1924 Gibson L-5
Yesterday, I mentioned that I thought the National Style 2 Tricone was the second most beautiful guitar ever made. Today I’d like to look at the guitar I think is the most beautiful, the 16-inch Gibson L-5. This guitar was designed under the supervision of Lloyd Loar in the early 1920s, the same time he was working on the F-5 mandolin. To my eye, this guitar is just about perfect. The sunburst is subtle, the silhouette is graceful and the ornamentation is understated but elegant. This early version of the model has a carved spruce top, maple sides and a carved birch back. (In 1925 Gibson switched to a maple back.)
I’ve played lots of 16-inch L-5s over the years and I find them to be well-balanced sonically and well-suited to a wide range of music. In the 1920s, many other players did as well. Eddie Lang essentially created jazz guitar on his L-5. At the same time, down in Virginia, Maybelle Carter was laying down the foundations of coutry guitar on her L-5. Curiously, they vary more in tone from guitar to guitar than any other instrument I’ve played, but they all sound good. Maybe that’s the reason Eddie Lang had two of his own. If you’d like to get a pair of your own, this lovely instrument at George Gruhn’s would be a great way to start, if you have the $60,000 he’s asking for it.