As featured in the June 2019 edition of Guitar Player Magazine. https://www.guitarplayer.com/gear/the-unparalleled-beauty-of-the-gibson-l5-archtop.
This is the fourth of four Byrdland prototypes made by Gibson in 1955 at the request of Hank Garland and Billy Byrd. Gibson log description: “L5-CES A-20474 Spec. thin model.” Two went to Hank and Billy and Gibson kept the other two. The guitar is described in A.R. Duchossoir's "Gibson Electrics The Classic Years" at pages 57, 58 and 220.
The guitar was a mess when I got it about 10 (?) years ago. It's been fully-restored to vintage specification by Cris Mirabella, the leading conservator of high-end vintage archtops. Repair and restoration includes: partial rebinding on body and neck (some of the original binding was gassed out), complete refinish (it left the factory sunburst and came to me blonde), partial replacement of lower rim (to repair damage around jack covered by a metal plate), old Bigsby replaced with vintage original L-5CT tailpiece (try finding that part again!), some parts, replacement pick-guard. All hardware is now vintage correct. The refin is period correct and attractive. Cris eliminated some finger-nail wear around the knobs without sanding by humidifying the wood to tease back the grain. Clever.
The four “Byrdland” prototypes were based on slimmer L-5 bodies. This instrument is 17” wide and 2-3/16”deep at the lower bout. It’s a little deeper than a production Byrdland. Parallel braced.
Hank asked Gibson to take the standard L-5 neck (1-11/16” nut and 25-1/2” scale) and make it faster and more comfortable. I guess he had small hands. (The Strombergs made him a thin-bodied archtop with a 23-1/2" scale). The nut on this one is a little narrow at 1-10/16” and the scale is 24-1/2” (unlike the standard Byrdland neck, which has a 23-1/2” scale and 1-9/16" nut). The profile is a deep “C” cup that fills the palm, and there are 22 frets. Moderate radius on the fret-board. The neck is comfortable. Mirabella refret with medium jumbo frets showing no wear.
The main attraction is the original Charlie Christian pickup in the neck position. It’s bright, airy, and a little glassy and sweet, with bite. (Sorry, I know this isn’t a wine review). Listen to Hank’s sound on “All the Things You Are” on Jazz Winds From a New Direction. This guitar does that. It’s not a fat PAF humbucker sound (think Wes playing Caravan on “Far Wes” on his ’61 sharp-cut L-5CES) and it’s not that raw, honky Charlie Christian sound on Flying Home with Benny Goodman. The vintage replacement P-90 at the bridge has a low output so the screws are fully extended. Vintage Gibson two-piece rosewood bridge.
Completely refinished and restored. No dings or scratches. Lovely iced-tea burst. No flame but some nice “bird’s eye” bubble figure on the back.
Period-correct, brown/pink “Cali Girl” case (tan on the outside and pink on the inside). Bare metal handle.
This is an iconic Gibson electric and for some a Holy Grail. You won’t find one on the market again, ever. It’s as cool as they get.
Paypal accepted (but contact me for the email address) or Wire transfer of immediately available funds to my account per my wire transfer instructions. or Certified bank check from a major US bank.
I would prefer that you personally inspect and take delivery from me at my location in Manhattan or from Mirabella Guitars in St. James, Long Island, New York. Otherwise, unless we agree on another method, I will ask Mirabella to ship to your location, at your expense by UPS or FedEx for 2d day delivery, insured in excess of the purchase price.
Each of my guitars has been inspected and to the extent required restored to vintage specification (with vintage parts if necessary) by Cris Mirabella. All condition and restoration issues are fully disclosed. I strongly urge you to inspect the guitar in person at my location or Mirabella's before shipping. I am happy to consider giving you a right of approval for a specific number of days, especially if you aren't able to audition the instrument in person prior to committing. But unless we agree by email on a right of approval in advance, all sales are final, "as-is, where-is" with no right of return. If you feel that I have materially misrepresented a particular condition or restoration issue, I will, at your request, consider an appropriate price reduction to be granted or denied in my reasonable discretion. This is not a policy of "caveat emptor" or "buyer beware." Instead I am asking you to commit to a purchase on the basis of my full disclosure and your right of prior inspection. I'm a private collector with a day job, not a retail store. I simply don't have the time or resources for you to shop casually. The vintage guitar market can be a tricky space to navigate--there's a fair amount of ignorance, misinformation and outright lying. I've gone to the effort and expense of having each guitar inspected and restored, to the extent necessary, by Cris Mirabella, the leading repair and restoration specialist of vintage arch-tops. You won't encounter any unwanted or undisclosed surprises. That adds a lot of value to the guitars.