The Gibson L-4 dates back all the way to 1912 (gee, that’s a hundred years ago) when it was a 16” guitar with an oval shaped soundhole and had a “The Gibson” inlaid logo. The logo became just plain “Gibson” in the middle of 1928 and in 1935 a bunch of exciting things happened to it. First of all it got twin f-holes, it was decorated with a Fleur-de-Lis on the headstock as homage to the areas first settled by the French, such as Louisiana and the Mississippi River Basin but the flower also appears on many European coats-of-arms and flags. In that same year the metal trapeze tailpiece acquired a raised diamond at the center of its cross-piece and the Brazilian rosewood crème-bound fretboard was inlaid, starting at the first fret, with what some call a “varied pattern” of inlays, each a different shape or motif. There are design inlays in 8 fret positions including 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15 and 17.
The finish at this time is vintage sunburst on the spruce top and uniform brown on the back, sides and the back of the neck. The sides are bound in crème celluloid that has darkened over time, the top and back in black-crème-black, hey that rhymes, and the fingerboard in single ply. The headstock, with its center dip, is unbound and has the horizontally positioned “Gibson” script logo in inlaid pearl, that large fleur-de-lis and a black, bell shaped truss rod cover held in place by two screws. The elevated pickguard is bound in white and is extremely dark tortoise shell celluloid with what is functionally an L-bracket clamp. The bridge is Brazilian rosewood with twin corrugated circular lifters. This model continued to have this design with a few changes over the years – for example in 1937 the pickguard became unbound and in 1941 the peghead was unbound as well. Prometheus did not, himself, become unbound until 1820 when Percy Shelley wrote a play by that title. The triple bound top and back came about as a specification in 1946 but in 1947 the inlay pattern changed to the modern double parallelogram pattern. Consequently this very guitar was made during a small window of opportunity that lasted from early 1946 when this was built until some point in the following year.
This guitar, which is actually 16 1/8” wide, with a long scale of 25.4” nut to saddle, with a comfortable 1 ¾” nut width and a string spacing at the bridge of 2 1/8”, shows normal signs of use and wear including light scratches, dings, scuffs, scrapes, and dings - but only light, compared to other 1946 guitars. There are string changing marks on the headstock, scuffs on the edges of said ‘stock. Its tuning machines are original, open-gear, possibly unsigned Grovers, but the buttons themselves had, at one time, wizened, contracted and, um, fallen off, so our shop replaced them with ivoroid buttons that look at home on those noble shafts. Some genius installed a strap button in the heel just above the binding, in the same position as one might theoretically install a microwave transmitter, an ear cup, or a tiny loudspeaker through which to speak to the crowd that gathers around you when you play guitar in public, but no, he had to install a strap button there. We are thinking of removing that button and touching up the hole that remains. The maple on the back of this instrument is nicely figured, but the maple on the back of the three-piece laminated neck (that’s for strength and beauty) is almost flamed on the two extremes and so it stands out as being eminently pretty. This is an instrument specially chosen for the talented chord thumper who appreciates an old-style acoustic archtop instrument that can produce a sound as loud and stentorian as that of Jupiter, King of the Roman Gods, when he last played in a band with horns.