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Kalamazoo Gals


merciful-evans

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So I just completed reading Kalamazoo Gals: A book about the women who worked at Gibson during WW2 and the production of 'the Banner Era' flat tops. 

Ultimately I found I couldn't get anywhere close to the enthusiasm that the writer (John Thomas) has for the subject. He studied ledgers and included x-ray images of the guitars etc. Nevertheless, the research about Orville Gibson was very good (his date of birth is as hard to verify as some of the guitars). Some of the wartime insights were interesting too. 

There had been a corporate denial that guitars were produced during this period, but about 2,000 were made; many from scraps and other permissible sources. They were not allowed truss rods. The writer asserts that 'a wartime Gibson is more responsive & has a smoother warmer tone than pre or post war Gibsons'.

I couldn't honestly recommend it to anyone other than an enthusiast for 'Banner' guitars. I would love a chance to play one though.

 

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Thanks for taking the time to read and post about my book! I truly appreciate it.

One correction: the company manufactured almost 25,000 musical instruments during WWII, Including about 9,100 "Banner" flattops.

Thanks, again!

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1 hour ago, Murph said:

 

Because capitalism rocks!

And consumer demand! 🙂

During WWII, Gibson president Guy Hart testified before the War Production Board that the company was having difficulty keeping up with the demand from soldiers to purchase guitars.

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J.T. could have produced what was essentially a chronicle or basically a Joe Friday just the facts narrative.  That probably would have been enough to satisfy more than a few players.  But he didn't,  What he gave us was a social history.

I swear though my 1942 J50 sounds better after having read the book.  Probably just the Law of Psychoacoustics coming into play (the first of which is it affects everybody but you) but after a reading the feeling hit me with all the subtlety of a flying mallet that I did not as much own the guitar but had been appointed its caretaker.

Edited by zombywoof
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/3/2023 at 9:10 AM, jt said:

And consumer demand! 🙂

During WWII, Gibson president Guy Hart testified before the War Production Board that the company was having difficulty keeping up with the demand from soldiers to purchase guitars.

Hey John, 

Hope all is well!

Best, 

Neil

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That’s a book I’ve always wanted to get. Maybe I’ll finally break down and buy it.

I’ve wondered, though…. Has Gibson produced (or given any thought to producing) any limited runs of guitars with wartime specs and no adjustable truss rods? With available carbon fiber neck rods and improved square steel tube truss rods, it would be easy enough to do.

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3 hours ago, dhanners623 said:

That’s a book I’ve always wanted to get. Maybe I’ll finally break down and buy it.

I’ve wondered, though…. Has Gibson produced (or given any thought to producing) any limited runs of guitars with wartime specs and no adjustable truss rods? With available carbon fiber neck rods and improved square steel tube truss rods, it would be easy enough to do.

Thank you!

Some years ago, Gibson produced a limited run of copies of my personal collection (50 replicas of 4 guitars). As best I know, all had adjustable truss rods.

I'd love for Gibson to produce replicas of the truss rod-less wartime Gibsons. The great luthiers in Italy, Bagnasco and Casatti, do. The guitars are wonderful.

But, like Bagnasco and Casatti, Gibson should produce accurate replicas. No carbon fiber rods and improved square steel tubes, please. Gibson's wartime guitars featured maple neck reinforcements--a V-shaped wedge that ran the length of the neck. Martin used an ebony insert.

 

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On 3/3/2023 at 3:10 PM, jt said:

And consumer demand! 🙂

During WWII, Gibson president Guy Hart testified before the War Production Board that the company was having difficulty keeping up with the demand from soldiers to purchase guitars.

Think we may have touched down on this before, but those Gibsons, Martins etc. that went over the sea in the early 40s must have been the first trace of the brands we saw here.                                    Some would have been seriously lost, but others - very few - may have stayed and spread joy on the European map. 

Don't know if you zoomed in on this in the book. The war survivors. 

R5cdu9e.jpg

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30 minutes ago, E-minor7 said:

Think we may have touched down on this before, but those Gibsons, Martins etc. that went over the sea in the early 40s must have been the first trace of the brands we saw here.                                    Some would have been seriously lost, but others - very few - may have stayed and spread joy on the European map. 

Don't know if you zoomed in on this in the book. The war survivors. 

R5cdu9e.jpg

Yes, I did address this in the book.

This is a photo of the war effort in North Africa. That case is precisely the case Gibson would have supplied for an SJ, J-45, or J-50. (Yes, it's shaped more to fit an archtop, but that's the case you got for J-series flattop, too, if you wanted a hardshell case.)

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3 hours ago, RvrDxn said:

I’ve seen that. As well as the bit that says, “Kindle titles are available for US customers on Amazon.com. 
Continue shopping on the Kindle Store at Amazon.com. 
 

Went ahead and ordered a physical copy of the book. Looking forward to reading it.

Edited by dhanners623
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1 hour ago, dhanners623 said:

I’ve seen that. As well as the bit that says, “Kindle titles are available for US customers on Amazon.com. 
Continue shopping on the Kindle Store at Amazon.com. 
 

Went ahead and ordered a physical copy of the book. Looking forward to reading it.

Thank you! I look forward to learning your thoughts about my book.

I'm honored and humbled by each and every purchase.

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4 hours ago, jt said:

Thank you! I look forward to learning your thoughts about my book.

I'm honored and humbled by each and every purchase.

I should’ve bought it sooner. I probably didn’t out of fear it would tempt me to go out in search of a war-era Gibson, which I could ill afford. (How many lefties did they build?)

Having made my living by writing for four decades, I was always impressed by folks who churned out books. I worked with several who did. Although I had a few publishers approach me about doing a book of some sort, I always decided I had no desire to spend 8-10 hours a day digging for information then sitting at a keyboard, then go home and spend even more time digging for information and sitting at a keyboard. So my hat is off to you.

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4 hours ago, dhanners623 said:

ISo my hat is off to you.

Don't tip your hat until you've read the thing!

This is my loan book that has had a broad-ranging appeal. My next 2 books (a book for Oxford U Press about the science of the guitar and a book for Springer/Nature about child refugees) will, almost certainly, have limited appeal.

Again, thanks. And I look forward to learning what you think of the book.

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5 minutes ago, jt said:

Don't tip your hat until you've read the thing!

This is my loan book that has had a broad-ranging appeal. My next 2 books (a book for Oxford U Press about the science of the guitar and a book for Springer/Nature about child refugees) will, almost certainly, have limited appeal.

Again, thanks. And I look forward to learning what you think of the book.

I thought you were working on a follow-up to the Kalamazoo Gals. 

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10 minutes ago, Dave F said:

I thought you were working on a follow-up to the Kalamazoo Gals. 

That one, too. But I'm waiting until the documentary film premiers about a year from now (on the film festival circuit). Details (fairly) soon.

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21 hours ago, dhanners623 said:

I’ve seen that. As well as the bit that says, “Kindle titles are available for US customers on Amazon.com. 
Continue shopping on the Kindle Store at Amazon.com. 
 

Went ahead and ordered a physical copy of the book. Looking forward to reading it.

If you’ve seen that then why did you say “Can’t buy it as a Kindle in the UK.“

 
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14 hours ago, jt said:

That one, too. But I'm waiting until the documentary film premiers about a year from now (on the film festival circuit). Details (fairly) soon.

That is very good news! 


The one thing that sets John's book apart from any other guitar book I've read is that it at the same time is an historical account. It was very interesting to read about these womens' lives and sacrifices during the war. It makes it easier to appreciate, not only the Gibson Banners, but also other guitars and goods produced under such circumstances. 

Lars

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3 hours ago, Lars68 said:

That is very good news! 


The one thing that sets John's book apart from any other guitar book I've read is that it at the same time is an historical account. It was very interesting to read about these womens' lives and sacrifices during the war. It makes it easier to appreciate, not only the Gibson Banners, but also other guitars and goods produced under such circumstances. 

Lars

Which makes me wonder…. Are there any similar books or scholarly articles about Martin’s war-era guitars? And is it just me, but does it seem like Martin’s pre-war guitars are prized, while Gibson’s war-era guitars are what folks look for? (That said, I don’t know of anyone who would turn their nose up at a pre-war Gibson.)

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  • 11 months later...
On 3/3/2023 at 11:17 AM, merciful-evans said:

So I just completed reading Kalamazoo Gals: A book about the women who worked at Gibson during WW2 and the production of 'the Banner Era' flat tops. 

Ultimately I found I couldn't get anywhere close to the enthusiasm that the writer (John Thomas) has for the subject. He studied ledgers and included x-ray images of the guitars etc. Nevertheless, the research about Orville Gibson was very good (his date of birth is as hard to verify as some of the guitars). Some of the wartime insights were interesting too. 

There had been a corporate denial that guitars were produced during this period, but about 2,000 were made; many from scraps and other permissible sources. They were not allowed truss rods. The writer asserts that 'a wartime Gibson is more responsive & has a smoother warmer tone than pre or post war Gibsons'.

I couldn't honestly recommend it to anyone other than an enthusiast for 'Banner' guitars. I would love a chance to play one though.

It is important that you still find interesting facts about the history of guitar production during World War II. While the book may not be for everyone, it will likely be of interest to fans of Banner-era guitar. I just found economics help for the university and if I have time to read it, I use https://edubirdie.com/economics-help for this. It's a shame that the corporation denied making wartime guitars, but it's interesting to know that about 2,000 were still made. Maybe you'll have the opportunity to try out the game on one of them in the future! It would be great!

I understand that you were not able to share the enthusiasm of the author of the book, and that’s okay. Sometimes interest in a certain topic can be ambiguous for different people.

Edited by havasasabata
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