"I Can't Lose With the Stuff I Use." So sang Texas R&B shouter Lester Williams on his 1952 hit for Specialty Records. And for this legendary guitarist and singer, the right stuff was his prized 1948 Gibson L-12, a faithful companion in over four decades of soulful performances.
One of the rarest full size Gibson archtops, the L-12 was introduced in 1930. The model was Gibson's first instrument to bear the iconic double-paralleogram fingerboard inlays, and the contemporary script logo peghead debuted the year this guitar was built. This handsome instrument is one of just 56 L-12 guitars built in its model 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.
Identical to the L-5 in size, finish, body materials, scale length and bracing, the L-12 differs only in cosmetic details from its spendy cousin, which can cost many times the price. In contrast to the plainer L-7, the L-12 features all gold hardware, and a full sunburst front and back, including the sides and top of the peghead.
A rarity among bluesmen, Lester Williams trained at the prestigious New England Conservatory, until he fell under the spell of fellow Texan T-Bone Walker, the most influential pioneer of the electric blues guitar. Returning to Houston, Williams had several regional hits, recorded on R&B labels including Duke and Imperial, and was featured in a 1953 Carnegie Hall concert with Dinah Washington, Billy Eckstine and Nat King Cole. A versatile and prolific performer, Williams played regularly on the Houston music scene until his death in 1990. Hear him in his debut 1949 hit, with a smooth guitar intro here.
A small decal on the back of the headstock shows that this guitar was purchased new from Parker Music, still in business 60 years later in Houston's Second Ward. At a bare 5lb 8oz, the guitar is exceptionally light in weight, and years of professional play have imparted a clarity and resonance to the voice that only time can bestow. Well played and well loved, the guitar has been maintained in fine shape, without pick or buckle wear, and showing the fine smooth thumb wear of a long career. The handsome tobacco sunburst finish highlights the bubble maple back to great advantage, and the finish on the soundboard has been expertly replaced with faithful accuracy to the overall color pallete. A short grainline crack has been soundly resealed at the bass f-hole, and otherwise the instrument shows no apparent repairs.
The Brazilian rosewood fingerboard has smooth low action over fine older fretwork, and the neck profile is a gentle full C that fits snugly in the hand. The guitar is accompanied by a number of Williams' press clippings, sheet music and hand written set lists, including a pair of very rare fake books from the 1940's. An outstanding performer, and a priceless piece of Lone Star music history. Call now.
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