I've been picking the flat top guitar for 53 years and have come to like vintage Martin and Gibson "small body" guitars in particular. This site has photos of my old small body guitars as well as some of the musicians I play with around the country. I've also included a few articles about related topics that you may enjoy. Feel free to contact me if you share my interests or have something you'd like to add to my site that is appropriate.
A little history about me and my guitars...
I have always been an acoustic picker and only dabbled in electric music a little bit in college. Fingerpicking was my initial passion, but I learned a little about flatpicking while playing blues and rock when I was in my late teens and early twenties. By the time I was 30 I had been working at a "real day job" for 7 years, not playing much, and was looking for a way get back into my music. My '73 Guild D-40 had been under my bed in its case for several years, and I wasn't sure where to begin. After exploring some jazz guitar solos and then playing some Irish stuff, I was introduced to the world of Old Time Music at a local contra dance. Before long I was in a community pick-up band in Dallas called the Winfrey Point Volunteers. It was during this time that I discovered the music of flatpickers like Norman Blake, Tony Rice, and Dan Crary and I also revisited the music of Doc Watson whose fingerpicking had inspired me as a teenager. Within three years I was playing in a trio with Kirk Hunter on Fiddle and David Allen on Banjo and we called ourselves PigAnkle. We played together for 17 years until I moved to California.
In the late '80s I got interested in old, vintage guitars and bought a 1944 Martin D-18. Soon thereafter I bought a beat-up, unplayable, 12-fret Gibson L-00. I bought it because it looked so cool, and not because I knew anything about these amazing small body Gibsons. I began playing it more and more, and by 1995 I had fallen under the spell of the L-00's greatness and bought another 'double-0', a 1933 L-1 with a 14-fret neck. I have included a story about these two guitars on another page of this web site that you might enjoy. In 1995 I got to play a 1936 00-18 (14 fret mahogany) that a friend in North Carolina owns. I was amazed at how powerful it was, so I set out to find me one. A little by luck and a lot by accident, I ended up buying a 1937 00-21 sight unseen. At the time I ordered it I wasn't aware that the 00-21 was a 12-fret neck, slot-head guitar; but once I played it I became a believer in this instrument's excellent design. I was also fortunate in buying the 00-21 because it was a Brazilian Rosewood guitar that gives it that dry, rich tone. Lucky for me, the interest in small body guitars had not developed much back then and I was able to acquire mine before prices skyrocketed. So here I am in the 21st century, playing old-time music on 80 year-old guitars. I wouldn't have it any other way.
In June 2011 Christie and I moved from California to North Carolina. We are meeting lots of new friends, great music is everywhere, and we love it here.
Below Left: 1937 Martin 00-21, 12 fret/slot head, "My Favorite Martian"
ABOVE: The Martin 00 size guitar was introduced in 1877. A few 00-21s were made between then and 1898. The first year in which 5 or more 00-21s were made is 1898, the first year that serial numbers are recorded. The 00-21 has always been made as a 12 frets-to-the-body, slot-head guitar. In the early 1930s when other models began being made as 14 fret, solid headstock guitars, the 00-21 continued without any changes, keeping the 12-fret/slot-head design. It was "discontinued" as a regular production model in 1987 but has always been available by special order.
1966 (200 made) and 1967 (213 made) were the top production years (the Folk Music Boom). The year mine was made (1937) only 41 were produced.
2014: $5000+ (if Brazilian and Adirondak)
Below Center: 1931 Gibson L-00, 12 fret, "Blackie". This is my first "double-0".
The evolution of the L-0, L-00 and L-1 is complicated. Even the "experts" who list the features that determine which model you have are not conclusive. Below is a link where you can find some information about them...but these descriptions and features are not the absolute, indisputable truth. The guitar above has features that make it an L-00. It has no binding on the back, it is 12 Fret, and since it has no pickguard, it is an early one, probably 1931. The 1930 models had 'The Gibson' logo, and this one has only 'Gibson'.
There are great photos of many L-0 and L-00 and L-1 guitars at the site link below. The person who created this site knows a lot about these old guitars, but don't be surprised if you find one that doesn't exactly fit either model's description. Gibson is famous for erratic variations.http://home.provide.net/~cfh/loo.html
Below Right: 1933 Gibson L-1, 14 fret sunburst: "The Beast".
Below: This L-1 "had" a "floating fingerboard". According to one expert on L-00 Gibsons, this feature is only found on some of those built in 1933 or 1934. This sunburst is sometimes referred to as Cremona Brown; it is not really black, and the yellow burst is smaller compared to later models. I've also heard it referred to as a "small dot" sunburst. I recently met a great guitarist and luthier in Thomasville, NC, Aaron Morris, who finally fixed the neck on this L-1 so it will play right. The fingerboard is no longer 'floating', and it sounds great, plays great, looks great. Aaron builds L-00 style guitars and does excellent restoration work. His prices are reasonable, and he gets the work done very quickly. I would highly recommend him. See the Page/Tab on this site: Repairs and Restoration.
This is what the floating fingerboard looked like. It was not a good design concept to begin with, in my opinion, as there was not enough strength in the dovetail joint to keep the neck from pulling up. After restoration by Aaron Morris, the fingerboard is now flush with the top of the guitar, like any normal guitar, and it plays and sounds great. Was Gibson just using up some necks left over from arch-top production or what? Who knows? But it wasn't a good design. Thanks Aaron! It's a Beast, and it plays great.