The story of the Gibson Country-Western is an illustrious one. For best results we refer to our favorite book about the subject, which is Gibson’s Fabulous Flattop Guitars by Whitford, Vinopal and Erlewine. They say that “according to Gibson legend, their sales rep for the states below the Mason-Dixon Line requested that the company build a flattop just for the South. It was under these perhaps apocryphal circumstances that Gibson designed a fancy new model that it brought to market in 1942, along with another newcomer, the J-45, to replace the J-35 and J-55 which were being phased out. Gibson gave this fancier one a name that evokes warmth, tradition, romance and wistfulness – the Southerner Jumbo. Because it was the most expensive of Gibson’s flattop line in the day, the Southern Jumbo (its original name was quickly shortened to this affection form) received the best materials available, in spite of shortages of supplies due to the War.” This book is definitely worth owning, and reading, because they explain Gibson guitar history in a very easy to follow and enjoyable way. Later in the article they write: “Just before the original round-shoulder Southern Jumbo evolved into the square-shoulder shape, a couple of changes occurred. For example, in 1962 the natural finish guitars were renamed ‘SJN Country-Western.’ Apparently, in late 1962 Gibson switched to the square-shoulder Southern Jumbo with the three-point pickguard.” Well, friends, this one was made at just the right time, ‘cause it doesn’t have the more modern three-point pickguard and it still retains the slope shoulder body shape. And an small but typical anomaly is that this guitar’s serial number falls right into the middle of 1961, but according to the book Gibson didn’t rename the blonde top SJN the Country Western until 1962 and yet, when you look inside the body of this venerable and viscerally vivacious velociraptor once had an oval paper interior label visible directly down from the soundhole. While the paper has since been dislodged and flown away in our opinion it used to say “Gibson Country Western Model” on it.
This is a gloriously handsome instrument having a black headstock overlay inlaid with the postwar “block” Gibson logo and the Gibson crown or flower inlaid there under. There is of course a black bell-shaped truss rod cover held in place by twin roundhole Phillips screws. The finish on the front surface of the headplate, however, is clouded in some places. Its 20-fret fingerboard is dark Brazilian rosewood and bordered in crème celluloid on three sides. In 8 fret positions are inlaid with double-parallelograms in pearloid (frets 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15 and 17) and this is part of what makes this mahogany back and sides, spruce top slope-shouldered dreadnought an SJ. Additionally, the top is bordered in 6 plies of black and crème, the sides in single-ply crème and the back in 4-ply. The soundhole is likewise ringed with twin concentric circles – the outer three-ply and the inner 7-ply. Its nut width is 1 11/16th”, the string spacing at the bridge is 2 1/8” and the scale length is short at 24 ¾. The top is wide-grain, hand-selected Sitka spruce and the bridge, which has the “belly-up” orientation, is Brazilian rosewood with a good deal of swirly light brown in the grain. Its pickguard is the “single point facing east” type in tortoise shell celluloid; the bridge pins appear old and possibly original, being darkened crème, each with a black dot, and the bridge has a dot of pearl inlaid on either side of the bridge pins.
Being that this is 51 years old and was occasionally played, it shows the usual array of normal nicks and chips including some around the edges of the headstock, scratches, scuffs, finish checking overall, pickwear fairly lightly into the wood on the treble side of the soundhole and below the pickguard. When it came in there was what looked like a hairline crack on the treble side lower bout but our head of repair says “it’s not moving” and so it is instead a deep finish check that’s chipping a little. On either side of that deep finish check there are some scores (impressions) that could be car key marks. There is also a short repaired crack along the treble edge of the fingerboard terminating at the soundhole and, in addition, and a small “pickguard crack” on the bass side of the bottom bass edge of the tortoise colored single-point large pickguard has been glued. It shows belt buckle marks on the back near the center and where this occurred the finish is chipping. However those marks mostly do not penetrate the wood, they are primarily in the finish. There area additional areas of wear on the face including where the arm rests over the finish where a pattern of finish crazing, when seen from certain angles, makes it appear a bit darker.
A black strap button has been screwed into the (top, center) back of the neck heel and there is a matching black strap button substituting for the original one at the bottom side. Tuners appear to be the original “Kluson Deluxe” with the logo in a single line down the center stripe; the buttons appear original and are slightly wizened but wholly usable. Our workshop has refretted the neck and so now it plays easily, comfortably and flawlessly. It is a great player and, as well, a very fine sounding instrument. This Gibson guitar was made in the year that President Kennedy was inaugurated, established the Peace Corp, and first announced the goal of landing a man on the moon (what a guy!), Aretha Franklin released her first (self-titled) album, The Beatles visited Hamburg for the second time, the film West Side Story was released and in this year Wynton Marsalis was born (!). This is truly a guitar for the ages.