the Mark Series but appears to have been an influence on the young Paul Reed Smith who later used a similar shape for his electric instruments.

Dr. Michael Kasha was a chemical physicist and the director of the Institute of Molecular Biophysics at Florida State University. He was also a guitar enthusiast with a passion for physical and psycho-acoustics. In fact, he was part of a team of scientists paid as consultants by Gibson for their input on a project to create the finest sounding guitar based upon sound scientific logic, theory and research. Gibson hoped to score the same type of success that had occurred with Lloyd Loar in the 1920s: redefining the acoustic guitar for generations to come.

Richard Schneider and assistant Abe Wechter acted as the on-site, full-time luthiers to collaborate and develop Kasha's theories and bring them to a manufacturing reality. Following many prototypes, shapes and bracing patterns, the Mark Series was launched in 1975.

The Mark Series guitars were particularly interesting among the Gibson flat tops made in the 1970s due to their unique bracing. Considering that Gibson was using a double X bracing for most of its other flat top guitars during that period, these instruments, with their modified fan bracing, stand out as some of the better sounding Gibsons of the time. The 1970s are viewed by many collectors and players as the low point of Gibson manufacturing. These instruments live a bit outside that critique.

Each model of the Mark Series was available in natural or sunburst finish. The sunburst finish was generally $30 less than natural finish. The selected tuners varied randomly by model and year. New guitars were supplied with user applied pick guards, and extra saddles of different heights that could be easily inserted to adjust the string action to accommodate the swelling of the instrument with seasonal humidity changes. The saddles were wider than usual. This technique of supplying interchangeable saddles/bridges was not new, it had been used by Selmer in France for their Maccaferri style instruments since the 1930s.

Dimensions:

•11 3/4" Upper Bout

•10 3/16" Waist

•16 3/16" Lower Bout

•20 5/32" Body Lenth

•5 3/64" Body Depth

•1 5/8" Nut width

Like everything else, we have seen exceptions to the listed dimensions; especially the nut widths. There were some 1 3/4" nuts available. It is not clear how Gibson decided to set their nut widths and neck thicknesses. It appears that they experimented right up to the point of discontinuing the line.

The choice to discontinue the Mark Series had to do with the general turmoil of the Gibson company in the last years of ownership by Norlin. The Mark Series, though not a wild success in terms of overall sales, did sell reasonably well. Towards the end, the line actually continued to increase in sales. Timing is everything - In 1969 the Gibson parent company: Chicago Musical Instruments (CMI) was acquired by the South American brewing conglomerate: E.C.L. ECL changed its name shortly afterwards to: Norlin Inc. for ECL president Norton Stevens and CMI president Maurice Berlin. Between 1974 and 1984 production of Gibson guitars was slowly being shifted from Kalamazoo MI to Nashville TN. The early instruments built in Nashville suffered from inexperienced workers and climate-control problems in the humid South. The Kalamazoo plant kept going for a few years as a custom-instrument shop, including the Mark Series instruments, and was ultimately closed in 1984. Mismanagement was so severe during the final Norlin years that the Gibson Guitar Corp. was within 3 months of going out of business when it was bought by young Harvard Business grads: Henry E. Juszkiewicz, David H. Berryman and Gary A. Zebrowski in January of 1986. Even the group of inexperienced entreprenuers could see and understand the value of the Gibson name. It marked the beginning of a new era for Gibson.

It was during the years of 1977 through 1986 that most of the high-end lines at Gibson were discontinued: The ES-350T, L-5S and the Mark Series among them. Gibson believed that these choices would allow them to focus on their more profitable lines. The guitar designs, however, were not the problem. The last of the Mark Series was built in 1979. By the end in 1985-86, Gibson was basically down to the Les Paul model alone.

Model Designations:

•MK-99 models were handcrafted and signed by Richard Schneider. They were available in steel string or classical. It is not clear how many were made, but it is likely that there are less than 12. The 1975 price was $1,999.

•MK-81 models were rosewood back & sides, ebony fingerboard with figured abalone block inlays & gold plated hardware. They had owner applied pick guards and multi-bound backs and tops (including red line highlights). There were 431 made. The 1975 price was $879.

•MK-72 models were rosewood back & sides, 3 piece ebony/rosewood fingerboards with dot inlays & nickel hardware. The top and back bindings were black plastic with red line highlights. There were 1229 made. The 1975 price was $659.

•MK-53 models were maple back & sides, rosewood fingerboards with dot inlays & nickel hardware. The top and back bindings were black plastic with red line highlights. There were 1424 made. The 1975 price was $549.

•MK-35 models were mahogany back & sides, rosewood fingerboards with dot inlays & nickel hardware. The top and back bindings were black plastic. There were 5226 made. The 1975 price was $439.

•MK-35-12 models were only made in 1977. The appointments matched the MK-35 but the bracing was modified to accommodate the additional string tension of 12 strings. Only about a dozen were made.

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The Model 81 was the top of the Mark Series lineup. A couple of the Mark guitars showed up at my favorite little local music shop over the years. And I did play them. I do not recall which model they were but were lower end models. The only thing I recall thinking was "where is the bass?" Some of the Mark models had removable pickguards and the 81 was pretty pricey. Gibson fans though seemed to be a stubborn lot in the day and rejected anything even remotely radical when it comes to design. The the CF-100 was a commercial flop and they similarly turned their backs on the Mark series. As Gibson is issuing the CF-100 again, can a Mark reissue be far behind?

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That Mark would not even tempt me. My problem is too many folks know my taste in guitars and tend to send me eye candy hoping to part me from my hard earned scratch. If I had hopes that moving to another state would offer me a respite from temptation, they have been dashed against the rocks. Over the past couple of weeks it was a 1963 Epiphone Frontier and a pre-1955 Gibson J-50 (they at times send me nothing other than photos knowing I will figure out what they have and if I am interested will get in touch and let the haggling begin). I was not tempted as much by the Gibson as the Epi. But I stood firm which was made a whole lot easier by the fact they could not place either of those guitars in my hands and tell me to take them home and live with them a couple of weeks. With me that is the kiss of death.

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Dr. Michael Kasha was a chemical physicist and the director of the Institute of Molecular Biophysics at Florida State University. He was also a guitar enthusiast with a passion for physical and psycho-acoustics.

What exactly is psycho-acoustics? Would that be someone who murders people with sound? Or maybe a serial killer who enjoys acoustic music?

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Dr. Michael Kasha was a chemical physicist and the director of the Institute of Molecular Biophysics at Florida State University. He was also a guitar enthusiast with a passion for physical and psycho-acoustics.

What exactly is psycho-acoustics? Would that be someone who murders people with sound? Or maybe a serial killer who enjoys acoustic music?

 

 

 

There are 2 types of Psychoacoustics!

 

One is the majority of Gibson Acoustic Forum players! [flapper] [flapper] [flapper]

 

 

 

Two is the study of it:

 

 

Psychoacoustics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Psychoacoustics is the scientific study of sound perception. More specifically, it is the branch of science studying the psychological and physiological responses associated with sound (including noise, speech and music). It can be further categorized as a branch of psychophysics. Psychoacoustics received its name from a field within psychology—i.e., recognition science—which deals with all kinds of human perceptions. It is an interdisciplinary field of many areas, including psychology, acoustics, electronic engineering, physics, biology, physiology, and computer science.

 

 

 

 

Back to the Gibson MK81...it is probably a good buy to put a pickup in....

 

 

And did the good doctor Kasha (mad like the tv docs?) design the guitar for the first type or second?

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

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Some details thanks to Stuart Cohen on Facebook -

Thx, BK777 - Solid info. The fan-pattern didn't come as a surprise.

 

I recall we found the guitar - don't know which model (not the maple) - rather good sounding. But strangely lacking roots into rock, folk or beat..

My bunch in the 70's played Yamaha, Morris dread, Landola, Bozo, Ibanez, , , and I had those 2 Norlin squares.

Think the MK did beat them, but Ed's jumboish Bozo was my favorite. It btw. lives to this day - unfortunately as a wreck.

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