A beautifully preserved example of Gibson''s high-end archtop

The Super 400’s lower bout is an impressive 18" wide.

This ’49 Super 400 features a “modern” Gibson logo that replaced the earlier “script” version.

The hand-engraved tailpiece adds a classy touch.

Serial # A-3309 was proudly made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and purchased in Bloomington, Illinois.
By 1934, jazz—which had been developing since the early 1920s—had become more sophisticated. The raucous, clanging rhythm sound of the plectrum banjo had given way to the sweeter, more refined tones of the archtop guitar. The Gibson L-5 (most notably used by virtuoso Eddie Lang) had been the preeminent jazz archtop guitar since its debut in 1923, but the increasing size of that era’s horn sections created the need for a louder guitar.

Gibson met this need for more volume by enlarging the width of the existing carved-top line (including the L-5, L-10, L-12, and L-7) from 16" to 17", and by creating a new flagship model—the Super 400. This ultra-fancy, ultra-expensive ($400) archtop measured 18" wide at its lower bout and boasted elaborate mother-of-pearl inlays and multiple-ply binding. Gibson luthiers reserved the very highest-quality curly maple and spruce for this superlative instrument.

The guitar pictured this month has features common to most Gibson Super 400s from ’49, including a split-diamond, mother-of-pearl headstock inlay, a “modern” Gibson logo (which replaced the original “script” logo in 1948), 7-ply headstock binding, split-block inlays on an ebony fretboard, 5-ply fretboard binding (which replacing the original 3-ply binding in 1949), a solid 2-piece spruce top with 7-ply binding, a solid 2-piece maple back with 3-ply binding, and solid maple sides.

This beautifully preserved guitar, along with its clean Lifton case, was originally purchased from Miller Music Co. in Bloomington, Illinois, on October 7, 1949.

The best source for detailed information on Gibson Super 400s is The Gibson Super 400: Art of the Fine Guitar by Thomas A. Van Hoose.

Dave’s Guitar Shop

Dave Rogers’ collection is tended by Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally.
Photos and text by Tim Mullally.
Dave’s collection is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601

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