1948 Gibson L-12, Sunburst

By Gibson

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Superb Gibson L-12 from the early post-war era in a wonderfully aged Sunburst finish that perfectly highlights the stunning figure to the Curly Maple back and the arched spruce top. The L-12 is a rarely seen model that sat below the mighty L-5 in Gibsons hierarchy and above the L-7 and L-10 models. The guitar was previously owned by musician and producer Adrian Utley of Portishead, and has been used in various recordings and performances.

Introduced in the early 1930’s, the L-12 would remain in the catalog until the mid-1950’s. In it’s first catalog appearance in 1934 the L-12 listed as a 16” Grand Auditorium instrument constructed of - a Fine Eastern Spruce top, Maple back and rim, Mahogany neck and Rosewood fingerboard. Appointments included white Ivoroid bound top and bottom of body, fingerboard, fingerboard rest and peghead. Gold individual machine heads and extension tailpiece, white end pin, adjustable bridge and elevated pickguard. The list price was $175 with an additional $27 for the case in comparison to $227 for a range topping L-5 with case. By 1935 the L-12 had, like the L-5 been re-launched with Gibson’s new 17” Advanced Body and by the early 1940’s the instruments appointments had shifted away from the Art Deco styling to at the more modernist designs and motifs that we still see on Gibson instruments today. The L-12 returned to the Gibson range post-war in 1946 and was joined by the Cutaway version L-12 Premier in 1947.

This guitar dates to 1948 and features the ‘Modern’ Gibson logo that replaced the earlier Script version during this period of production. The guitar serial number and Factory order Number date to 1948 with the serial number placing the instrument to the latter part of the year. Featuring a 17” body with a uniform, tight grained Spruce top, large F holes 3-ply edge binding. A highly figured curly Maple back (arguably more dramatic than some L-5’s from this period). The figured two piece Maple neck has, like an L-5, a dark centre lamination with bound Rosewood fingerboard. The neck otherwise follows Gibsons post-war convention with a bound headstock that features the Pearl crown inlay and aforementioned Pearl Gibson Logo. The fingerboard is inlayed with Pearl split parallelogram fret markers, the L-12 was in fact Gibson's first instrument to bear the now iconic inlays. The tuners are individual open backed Post-war Kluson tuners with octagonal plates with translucent celluloid Keystone buttons, the eagle eyed will spot the guitar is featuring a 1930’s non Vari-Tone type L-5 tailpiece rather than the original plainer hinged gold plated part. The bound cellulose tortoise pickguard appears original and is in great condition.

The guitar is in great overall condition and represents very well for a 75 year old instrument. The finish has adopted a wonderful amber hue and the gold hardware has softened with age. There are some to be expected minor wear from use and a minor repair to the guitar back and the top shows some wear beneath the pickguard. Overall the finish has some dings, dents and scrapes but no major marks and the guitar represents very well for a 75 year old instrument. The guitar has been used with a floating pickup with filled holes from the pickup bracelet on the fingerboard extension. The neck is large but comfortable, with a medium-deep round profile, frets and nut are original. Currently set with 12-gauge round wound strings, the guitar is a fine playing instrument with a loud, bright acoustic voice with plenty of presence and a clear, crisp and dry tone perfectly suited for rhythm as well as lead lines.

This charming instrument is one of just 56 L-12 guitars built this year, and until it was discontinued in 1955, production was so small that there were several years when the factory built only a single L-12 guitar. In essence an L-5 with restrained appointments, the guitar comes with the photographed Lifton case and a letter of provenance from Adrian.
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