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Vintage Vault

The Howard Roberts signature, originally an Epiphone like this one, was built by Japanese guitar-makers throughout the ’70s lawsuit era before being reintroduced by Epiphone in the ’90s.

Photos courtesy of Reverb and Garrett Park Guitars

This acoustic-electric, built for the jazz-fusion guitarist, was varied in both specs and brand names throughout the late 20th century.

My last installment of Vintage Vault, in the April 2024 issue, highlighted the signature guitars of Johnny Smith, a 20th-century jazz legend whose eye for detail resulted in the creation of a premium electric archtop for the ages. Here, we turn our eyes to what could be that guitar’s stranger cousin: an odd merging of acoustic and electric design built for jazz-fusion guitarist Howard Roberts.

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Slash onstage with Guns N’ Roses, backed by a fleet of glowing Magnatone M-80 amps, the inspiration for his current signature model, the SL-100.

Photo by CQPhotographer

The guitar icon revisits his roots with a feral 6-string rager featuring guests Billy Gibbons, Gary Clark Jr., Chris Stapleton, Brian Johnson, Steven Tyler, Beth Hart, Demi Lovato, and others. His guests onstage for the accompanying S.E.R.P.E.N.T. Festival tour will be a rotating cast of the Warren Haynes Band, Keb’ Mo’, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Robert Randolph, Larkin Poe, Eric Gales, ZZ Ward, Samantha Fish, and Jackie Venson.

Many of us have been transfixed by Jimi Hendrix’s acoustic 12-string performance of “Hear My Train A Comin’,” in the 1973 documentary A Film About Jimi Hendrix. Including Slash. But Slash, being Slash, took it a step further.

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This Guild X-350B is a near-exact replica of the Epiphone Zephyr Emperor Regent.

Photos by Madison Thorn

Here’s the tale of how the now-Gibson-owned Epiphone company came to be, and its unexpected connection to the birth of this Guild model.

When life gives you lemons, you could make lemonade, but sometimes it’s just too much darn trouble. You don’t have enough sugar at home. You have a paper cut, and nothing is worse than citrus on a paper cut. You might just choose to ditch the lemons and cut your losses.

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As an electric hollowbody, the unusual Virginian appears at first to be an acoustic model, but has minimal acoustic projection.

Photos by George Aslaender

This vintage electric hollowbody has some unusual components—such as a Rezo-Tube bridge—that would make it a fascinating addition to any collector’s vault.

Many guitar fans obsess over the “classics,” but I’ve always been more drawn to the obscure underdogs, especially those designed by England’s James Ormston Burns. Sometimes called the “British Leo Fender,” Burns’ success was comparatively minimal, but he left behind many interesting, if often quirky, instruments. The original Burns London company started in 1959, was bought out by the American Baldwin Company in late 1965, and shut down just a few years later. Few guitars with the Burns logo ever made it to the U.S., but many of his models were available here, branded Ampeg (1962–’64) and Baldwin (1965–’69).

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Now priced at $15,319, this 2-pickup variant on the 1968 Gibson Johnny Smith Double would have sold for $1,145 in the year of its release.

Photos courtesy of Reverb/Gitarren Total

Jazz musician Johnny Smith set the bar high when it came to the design of his signature model, doing his own research and hopping manufacturers when his expectations were left unmet.

A giant of mid-century jazz guitar, Johnny Smith had a fastidious style. He could strike rapid solos, embellish ballads with languid lines, and craft complex chords. Whatever he played, his intention and articulation were crystal clear. Smith’s music is “incredibly intricate and detailed, every note he played, there was nothing extra there. It’s just the essential thing,”—or so said the modern great Bill Frisell, when Reverb interviewed him and Mary Halvorson in 2018 around their Johnny Smith tribute album, The Maid with the Flaxen Hair. That same devotion to detail is apparent in the many signature guitar models that bear Smith’s name, like the 1968 Gibson Johnny Smith featured in this edition of Vintage Vault.

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