Introduced in 1922 and developed by Lloyd Loar the L-5 was the first guitar by any manufacturer to combine a carved top and back, f-holes, an adjustable truss rod and a neck that joined the body at the 14th fret. Part of the Master Model series of instruments the L-5 would remain the flagship guitar for Gibson until the release of the Super 400 in 1935. Early examples had a 16-inch body with the neck joining at the 14th fret, constructed from two sections of maple with a dark center seam, the "Snake head" headstock design was bound and inlaid with a diagonal "The Gibson" logo and Gibson's iconic flowerpot motif in pearl. The finest Spruce was reserved for the soundboard and the backs and sides were a mixture of Maple and Birch. As a high end, professional grade instrument the L-5 would undergo many changes in the following years, constantly evolving as players' needs necessitated evolving from the original 16-inch wide, non-cutaway design, through to the 17-inch "Advanced" model in 1934 to the use of the longer 25-½ inch scale length that became a permanent feature in 1938, on to the Venetian cutaway equipped L-5 Premier in 1939 and finally the L-5 went electric with L-5CES in 1951.
Shipped in 1949, our guitar would have been one of the earlier L-5's to bear the L-5C title with the evolution from L-5 Premier happening in 1948. Featuring a 17” body with uniformly grained Spruce top, large bound F holes and 5-ply edge binding, figured curly Maple back, rims and neck. Internally as expected the guitar has parallel spruce top braces. The two piece Maple neck has a dark center lamination with unusually for an L5, a bound Rosewood fingerboard. It was during this period that Gibson suffered an Ebony shortage and other examples of Rosewood L-5s can be seen in 1948 and 1949. The neck otherwise follows Gibsons post-war convention with a bound headstock that features an intricately inlayed pearl flowerpot inlay and large Gibson script logo that had recently been discontinued and replaced by the then-new, now-familiar modern block logo on some models. The fingerboard is inlayed with large Pearl block inlays. The tuners are gold-plated Kluson Sealfasts with translucent celluloid Keystone buttons, a feature in place since 1940. The tailpiece is the non-hinged adjustable L-5 Vari-Tone tailpiece found on the L-5 from 1939. Gibson's records show only 23 sunburst L-5C shipped in 1949. The guitars serial number - A-3483 places the instruments production into the later part of the year. The original 5-ply cellulose tortoise pickguard, although supplied with the guitar has badly 'off-gassed' so the guitar comes with an excellent reproduction pickguard from Paul Fox at Fox Guitars fitted to the original bracket.
The guitar is in great condition structurally and cosmetically, it plays very well with good geometry and decent height to the dressed frets. The paper thin finish shows signs of use with dings, dents and scrapes throughout but nothing to detract from the appearance of a near 75 year old guitar. The finish has aged to a wonderful amber hue and the gold hardware has softened most notably to the tailpiece. The fast, slim neck shows wear to the lacquer from use, with a contemporary feeling oval profile it has a nut width of 43.09 and a 1st fret depth of 22.97mm. The guitar has a lively percussive voice, well balanced and with plenty of presence it has a clear, crisp and dry tone equally suited for rhythm as well as melody lines.
The guitar comes with the photographed, highly desirable Geib 'Airline Tweed' Case. All in all a stunning, rare piece of Gibson history, and a wonderful instrument.