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  1. #1

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    So a buddy is mine has found two interesting guitars on archtop.com and has asked for advice. The first is an all original 81 Johnny Smith that looks to be in great condition, minus the original case. The second is a first year Le Grande, great condition and all original. I have never played a Le Grande but I am aware of the differences between the two, scale length, body size, nut, pickups, etc. Both are within his budget range. And both are blondes. Since he is unable to play either one, he asked me about archtop.com's reputation. I have never purchased anything from Joe and I have heard mixed reviews about his business.

    So two questions I guess: Given the choice of these two guitars, which would you chose and why? Second, any experience buying guitars from archtop.com? It would be helpful for me to get a sense of the community to help my friend with his decision making. Thanks for you help as always.

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  3. #2

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    As I prefer a shorter scale, the Johnny Smith would probably be my choice, though the woods on that LeGrande would not make that an easy choice. Also, there will not be any more Gibson Johnny Smith guitars made, so the long term value may be better, but in 20 years, the market for any archtop may be soft, so that should not be a major factor in choosing.

    Regarding Joe V., I have never done business with him but I have friends who have. The reviews are mixed, but in general more positive than not. Joe has come on this forum to defend his reputation at least once that I recall. That kind of concern would lead me to believe that there are good odds that your friend will probably have at a good transaction. I have called Joe V. twice to inquire about guitars that he had for sale and IMO, he seems more knowledgeable than most guitar dealers when it comes to archtops.

    Either way, if your friend buys one of these, he will probably be happy that he did.

  4. #3

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    Thanks. This is just the kind of advice, well stated and direct, that I can share. My preference, too, would be the JS since I am very familiar with it. Good insights, much appreciated.

  5. #4

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    pm sent....

  6. #5

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    Regarding the guitars: As you know the JS has a slightly wider fb and a slightly shorter scale. I myself prefer both of those specs. How does your friend feel about that, are they a very accomplished player that understands the implications of those differences? Also, the JS might have a little more "romance" to it, as far as the model history and artist association. And it appears to be priced a bit lower, maybe because of the case. The case and $$ may or may not be an issue with your friend. But $500 is nothing to sneeze at.

    Regarding Joe: I only dealt with him once, and although nothing financial ended up transpiring, I found him to be knowledgeable and extremely helpful, even when it became clear we weren't going to do any real business. But I would certainly ask every possible question you can think of ahead of time in writing, about the guitar, including the return agreement. I think they tend to cut and paste in some of their ads, and I have seen some inaccurracies. If I recall, the conflict mentioned here arose from a situation where someone wanted to return a guitar for refund, but Joe was not available for several days, and then when he finally returned, the return window had passed. ICBW, but that is my foggy recollection.
    Last edited by Woody Sound; 12-05-2019 at 04:01 PM.

  7. #6

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    pm resonded to.Thanks

  8. #7

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    Thanks, Woody.

    My friend is a good player who will understand the implications of the scale and fretboard differences. I personally prefer the shorter scale and 1 3/4 nut. Do you have any sense of the acoustic variations? My 74 JS isnt a cannon, but it has a nice full acoustic sound. Aged wood I am sure helps. Not sure what a 26 yo LeGrande would sound like.

    Fred

  9. #8

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    I sent a PM

  10. #9

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    That would be a hard choice. If it was myself naturally playing them first hand would be the give away on which guitar. Like SS said I would like the 25 inch scale but the Legrand has the woods and possible it could be a better sounding guitar. It is my belief that the QC of the 1993 Gibson might be better but like SS said, they are not ever going to make Johnny Smith again. My understanding is with the Legrand Gibson wanted to return to better QC and details with this being the high end acoustic that it is.

    This is a situation where a great dealer or one of there staff can be the best help. If this guitar was for sale a Gruhn's this would be easy. I could call Wes the expert and he would give me the real jazz archtop lowdown on each guitar. I have contact a number of dealers about guitars and a few have players who will go play the guitar and give you feedback. In fact I found a great lady at The Music Zoo played guitar knew about jazz guitars and she went and played a guitar I was looking at and gave me the run down.

    The best bet is to maybe get someone in the Seattle area who might go in and do this for you. If it was me that is what I would do. Two points to consider in not being in a huge hurry before you get good answers. The archtop market is in the tanks for most part with Gibson still doing ok. There is always going to be another JS somewhere. Also it is a lot of cash for something you cannot play. It maybe a case of what type of guitar are you going for. Both are acoustic archtops but the JS was designed to be used with a pickup. The Legrand may be a bit more traditional. Good luck and stay alert.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by FredH
    Thanks, Woody.

    My friend is a good player who will understand the implications of the scale and fretboard differences. I personally prefer the shorter scale and 1 3/4 nut. Do you have any sense of the acoustic variations? My 74 JS isnt a cannon, but it has a nice full acoustic sound. Aged wood I am sure helps. Not sure what a 26 yo LeGrande would sound like.

    Fred
    I used a '69 JS for many years. Sold it only because at my advanced age I finally had to admit that my right shoulder joint cannot tolerate 17" guitars. I agree with you: a wonderful, warm acoustic tone, though not extremely powerful. I have no experience with a LeGrande.

  12. #11

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    I'm regularly switching between a 76 Johnny Smith and two LeGrands. Though the scales on the LeGrands are longer i find them more comfortable to play than the JS, which is heavier built. The JS has the most powerful voice of the three, the two LeGrands sound different from each other, both mellower than the JS, and the newer (2013) more powerful than the 1998. Because of the mellower Sound i end up taking the 98 LeGrand to gigs far more often than the JS. The 2013 Le Grand stays at home mostly, but this is because i'm afraid that it gets bruised.
    I probably would end up buying the LeGrand and regret not having bought the JS, which is, from my practical experience, the better choice than buying the JS and regretting not having bought the LeGrand.

    I do not have any experiences buying from archtop.com.

  13. #12

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    [QUOTE=JazzNote;993404]I'm regularly switching between a 76 Johnny Smith and two LeGrands. Though the scales on the LeGrands are longer i find them more comfortable to play than the JS, which is heavier built. The JS has the most powerful voice of the three, the two LeGrands sound different from each other, both mellower than the JS, and the newer (2013) more powerful than the 1998. Because of the mellower Sound i end up taking the 98 LeGrand to gigs far more often than the JS. The 2013 Le Grand stays at home mostly, but this is because i'm afraid that it gets bruised.
    I probably would end up buying the LeGrand and regret not having bought the JS, which is, from my practical experience, the better choice than buying the JS and regretting not having bought the LeGrand.

    I do not have any experiences buying from archtop.com.[/QUOTE/]

    Jazznote you have the great experience here for sure what a resource. I must say I would to see a picture of you guitars. Does speak well of a 1976 JS still producing powerful sound. Guitars sure can be interesting and this was an inciteful post.

  14. #13

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    I was just talking to Joe V about the Johnny Smith on Tuesday, it’s reasonably priced for a blonde GJS and the wood has exceptional figure. In talking to Joe D. About who likely built thr GJS he thinks Aaron Cowles or Hutch. It’s got a replaced pickguard but the guitar and hardware suffered no damage from outgassing.

    in the end I decided to hold off only because the stock market made some serious downturns.

    joes very forthcoming on the guitars he has the times I’ve spoken to him

  15. #14

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    Thanks Big Mike and fellow NJ guy. I will pass that on about the build. It does have nice wood and a replaced pickguard is always a good thing. Appreciate the input.

    f

  16. #15

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    I could tell you about Smiths all day but have very little experience w/LeGrande's.
    Jazznote is really the guy to ask when it comes to these, he has lots of experience w/both models
    The only problem is every guitar is different and needs to be judged as such.
    Just make sure if your friend buys online that he's aware of the dealers return policy, there's even some that charge non-sensical 'restocking' fees.

  17. #16

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    Having owned several Smiths from the '80's and a pair of LeGrands from '94 or so, I'd take the LeGrand any day. In fact, when I got my first LeGrand I sold all my Smiths. Beside preferring the scale length and nut width, I thought the LeGrands were better guitars.

    Danny W.

  18. #17

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    " If I recall, the conflict mentioned here arose from a situation where someone wanted to return a guitar for refund, but Joe was not available for several days, and then when he finally returned, the return window had passed. ICBW, but that is my foggy recollection.[/QUOTE]"

    Woody,

    I regret that time doesn't permit us to regularly visit this forum, but I'd like to take a moment to set the record straight here. I can state categorically that we have never failed to issue a refund to any buyer under such circumstances. In over 25 years in business we have invariably extended approval windows on request, sometimes for several weeks, especially if we're on the road.

    Our reputation is of paramount importance to us, and we have worked very hard over several decades to maintain a standard for customer service and product expertise that we feel is second to none. And it's not just us: we have an unblemished 5 star rating on Reverb. We have literally hundreds of testimonials from actual customers here, including some of the top names in the business. Check it out for yourself:

    archtop.com: Friends

    We think it's important that foggy notions and third-hand rumors be corrected with actual facts, before they become hardened into the kind of toxic factoids that take on an insidious life of their own. I would ask all who participate in this forum to consider this fully before repeating this kind of stuff. And to remember you are talking about fellow humans here, with actual families, businesses and reputations, much like your own. We are not faceless corporations, and for those who insist on taking down small independent businesses that serve this community, you will have no one else to blame when Guitar Center is the last shop standing.

    We realize that slogging and online grousing is sport for some folks, but at the end of the day it has real world consequences, and it is never pretty to see your good name besmirched by baseless innuendo. In sum, I would cordially invite anyone on this forum who has any questions of this nature to contact me personally, just as we send our thanks to the good customer, and friend, who alerted us to this thread.

    Anyone who's ever run a business knows that at the end of the day, there will always be someone who, for whatever reason, seems bound and determined not to be pleased. And when that happens, we'll move heaven and earth to make it right. And no matter what, we'll never stop trying.

    With best wishes from myself and Julie for a most tuneful holiday season. Keep pickin'!

    Joe Vinikow
    archtop.com
    206.325.3737

  19. #18

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    Thanks Jazznote. This is really helpful. I will pass it on to my friend.

  20. #19

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    Fred,
    If you’ve been bitten by the Gibson bug, I totally understand. I am right there with you. But if you’ve been blessed with The ability to keep an open mind, try out a Campellone.
    I am not a paid endorsee but I played one recently (about 300 times one weekend) and I can tell you for sure, they are every bit as good.
    I LOVED my Gibson Johnny Smith. I’ll probably never find one like the one I had. And I know someone who is more knowledgeable than anybody about Archtop guitars and he has 2 LeGrands and absolutely swears by them.
    Don’t overlook a nice Heritage Johnny Smith. I’ve had a few and they are extraordinary as well. Especially when you swap out the stock pickup and stick Kent Armstrong handwound one in there.

    Now that I’ve totally confused the crap out of you, here is my advise. Have fun. That is what this should be all about. They are all GREAT guitars, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Get one, make great music with it and show us pictures!
    Joe D

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny W.
    Having owned several Smiths from the '80's and a pair of LeGrands from '94 or so, I'd take the LeGrand any day. In fact, when I got my first LeGrand I sold all my Smiths. Beside preferring the scale length and nut width, I thought the LeGrands were better guitars.

    Danny W.
    I entirely agree with Danny . I’ve also owned both of these guitars , and still own 2 Legrands which I prefer over the Johnny Smith. My Late 90’s Legrand is the finest sounding and playing Gibson Archtop I’ve owned. It’s a hybrid of a D’ Angelico and an L5 sound, and the neck shape is very familiar. The responsiveness is off the charts.

    The Legrand has a slightly shallower body side depth, and a small Lower bout width , and my scale lengths are 25.312. Its just more comfortable to hold and play and the nut widths are 1.718.

    The Johnny’s have a wider flatter (radius) neck and can be fatiguing at times, especially if it has the wide flat frets.

    On the JS , the internal neck block extends nearly the full length of the fingerboard internally - and on the Legrand it extends to the radial relief cut on the cantilevered portion of the fingerboard extension..

    In my opinion - I think the Legrand ultimately turned out to be more of what Johnny (really) wanted - especially with the adjustable finger tail pc. The Legrand build quality is superb ...very consistent - and it’s actually comparable to a Citation in many ways.

    As for dealing with Joe V....... ca·ve·at emp·tor.
    Last edited by QAman; 12-05-2019 at 09:12 PM.

  22. #21

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    Sorry, forgot about Danny and Q, they know their Smiths/LeGrandes too.

  23. #22

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    I have both. I would say depends on how and what you play. The Johnny Smith is a better electric guitar, great guitar well suited for a single line player. The Legrand is more Accoustic more of a lap top piano better suited to cord melodies. That’s not to say that either is bad in any department, just in my opinion where their strengths lie.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by QAman

    The Johnny’s have a wider flatter (radius) neck and can be fatiguing at times, especially if it has the wide flat frets.
    Interestingly enough the neck radius is the same on these guitars. Both 12”, but to look at it and play it, you would certainly think that. I do agree with these comments even though they are technically wrong. I think that the necks are wide, and on the thin side that causes us to draw those conclusions.

  25. #24

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    The Gibson Legrand is an excellent instrument. I mean, it's no Hofner Chancellor, but is still pretty damned fine (I just never get tired of this post).

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark
    I must say I would to see a picture of you guitars. Does speak well of a 1976 JS still producing powerful sound. Guitars sure can be interesting and this was an inciteful post.
    Mark, i have posted a foto of the trio a couple of years ago, but installed a fancy pickguard on one of them in the meantime. I will post a new pic soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    The only problem is every guitar is different and needs to be judged as such.
    That is the most important fact to consider imho


    Quote Originally Posted by skiboyny
    I have both. I would say depends on how and what you play. The Johnny Smith is a better electric guitar, great guitar well suited for a single line player. The Legrand is more Accoustic more of a lap top piano better suited to cord melodies. That’s not to say that either is bad in any department, just in my opinion where their strengths lie.
    I totally agree and i'm still wondering from which perspective the LeGrand was announced by Gibson to be "replacement" for the JS. In my opinion they are different instruments altogether.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by archtops
    " If I recall, the conflict mentioned here arose from a situation where someone wanted to return a guitar for refund, but Joe was not available for several days, and then when he finally returned, the return window had passed. ICBW, but that is my foggy recollection.
    "

    Woody,

    We think it's important that foggy notions and third-hand rumors be corrected with actual facts, before they become hardened into the kind of toxic factoids that take on an insidious life of their own. I would ask all who participate in this forum to consider this fully before repeating this kind of stuff. And to remember you are talking about fellow humans here, with actual families, businesses and reputations, much like your own. We are not faceless corporations, and for those who insist on taking down small independent businesses that serve this community, you will have no one else to blame when Guitar Center is the last shop standing.


    Anyone who's ever run a business knows that at the end of the day, there will always be someone who, for whatever reason, seems bound and determined not to be pleased. And when that happens, we'll move heaven and earth to make it right. And no matter what, we'll never stop trying.

    Joe Vinikow
    archtop.com
    206.325.3737
    [/QUOTE]

    Thanks Joe. As I mentioned, my own interaction with you was great. As I said, my recollection about that other incident here was foggy. So I found the thread. Turns out the situation was a slightly different, but still merits mentioning. Here is the thread, and the posts about the return dilemma are #6 & #44. By no means did I mean to harm your business. I was simply pointing out to the op, who asked for advice, why they should get everything in detailed writing, including detailed return info.

    archtop.com

  28. #27

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    Even though I've never played a LeGrande, I don't doubt that the workmanship and overall fit and finish are probably better. It really depends on what a particular person prefers, especially the neck/fretboard and tone. Tough decision no matter what.

  29. #28

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    Hey Folks,

    For anyone interested we wanted to let you know our consigner has instructed us to reprice the '81 Johnny at just $6495 for a holiday sale. If you've been tracking this model at this quality level, you'll probably agree with us that this is an outstanding value, in a top-shelf Gibson jazzer, in stellar condition.

    Feel free to call at your convenience during business hours for more info, or a detailed in-hand demo, by phone, Facetime or Skype.

    Happy Holidays!


    Joe Vinikow
    archtop.com
    206.325.3737
    (info@archtop.com)

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark
    I must say I would to see a picture of you guitars.
    from left to right: 1998 LeGrand, 1976 JS, 2013 LeGrand
    1981Gibson Johnny Smith or 1993 Le Grande?-dsc_2313-jpg
    Last edited by JazzNote; 12-13-2019 at 11:15 AM. Reason: corrected 1967 to 1976

  31. #30

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    Yes, I am working on it. If I can ever figure out how to post pictures on this forum. When it comes to technology issues, sometimes I am not the brightest bulb on the holiday tree. For some of us of a certain age, this does not come naturally!

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzNote
    from left to right: 1998 LeGrand, 1976 JS, 2013 LeGrand
    1981Gibson Johnny Smith or 1993 Le Grande?-dsc_2313-jpg
    Is that a12-pole pickup on the right, or just string reflection?

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    Is that a12-pole pickup on the right, or just string reflection?
    Yes, Kent Armstrong handwound 12.