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I think I've Seen Bigfoot


Cabarone
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A local shop recently got in an old Gibson 12 string. I told my wife, "That looks like a big-bottomed B25". Turns out it's a '61 B45...slope-shouldered! Never heard of such a thing...they said they were made before the Folk Boom and dreads took over. I couldn't stop staring at it...

 

Any experience w/these?

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I'm no expert on the 12 strings but I know the early slope shouldered ones were held in high regard as to TONE. However they weren't built to hold the string tension and most died a violent death. Over the years they went to a square shoulder with a trapeze tailpiece and various designs of bridges. Not sure exactly when that was but I'd take a stab at around 63-64. I have owned a 1969 square shoulder B45 with a (twice broken) tailpiece for many years. The bail of the tailpiece has broken twice and each time, I cut the bails a little shorter and re-thread them. I'm running out of bail. It's a good guitar, not an earth shattering guitar. I think I paid $500 back in 2003 or 2004 and I'd have a hard time replacing it for twice that. I would be wildly open to finding an older example if it was structurally intact and I didn't have to sell a kidney. Not holding my breath for either.

 

Around 1970 they went to a 12 fret neck with a monstrous oversized pin bridge. Never had any experience with one of those. It's so far removed from what I imagine a B45 to be, I'm not tempted. Might be great guitars, who knows?

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You probably should have bought it if it was in decent condition. This was the first iteration of the B45-12--1961 was the first year, I think--and a lot of folks think it's the best version. Not many have survived in good structural condition.

 

These are lightly built, and require light strings and tuning down, but they can have a clarity that is missing in the later square dread versions.

 

Did it have a pin bridge or a trapeze tail?

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Decided long ago that if ever I owned another 12, it would have to be a '61 B-45. Have seen/played only one, not for sale, resurrected by a pro blues picker that I used to cross paths with 'in the day'. Wish it and I were in proximity to eachother, but I guess if it's meant to be it'll happen eventually.

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You probably should have bought it if it was in decent condition. This was the first iteration of the B45-12--1961 was the first year, I think--and a lot of folks think it's the best version. Not many have survived in good structural condition.

 

These are lightly built, and require light strings and tuning down, but they can have a clarity that is missing in the later square dread versions.

 

Did it have a pin bridge or a trapeze tail?

 

If memory serves (a slippery slope) it was pinned...a trapeze would've stood out in my mind, methinks...also, it had an $1800 price tag...one of those dark burst finishes...nice looking piece...

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Yeah, if it is a '61 it would have the J-45 body shape. In late 1962 or '63 Gibson went to the square shoulder HB body shape.

 

You really have to give these a good once over. Up to late 1964 Gibson braced them the same as six strings. One of the reasons you do not run across many, even the early square shoulder B45-12s, is that they were so lightly braced they literally twisted themselves apart. In late '64 Gibson beefed up the bracing. Great for survival but not the best thing for sound.

 

At least with the square shoulder versions, one of the easiest ways to tell which bracing they have is to look at the split diamond on the headstock. If it has rounded tips it is probably a pre-1965. If the tip is pointed then it is not.

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Oops, forgot to answer the question. I have owned a 1962 slope shoulder B45-12. I also owned a very early '63 square shoulder B45-12. Of the two I liked the '63 better. It sounded all the world like a Hummingbird with a chorus pedal. I played it until I found a pre-War Regal jumbo 12 string in a trash can. I had the Regal put into playing condition but could not rationalize keeping two 12 strings. So I sold the B45-12. The Regal is about as rare as it gets so chances of finding another one would be slim and none. Plus, you just ain't gonna get that Leadbelly/Blind Willie McTell sound on a modern 12 string other than maybe a Fraulini.

 

Interesting side note - when Gibson introduced the B45-12, the only American company even offering a stock 12 string guitar was Harmony. They used to come with a warning to keep the guitar tuned down 1 1/2 steps.

Edited by zombywoof
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  • 3 months later...

Just an update; I stopped by there today and they still have it...a '61 w/a trapeze tailpiece, priced @ $1500...if I had the scratch I'd get it...the finish has less cracks in it than my '65...

 

I tell you what - you buy it and I will turn around and buy it from you.

Edited by zombywoof
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Yea, square D's are what I saw him with always. Seems like they were both 63, per readings.

 

Again,the easiest way to set a date limit is the split diamond on the headstock. Bridges are a tangled mess with Gibson seemingly changing them every few years ranging from pin to pinless to several variations of a fixed bridge/tailpiece combination. The slope shoulder guitars and early square shoulder instruments had the tailpiece. Gibson then went to a belly up pin bridge. Sometime around 1965 pinless bridges supposedly apppeared but I do not know if Gibson used them exclusively and I have never actually seen a B45-12 with this bridge. Around 1966 Gibson went back to the pin bridge but this time a belly down bridge. As is typical of Gibson though, everything was variable. Now, who's on first.

Edited by zombywoof
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