The 1930s and 40s were true golden eras for Gibson’s archtop line - a period that produced many famed instruments that have stood the test of time. Choice maple and spruce was abundant, and this guitar is built with stunning pieces of both woods. This L-7 Special is an outstanding testament to the quality and enchantment of the era.
Introduced in 1932, the Gibson L-7 was Gibson’s most popular acoustic archtop ever. Identical in all but cosmetics to the L-5, it remains the outstanding value in a true pro-sized all-carved Gibson archtop. In fact, it is believed that around a hundred or so L-5 bodies were used in the construction of Gibson L-7s and L-10s during this era.
Gibson L-7 Specs –
Arched solid spruce top
Raised bound pickguard
Carved maple back/sides
14/19-fret bound rosewood fingerboard with pearl multi-design inlay
Adjustable rosewood bridge/trapeze tailpiece
Bound blackface peghead with pearl fleur-de-lis/logo inlay
Three-per-side tuners with plastic buttons
16” or 17“ body
Approx 1200 mfg. 1932-1956.
But this one is certainly a bit “special” in that it has some features that were a grade above the standard L-7 of the era. They include the quite beautiful and incredibly detailed hand tooled headstock inlay, the unique “arrow head” fingerboard inlays, the straight sided shape of the pickguard and the fabulous, almost glowing birds eye maple figuring on the back and sides.
We actually only know of one other guitar of this spec – and that one belongs to legendary US guitarist Arlen Roth, and his looks to be exactly the same as our listing.
To quote Arlen from a 2008 Vintage Guitar magazine interview – “As far we know, this carved-top Gibson is one of a kind, but the dimensions are the same as an L-10 or L-7,” Roth said. “It was ordered from the factory around 1934 with Bella Voce inlay on the headstock, like a Gibson banjo. It sounds amazing – great for chunk-chunk rhythm like the old Western swing records where the rhythm guitar almost sounds like a hi-hat.”
Well, it looks like it may be not one of a kind, but it may be one of only two. The last photo in our listing is Arlen Roth’s L-7 Special – as far as we can see, it sure looks like the twin of this one !
This guitar has all of the playing wear you would expect for a vintage guitar of this age. The finish is nicely but naturally checking, and there are a few dings and dents here and there.
Most importantly, this lovely old girl is structurally in good shape. No cracks, splits or repairs that we can see. The original frets are showing a little wear down low, but a refret is still a while away. The tuners have been replaced with Gibson Deluxe units, but the original strip tuners are in the case.
The neck is a chunky profile but not too huge. Truss rod is present and works fine. It is straight with a medium low action, and comfortable to play in all positions.
The passing of time has done wonders for this guitar, mellowing the overall tone while adding a certain depth and dynamic quality not found in new production instruments. Because the fingerboard is raised above the soundboard, the entire top is able to vibrate and respond freely. It is quite loud and projects very well - rhythm chords in particular are powerful and clear.
This is a lovely old Gibson archtop, probably one of very few made during the war era, and sporting some very special features that makes this pretty close to a “one-off”, if not one of two.
Comes in what looks like its original fitted hard case in very good condition.
More pics to come.