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1936 Jumbo-35 -- the Trojan


tpbiii
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So my earlier discussion of my 1935 Gibson Jumbo was of interest to some, so I guess I'll try at least one more.  This is the story of my 1936 "first year" Jumbo35 or J-35.

I live in Atlanta, and in the 1930s Georgia in general, and Atlanta in particular, was sort of the main hub of the emerging country music scene.  Think Gid Tanner, Clayton McMichen, Riley Puckett, Fiddin' John Carson, etc.  Atlanta is where Bill Monroe came after he left Charlie and formed his own band.  The center of the action was Auburn Av. -- later to become a center for African American culture.  That is where the CABLE PIANO COMPANY was located, which commissioned  for Perry Bectel -- a well known guitar and banjo player and also their salesman -- the first 14-fret flat top guitar: the Martin OM-28.  That guitar is often considered the start of the golden era of American flat top guitars.

A lot of guitars were sold to country music players in Atlanta, and by the 80s and 90s many were coming out from under beds and joining the vintage market.  We use to frequent a small shop called ATLANTA VINTAGE GUITARS which was quite close to our house.  We ate lunch nearby and generally visited once a week.  I was a quick sell at a reasonable price, so I bought a lot of guitars from AVG.  One day at lunch, we found a really clean old J-35, which was on our list of guitars we would like to have.  After a short negotiation, it went home with us.  It was a 1936 -- easily dated by the B in the FON.

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This guitar has the same body dimension and bracing as the 1935 Jumbo I discussed earlier, but it was clearly EXC+ untouched condition with some cosmetic changes intended to make it more affordable -- $35 vs $60.  This was deep in the depression.  Here is the 1935 Jumbo for reference.

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They should sound the same, but they don't.  They both have a huge sound, but the J-35 is a pretty raw paint peeler while the Jumbo 35 has a deeper sound -- probably because all the work.

So a few years later I am in Canada watching the Canadian Antiques Road Show and an old J-35 comes up.  The dealer said it was an early one -- AND IT MIGHT EVEN BE A TROJAN.  Huh?  A Trojan he said was sort of an early prototype run for what would become the J-35 -- and there were only 39 built.  BTW, neither of these things are true, but there were -- and are -- a lot of people who think they are.  He also said Trojans bodies were not tapered.   Well when I got home and checked, I found mine was tapered -- not much, but some.  No brass ring here.

The Trojan "model" was discovered by Lynn Wheelwright.  Trojan Article

The article mentioned that once -- and only once -- was a Trojan mentioned in the shipping records with the FON -- 960-12.  In my records, that was not my batch and mine was also slightly tapered.

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Well Ritter Music was on Auburn Av in Atlanta.  So one day I was taking pictures of the bracing and I looked back at the neck block.  I realized I had read the FON wrong -- this was 960B-12.  I remembered the 960 but I had to check for the 12.  This actually was the worlds only documented Trojan😄 --  even a blind hog finds a acorn now and then!  So Trojans do have a slight taper and I can prove it.😉

For all its beauty and power, I have not found it to be all that useful for me personally -- too raw for bluegrass and too powerful for folk.  These are shortcomings of the guitarist and not the guitar.  Also it is too perfect to go to all the ugly places bluegrass is played.  So of all the wonderful 1935 and 1936 slopes in this picture, it is the one that gets played least. 

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I do have some videos.

 



 

 

 

 

Let's pick,

-Tom

 

Edited by tpbiii
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Please stop.  I am trying to swear off old Gibsons.  You ain't helping me any.

My brain is a bit rusty on it all but I recall somebody over at the UMGF,  probably in the Gibson Bracing Library,  posting about a Trojan which had scalloped braces.  The general consensus was it was not a modification but done at the factory.  

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Hi Woof,

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My brain is a bit rusty on it all but I recall somebody over at the UMGF,  probably in the Gibson Bracing Library,  posting about a Trojan which had scalloped braces.  The general consensus was it was not a modification but done at the factory.  

I have wasted a lot of time over there (and still do waste some), and I don't remember that -- but with Gibson you never know because they never seemed to do the same thing twice.  I have a vague memory that there was a Jumbo with scalloped braces, and Gibson was certainly scalloping braces on some Smecks and on (all?) AJs during that period.  Ultimately J-35s showed up with most every combination of bodies (Jumbo/AJ), numbers of tone bars (2 or 3), and braces (scalloped/unscalloped).  J-35s seem to come in a lot of flavors😎😄.  Also for awhile people like Steve Swan were scalloping everything in sight -- particularly Smecks and HG-00s.  They called it "voicing." 

Also there is no real definition for "Trojan" -- it was really  just the project name that was officially renamed to Jumbo-35 when the marketing started.  There were not hard changes associated with the name changes.  So the only guitar we know for sure is a Trojan is the one pictured above.😉

 

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Please stop.  I am trying to swear off old Gibsons.  You ain't helping me any.

I started on a Gibson (LG-1), but when I went to bluegrass I tried to switch.  I failed!

BTW I love your eclectic choices in old guitars -- that seems to be a wonderful somewhat untapped area.👍

All the best,

-Tom

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Hi Nick,

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What an awesome guitar! It seems you can clearly hear every single string on every chord. That's probably not a guitar that blends well with others, but it makes a powerful statement on its own.

That pretty much says it!.  BTW, when my late wife as talking about the rough guitar tone, she was taking about the Smeck -- not the Trojan.  The Smeck  is rawer than the Trojan when you lay into it, but it can also be really sweet if you back off.

Best,

-Tom

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Awesome guitar!  Makes me want a J35..........that one in particular..,,,,lol.....That is truly a "vintage" guitar to my eyes and ears.

It might very well work well for your stuff.  I  have had it out since I started writing about it -- it tonal balance is kind of like a wartime J-45 or SJ -- but quite a bit stronger.  I love fingerpicking it with picks -- it really fills the room.  It hasn't changed but my musical life has -- new opportunities..

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Just outstanding. Thanks for sharing that with us. I think I needed that.

Thanks.  I sort of needed it to.  I am pretty tired of my own company -- a great guitar can be a good companion in a pinch.

Best,

-Tom

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