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Back in the early to mid ’60s, he wanted to play guitar, but couldn’t justify the then high price of amplification. Fortunately, in 1966 he managed to scrape up enough coinage to purchase a Stratocaster copy and a small practice amp while he was working two jobs, going to college, and starting his family. Interestingly, one of those jobs was at a music shop in New Jersey, where he worked as a clerk and lesson teacher.
As luck would have it, Joe was only able to enjoy his guitar for a short time, as Christmas of ’67 brought financial shortcomings. So he sold the Strat copy and amp for about $180 in order to buy food and gifts for his new family, and the extended family that would be sharing the holiday with them. After Grandpa Joe sold his guitar, he began to miss it dearly. His wife, now known as Grandma Lori, secretly put away $10 a week to save for a new guitar. Once enough money had been saved, the two of them went down to their local music store and purchased this Gibson LGO. Joe was very proud to finally have a name-brand acoustic—he taught lessons with it and jammed with his friends at night, writing songs and playing Beatles covers.
He took good care of his Gibson and played it occasionally over the course of 42 years. It represented good times to Joe, reminding him of some of the best days of his life. He also knew that the day would come when he would hand the Gibson down to one of his grandsons, who could share in his appreciation and carry on those good times. That time finally came on a cool, breezy summer day in July, when a grandson of Joe’s, who had just gotten his drivers license and graduated from high school in Minnesota, decided to go on a road trip to visit his grandfather, now living in Bozeman, Montana. Once there, and after a few hours of conversation, Joe presented his grandson with his 1968 Gibson LGO.
Sean Lanterman is that grandson and the happy young man that you see in the picture. Sean is so excited to have his grandpa’s guitar and his very own acoustic after playing electric guitar for years. He told me that during his visit to Bozeman, he would play music almost every day for his grandpa on the Gibson acoustic.
Less than a week after returning to Minnesota, Sean gave me a call to have us go through everything and make sure that the Gibson had a clean bill of health. Most of what I found was what we normally would see on a well-cared for and well-played ’60s Gibson LGO—tired tuning machines and the bridge separating from the top—but after some minor tweaking and a setup, it was ready for another 40 years.
The guitar came with its original case, so I figured I’d peek inside the storage compartment. To my surprise, there was the original purchase receipt from ’68, and the Gibson owner’s manual that came with the guitar at the time of sale. Here’s a look at the LGO’s 1968 specs:
- 14 1/8" wide mahogany top with natural finish
- mahogany back and sides
- straight ladder bracing
- rosewood bridge with adjustable saddle
- screw-on styrene pickguard
- 24 3/4" scale
- 20 frets
- rosewood fretboard with dot inlays
- tortoiseshell celluloid binding on top
- 3-on-a-plate tuners and decal logo
When Sean first shared this story with me, I thought that it was a pretty neat tale and that he was lucky to get the gift of a guitar handed down to him. But as I worked on this column, coming closer to completing it with each line I wrote, I finally and truly understood the secret ingredient in Sean’s story. The gift that keeps on giving is not merely the Gibson LGO guitar as I originally thought, but rather the guitar as an instrument for expressing the love of his family.
Are you smiling? Me too!
John Brown, of Brown's Guitar Factory, is the inventor of the Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates a full guitar manufacturing and repair/restoration facility, which is staffed by a team of talented luthiers. He is also the designer of guitarmaking/repair tools and accessories that are used today by instrument builders throughout the world.