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As the Jazz Age matured in the 1930s, the loud, rhythmic pulse of the banjo gave way to the silky, even tones of the archtop guitar. The popularity of Bing Crosby and his virtuoso guitarist Eddie Lang inspired bandleaders to replace the banjo with the guitar. Banjo players wanting to continue working had to learn the guitar. To aid those players not wanting to learn a whole new system of fingering, Gibson offered a four-string tenor guitar with the same tuning as the four-string tenor banjo. Most standard guitar models could be special ordered with a tenor neck (we have seen examples into the ‘60s).
The guitar featured this month is, according to the label, an ES-350 TG (tenor guitar). The features, which include a thick, full-sized body, individual gold bonnet tone and volume knobs for each pickup, and a three-way toggle switch, seem to date the guitar to 1955. The serial number, on the other hand, dates the guitar at 1950. Could it be that the guitar was started in 1950 and shelved until 1955, when a tenor guitar order came through? We may never know. The last unique finishing touch is “bow tie” banjo inlays on the fingerboard.
We’ve been looking for a thick-bodied ES-350 with the four-knob layout for a long time (if anyone has one, please contact us) so it’s ironic that when one finally shows up, it’s a tenor!
Dave's Guitar Shop
Daves Rogers’ Collection is tended to by Laun Braithwaite & Tim Mullally
Photos and words by Tim Mullally
Dave’s Collection is on display at: Dave's Guitar Shop 1227 Third Street South La Crosse, WI 54601 davesguitar.com