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A few thoughts about the new J-35


ataylor

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I haven't posted here in a while, but obviously the new J-35 has brought me off the sidelines -- thought I'd weigh in and speculate about the new model.

 

I'm not surprised that Gibson is bringing it back on a full-time basis. The demand has been there recently as a number of builders offer the J-35 in some form -- ranging from independent luthiers doing terrific replicas (Fairbanks, Kopp, Walker) to small-medium range shops doing their own take (Collings, Bourgeois). Even the ones Gibson has produced, whether custom orders or limited runs, have been well received. With the renewed emphasis on vintage and vintage-style guitars in recent years, it was only a matter of time before Gibson decided to go for it.

 

What is surprising to me is the price point and the placement of the guitar in their lineup. It seems like a strategic move to compete with (1) Martin's 15 series and updated D-18, (2) well-made Asian imports such as the Eastman E10D, and (3) perhaps to a lesser degree, Taylor's 300 and 400 series guitars. My initial reaction is that this is a great way to get someone looking in that price rage into a Gibson that has a pedigree. At the least, I expect this guitar to fill the void left by the old WM-45 in that it will be a solid Gibson slope-shoulder guitar at an approachable price point. I'm hoping it's more like the updated D-18 in terms of value and impact.

 

I was curious they didn't make the guitar in sunburst. The obvious reason is to keep the price point down. I think the hidden reason is that they will unveil a True Vintage series J-35 at some point -- with the sunburst finish and red spruce top, among other upgrades -- that will be targeted more at the guitars coming from Kopp, Fairbanks, Collings, et cetera.

 

It will be interesting to see the reviews come in and learn more about the tone, playability, and fit/finish. There's some serious potential in this guitar and if I wasn't expecting a Fairbanks version (any day now), I'd be scrambling to figure out how to get one of these new J-35s. Who knows, I still might since the Fairbanks is coming in sunburst. :)

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I believe the original J35 was most notably a natural-top model.....

According to Larry Meiners's book of Gibson production figures, just under 99% of J-35s built from 1937 to 1941 were sunburst. While that's too high, and including 1942 production would pull the number down some, the general point is right: the vast majority of J-35s were sunburst.

 

As for the SJ being an "alternative", production of the SJ started after production of the J-35 ended.

 

-- Bob R

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According to Larry Meiners's book of Gibson production figures, just under 99% of J-35s built from 1937 to 1941 were sunburst. While that's too high, and including 1942 production would pull the number down some, the general point is right: the vast majority of J-35s were sunburst.

 

As for the SJ being an "alternative", production of the SJ started after production of the J-35 ended.

 

-- Bob R

 

The SJ also occupied a different place in the Gibson lineup, as an upmarket alternative to J-35/J-45, too.

 

Red 333

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I have been known to be wrong before.....AND I will gratiously accept being wrong again! Alrighty then....

 

Yep...I have the book, and perhaps forgot those pages after seeing the picture of Doc Watson, in the early years, playing a "blondie"....I think 'that' is what stuck in my mind as 'proper'......[scared]

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QUOTE "I was curious they didn't make the guitar in sunburst. "

I believe the original J35 was most notably a natural-top model.....=The Southern Jumbo was the sunburst 'alternative'...

A quick peruse of Gib Fab Flats would indicate that the J35 was(1 'burst, that it 2) preceded the J45 And the Sj and that 3) the J50 was the nat'chl alternative. No offense, Gibson has a complicated model history. But for the House of Gibson to peddle this as a marketing meme. Really? Did they hired some unemployed campaign flaks from the non-reality based community?
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Yep...I have the book, and perhaps forgot those pages after seeing the picture of Doc Watson, in the early years, playing a "blondie".
Well, who could forget Doc? Still, those nat' tops were late to the ball, as the saying goes.

 

Back to the main point, its good to have the J35 back in the lineup (I guess, long as its good enough not to impugn the legacy), but why such an easily disprovable meme? There is this thing, its called a Fact Checking. Five minutes of research to avoid looking foolish. But, wait, does being uninformed still count as foolish in this day and age?

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They don't offer sunburst so it won't cut into j45 sales.

 

Another valid point and one I had thought of when reading about the NAMM news but managed to overlook somehow when typing this post out.

 

I do think they could end up with a True Vintage series model in the future, which I imagine they would put red spruce and a sunburst finish on, maybe lighter bracing, et cetera. I think there wouldn't be so much worry about cannibalization of sales at that tier in their lineup and I imagine it would be priced comparably with the J-45 version.

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Actually, when Gibson introduced the J-45 and SJ in 1942/43, it was phasing out the AJ and the J-35. In effect, the SJ was the replacement for the AJ (the first 90 were RW) and the J-45 replaced the J-35. Phased is the work -- the switchover occurred over time. The RW SJ did not last long -- it quickly became Mahogany and thus a fancy J-45 -- maybe a wartime supply problem?

 

 

The J-35 was introduced in late 1936 as a cheaper version of the Jumbo, which was phased out. Thus it has always been a relatively less expensive guitar.

 

The J-35 body specs changed with time -- first the low taper deep body of the Jumbo and then the more tapered less deep body of the AJ. Anyone know which body they used?

 

Jumbo3s.jpg

 

Here are the guitars at the dawn of the J-35 -- '35 Jumbo, '36 Advanced Jumbo, and '36 Jumbo35/J35/Trojan.

 

 

Best,

 

-Tom

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Wasn't the J-55 the replacement for the AJ? The first version (the one with the batwing bridge) was long-scale, like the AJ, and was introduced in 1939, when the AJ was dropped. While it was mainly produced with mahogany back and sides, there are a couple of rosewood models in existence, too.

 

Gibson later gave it the J-100's mustache bridge. At that point, the guitar became short-scale, like the J-35, which would have been the lower-priced model in the line with the J-55 until approximately 1942, when both were discontinued to make way for the J-45 and SJ.

 

As you say, there was certainly overlap between all five models as to when orders were completed and they left the factory.

 

Red 333

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There was a nice brand new J-35 -- although improperly emblazoned with the wrong style logo and banner <sigh> -- at the "Kalamazoo Gals" book release party tonight in Seattle. Frankly, it was a very nice sounding and playing guitar.

 

Assuming they manage to correct the logo/banner with the correct white stencil/no Banner treatment on the head (!), I have a feeling this will be a welcome addition to the lineup!

 

Fred

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Wasn't the J-55 the replacement for the AJ? The first version (the one with the batwing bridge) was long-scale, like the AJ, and was introduced in 1939, when the AJ was dropped. While it was mainly produced with mahogany back and sides, there are a couple of rosewood models in existence, too.

 

Gibson later gave it the J-100's mustache bridge. At that point, the guitar became short-scale, like the J-35, which would have been the lower-priced model in the line with the J-55 until approximately 1942, when both were discontinued to make way for the J-45 and SJ.

 

As you say, there was certainly overlap between all five models as to when orders were completed and they left the factory.

 

Red 333

 

I guess it is a matter of interpretation -- I have no problem with your interpretation of the facts. I guess in my interpretation, the J-55 is more like a J-bodied mahogany B&S, less decorated (and relative inexpensive) mustache bridge follow on to the SJ200, which was introduced in 1938. I think of the J-55 as evolutionary. Arguably, the SJ -- with the fancy inlay, initial RW B&S and AJ body shape, when combined with the other wartime introduction -- the J-45 -- certainly resembles an evolved version of the J-35/AJ pair which came together in 1936. Of course, when the RW got dropped, the J-45 and the SJ are not very distinct structurally.

 

One thing we have to be careful with nowadays is that many of the long established and widely published time lines are now in question. For example, Gruhn and Carter date the first SJ to Jan 1944, whereas they were clearly shipping in 1943. Joe Spann's wonderful work and the follow on data is helping a lot. It certainly has rewritten the time line for banjos.

 

 

Best,

 

-Tom

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I agree with ATaylor that this is Gibsons attempt at offering a quality 'entry level' acoustic with the Gibson logo. At 1290euro it is is massivelly lower than J-45 at 2090 which offers ridicolously good value, in particular given it has a pickup.

 

This is quite an aggressive product strategy by Gibson and I also agree with ATaylor about the competitive landscape they are trying to comepete against.

 

I just wonder if this guitar will take away sales from the J-45, or whether the J-45 brand is so strong that it will hold its own.

 

Either way, it looks on paper as oustanding value for money, would be the ideal gigging guitar where you can still have Gibson tone and quality but given its affordable value not worry so much about dings, scratches ......... or dare I say, a Gibson 'beater' .. ?

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I guess it is a matter of interpretation -- I have no problem with your interpretation of the facts. I guess in my interpretation, the J-55 is more like a J-bodied mahogany B&S, less decorated (and relative inexpensive) mustache bridge follow on to the SJ200, which was introduced in 1938. I think of the J-55 as evolutionary. Arguably, the SJ -- with the fancy inlay, initial RW B&S and AJ body shape, when combined with the other wartime introduction -- the J-45 -- certainly resembles an evolved version of the J-35/AJ pair which came together in 1936. Of course, when the RW got dropped, the J-45 and the SJ are not very distinct structurally.

 

One thing we have to be careful with nowadays is that many of the long established and widely published time lines are now in question. For example, Gruhn and Carter date the first SJ to Jan 1944, whereas they were clearly shipping in 1943. Joe Spann's wonderful work and the follow on data is helping a lot. It certainly has rewritten the time line for banjos.

 

 

Best,

 

-Tom

 

I guess I was approaching it as lower cost/higher cost pairs. First there was the J-35/AJ. Then J-35/J-55. Then J-45/SJ. I agree that, with its fancy inlays, the SJ may have been a truer successor to the AJ as far as ornamentation goes (and for the use of rosewood, initially), but I didn't want others to loose the point that there was also another successor in terms of a model positioned in the line as the higher-priced option. The J-55, though plain of fretboard, did initially have the elegant art-deco stairstep headstock, a design that was echoed in the large pickguard. This, along with the decorous mustache bridge (and later the unusual--though I would not say handsome-- batwing bridge), made it a visually striking model, and easily identifiable from the relatively modest J-35 (thereby justifying the $20 more or so it cost than the J-35).

 

As you say, this was a time of evolution, exemplified by the J-55 itself. In its brief run, it went from stairstep to regular headstock, long scale to short, and mustache to batwing bridge. From the perspective of our era, it seems like Gibson used up spare parts on it, and when they ran out, changed the specs! But it did occupy the space left in the lineup after the AJ was discontinued, and before the SJ was introduced.

 

This year, it looks like Gibson will offer a J-35, J-45 (several), SJ (several), J-55, and AJ. What will they make of that on the forum, seventy years from now?

 

Tom, you must own or have had experience with the J-55. I've seen a few, but my experience with them is just strumming them at shows, and you can't hear a thing at those. Any impressions that you could share?

 

Red 333

 

EDITED to reverse bridge style timeline, as per RichG's post below, and to note the pickguard.

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Red

 

The 1939 J-55 had a moustache bridge and a stairstep head stock. In 1940 the bridge remained the same but the stair step headstock went away. In 1941 the bat wing bridge appeared. There may or may not have been any 1942 J-55s.

 

The J-100 followed the same progression.

 

There were 55 J-55 made in 1939.

 

In 1939 at least, the J-55 and the J-100 were avaiable with either a one piece saddle or individual bone "bearings", one per string.

 

I say this based upon a lot of reading I did after getting my J-55. This is what I THINK I know, which is always dangerous.

 

This thread has some pictures of my 1939 and a 1941

http://forum.gibson.com/index.php?/topic/95175-factory-records/

 

 

Rich

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Red

 

The 1939 J-55 had a moustache bridge and a stairstep head stock. In 1940 the bridge remained the same but the stair step headstock went away. In 1941 the bat wing bridge appeared. There may or may not have been any 1942 J-55s.

 

The J-100 followed the same progression.

 

There were 55 J-55 made in 1939.

 

In 1939 at least, the J-55 and the J-100 were avaiable with either a one piece saddle or individual bone "bearings", one per string.

 

I say this based upon a lot of reading I did after getting my J-55. This is what I THINK I know, which is always dangerous.

 

This thread has some pictures of my 1939 and a 1941

http://forum.gibson.com/index.php?/topic/95175-factory-records/

 

 

Rich

 

I had the bridge progression BACKWARDS? Thanks for pointing that out! I'll go edit my post above, so it doesn't confuse or misinform anyone further.

 

THANKS!

 

Red 333

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Hi Red,

 

I guess I was approaching it as lower cost/higher cost pairs. First there was the J-35/AJ. Then J-35/J-55. Then J-45/SJ. I agree that, with its fancy inlays, the SJ may have been a truer successor to the AJ as far as ornamentation goes (and for the use of rosewood, initially), but I didn't want others to loose the point that there was also another successor in terms of a model positioned in the line as higher-priced option. The J-55, though plain of fretboard, did initially have the elegant art-deco stairstep headstock. This, along with the large and unusual (though I would not say handsome) batwing bridge, made it a visually striking model, and easily identifiable from the relatively modest J-35 (thereby justifying the $20 more or so it cost than the J-35).

 

Yea, its a good point. The reason I responded at all was because some of the earlier posts lacks historical detail -- I guess I can't complain when you correctly point out that mine lacked some other historical detail.:rolleyes:

 

I guess my primary point, which may have gotten lost in my obsession with detail, is the J-35 was always the lower cost alternative in the large guitar Gibson line. It is also easy to argue (but not prove) that the AJ/J-35 was Gibsons answer to Martin's D-28/D-18 duo -- the parallels to Martins new (back to the old) D-18 and the new J-35 is remarkable.

 

I am also guilty of looking back at the early 20th century with a 21st century bias. We now know what an impact that big RW Martin had on history and rural music. RW was more of a key then than now I would argue because it fostered the acoustic string bands of the 30s and 40s (kerosene circuit) -- that RW roar defined the rhythm in a way that no other materials ever quite did at that time. If that seems like a strange fact from the perspective of the 21st century, it is because those times are gone -- never to return -- because of the impact of sound reinforcement. Of course, the AJ was eventually "discovered" as sort of the equal of the D-28 -- but they are so rare, it took awhile for their reputation to develop.

 

I guess that is why I have a hard time thinking of any non RW guitar as a successor to the AJ in a functional since. Personally, I sure wish they has made more RW SJs -- they are so rare, it is hard to judge how really good they are.

 

This year, it looks like Gibson will offer a J-35, J-45 (several), SJ (several), J-55, and AJ. What will they make of that on the forum, seventy years from now?

 

It seems to me that this rush to the past by the two companies with a past is pretty weird anyway. Certainly some old guitar models founded genres that still thrive, so recreating the associated instruments makes a certain degree of function sense. But not all -- who knows why the buying public does what it does? A favorite saying of my marketing VP when I complained that something he had said did not make sense was: it does not have to make sense -- it is marketing!

 

Tom, you must own or have had experience with the J-55. I've seen a few, but my experience with them is just strumming them at shows, and you can't hear a thing at those. Any impressions that you could share?

 

Not so much -- they are pretty rare. The ones I have played seemed to be tonally similar to the J-35s of the time -- with a fuller warmer tone, and not like Jumbo and earlier J-35s, which were rawer. I did not look inside, but I would guess two scalloped tone bars. Fine guitars for sure -- kind of funny looking though[mellow].

 

Best,

 

-Tom

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There was a nice brand new J-35 -- although improperly emblazoned with the wrong style logo and banner <sigh> -- at the "Kalamazoo Gals" book release party tonight in Seattle. Frankly, it was a very nice sounding and playing guitar.

 

Assuming they manage to correct the logo/banner with the correct white stencil/no Banner treatment on the head (!), I have a feeling this will be a welcome addition to the lineup!

 

Fred

 

Thanks, Fred, for attending last night's "Kalamazoo Gals" festivities. Thanks, too, to Gibson and Amy Colson for supplying food, drink, and guitars.

 

That J-35 was a very nice guitar (despite the curious headstock treatment - done especially for the event so that there would be a new "Banner" Gibson present). I also really liked the new SJ100 model.

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