This is an elegant Gibson Style O Artist Model Arch Top Acoustic Guitar made in 1917, made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with what appears to be serial # 33695, its got a red sunburst varnish finish over its carved spruce top, its birch back and sides have a ton of cool figuring all over, its fat V shaped mahogany neck has an ebony fingerboard, it also is sporting its original black hard shell case. This lovely guitar represents the end of a Gibson tradition as it is from one of the last batches of Style O Artist Model guitars ever made. These were one of the company’s most visually arresting & unmistakable creations. Designed to harmonize with the company’s mandolin orchestra instruments, this guitar has not only an elegantly scrolled upper bout but a dramatic swooping cutaway on the treble side. This feature allows more access to the fingerboard than any guitar of the period, and indeed the 15th fret neck joint was a revolutionary if under-appreciated idea at the time.
The Style O “Special Grand Concert Artist Model” was introduced in 1908 as Gibson’s new version of their top of the line 6-string guitar. It was last cataloged in 1922, the year before this one was made; the serial number indicate a mid-1921 timeframe. This was probably the influence of Lloyd Loar who had just helped design its replacement as Gibson’s top-line 6 string the L-5. The Style O was probably perceived as a relic of earlier times compared to the sleeker L-4 and the revolutionary F-hole L-5, but these last ones still received a number of Gibson’s new feature upgrades.
This guitar shows many of the latest Gibson features for 1921 that would soon characterize the L-5. The finish is not as red-tinged as earlier examples, approaching Lloar’s beloved “Cremona” tones. Classic appointments of the model include the elegantly scrolled cutaway body, single bound in heavy ivoroid top and back, chunky V-profile neck and bound headstock w/a pearl Fleur-De-Lys and “The Gibson” script inlay. The oval soundhole has an elaborate multi-part rosette but missing its original pickguard. The ebony fingerboard is bound with pearl dot inlay, with a small 2-fret extension on the treble end and a genuine pearl nut. The Style O was one of Gibson art Nouveau masterpieces, but by the “Loar era” had reached the end of its run. The neck is quite large but still manageable, this is a genuinely playable and better-sounding instrument than many would expect. Atlanta orchestra guitarist/banjoist Perry Bechtel played a similar late-model Style O before the Martin OM was designed for him; he is pictured in the later 1920s Gibson catalogs with it. This is not only a cool piece of Gibson history, but just a superb Style O showing just 1 area where a ding has weather checked the finish on its top (see close up pics), but as good as these ever are today & more of a player than most are, its a very rare piece still housed in its original shaped black/green lined hard case.
This guitar has some fairly minor wear overall, but is very well preserved considering it is just came up on its 101st birthday! There is fairly minor finish checking and small dings overall, w/a few noticeable scratches here & there. The finish is very fine for a Gibson of this period. All hardware is original including the tuners, the gold tailpiece & the carved ebony bridge is original. The frets are original with some very light wear, indeed this guitar simply does not appear very played in. Overall its a fabulous all original example that’s exceptional & worthy of any collection.