The Kalamazoo brand of musical instruments was marketed as “The World’s Greatest Value,” with the quality of Gibson's manufacturing at Great Depression era prices. Most of the Kalamazoo instruments were less than half the price of their Gibson cousins. The Kalamazoo Guitar or model "KG" was introduced in 1933 and later renamed the KG-11. So were the Kalamazoo Tenor Guitar (later called the KTG-11), the Kalamazoo Mandolin (later called the KM-11), the Kalamazoo Tenor Banjo (KTB), Kalamazoo Plectrum Banjo (KPB), Kalamazoo Regular Banjo (KRB) and the Kalamazoo Mandolin-Banjo (KMB).
Many of the dealers who carried Gibson-branded instruments also carried the Kalamazoo line, including several international dealers. Gibson's goal was to offer a quality instrument at prices that were equivalent to many cheaper brands available at the time like Harmony, Kay, and Regal.
Probably the most well-known model was the KG-14, which was almost exactly like Gibson’s legendary 1930’s flat-top model L-00, but with a "ladder-braced" top and no truss rod. Gibson-branded flat-top guitars had X-braced tops and truss rods, so Gibson was able to save manufacturing costs by eliminating these features on the Kalamazoo guitars. However, the Kalamazoo flat-tops were all made out of solid wood until 1940, which makes them more valuable in today’s market compared to the arch-top guitars and most 1940-43 flat-top guitars, which had plywood veneer backs.
The Gibson Kalamazoo KTG-11 Flat-top Tenor Guitar was produced from 1933 to 1940 with the same body as the KG-11, but with a four-string tenor guitar neck and headstock. It had a short 22 3/4” scale length, a 1 ¼” nut, and a 14/19-fret neck. Its dimensions were 36 ½” overall length, 17 ½” body length, 14 ¾” lower bout width, and a depth of 4.” It had an ivoroid-bound top, an unbound back, and dot inlay, with Grover banjo-style friction tuning pegs. The flat-topped peghead had the white Kalamazoo logo, the rosewood fretboard and bridge featured an ebony nut and a bone saddle, and a glued-on celluloid pickguard following the body contour [like this one] was introduced in 1936. The finish was dark brown on the solid mahogany back, sides, and neck, while the solid spruce top featured a black sunburst finish. [C’f page 343, Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars.]
Some 1933-1937 Kalamazoo models had a factory order number (FON) ink-stamped inside the body, usually on the neck block [like this one]; 1938-1940 Kalamazoos had a serial number starting with a letter prefix, followed by 4 numbers, stamped on the back of the head stock. I have found no authoritative correlation of the Kalamazoo FONs with actual dates of manufacture, so I can’t tell you what the fairly clear number (“1301”) on the neck block means. However, since it has this number ink-stamped inside the body as on the 1933-1937 models, and since there is no number on the back of the headstock as on the 1938-1940 models, and since it has the contoured celluloid pickguard introduced in 1936, this guitar was clearly produced in late 1936 or 1937. I think.
I have been assured by my luthier that all structural issues on this guitar have been addressed, either by him or by some luthier in its previous 75+ years. Every actual crack—and there are several--has been glued [and cleated where appropriate], including a long crack extending along the treble side of the lower bout. The exception is a hairline crack in the bridge between two of the pegholes: he said the crack wasn’t going anywhere and he suggested that we leave it to the next owner to mess with the original part. There is a segment of the back lower bout edge which may not be original, but if it’s not, it’s an awfully good repair. Regardless, if you can live with the small nut, it plays really well, with the action at a bit over 3/32” at the 12th fret D, and of course the sound is full, vintage, and “woody.”
Cosmetically, of course, it’s rough and rugged, as you can see. The finish is heavily crazed (“to let the sound out,” as my luthier says). There are dents, scratches, and dings all over, including the back of the neck. The Grover friction pegs are fully functional and I believe original [although one knob looks newer than the others]. The finish is original, but it’s over 75 years old, and pretty much looks it, and there’s of course no telling what three generations of owners might have done to it. I must admit, it's got a bit more mojo than most guitars--some folks would say it's downright homely--but I'm 73 and it's older than I am so it's got a right to look "experienced." One thing one of those owners did: he scratched his initials [“HDB”] just above the sound hole; if your name happens to be oh, say, Harry Dubose Beauregard, you’re good to go. If not, they still look cool. Generally, the pictures tell the story, but if you have any specific questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.
I don’t usually quote other folks in my descriptions, but this guy on Worthopedia really expresses the joys of playing this little guitar about his own Kalamazoo: “Vintage ca. 1930s Gibson-made Kalamazoo KTG-11 TENOR GUITAR. Nice player's tenor guitar -- great for the mando player or tenor banjo player seeking a bit of an escape...! Great for lead work, fancy all-over-the-neck chords, modal backing chords for folk, fiddle tunes, you name it! It's a terrific, pretty loud, punchy, and sweet-sounding instrument -- with that big ladder-braced open tone. It's got an almost mellow jazzy sound when playing lead work but has plenty of snap for fiddle tunes, warmth for Celtic, etc. All-around nice'n with a perfectly balanced tone -- not too bassy, not too trebly. It's also VERY lightweight and fits well in the lap. Neck is really fast and really easy. I really love the feel of this guitar -- can play most of my mandolin licks on it right off the bat (I have it tuned in "Celtic" octave mando tuning -- GDAE below fiddle -- at the moment) and this guitar keeps pace in a group setting. These Gibson-made tenors are a super value instrument -- and they're perfect as gigging workhorses as they feel so good to play. This guitar is a super slick player and feels GREAT. Tone is nice and big and open with plenty of sustain and mellow richness. Great balanced tone for fingerpicking, flatpicking, you name it... and it sounds nice played loud or quiet, too.”
Buyer pays a flat rate of $55 for insurance and shipping to the lower 48 states; shipping costs elsewhere will be negotiated as necessary. Payments by Paypal, cashier’s checks, money orders, or personal checks are acceptable, but checks must clear before the guitar will be shipped.
I have made every effort to describe and illustrate this vintage guitar with scrupulous accuracy. Please read the description carefully, check out the pictures [more are available upon request], and ask any questions you might have before offering to purchase this instrument. Its return will not be accepted unless it can be shown that it was egregiously misrepresented in this listing.
Thank you for your interest in this cool guitar.
Payments by Paypal, cashier’s checks, money orders, or personal checks are acceptable, but all payments must clear my bank before the guitar will be shipped. I will CONSIDER reasonable offers, even including installment payments and trade-ins, but generally since I already attempt to price my guitars very competitively, unusual deals must be unusually sweet.
From henceforth [that's how retired English teachers talk], insurance and shipping to the lower 48 states is $55 due to constantly rising shipping costs unless a specific listing says otherwise; shipping costs elsewhere will be negotiated as necessary. I have sold guitars to Russia, Japan, Australia, and over 50 other countries, as well as almost every state in the USA. Since some of my guitars travel thousands of miles, I take care to use lots of packing materials, protect the neck inside the case, and of course de-tune the strings.
I make every effort to describe and illustrate each guitar and case with scrupulous accuracy. However, many of my instruments are well-played vintage items which are many years old, and I am not a luthier. One should assume that any guitar will require some set-up to satisfy your personal requirements, and that not every flaw or ding will be seen/recognized/described in the listing. Thus the return of an instrument will not be accepted unless it can be shown that it was egregiously misrepresented in this listing. Please read the listing carefully, check out the pictures, and ask any questions you might have before offering to buy.