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The (very) old girl

January 14, 2013

Whenever I start talking guitars and people find out I have a small(ish) collection of vintage pieces, one of the first things they ask is “what’s the oldest guitar you have?”. Well the answer to that question is this, a pre-war Kalamazoo KG-14.

P1020363

P1020364

P1020365

P1020366

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The guitar was built in 1935 and although it doesn’t say Gibson on the headstock, it was built in the same factory as its more expensive siblings on the Parson Street, Kalamazoo, which is where the name comes from. The Kalamazoo brand was Gibson’s budget brand in the days when Epiphone was still it’s own company and based in New York (and a big rival when it came to archtop guitars).

This diffusion, along with others like the Henry Mason and Carcon J. Robinson (plus the Kel Kroyden toy guitars) also allowed Gibson to get their guitars into dealers that for whatever reason couldn’t/wouldn’t carry the standard Gibson Range. Most of these accoustics are based around the L-00 body shape but with major constructional differences.

The main one being that Kalamazoo’s are ladder, not ‘X’ braced, something that wouldn’t have made a huge difference at the time (although it does sound different) but over the decades these guitars have a tendency to ‘belly up’ – meaning the force of the strings pulls the guitars top up, resulting in a higher action and often a neck re-set or re-brace.

Mine has unfortunately suffered this fate but the surgery needed is so invasive and this is so original that I can’t bring myself to have it done. So for the last 10 years I’ve had it, I’ve tuned it to open D and used it as a slide guitar. And it’s the perfect guitar for it, insanely loud for such a small thing and with a tone that sounds authentic and old.

Because at the end of the day, that’s exactly what this guitar is.

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