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Nick Lucas Talks About The Gibson Nick Lucas Model


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Back in the 1970s, when I became an editor for Guitar Player magazine, I learned that America's first guitar star, Nick Lucas, was alive and well and living down the street from G.I.T. I knew that Nick was the first person to have a signature guitar model -- as well as his own line of guitar picks, instruction books, etc. -- so I found him and he agreed to do an interview. We talked about how he recorded the first popular guitar solos in the early 1920s and became a big Broadway star. I also asked him about how Gibson's distinctive Nick Lucas Model came to be:


"The Gibson Instrument Company, which was located in Kalamazoo, approached me. This was in 1924. They wanted me to play their guitar, but I said, “Geez, I got a great instrument now. I’m very happy with it and it sounds good. However, if you can make me a guitar to my specification, I’ll be glad to make the change.” I had no ties or contract with Galliano by any means, because I bought it for $35. So Gibson said, “We’ll do anything to make you satisfied.” At that time, the guitar was practically obsolete – it was going out. They had to do something. But by the same token it was coming in, so they made a guitar for me called the Nick Lucas model.


When I asked him what was distinctive about it, Nick said: "Well, the distinction was this: The neck board was a little wider. They made the neck board in those days – and they still make ‘em today – a little bit too narrow, because you can’t get a true tone out of some of your chords because the strings are so close together. I don’t have an exceptionally big hand, but I wanted more room between the E and the B string, especially, for when I played a G chord or a C chord. See, then all the notes would come out distinct. I wouldn’t get any interference with my flesh on the fingers. So they made a little wider fingerboard."


What happened to the first one? "I still have it. I still play it! I still use it! It’s a gem. It’s been fixed about 40 times, but I still use it. I wouldn’t part with it. And I also said that I want a little wider body than the usual, and I want it black, and I want it so it don’t shine, because the spotlight would shine on a guitar and it would glare all around the people in the audience. So they came up with this Nick Lucas model, which was a beauty!"


If you'd like to read the entire interview, I've posted it here: Jas Obrecht Music Archive: The Nick Lucas Interview

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think it's only right to point out a couple of inconsistencies in Nick's story. Nick played Gibson instruments long before the idea of the Nick Lucas Special was ever conceived. Nick is pictured in Gibson's 1923 Catalog playing their tenor banjo and there are several pictures of him playing a Gibson L-5 that date to 1924-25. I have researched this particuluar subject - see http://www.fox-guitars.com/Nick_Lucas_Special.html and clearly Nick was an enthusiastic endorser of Gibson, and the story of Gibson practically "begging" him to give up his Galiano is a bit of a stretch.


The dates also don't jive since the Nick Lucas Special was not available until 1928, which means Nick probably got the first "protoype" in 1927, and there's a big gap between 1924 & 1927. None the less, Nick deserves a lot of credit as a great guitarist and the first person to get a guitar named after him, as well as being the only other person besides Orville Gibson himself to have his picture on a Gibson label.


The story of the wider neck is a bit odd, since I've never seen a 1920's version of the NL Special with a wider neck than any other Gibson flattop guitar of that era. Research also indicates that Nick owned no less than 11 NLs, so it makes me wonder what happened to all of those guitars.


Just my 2 cents.

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