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Gibson Robert Johnson Guitar


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I really liked this guitar when I played it recently.

The neck felt like the real Gibson (50's) neck..and response was as good as anything.

One thing stuck in my mind though, the Spruce ,under that sunbust finish,..its grain was quite wide..but its Sitka..

In an era when Master grade looking Sitka is going on D28V's.. Ive never seen such good Sitka Spruce going on to production guitars as standard as they have been the last few years.

Guitar is selling for aprox $2k..is this considered a budget guitar these days,so that grade of Sitka is used..? Or is this a one of..? Or was this what was on Robert Johnsons actual Guitar?

The other thing I thought questionable is no pickguard with a nitro finish..the brand new guitar had pick scratches all over it.

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Guitar is selling for aprox $2k..is this considered a budget guitar these days,so that grade of Sitka is used..? Or is this a one of..? Or was this what was on Robert Johnsons actual Guitar?

 

Not sure I would consider it a budget guitar but it certainly seems to come in as one of the lower priced Gibson flat-tops. And yes, the better looking woods seem to be used on the more expensive guitars...

 

And no..it's certainly not Johnson's actual guitar. In fact, lots of folks doubt that Johnson played one at all...

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Apart from the one infamous photo, there's no other link to Robert Johnson and the Gibson L-1, sidekicks, stepsons and others in the know all point to the Kalamazoo KG-14 as his guitar of choice, because it was sturdy and cheap. THe story goes the photo session was arranged and he borrowed a guitar for the pose while there, thus the L-1 association was born.

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I was in NYC before Christmas, looking in Sam Ash. That day I played guitars, at least brands,

I have not previously considered. A Larrivee D for example which was phenomenal.

Then I tried the old favourites, Martin 000-15, J-45, L-00TV, all beautiful.

I am not a fan of Robert Johnson, or the blues particularly, still I picked up this

RJ L-1. I tell you, I could not put it down! It was fantastic. Great to hold, fingerpicking dream,

and, not bad at strumming too. I don't like the signature, so I emailed Fullers and asked about

an no-namer. They said they have them from $1800 up.

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Apart from the one infamous photo, there's no other link to Robert Johnson and the Gibson L-1, sidekicks, stepsons and others in the know all point to the Kalamazoo KG-14 as his guitar of choice, because it was sturdy and cheap. THe story goes the photo session was arranged and he borrowed a guitar for the pose while there, thus the L-1 association was born.

 

The "Robert borrowed that guitar to pose for the photo" line has never made sense to me. Why would the guy dress to tne nines -- fancy suit, including handkerchief neatly folded and placed in pocket, perfectly knotted tie, shinny shoes, and fedora cocked at the perfect angle -- and then borrow a beat up guitar to pose for a photo?

 

d1c5e79be91f7c1e3c6ccff571feab81.jpg

 

The photo only makes sense if that is his guitar. Now, I'm not contending that he played that particular guitar on any of his recording. (Although because the songs were recorded to Edison cylinders, mastered to 78s, and what we hear remastered to another format I don't know how anyone can claim to be able to discern from the recordings what guitar he played.) And I certainly believe the likes of Johnny Shines and others who report that he usually played a Kalamazoo. But, imho, the borrowed guitar claim isn't supported by a close examination of that photo.,

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The "Robert borrowed that guitar to pose for the photo" line has never made sense to me. Why would the guy dress to tne nines -- fancy suit, including handkerchief neatly folded and placed in pocket, perfectly knotted tie, shinny shoes, and fedora cocked at the perfect angle -- and then borrow a beat up guitar to pose for a photo?

 

d1c5e79be91f7c1e3c6ccff571feab81.jpg

 

The photo only makes sense if that is his guitar. Now, I'm not contending that he played that particular guitar on any of his recording. (Although because the songs were recorded to Edison cylinders, mastered to 78s, and what we hear remastered to another format I don't know how anyone can claim to be able to discern from the recordings what guitar he played.) And I certainly believe the likes of Johnny Shines and others who report that he usually played a Kalamazoo. But, imho, the borrowed guitar claim isn't supported by a close examination of that photo.,

 

I like this observation JT

 

I like it a lot... as you say ..he's dressed for the photo..maybe doing a gig later on ?

 

I also notice..and something I had never noticed before about this photo..he is wearing what appears to be a thumb pick ( I always assumed he played with bare thumb !!! )

 

so he has everything you would expect him to have for a promo shot of him.......and he forgets his guitar ?

 

It does not make sense, as you surmise...

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I see your point JT, but all we have is the 'as the story goes' plus the recanting of tales by those who knew him, several of which point to the Kalamazoo KG-14. Outside of this photo there is no other reference to a Gibson L-1 model with RJ. Several for the KG-14, at that point I guess I'm inclined to believe that those recanted tales are probably more accurate and that they had no conspiracy against Gibson or the L-1 model.

 

I totally see you point though, but perhaps he was not expecting to pose for pics with a guitar that day and simply borrowed what was available, I can of course see the benefit for Gibson for him to be associated to the L-1, it's just strange that one photo is the only connection given all the furore around RJ.

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I was in NYC before Christmas, looking in Sam Ash. That day I played guitars, at least brands,

I have not previously considered. A Larrivee D for example which was phenomenal.

Then I tried the old favourites, Martin 000-15, J-45, L-00TV, all beautiful.

I am not a fan of Robert Johnson, or the blues particularly, still I picked up this

RJ L-1. I tell you, I could not put it down! It was fantastic. Great to hold, fingerpicking dream,

and, not bad at strumming too. I don't like the signature, so I emailed Fullers and asked about

an no-namer. They said they have them from $1800 up.

 

You played the same guitar that my friend George & I were captivated by...as they had only just reopened at they're new location on 34th St & closed those shoppes at the end of Dec aprox.

I have seen used ones go for $1200-1400 (RJ) but I thought buying one other than that exact one at Sam Ash means,most possibly, not exactly one as good.

That particular one was as good as anything.

Either way no job..no buy. My friends the buyer.

Oh the Larrivee D..we played the same one.They had that one extremely reduced that was so good and just reduced to $1450,that had been reduced previously to $1999...(also a Braz one).

 

The other one was a Martin Authentic D18 1937..first time I tried any Authentic cause Id pretty much washed my hands of Martin. But when I got my hand on that neck and got it in my arms I said to my self THATS the Martin I know.(old ones when I could not buy one)

A few notes and oh oh..perfect.

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I see your point JT, but all we have is the 'as the story goes' plus the recanting of tales by those who knew him, several of which point to the Kalamazoo KG-14. Outside of this photo there is no other reference to a Gibson L-1 model with RJ. Several for the KG-14, at that point I guess I'm inclined to believe that those recanted tales are probably more accurate and that they had no conspiracy against Gibson or the L-1 model.

 

I totally see you point though, but perhaps he was not expecting to pose for pics with a guitar that day and simply borrowed what was available, I can of course see the benefit for Gibson for him to be associated to the L-1, it's just strange that one photo is the only connection given all the furore around RJ.

 

Of course, we have no way of answering this question and I love all the mysteries surrounding RJ.

 

Again, though, I refer to the photo. Look at the guitar. It's the victim of some very aggressive fingerpicking. No strumming marks, just serious fingerpicking-inflicted divots. So, the story would be that at some point in 1935 RJ got all dressed up in his fanciest clothes, strolled down to the Hook Brothers photo studio in Memphis and having forgotten to bring his guitar finds a battered guitar lying about the studio that bears playing wear by a player who played in exactly his style. Possible? Sure. Likely? I don't think so.

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I'm guessing it could be possible that he borrowed the guitar at the same time he borrowed the suit, figuring it would look more prestigious to have a Gibson than his usual cheaper box. Or not. Just throwing it out there as a possibility.

 

Thats one mighty fine fitting suit to say it was borrowed ..

 

It's told he was a slick dresser..with a lot of style.

 

A lot of the blues men would be dressed very slick to perform..and carouse ..

 

I think it would have been hard pressed to find Mr Johnson WITHOUT his guitar..anytime

 

never mind when about to spend monies on a photo...to show off he's the king bee

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Of course, we have no way of answering this question and I love all the mysteries surrounding RJ.

 

Again, though, I refer to the photo. Look at the guitar. It's the victim of some very aggressive fingerpicking. No strumming marks, just serious fingerpicking-inflicted divots. So, the story would be that at some point in 1935 RJ got all dressed up in his fanciest clothes, strolled down to the Hook Brothers photo studio in Memphis and having forgotten to bring his guitar finds a battered guitar lying about the studio that bears playing wear by a player who played in exactly his style. Possible? Sure. Likely? I don't think so.

 

Depends in the context you put it in, it's just as likely he turned up for a photo shoot looking all dapper but minus guitar, he was a gobby ladies man after all, perhaps he was expecting a gentlemanly portrait whereupon it was decided it would be better to roll with a nod to the muso look, a guitar was brought in to make that look happen.... it's every bit as likely really! As for wear marks on the guitar, why surely everyone was at reasonably similar styles back then, most records from that era were all a bit fingerpicky... it was the style of the day really. All that before we question the photo and its digital reproductions down the years. From a guitarists point of view I can see why many would hope this pic was actually RJ's guitar, but seems most the knew him only ever mention the Kalamazoo KG-14, never once an L-1.

 

As you say though, we'll never know, nor do I much care, I'd say Mr Johnson was quite nuanced in creating a myth around himself, having wild claims about you certainly seemed to be the mark of success in those times, so I'm sure he would have loved and perhaps even cultivated what it has grown in to in these times.

 

For me he's a classic example of why the most serious of musicians have to make the true sacrifice and die, if he hadn't died and went on to make less than epic recordings we'd all be saying Robert who and a Gibson L-what? It's the one thing all legends have done is kark it, I'll bet there's a little side of Keef that is gutted he didn't bite the bullet at the peak making him immortal, instead of growing old and fallible like the rest of us and sort of looking like he's immortal. ;)

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As you say though, we'll never know, nor do I much care, I'd say Mr Johnson was quite nuanced in creating a myth around himself, having wild claims about you certainly seemed to be the mark of success in those times, so I'm sure he would have loved and perhaps even cultivated what it has grown in to in these times.

 

 

 

don't know of him creating a myth around himself PM

 

I would bet he didn't expect..or want to die....

 

He was elevated to one of the great blues men..mainly by the English blues explosion in the late 50's early 60's...... hardley a thing was known about him..9 still isn't )

 

but ppl would hear the music..and just be blown away,.

 

i first heard him after being recommended to at least listen from a guiatr magazine I had bought as a teen..

 

i went and bought one of the double release King of the Delta Blues Singers LP's

 

and was simply drawn into it completely..i wasn't even into blues before I got this album..and I knew nothing of the myth

 

so it comes down to the music....and what he left behind

 

 

 

to say he would not be regarded as a great muscian if he had not died...well... soz PM..but more bollox from you ;0

 

haha

 

of course he was just the first BOY BaND..phenomena wasn't he

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don't know of him creating a myth around himself PM

 

I would bet he didn't expect..or want to die....

 

He was elevated to one of the great blues men..mainly by the English blues explosion in the late 50's early 60's...... hardley a thing was known about him..9 still isn't )

 

but ppl would hear the music..and just be blown away,.

 

i first heard him after being recommended to at least listen from a guiatr magazine I had bought as a teen..

 

i went and bought one of the double release King of the Delta Blues Singers LP's

 

and was simply drawn into it completely..i wasn't even into blues before I got this album..and I knew nothing of the myth

 

so it comes down to the music....and what he left behind

 

 

 

to say he would not be regarded as a great muscian if he had not died...well... soz PM..but more bollox from you ;0

 

haha

 

of course he was just the first BOY BaND..phenomena wasn't he

 

Oh bite for me little fishy, bite for me.... Cheers Del, Haha, yer a dependable sort. ;)

 

I thought that one would get the blood coursing through yer veins for a few minutes.

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You played the same guitar that my friend George & I were captivated by...as they had only just reopened at they're new location on 34th St & closed those shoppes at the end of Dec aprox.

I have seen used ones go for $1200-1400 (RJ) but I thought buying one other than that exact one at Sam Ash means,most possibly, not exactly one as good.

That particular one was as good as anything.

Either way no job..no buy. My friends the buyer.

Oh the Larrivee D..we played the same one.They had that one extremely reduced that was so good and just reduced to $1450,that had been reduced previously to $1999...(also a Braz one).

 

The other one was a Martin Authentic D18 1937..first time I tried any Authentic cause Id pretty much washed my hands of Martin. But when I got my hand on that neck and got it in my arms I said to my self THATS the Martin I know.(old ones when I could not buy one)

A few notes and oh oh..perfect.

 

Yes Merseybeat, that is exactly it. The Larrivee was $1450, having been reduced substantially .

That L-1 the same too.

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The "Robert borrowed that guitar to pose for the photo" line has never made sense to me. Why would the guy dress to tne nines -- fancy suit, including handkerchief neatly folded and placed in pocket, perfectly knotted tie, shinny shoes, and fedora cocked at the perfect angle -- and then borrow a beat up guitar to pose for a photo?

 

The photo only makes sense if that is his guitar. Now, I'm not contending that he played that particular guitar on any of his recording. (Although because the songs were recorded to Edison cylinders, mastered to 78s, and what we hear remastered to another format I don't know how anyone can claim to be able to discern from the recordings what guitar he played.) And I certainly believe the likes of Johnny Shines and others who report that he usually played a Kalamazoo. But, imho, the borrowed guitar claim isn't supported by a close examination of that photo.,

This has always made a lot more sense to me, and I might add that considering WHEN the photo was taken, chances of having a 'spare' guitar around would be slim to none from what I understand. A guitar in those times was far less common than it is today.

 

The "borrowed guitar for the photo shoot" theory just doesn't have ANY facts or reasonings to back it up, or to come up with this explanation. It's actually surprising in that it's actually a pretty far out claim, but still it's what poeple believe as the most 'likely'.

 

It is interesting, everything said about the man, the mystery, the rumors, and some are pretty out there. I think the reality is that we just don't know a lot about the man. It's almost laughable to me that we try to paint a complete picture with every little tidbit of info.

 

One photo doesn't tell a whole story, that's for sure. But what it does say, is that it is highly likely that for at least a time he played this guitar, and being it's a more expensive model, it's likely by choice. We can't know for certain this is true, but it is the most likely.

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According to Johnny Shines, a guy he travelled with quite a bit, they both played Kalamazoo KG-14's:

 

WIKI post:

 

"Robert Johnson played various guitars, produced in the 1920s and 1930s, which were available to him. The guitar he is holding in the studio portrait, where he's dressed in a suit, is a Gibson Guitar Corporation model L-1 flat top, which was a small body acoustic produced between 1926 and 1937. There is no evidence, however, that this was actually his guitar other than this photo. The guitar could have been a studio prop, or belonged to someone Johnson knew in Memphis where the photo was taken (Hook's Brothers photography shop on Beale Street). People who knew Johnson (like musicians Johnny Shines, Robert Lockwood, Honeyboy Edwards, Calvin Fazier, William Moore) said he played Stella and Kalamazoo guitars, and perhaps a wood bodied resonator early in his career (thought to be a Stella instrument). He was also reported to have used a National Resonator with an additional first string near the time of his death in 1938. NO mention is ever made of him playing a Gibson L-1 (which would have been a relatively expensive instrument for him to afford). The L-1 had originally been produced as an arch top between 1902 and 1926. The guitar he is holding in the photo where he has a cigarette in his mouth is believed to be a Kalamazoo model KG-14, and some believe that he used a KG-14 in his legendary recording sessions in 1936 and 1937. Kalamazoo guitars were a budget brand offered by Gibson during the depression era. The KG-14 originally sold for $12.50. "

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According to Johnny Shines, a guy he travelled with quite a bit, they both played Kalamazoo KG-14's:

 

WIKI post:

 

"Robert Johnson played various guitars, produced in the 1920s and 1930s, which were available to him. The guitar he is holding in the studio portrait, where he's dressed in a suit, is a Gibson Guitar Corporation model L-1 flat top, which was a small body acoustic produced between 1926 and 1937. There is no evidence, however, that this was actually his guitar other than this photo. The guitar could have been a studio prop, or belonged to someone Johnson knew in Memphis where the photo was taken (Hook's Brothers photography shop on Beale Street). People who knew Johnson (like musicians Johnny Shines, Robert Lockwood, Honeyboy Edwards, Calvin Fazier, William Moore) said he played Stella and Kalamazoo guitars, and perhaps a wood bodied resonator early in his career (thought to be a Stella instrument). He was also reported to have used a National Resonator with an additional first string near the time of his death in 1938. NO mention is ever made of him playing a Gibson L-1 (which would have been a relatively expensive instrument for him to afford). The L-1 had originally been produced as an arch top between 1902 and 1926. The guitar he is holding in the photo where he has a cigarette in his mouth is believed to be a Kalamazoo model KG-14, and some believe that he used a KG-14 in his legendary recording sessions in 1936 and 1937. Kalamazoo guitars were a budget brand offered by Gibson during the depression era. The KG-14 originally sold for $12.50. "

That's the "current" story. But how much of this is verified?

 

I like, in particular the sentence, "...there is no evidence, however, that this was actually his guitar other than the photo...." I think that's a perfect example of what I mean when things are said and believed to be true BECAUSE they are said. But sinse something can not be proven, a more unlikely story is made up to replace it?

 

It makes perfect sense to me that he played other guitars most of the time, and that he would be seen with other guitars by other poeple. I see no reason to doubt he did play a KG-14. And, I think it's pretty common to come up with stories to fill in the blanks when you don't actually know.

 

I just fail to see the reason why all the "theories" in an effort to fill in blanks as to why he might have had a Gibson in the photo, as opposed to that it was just his, and that's what he was playing at the time.

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Surely someone here (Gibson Forum) can tell if the guitar he is playing is a Gibson L1 by the sound?

 

I always thought the mahogany top guitars that I have got a touch of the sound when tuned to Open G with a capo at the 4th fret, which was supposed to be how he played the Terraplane Blues family of Open G tunes....

 

Here is some music:

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It-tJ8DOjIk]

 

 

BluesKing777.

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