The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    Should really post this when I've got some better pics but who can hold back a double NGD?

    This one is quite special since it's two Johnny Smith models. The two new additions are on the left and right.

    Part of the reason for doing this, is that I really wanted to put the two Guild JS's together because they represent a fun bit of Jazz guitar history.

    The original Guild (centre) was Johnny Smiths first endorsement and the one on the left, was his last.
    What's even more fun is that both are in the same colour and both are the last models made from both runs (as far as I Know).
    Some 60 years after the one in the centre was made, along comes another. Who would have thought Johnny would come full circle?

    In many ways these two Guilds represent a crossroads between, old Epiphone, D'angelico, Johnny Smith, and Benedetto. Not too shabby!

    The Heritage one was a no brainer if you're going to build the set. Now I just need the Gibson.

    I'll do a proper photo shoot over the weekend. Hopefully I can ado them and the history/connection justice.


    NGD x 2-1-1-2-jpeg
    Last edited by ArchtopHeaven; 06-17-2022 at 04:15 AM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Congratulations on two great scores!!

    Is that Heritage JS the one with the uber curly quilt back/sides?

  4. #3

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    Yowza! Congrats!!

  5. #4

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    Get that heinous Furutama tailpiece off of the Heritage!
    Attached Images Attached Images NGD x 2-tailpieces-jpg 
    Last edited by Hammertone; 06-17-2022 at 12:53 AM.

  6. #5

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    Very nice. Incidentally, you could add a 1962 Gibson JS to the family for $8,500 CDN (approx $6,600 USD). It’s a little rough, with a repaired top crack, but it’s a very early JS with the rare first version of the JS pickup. I have one of those pickups and they sound great. Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Electric Sunburst, 1962 | www.12fret.com

  7. #6

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    Cool scores! Congratulations, and play them in good health!

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by floatingpickup
    Very nice. Incidentally, you could add a 1962 Gibson JS to the family for $8,500 CDN (approx $6,600 USD). It’s a little rough, with a repaired top crack, but it’s a very early JS with the rare first version of the JS pickup. I have one of those pickups and they sound great. Gibson Johnny Smith Archtop Electric Sunburst, 1962 | www.12fret.com
    Thanks FP for letting me know. I'll keep an eye out for one in better nick but yes it would be nice to the get the consecutive year Gibson model to go with the 61 Guild.

  9. #8

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    I’ll post some pix of that JS. I played it yesterday. It could easily be polished up quite a bit.
    It’s, uh, er, the best-sounding JS I have ever encountered. Wow. Unlike most JS guitars, this one is a fully acoustic arch top guitar, with a highly developed acoustic voice.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone
    I’ll post some pix of that JS. I played it yesterday. It could easily be polished up quite a bit.
    It’s, uh, er, the best-sounding JS I have ever encountered. Wow. Unlike most JS guitars, this one is a fully acoustic arch top guitar, with a highly developed acoustic voice.
    Interesting. The dogs are always the best sounding.

  11. #10

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    Beautiful guitars, congratulations!

    Somebody please school me on the history of the Johnny Smith model. Was he endorsed by Guild before Gibson? Did the Guild version become the "Artist Award" model after he went with Gibson?

  12. #11

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    The short story is still fairly long, If I have this correct; most of this information comes from Lin Flanagan's book.

    Johnny arrived in New York without a guitar because his L5 had been stolen out of the coat check room at a club where he was playing in, if I remember correctly, Maine. He went through a few guitars and then had John D Angelico make him one; that guitar was lost when the house he was renting burned to the ground (also killing Johnny's dog); he was out to dinner with jazz guitarist Mary Osborne and her husband at the time. He borrowed a D'Angelico from John Collins, fell in love with it and didn't give it back. He had D'Angelico make Collins a replacement. Smith then had John D make him a guitar to his specifications, which was the 17" body of an Excel with the bling of the normally 18" New Yorker, 25" scale, X bracing, and the neck connected to the top to the end of the fingerboard instead of floating over the body. He took delivery of this in 1955. This was his main guitar for several years and interestingly enough seems to be the pattern for an awful lot of boutique jazz guitars: 25" scale, 1 3/4" nut, 17" body, X braced, floating pickup, etc.

    Smith did the endorsement with Guild- this guitar was pretty much supposed to be a copy of the D'Angelico- and canceled the endorsement shortly into the production run because Guild did not want to make the guitar exactly the way he wanted it made. Guild kept most of the design and released it as the Artist Award model, so there are not very many actual guild Johnny Smith model guitars. The OP scored big time here!

    Gibson had apparently also been interested in having his endorsement and approached him to make the guitar the way he wanted it. He agreed, compromising on some aesthetic issues that he wasn't really all that interested in, and the Johnny Smith model was produced along with the Barney Kessel model and Tal Farlow model being introduced at the same time. He got the prototype guitar, which was a sunburst, and then a certain amount of money per guitar sold. Initially he still recorded with the D'Angelico but eventually decided he needed to use the Gibson full-time. Flanagan quotes him as saying that this Gibson was the best guitar he ever owned. It was damaged and sent back to Gibson for repair, somehow disappearing in the process. Gibson diverted a Citation that was already in production, finished it up as a Johnny Smith model and sent it to him; that is the natural colored guitar you see him with later in life. Ironically enough, his last Gibson Johnny Smith was not fully a Johnny Smith! Smith kept the D'Angelico for years but eventually sold it to a collector, Hank Rusan. There is a modern video of him playing it on "What Are You Doing For The Rest of Your Life" and another video from the same show with other songs. A few years ago there was a D Angelico offered on Reverb claiming to have been Johnny Smith's guitar; it was clearly not the same instrument (the instrument for sale was an Excel) but the sale did include the letter that Johnny Smith wrote to Hank Rusan.

    Around the time of the Johnny Smith model launch, Smith had retired from full-time gigging in New York and moved to Colorado to raise his daughter there (his wife had died in childbirth delivering his daughter). He opened a music store in Colorado Springs where he lived the rest of his life, apparently quite happily. Part of his endorsement deal with Gibson provided him with instruments, amplifiers, etc., on credit to get him started in the business. One of his famous quotes was that his best view of New York ever was watching it recede in the rearview mirror as he drove west.

    Smith became irritated with Gibson's inconsistencies from one instrument to the next and eventually pulled his endorsement from Gibson, giving it to Heritage which produced JS guitars for a number of years. Eventually he was approached by Guild again, with Bob Benedetto in charge of the project, and Johnny Smith returned his endorsement to Guild. He trusted Benedetto, having purchased one of his guitars, and must have mellowed in his latter years as the design of those instruments departs from his original design quite a bit (scale length, nut width, top carve). However, he praised them as being excellent instruments and also later in life admitted that the original run of Guild instruments were also fine guitars and the production issues were ultimately pretty minor.

    If there is one guitar on the planet that I would dearly love to spend 15 minutes playing, it is Smith's 1955 D'Angelico. And if there is one (more) guitar that I would love to own, it's a Gibson Johnny Smith; unfortunately, the price of those things has always been out of my reach- rising at about the same pace my income has gone up- so that will never happen. But it's fun to think about.

  13. #12

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    I visited Johnny at his store many years ago. Wrote a post about it. I got to play his blond GJS hanging above his work bench. He was a an excellent guitar technician and repaired guitars.

    I mentioned how I would love to see his Dangelico. Johnny picked up the phone called his wife and said a young man wants to see the Dangelico, can you bring it by. In a short time I got to play it. This was in July 1979. It was a great guitar and wonderful experience.

    johnny smith himself was a real gentleman. I will never forget it. He even had me bring my Barker guitar in from car so he could see it. He knew Bill Barker.

    Less than 2 years after that I bought a Dangelico Excel. Traded it for a New Yorker 2 years later. Have not been without one since. I am going stop typing and go play it.

  14. #13

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    WOW! Is the center one smaller, or is that just a camera effect?

  15. #14

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    Cunamara, thanks for the excellent and detailed history/explanation!

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchtopHeaven
    Should really post this when I've got some better pics but who can hold back a double NGD?

    This one is quite special since it's two Johnny Smith models. The two new additions are on the left and right.

    Part of the reason for doing this, is that I really wanted to put the two Guild JS's together because they represent a fun bit of Jazz guitar history.

    The original Guild (centre) was Johnny Smiths first endorsement and the one on the left, was his last.
    What's even more fun is that both are in the same colour and both are the last models made from both runs (as far as I Know).
    Some 60 years after the one in the centre was made, along comes another. Who would have thought Johnny would come full circle?

    In many ways these two Guilds represent a crossroads between, old Epiphone, D'angelico, Johnny Smith, and Benedetto. Not too shabby!

    The Heritage one was a no brainer if you're going to build the set. Now I just need the Gibson.

    I'll do a proper photo shoot over the weekend. Hopefully I can ado them and the history/connection justice.


    NGD x 2-1-1-2-jpeg
    So now the obvious question is which one of these guitars sounds the best or plays the best? I would love to get a detailed report on the nuances of them for sure.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    WOW! Is the center one smaller, or is that just a camera effect?
    The camera never lies. Or is this the exception to the rule?

  18. #17

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    Pix. Replaced pickguard, replaced knob:
    Attached Images Attached Images NGD x 2-img_1738-jpg NGD x 2-img_1736-jpg NGD x 2-img_1740-jpg NGD x 2-img_1744-jpg NGD x 2-img_1741-jpg 

  19. #18

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    I bought a beautiful Gibson Johnny Smith from a friend a few years ago. It’s a wonderful guitar that feels and sounds different than any of my other archtops. I absolutely love my JS. I haven’t played the one that’s for sale in Toronto, but if Hammertone says it sounds great, it must be a good one.
    Keith

  20. #19

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    There is something about the Gibson JS that sets it apart and evokes emotion. It's not the materials, build quality, or the sound. They are wonderful of course. But the image and design are iconic.

    My first jazz teacher had a beautiful blond one. He would not let me play it. It was maybe the best thing I've ever seen at the time.

    The same people (for the most part) built this instrument. It is beyond my reach. I doubt it's a better sounding and playing guitar, but it has two scoops of wow factor.

    NGD x 2-front-2-jpgNGD x 2-gibson-kalamazoo-award-guitar-jpgNGD x 2-15607157ebd8a7bc919ea054ab392069-jpg

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    WOW! Is the center one smaller, or is that just a camera effect?
    Funny as I was going to mention that.

    When I look at them in person, the original seems slightly bigger but in the picture it seems much smaller.

    I'm going to reverse engineer both guitars next week and I'll get you the stats.

  22. #21

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    My thoughts on all the JS models are still up in the air.

    I played a Gibson JS that belonged to Martin Taylor, so you would imagine he picked a good one.
    The tone was sublime. Everything you would want from a carved jazz guitar.
    The problem was, when you got to the 10th fret and up, the tone simply fell apart. It went from being the best sounding Archtop I've played, to something almost unusable. Of course I thought that might have something to do with this extended neck block. The closer you get to it, the more the sound changes. Essentially the type of sound you get when you play the 12th fret on the low E with heavy flat wounds.

    I thought that It could be just this model and likely is, as I've not heard anyone else complain about this, so maybe it isn't a flaw in the Smith neck block design.
    That being said however, the Heritage JS sounds incredibly good but has the same issues as you get closer to the neck join. The notes on the A string, have massive resonant frequencies, make you want to avoid playing those notes. I think they're called 'wolf notes'.

    So both JS's I've tried that have Johny's design, have an issue with the notes as you get closers to the neck join.

    On the Guild models, neither of them have the this design and don't suffer from this problem. The GBJS does have some woofing on the low E on the 10th fret and up but nothing that you would call excessive.
    The rest of the notes hold together incredibly well, even past the 12th fret.

    The original GJSA has pretty much the same note consistency as the Benedetto version. They actually sound somewhat in the same ball park. They don't sound like the Gibson and Heritage version (which have more acoustic brilliance).
    I would say the Gibson and Heritage version at their best, sound better (subjective of course) than the Guild versions but the Gibson and Heritage version as yet, haven't proven to be consistent in their ability to produce a stable note, which the Guilds have.

    Give me a Gibson JS that plays like the Martin Taylor one all the way up the neck and we've got a winner.

    In terms of styling, I like the Gibson but there's something about the shape of the Guild that just makes it more stylish imo. It harkens back to that old world aesthetic. The original Epiphone's and D'Angelico's etc.. The Gibson is beautiful but sometimes it looks like someone took to a draughting board with a compass. It's very round and in person there's a lot of open space 'real estate' that seems somewhat empty.

    Although the two guitars Marty just posted are stunning guitars.
    Last edited by ArchtopHeaven; 06-18-2022 at 10:06 AM.

  23. #22

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    I just bought 2001 Heritage JS. It was one of the last and is incredible guitar. I have owned 2 previous Gibson JS guitars and this one far exceeds both of those in sound and frankly it plays better. My Gibson's played fine but this one is superb with even sound all across the neck. To me and based on what Johnny wanted in the sound of a guitar was the highs to stand out. This one is perfect as you go up the neck especially above 10 th fret it really rings clear and bright. The bass response is not the most present but the guitar is loud acoustically. If you put say 13-54 bronze strings and raised the action a bit it would easily be heard and used as an acoustic. A Gibson JS is a winner when you find the right one as QC could be an issue. I have played some extremely heavy built GSJ. Heritage did not do this and used fantastic woods. I have a much great appreciation for their guitars now.

    THe only thing this guitar does not have is that throbbing bass sound that is warm and powerful in the bass register of the guitar. In that case it really is what you want in the sound of an archtop. Archtopheaven what you need to have and hear is a Bill Barker guitar. Martin Taylor has one and it is probably his favorite guitar. He was number 9 built in 1965. I have number 8 made in March of 1965 my dad's. Let me tell you it fills all the boxes and sounds fantastic. Go and play Martin's he will let for sure.

  24. #23

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    Re: post# 21 - How do these sound above the 12th fret plugged in? Do the inconsistent acoustic responses track amplified? TIA.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Grass
    There is something about the Gibson JS that sets it apart and evokes emotion. It's not the materials, build quality, or the sound. They are wonderful of course. But the image and design are iconic.
    My first jazz teacher had a beautiful blond one. He would not let me play it. It was maybe the best thing I've ever seen at the time.
    The same people (for the most part) built this instrument. It is beyond my reach. I doubt it's a better sounding and playing guitar, but it has two scoops of wow factor.

    NGD x 2-front-2-jpgNGD x 2-gibson-kalamazoo-award-guitar-jpgNGD x 2-15607157ebd8a7bc919ea054ab392069-jpg
    The K'zoo Award had a highly-tuned JS body and a 25 1/2" scale, IIRC - neat combination. I'm getting close to that with the Gibsellone Award, but it has a deeper and longer body. It would be great fun to compare the two someday. Anyone here have a K'zoo Award?
    Last edited by Hammertone; 06-18-2022 at 04:09 PM.

  26. #25

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    By no means an expert here. I owned a 1976 GJS and 3 Heritage JS’s.
    After I got rid of the utterly ridiculous flat wide Norlin frets and replaced the toxic pickguard, the GJS became an incredible guitar. The only floater guitar that ever rivaled a built in humbucker guitar when played electrically. The Heritage JS guitars were all AMAZING. Archie, NONE of them fell apart soundwise after the 10th fret. Sounds to me like you played one with a setup issue. Remember, the last Gibson JS was made in 89 (I think). So the oldest one is 33 years old. I hate to say it, but most of the folks who own these incredible guitars, do a very bad job maintaining them.
    In fact, that was Johnnys pet peeve about the guitar that bared his name. It absolutely HAD TO Play/sound the same in the upper register than it did in the lower region. Mr. Moonlight in Vermont would not have been happy any other way.
    I always said all of my HJS’s made a sound like no other when I slid my finger down the D string. All 3 of them. They were GREAT guitars.
    The GJS was the greatest guitar I ever owned. I had to sell it in order to take care of my family. The absolute Angel who owned that guitar for over 40 yrs CHERISHED that guitar. It was in amazing condition.
    All of my Ex HJS’s are in great homes right now. Right where they belong.
    I wish I was able to actually hear my JS’s acoustically. That’s the problem with acoustic archtops. You really can’t hear them when you are playing them. Unless you can remove your own head and put it on a chair in front of you.. I haven’t figured out how to do that, yet..
    JD
    Last edited by Max405; 06-18-2022 at 07:35 PM.