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  1. #1

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    This guitar when it came up was too rare to let go.

    It's a 1961 (though likely produced in 1960) Guild Johnny Smith Award.

    I think this is the only one in the country and I'm still not sure how many were made. I've heard under 20 but also potentially under 10. The 20 number seems more likely.

    This one was shipped with a blond example to the UK, in 1961.
    I think the blonde ended up back in the US.
    Both were the last two JS Awards made.

    It is a players example but functions perfectly. The tone is incredibly nutty and sweet.

    I'm not interested in the issue Johnny Smith had, partly because it's irrelevant to the guitar which speaks for itself and partly because I think Johnny was wrong, regarding carving into the cutaway.

    What I'm interested in is the history. This guitar is essentially (and I could be wrong) a Guild/D'angelico/Epiphone hybrid and as such is part of a real cross roads in Archtop design.

    I believe It was also the most expensive production guitar of its time.

    All that aside, I hadn't got round to putting up an NGD for it as I haven't yet had a chance to take some good pictures. I still haven't but I'll put up what I have and will add to the thread in the future.

    I'll do a comparison between this and the Campellone Deluxe I recently purchased at some point too.

    Cheers!

    1961 Guild 'Johnny Smith' Award-9b7714cb-faee-4a7e-ae94-8d12230f476c-jpeg
    Attached Images Attached Images 1961 Guild 'Johnny Smith' Award-6dfc21ef-fc4c-482c-8d80-727216561b9c-jpeg 

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  3. #2

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    Just woooowww. Congrats!

  4. #3

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    Nice score ! Did they use solid wood for the backs on these and what does it sound like unplugged ?

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by gitman
    Nice score ! Did they use solid wood for the backs on these and what does it sound like unplugged ?
    I think they did but will confirm when I get a full digital measurement of its thickness in the next few days.
    I would imagine they did considering the price but I have seen something that makes me think it could also be laminated.
    The sound is very warm and deep. It's got a good thunk to it a Zucker would say, likely due to the 24'3/4" scale.

    Plus you've got the added bonus of well played spruce plate, that's 60 years old.

    I played it next to a 1970 Gibson JS and the Gibson body is quite a bit bigger. The Gibsons tone was finer but it did have thin, round wound strings on, which would give more detail than the 12 flats, on the Guild. So not an ideal test.

    Plus it depends what you're looking for. If you're looking for thick and nutty (Grant Green), then the Guild's got it.
    If you're looking for more Johnny Smith, then the Gibson has that.

    I would say the Guild had a more consistent sound over the whole fretboard. Especially in the higher register where the Gibson completely fell apart and the Guild is more comfortable to play (subjective).
    Not to mention the original Rhythm Chief 1000, which is the superior pickup imo (subjective).
    Last edited by ArchtopHeaven; 09-12-2021 at 07:28 PM.

  6. #5

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    Something special about those early 60s Guilds. Beautiful guitar!

  7. #6

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  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by gitman
    There she is.

    Whoever is doing the string bending though needs their fingers removing


  9. #8

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    Holy smokes, that’s a gem!

  10. #9

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    Congrats on the Guild. I have had three Artist Awards over the years and all were great guitars. Two were the Benedetto versions in Sunburst. Try as I might, the 25 5/8 scale combined with a chunky D profile neck made bonding with those guitars impossible for me (and I did not like the Benedetto pickup to boot). The third was a 1971 Blonde with a Dearmond 1100. That one was sold to a forum member to help finance one of my genuine D'Angelicos. I miss that guitar for sure. That said, she had a 25.5 scale and a 1 5/8 nut. A 24.75 Artist Award/Johnny Smith Award would probably be ideal for me, especially if it had a 1 11/16 nut. What is the nut size on your guitar?

  11. #10

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    A remarkable instrument! Congratulations, and play it in good health!

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    Congrats on the Guild. I have had three Artist Awards over the years and all were great guitars. Two were the Benedetto versions in Sunburst. Try as I might, the 25 5/8 scale combined with a chunky D profile neck made bonding with those guitars impossible for me (and I did not like the Benedetto pickup to boot). The third was a 1971 Blonde with a Dearmond 1100. That one was sold to a forum member to help finance one of my genuine D'Angelicos. I miss that guitar for sure. That said, she had a 25.5 scale and a 1 5/8 nut. A 24.75 Artist Award/Johnny Smith Award would probably be ideal for me, especially if it had a 1 11/16 nut. What is the nut size on your guitar?
    Hey String, I'd have to check. Might sound funny but I never care what the nut is. My hands must be the right size for all of them.

    I enjoyed the nut on my Epiphone Elite Country Gent as I enjoy the standard 43mm.

    Since playing Gibsons and Guilds, Guilds have always come out as the ones I enjoy the most. Not to say they are better. I just enjoy the tone and most of all the playability.
    I don't care for the 24'3/4" Scale length on the Es-175 that much but the GJSA has one and so does my favourite X500 made in 73.

    If a guitar is good the nut and scale length don't interest me but I know it's an issue for some people and for very valid reasons.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74
    A remarkable instrument! Congratulations, and play it in good health!
    Thank you my friend.

  14. #13

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    I don't understand why Guild didn't capture much more of the archtop market during the 1950s onward. I've had a few Artist Awards from different decades. They were all just excellent. The two X-700s were just as good. The two GJSAs I had were very nicely made but had thick finish.

    Was it their marketing? Was it that Gibson captured the market and there was no room for competition?

    Epiphone was bought out by Gibson in the late 1950s. Some of the Epiphone craftsmen formed Guild. You can see the similarities in the instruments.

    As an aside, Gibson got the assets of Epiphone with the acquisition of the company. That included a lot of partially completed Epiphones. Interestingly, Gibson got six upright Epiphone basses. They donated them to Western Michigan University's music program. Some of them we later found in a campus dumpster. Someone retrieved them from the dumpster and gave them to my luthier Pete Moreno. Pete said they were well made and in good condition. He sold them.

    Back to the GJSA, the sound is just what it's supposed to be. The mids are strong and will cut through an orchestra. The pickup is gentle and clear.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Grass
    I don't understand why Guild didn't capture much more of the archtop market during the 1950s onward. I've had a few Artist Awards from different decades. They were all just excellent. The two X-700s were just as good. The two GJSAs I had were very nicely made but had thick finish.

    Was it their marketing? Was it that Gibson captured the market and there was no room for competition?

    Epiphone was bought out by Gibson in the late 1950s. Some of the Epiphone craftsmen formed Guild. You can see the similarities in the instruments.

    As an aside, Gibson got the assets of Epiphone with the acquisition of the company. That included a lot of partially completed Epiphones. Interestingly, Gibson got six upright Epiphone basses. They donated them to Western Michigan University's music program. Some of them we later found in a campus dumpster. Someone retrieved them from the dumpster and gave them to my luthier Pete Moreno. Pete said they were well made and in good condition. He sold them.

    Back to the GJSA, the sound is just what it's supposed to be. The mids are strong and will cut through an orchestra. The pickup is gentle and clear.

    Hey Marty.

    Fascinating story.

    Having owned both Guilds and Gibsons, I can only say that Guilds came later and likely Gibson got the jump on the market.

    You're right about the Epiphone influence. I like to think the guitar is a D'angleico/Epiphone/Johnny Smith hybrid. Guild being the one to fund it and put their name on the headstock.

    I think that's where Epiphones way of building clashed with D'Angelico's and thus Johnny Smith's. Epiphone carved the top for the cutaway where D'Angelico and subsequently Gibson, did not. I guess Johnny Smith thought D'angelicos way was better but imo he was wrong and not only that, Johnny Smith then went on to endorse Benedetto who builds in the old Epiphone way. So in the end, the Guild Johnny Smith is what Johnny ended up endorsing.

    D'angelico didn't carve into the cutaway because he couldn't be bothered to make new moulds/jigs. The enlarged binding clearly being a bodge. Even D'aquisto didn't like this method.

    The original Guild JSA is far more interesting than meets the eye. A cross roads and a battle between two different schools of thought with one man in the middle cashing checks on both the styles

    When you mention the finish on the GJSA do you mean the re-issues?

  16. #15

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    What do you mean by “nutty” tone? That’s a new one for me.

  17. #16

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    The Benedetto Guild Artist Awards/Johnny Smith Awards made in Corona California had thick finishes and the one I played was pretty dead acoustically.

    My 71 AA was right up there acoustically with my genuine DA's.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcjazz
    What do you mean by “nutty” tone? That’s a new one for me.
    Don't worry my partner hates me using that term. I use it to describe food like cheeses and dosa's.

    When I enjoy eating something she says "let me guess, it has a 'nutty' taste".

    We're doing well

    I don't know what a nutty tone actually is. It just feels right to say.

    Maybe it's a reference from my joy of good food.

    Although I dislike nuts.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    The Benedetto Guild Artist Awards/Johnny Smith Awards made in Corona California had thick finishes and the one I played was pretty dead acoustically.

    My 71 AA was right up there acoustically with my genuine DA's.
    Is that because Fender got in the way of someone making a good guitar?


    (sorry the goal was open, I had to score).

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchtopHeaven
    Is that because Fender got in the way of someone making a good guitar?


    (sorry the goal was open, I had to score).
    Probably had something to do with California laws regulating the use of nitro paint.....

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    Probably had something to do with California laws regulating the use of nitro paint.....
    I've had a couple of Guild Benedetto JSAs. The second one I got was from a Fender executive. He told me that when Guild and Fender were separating, there were some of the Benedetto guitars left. He was able to get one for very little money. He told me he's not really a guitarist but dinks around on a Tele. He got the JSA as an investment.

    I vaguely remember him telling me that the guitars had to be shipped somewhere, Mexico if I recall right, for the lacquer due to OSHA regs.

    I could be wrong.