In Search of the Gibson Acoustic Guitar

Musicians and instrument collectors always watch for an opportunity to buy a Gibson acoustic guitar, especially if the instrument is one of the classic guitars from the mid-20th century (1930 – 1970). But there are other reasons for buying a guitar from the company that started in Kalamazoo, Michigan more than 100 years ago.

When Orville Gibson started his company in the 1890s, he wanted to produce instruments that were a little louder than current guitars. He also was very concerned about the tone of his guitars – how their construction produced a rich, ringing sound. In later years, the Gibson company produced acoustics under the watchful eye of professional sound engineers who worked closely with specialists in wood selection and treatment.

This combination led the company to offer an acoustic that was not only comparable to others produced at the time, but was often unrivalled in its appearance and sound. Of course, the growth of the acoustic industry was sometimes fuelled by experimentation so not all of the early Gibson acoustic guitars were jewels. The company did manufacture some lower-cost instruments as well, at the same time producing some of the finest mandolins and banjos available.

In the decade of the 1930s and into the 1940s, the company made a number of different guitars, using a variety of names. Oriole and Mastertone were considered budget brands sold through Gibson’s usual channels. The company also made guitars for retail companies such Melamine Foam as Montgomery Ward. But these lower-priced models were preceded by the L-5 Gibson acoustic guitar and the L-5 mandolin. Acoustic/sound engineer Lloyd Loar was primarily responsible for the mandolins that are still thought to be some of the best instruments of their kind.

Today, Gibson guitars are still desired by professional musicians and accomplished amateurs. Some of the most famous names in music have used this company’s instruments, including the Gibson acoustic, for studio recording and for live performances. Country/folk legend Emmy Lou Harris is well known for using Gibsons. The company produces copies of this wonderful guitar, including a vintage L-200 that is slightly smaller than the original jumbo. This acoustic guitar has the unusual and effective “mustache” bridge.

Gibson also offers a John Lennon model that is a replica of the 1969 J-160E that the famous songwriter/musician used. This particular model is acoustic-electric. Famous guitarist Ron Wood uses a J-200. The legendary Bob Dylan used several “J” models of Gibson acoustic guitar, including a J-200. Vintage collectible or new, the Gibson acoustic is known for rich tone and consistent quality.