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The Rosewood 1940 J-55 has arrived.


tpbiii
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Here it is with its RW sisters.  I'll do some recording tomorrow.

UToTA9U.jpg

 

35 RSRG, 36 AJ, 40 J-55, 43 SJ

Tomorrow I will post some videos -- like the others, it has truly extraordinary power.  I knew that of course, but it is nice to know  did not miss judge it.  AFAIK, this is all the slope rw jumbos models-- they stopped making the last RW SJ in 1943.  Of course a couple of months ago, I did not know about RW J-55s -- with Gibson, you truly never know.😎

Let's pick,

-Tom

Edited by tpbiii
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I seen a couple of Rosewood 55s at the King of Prussia Bee 3 show quite a few years ago.  When Chinery was buying up our guitars.   That was a blast.   Gruhns  to one side Jim Dance from Island guitars accross from us.   Chicago music exchange to our left.    
 

Btw. Nice 4 some you have there.  

Edited by slimt
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4 hours ago, slimt said:

I seen a couple of Rosewood 55s at the King of Prussia Bee 3 show quite a few years ago.  When Chinery was buying up our guitars.   That was a blast.   Gruhns  to one side Jim Dance from Island guitars accross from us.   Chicago music exchange to our left.    
 

Btw. Nice 4 some you have there.  

This is probably one of those -- Gary Burnette had it at one time.  It is the one pictured in the Fabulous Flat Top book -- the picture is from Gary.  

It has the smallest braces I have ever seen.

As a bluegrass player, my early years were dominated by old Martin D-28s.  The primary unique property of old D-28s that help then define traditional bluegrass rhythm -- and make them sort of the king of vintage flat tops -- was their overpowering midrange roar that filled the backbeat in the BG rhythm.  Gary Burnette figured out the AJ -- although  a different guitar for sure -- did have a roaring midrange that was every bit as good as the herringbones for bluegrass.  But they were too rare to catch on.  Well it turns out IME -- at least for the examples I own -- that can be said of all four of the golden era RW Js.  The RSRG only had 12 frets and it had to be converted, while the RW SJs and certainly the RW J-55 were essentially unknown.  So history might have been different, but it wasn't.  And isn't.

Best,

--Tom

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TPB,  I believe the '40s Martin D-28s were Brazilian RW.   Is that what the RW Gibson AJs from the same era used?   Do you think that is what set the D-28 at least apart? Or was it the bracing?   I have trouble thinking different strains of the same species of wood would make a difference.  Brazilian, Madagascar, Indian ?  Though  'they' do say the wood recovered from old stumps  from trees harvested decades ago in Brazil  is very good., I wonder if the aging process 80 years ago played a bigger part than the country of origin.   

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4 hours ago, fortyearspickn said:

TPB,  I believe the '40s Martin D-28s were Brazilian RW.   Is that what the RW Gibson AJs from the same era used?   Do you think that is what set the D-28 at least apart? Or was it the bracing?   I have trouble thinking different strains of the same species of wood would make a difference.  Brazilian, Madagascar, Indian ?  Though  'they' do say the wood recovered from old stumps  from trees harvested decades ago in Brazil  is very good., I wonder if the aging process 80 years ago played a bigger part than the country of origin.   

Well in my life, I have wasted a lot of time on such questions.  So have a lot of other people.

Over the time, a pretty clear picture has emerged.  Martin always used BWR, and did so until 1969.  Near the end, there was an increasing use of sap wood.  Here is a 69 D-35 that illustrates that point very well.

kPG036m.jpg

 

Gibson used East Indian Rosewood for backs and sizes from about 1934 until they quit doing RW in 1943.  The also use BRW for other stuff -- bridges, fingerboard, etc.  This was verified by testing in wood laboratories. 

In new guitars, I have occasionally gotten to compare two (new) guitars where the only difference was the RW species.  IME, they were different and the BRW was best -- but the differences are tiny!

IME, age makes a huge difference -- and after you learn what to listen for, it is not hard to identify -- even blindfolded.  As a sound scientist, I spent maybe 20 years trying to disprove this -- eventually I gave up.  I don't claim to know why -- but old is definitely better.

By the early 2000s, I had been playing bluegrass 25 years and I had two wonderful old herringbones,   They really are that good for that particular application. and I had quite a lot of fine old Gibsons that were not.  Now the Gibsons were/are wonderful for other stuff -- and Vintage Gibsons had the other two bluegrass slots: mandolin and banjo -- but Martin had the guitar slot, and deserved it.  In 2001, I sold my sweat equity company, so I could loosen up on my guitar retire investment buying rules.  So I bought the 36 AJ from Gruhn.

WELL -- MY OH MY.  It was what the legend suggested -- at least the equal of the old D-28s for bluegrass rhythm.  Not the same -- but it had it own midrange roar that worked every bit as well as the herringbones.  And that started the whole process which got me to where I am today -- sort of the keeper of the secret bluegrass Gibson guitars -- with rarer and rarer guitars.

Now I am a bit lonely over here -- not too many bluegrass people.  They are all over the mandolin, banjo, and Martin guitar sites -- but here not so much.  That certainly makes sense historically. 

And sadly I can't play the J-55 in 4 or 5 jams this week  -- no bluegrass jams with social distancing.  🥵🥶

Stay safe,

-Tom

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Thanks Tom

 

PS,  I still listen to that video of the war time 00-17 from time to time just to sort of find some musical balance.  Those posted  Gibsons are beautiful!

I tend to agree with your opinion on  bluegrass on this forum,   There some really talented musicians on this forum, the music here is wonderful. 

 

Edited by ratherbwalkn
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Tom,  Thank you so much. Decades of learning and wisdom encapsulated in a simple response!   Helps me understand why they go for $50K and up !   Not only  because "They don't make them like that anymore."   But because they're old.  Or should I say  "Aged Gracefully" ?   Thanks again. I need to save that somewhere I'll remember where it is!   Jim

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4 hours ago, uncle fester said:

Hey Tom - are you able to have opinions on the J-55 yet, or is it when you are able to get into a jam type setting with multiple instruments that you'll draw your conclusions?  just curious.

rgds - b

I can't wait to get into a heavy traditional bluegrass jam with it, but in this case I am very comfortable with my judgement of this guitar's tone for bluegrass.  Because I spent my professional career judging the quality of audio (mostly speech) system, I am very aware of how easy it is to fool yourself.  Since I am fascinated by tone, I spend a lot of time comparing guitars -- alternately playing them, recording them and doing pairwise comparisons, having other people play them (listen and get opinions), and playing them in sessions.  Obviously the last two are not available, but this guitar is such an extraordinary example of what a bluegrass rhythm guitar should be (and I have several other such guitars--it is a disease), I already know it is a truly exceptional guitar.  I really already knew that before I bought it because I had an old herringbone with me when I met the guitar in Nashville nearly three months ago.  However, usually I have more nuanced opinions about tonal detail, but I am not their yet -- but in terms of it functionality, it is obvious.  I'll put up some demos and pairwise comparisons in the next few days.  It is nice to have something interesting to do.🙂

Be  safe,

-Tom

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34 minutes ago, tpbiii said:

I can't wait to get into a heavy traditional bluegrass jam with it, but in this case I am very comfortable with my judgement of this guitar's tone for bluegrass.  Because I spent my professional career judging the quality of audio (mostly speech) system, I am very aware of how easy it is to fool yourself.  Since I am fascinated by tone, I spend a lot of time comparing guitars -- alternately playing them, recording them and doing pairwise comparisons, having other people play them (listen and get opinions), and playing them in sessions.  Obviously the last two are not available, but this guitar is such an extraordinary example of what a bluegrass rhythm guitar should be (and I have several other such guitars--it is a disease), I already know it is a truly exceptional guitar.  I really already knew that before I bought it because I had an old herringbone with me when I met the guitar in Nashville nearly three months ago.  However, usually I have more nuanced opinions about tonal detail, but I am not their yet -- but in terms of it functionality, it is obvious.  I'll put up some demos and pairwise comparisons in the next few days.  It is nice to have something interesting to do.🙂

Be  safe,

-Tom

Sounds like a plan, Tom. Looking forward to hearing the beast.

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On 4/22/2020 at 12:20 AM, tpbiii said:

Here it is with its RW sisters.  I'll do some recording tomorrow.

UToTA9U.jpg

 

35 RSRG, 36 AJ, 40 J-55, 43 SJ

Tomorrow I will post some videos -- like the others, it has truly extraordinary power.  I knew that of course, but it is nice to know  did not miss judge it.  AFAIK, this is all the slope rw jumbos models-- they stopped making the last RW SJ in 1943.  Of course a couple of months ago, I did not know about RW J-55s -- with Gibson, you truly never know.😎

Let's pick,

-Tom

The back on the one on the left is sweet.

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1 hour ago, JuanCarlosVejar said:


Tom,

Nice J 55 ,Have you demoed it yet?


always a treat to see your collection!

All the best !!

 

Here’s a 36 AJ demo :

 

 

 

JC

I plan to restring the AJ tomorrow so I have a good comparison.  Then I will make a fair pairwise comparison with that one and probably the 43 SJ RW too.  Here are a couple of old demos of my AJ.

https://vimeo.com/385155838

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0i7c1TyKQ4

https://vimeo.com/385155866

Best,

-Tom

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The AJ is one of the best acoustic guitars for me. I played 3 original ones, had several reissues till I bought my 1935 reissue in 2013 

I love this guy, I am not a Bluegrass player but love listen to it. But this guy always gives me a big smile, he reminds me of SRV, killer player and just loves to play. 

 

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Here's a more traditional take on the fiddle tune behind the  "Randall Collins" variation that Billy Strings is playing on the AJ. This is my Guitar God, Norman Blake, on a slot-head, 12-fret, slope-shouldered, sunburst early D-28 (I think).

The battle of the dreadnoughts between the early  D-28 variants and the AJ is a wonderful thing to immerse yourself in.

Norman Blake

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OK, it is here and it is time for close examination.   Of course that will take months, but what I can do is to compare to a couple of it "sort of" sisters -- the 36 AJ and 43 SJ RW -- for bluegrass rhythm (also sort of, because there can be no bluegrass band until the pandemic is gone) and also a good old Herringbone -- a very well regarded 1939 D-28.  First, let me show you some braces: 36 AJ, 40 J-55, 43 SJ RW and 44 J-45
1936 AJ

DhLuHPA.jpg
1940 J-55 RW

8KArs68.jpg

1943 SJ RW

0kHOghv.jpg

1944 J-45

vehxZ2H.jpg

OK -- to look at this you would say these are not going to sound the same. I mean 3 tone bars (AJ), a sort of large bridge plate and the thinnest braces I have ever seen (J-55), then two very similar banners (SJ and J-45).  But what I heard from a rhythm point of view, the AJ, J-55, and SJ RW sound very similar while the SJ RW and J-45 are very different, both in tone and power.  And I should also say the J-45 is an excellent sonic example of the model which I love -- but I proved long ago it is not a bluegrass rhythm guitar.  Of course the mahogany back and sides on the J-45 makes a big difference.

So I have tried to provide and example.  It is the kind of (dull) comparison I did zillions of times in my middle years developing speech and audio systems -- pairwise comparisons.

The AJ is a known commodity -- this one widely acknowledged (by others than me) as an extraordinary bluegrass rhythm guitar -- so it is the "reference."  The test order is

AJ J-55 AJ SJRW AJ J-45 AJ D-28 AJ

Not exactly music I know.  I should also note that I have some age related hearing loss, and I know I have lost a step from when my ears help me win and set international standards.



Let's pick,
-Tom

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