This guitar was restored here in my shop, and is now listed on Reverb here.
Highly regarded as the Holy Grail of vintage Gibson acoustic guitars, and rightfully bestowed the nickname “Bone Crusher,” this round-shouldered dreadnought does not disappoint. Now, I’m going to dispense with the “this is the greatest instrument I have ever played, heard, held” etc. that you typically read in listings of this sort, and be much more matter of fact. I have been restoring and repairing vintage guitars for over 20 years now, and even in my time helping to run the repair shop for Rudy’s Music, NYC only ever handled one or two of this model. With only 300 ever made in a short span of 4 years (late 1936 to 1939, with two shipped in 1940 before being discontinued), they are definitely rare. This one is a really fantastic example, with very little work done outside of what one would expect from a guitar of 80 years. This one has had one owner, and been kept in the family all that time. I have to say, it really is a remarkably good sounding guitar with ample volume, and that traditional dry vintage balanced tone. I understand the weight of originality on a guitar of this sort, so please understand that any work done was absolutely necessary. So, now on to the details.
The Advanced Jumbo has a 16” wide lower bout, and is very similar in shape to the original Gibson Jumbo. Slope-shouldered D, perfectly straight-grain rosewood back and sides (some say the AJ’s were all Brazilian <Dalbergia Nigra>, but as a builder of many Brazilian rosewood guitars, I would have to say that this one is not, and is either of East Indian, or perhaps Honduran rosewood), firestripe tortoiseshell celluloid pickguard, single bound top, back and Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, 25-1/2” scale length, the famous diamond-and-arrowhead inlay on the fingerboard and peghead, rectangular Brazilian rosewood bridge, Grover “point” tuners, and of course the sunburst finish.
Yes, the top has been refinished. Why? Well, to start, at some point the bridge had been replaced with an ebony “belly” style. Through years of neck angle shift, that ebony bridge had been thinned down so badly that it was truly no longer functional. It was about 1/16” thick, and had cracked through the pin holes. When removed, it left a big white footprint in the belly style. Now, often this could be touched up somewhat easily, but to add to the concern, it had been over sprayed very poorly as well. The over sprayed finish brought the burst in far too deep to the interior around the bridge, much more like the old style “Jumbo” burst style. The new color on top didn’t match the color underneath either, so anytime there was an attempt to touch up finish, an issue of going through one color to another distinctly different color would arise. The black area around the fingerboard extension was sprayed so thick that it looked like the bottom of a dry-lake bed; cracked, and flaking. Also, when the fine luthier over sprayed the top, they opted not to tape off the soundhole, spraying black lacquer all over the interior back and neck block. The overspray was removed very carefully and slowly from the interior, however, this also removed any kind of FON (Factory Order Number) from the neck block as well (dating the guitar was done more with other details like the tuner style and scalloped X brace legs). So, with much back-and-forth, I finally decided to remove the old top finish, making absolutely sure to not remove any wood, and have it re-shot. It was done by Addam Stark, the same person that had done all of Santa Cruz Guitars finish work for a decade, and just so happens to be an expert on both nitro-cellulose lacquer, and vintage sunbursts. Also the same person that finishes all of my own personal builds. We opted to shoot it very thin, and with a short cure time of only 2-3 days before buffing out. This gave the appearance of the lacquer sinking back into the spruce grain more rapidly, giving a nice vintage look. I opted to stay away from “aging” and leave it looking nice. If after buying it one wants to have it “aged”, by all means, have at it. After re shooting the top, it was time for the neck reset (which required a very small shot of lacquer on the heel and surrounding area), replacement rectangular Brazilian bridge, new frets (standard nickel, period correct size), bone nut, bone “through” saddle and final setup. The interior is all original with only one top crack to the interior of the pickguard that was repaired long ago and is holding just fine. The only other thing to report on the interior is the bridge plate. When the bridge was replaced with the belly style, the two outside E strings were widened to the outside by about 1/16”. I opted to leave this alone knowing that when the new bridge was on with the correct string spacing, the ball ends would have plenty of maple plate to sit down on in the correct E to e spacing of 2-1/8”. This worked just fine, and all 6 ball-ends are resting on the plate just fine. The kicker... there were never any screws on this guitar (again, similar to the Jumbo model). When I replaced the bridge with the new Brazilian rectangular bridge, I put the pearloid caps (actual early Gibson factory pearloid 1/4” dots) to the outside of the E and e pins (which are original) as if there were screws, but there is nothing underneath, nor were there ever any holes drilled other than the bridge pin holes. That part is a mystery. All AJ’s supposedly have the two screws in the bridge, but this one does not and never did. To answer this, all I can think to say is that the only thing Gibson has ever been truly consistent about is its inconsistency.
The rest of the guitar is in remarkably good condition. The back and sides are very clean, with nearly nothing to report. There are two very small hairline cracks on the side which are so small and tight that all that was needed was to work a little glue into them. Totally fine, and near invisible. The back and side bracing are all original, and completely intact. Interestingly, even with the top refinished, the guitar doesn’t look out of balance. In other words, the finish on the back and sides is in such good shape, that the clean top doesn’t really stand out as odd. The back and sides have typical cross-grain checking patterns, but that’s really about it. Not much to report even regarding dings or scratches, and no repairs on the body interior except where the over-spray was removed from the back and heel block. All binding is original, albeit quite worn on the neck bass side. It was played! Still, the neck is in very good shape as well. The finish is worn through only from play in the first position, but very clean everywhere else, with just a few small dings here and there, and only one more noticeable one on the back of the neck under the 9th fret position. The guitar plays as good or better than it did the day it left the factory now. The neck is just about dead on flat, with the slightest bit of relief. The setup (standard light gage strings) is low and fast, but high enough so you can dig in. At the nut, the low E is .023” measured off the first fret, the A is .022”, D .022”, G .020, B .019, and high e is .018”. A the 12th fret, the high e is just under 5/64” while the low E is shy of 3/32” with the intonated bone saddle following the 12” radius fingerboard. Original hard case included.
The owner was a tail gunner in a B-17 Flying Fortress in WW2. He completed all of his bombing runs unscathed, and was discharged, only to rejoin the fight and get right back into another B-17 with a new crew. This time, his luck wasn’t as good, and on a daytime run over Berlin, his plane was shot down. His luck didn’t completely run out though, and he managed to bail out and land safely. He was captured and became a POW in Germany until the end of the war. After, he returned home where he started a family, and continued playing and writing on his prized Gibson AJ. There is a book written about the owner that can be included in the sale, along with sound clips of his songs played and written on his Gibson AJ.