Lovely example of a wartime ‘Banner Headstock’ Gibson J-45, these guitars are real gems and always a pleasure to have in the shop. Loud and powerful with a huge voice and the unmistakable J-45 growl, it excels at flat picking but suits all styles.
‘Banner’ headstock Gibsons have become legendary instruments to both players and collectors, known for being produced during the war when a shortage of not only materials but workforce led Gibson to be resourceful in employing a small group of of young Michigan women with no prior training with musical instruments to help craft what would go on to be some of the most sought after acoustic guitars of all time. The instruments produced between 1942 and some point during 1945 would all bear the gold Banner on the Headstock proclaiming “Only A Gibson Is Good Enough”.
Introduced in 1942, the J-45 was released as the successor to the ’30s J-35 jumbo acoustic. Offered only in a Sunburst finish, specs and construction methods of the early wartime J-45 would change often due to material shortages.
This example features a 4 piece Spruce top (that looks to be Sitka but could well be Adirondack,) Mahogany back and sides with a single piece Mahogany neck. The neck block is Poplar with the ink and pencil FON clearly displayed. The neck has an adjustable truss rod, Fingerboard and bridge appear to be Rosewood but Gibson also used American Gumwood during this period. The bridge is the earlier non-belly, narrow bar bridge type. The pickguard is faux tortoiseshell celluloid. The 3-on-a- plate Kluson tuners are the riveted variety. The headstock features a gold script Gibson logo and Banner. These are all features you would expect from a ’44 J-45. This guitar bears the Factory Order number 2549-49, this sits within the range generally expected for 1944 and is listed as a J-45 in Spann’s Guide.
The J-45 is known for being a workhorse of a guitar and this example typifies that moniker. It's had some running repairs over the years; the commonly seen centre seam separation has been glued and cleated, there is a repaired 4” crack to the treble waist and the back has a repaired crack from the neck heel under the centre brace. There are cracks on the lower back as you can see in the photos, and there are two small cracks' following both E-strings between the fingerboard extension and the sound hole. Inside there is evidence of re-glued bracing. The Maple bridge plate is consistent with other example and appears original. The attractive dark 1940’s Sunburst top displays various nicks and dings and there is plenty of lacquer checking throughout as you would expect for an instrument of this age. Overall the finish condition is good with no evidence of overspray of touch ups. There is some small areas flaking to the neck lacquer, also not uncommon with the finishes of these instruments. The wear is typical of a working guitar of this age and despite showing some battle scars it has been well maintained. The guitar doesn’t appear to have ever had a reset and has an action of 3/32” at the 12th fret with plenty of room on the saddle. It plays well, the large rounded ‘baseball bat' neck is quite a handful but rewarding and definitely suits those that prefer a larger neck.
Overall this is a fantastic instrument with a huge amount of character both in looks and tone. It's loud, well balanced and projects very well too with lots of headroom as you'd expect of the model. The mids have the typical J-45 growl and percussiveness and the tight bass and ringing treble make this an excellent strummer.
An excellent, rare example complete with non-period hard shell case.