Retrofret Stock # 6230. Kalamazoo Model KES Model Flat Top Acoustic-Electric Guitar (1939), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # EK-5390, natural lacquer finish, mahogany back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebonized maple fingerboard, original black chipboard case. This is a very rare and historically interesting pre-WWII electric guitar, built by Gibson for their in-house Kalamazoo budget brand. This Kalamazoo Electric Spanish was the line's first "regular' electric guitar, as opposed to the more common Hawaiian lap steels popular at the time. In creating this model Gibson took a fairly easy (if slightly odd-looking) route to electrification, using their standard KG-14 flat-top guitar and adding an unusual pickup installation in the soundhole. The KES was first released in late 1939; apparently it was not particularly well received as a more conventional arched-top model replaced it shortly thereafter! This second version of the KES resembled the Gibson ES-125, a more typical electric instrument of the time. The 1939 KES uses a budget brand variant of the famous "Charlie Christian" bar magnet pickup introduced in 1935 and employed in some form on all pre-1940 Gibson electrics. The Kalamazoo version has a split 2-piece polepiece bar set in an unbound black cover. The unit uses a smaller magnet than the Gibson original but is basically structurally similar. It is set into the soundhole of the typical flat-top guitar face centered on a white plastic plate screwed to the rim. The visual effect is slightly comical, with the two screws and pickup blade giving a bit of a clownish face effect. The top has some added bracing, but the overall structure is otherwise the same as a 1939 KG-14. The other fittings are typical period Gibson, with openback Kluson strip tuners, a typical rosewood flattop bridge, inlaid "firestripe" celluloid pickguard and single radio-style volume knob. While intended as a student electric guitar this Kalamazoo is built to the same quality as full-line Gibson instruments, lacking only the adjustable truss rod in the neck. It is an unusual design, but quite functional�in many ways very modern, as the amplified flat-top is a much more common sight now than in 1939! The guitar has a fairly chunky sound with decent sustain for a flat-top instrument. Gibson was definitely interested in expanding the market for electric instruments into the budget lines, and this was an early attempt. As it was, the model was discontinued very shortly after being introduced and is now a very rare and interesting piece of Gibson history.Overall length is 40 1/2 in. (102.9 cm.), 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.). Very clean and original overall; some light scratching and pickwear to the top with some deeper digs into the wood near the pickup mounting plate. Has had a neckset but no other repair or alterations. A rare and interesting early electric flat-top, including a nice original SSC. Excellent - Condition.
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