It had been his dad’s guitar since the age of 16, when his uncle bought it for him around 1940 at a pawnshop in Roanoke, Virginia.
This well-loved 1940s Gibson SJ-100 still has lots of songs to share.
The thrill is still not gone. After almost 40 years of coveting, owning, playing, building, fixing, studying, buying, and selling (generally being obsessed with guitars)—they still continue to give me the same thrill I got the first time I held one. Not every guitar, mind you, but every now and then it happens. This is the story of one of those guitars.
Back in the early ’90s, when I was working in my one-man shop at home, my neighbor Dan called and said he’d like to bring his father up to see the shop and to show me his dad’s old guitar. His dad played it regularly, but they wanted me to check it over and see if it needed any TLC. When I first saw the old case, my interest was piqued. Opening it did not disappoint—inside was a very nice, old Gibson SJ-100, circa 1940. It had been his dad’s guitar since the age of 16, when his uncle bought it for him around 1940 at a pawnshop in Roanoke, Virginia. While he remembered sending it back to Gibson for repair work not long after he received the guitar (he couldn’t recall exactly what was done), nothing else had been done to it since. This SJ-100 had a few cracks that didn’t seem to be going anywhere and the action was a bit high, but other than that, it was in really nice shape and absolutely oozed that old, Gibson mojo.
A little research showed it to be one of those wonderful, old Gibson anomalies. It had the old, stairstep-peghead design of a 1939 model, but the tiered bridge from a 1940 model. If the bridge had been changed during its early trip to Kalamazoo for repair, there was no evidence on the top. They were shocked to hear that it was a fairly valuable example of a rare model. In their eyes, it was just dad’s old guitar. I advised them to try and keep it humidified in the winter (even though it had survived more than 50 years without a thought of humidity control) and to consider getting the cracks stabilized. I also suggested they look into an insurance rider.
I didn’t see the guitar again for a number of years, but I would ask Dan about it now and then. His dad was still playing it—at gospel sings on Sunday mornings and evening campfires at the campground where he worked as a host in his retirement. I shuddered to think of this guitar being played out in the open (not to mention around a fire), but in his dad’s eyes, it was not a valuable collector’s piece or some kind of commodity. It was simply the only guitar he ever owned, and he wasn’t about to stop playing it just because it was worth some money.
Dan’s dad passed away a few years back and the guitar has been in his widow’s closet ever since. The guitar has, of course, continued to appreciate. And while the family is aware of its monetary value, the sentimental value still trumps any ideas of cashing in on this vintage instrument that represents so much of what they remember about him.
I did get a chance to see the guitar again just a few days ago. Dan brought it up one night when we were playing some old Hank and Lefty stuff. We tuned it up, toughed out the high action, and played the oldest stuff we could think of.
The recent publication of the excellent Spann’s Guide to Gibson 1902-1941, and a conversation with the author, helped me to learn more about this guitar. The order number from the factory and the serial number actually identify it as a 1939 model that was shipped to a store in Greenville, South Carolina, on September 21, 1939. The guitar must have been pawned in Roanoke fairly quickly since Gibson’s records show that Dan’s father returned it to the factory for repairs in late 1941. It was returned to him on February 1, 1942. There was no record of what repairs were performed, so the peghead/bridge mystery still remains.
co-owner of Huss & Dalton Guitar Company, moved to Virginia in the late ’80s to play bluegrass. He and his business partner, Mark Dalton, formed their company in 1995. Since then they’ve earned world-wide recognition for their high-end, boutique guitars and banjos.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.