Used Archtop Guitars
Gibson: JOHNNY SMITH(Item ID: JOHNNY SMITH Serial#: 80873002)
1983 Johnny Smith Master Model 17” Archtop with Carved Spruce Top and Carved Maple Back & Sides
Johnny Smith is well known as a popular jazz guitarist most notable for his work between the 1940s and 1960s. His chord melody style was highlighted in his most acclaimed work, Moonlight in Vermont, which also featured legendary saxophone player Stan Getz. In an effort to attract more attention to their hollowbody line, Gibson’s Ted McCarty worked with Johnny Smith to create what would become one of their top-of-the-line archtop models.
Before this model debuted, there were two main schools of thought in the archtop world. Most archtops seemed to ignore quality in their acoustic voice, favoring laminate construction to deal with the demands of higher volume and cutting down on feedback. These guitars relied on their plugged-in tone, featuring the latest and greatest electric pickups. Several of these guitars would have holes cut in their tops to make room for their pickups, which further hurt their acoustic sound. The most notable of these were high-end Gibson jazzboxes such as the L5 or Super 400 which utilized humbuckers to achieve their refined tones. Other electrified archtops featured floating pickups, such as the popular DeArmond Rhythm Chief. These guitars would have better acoustic voices, but their electrified sound would suffer as the pickups would often be less stable and further away from the strings.
The Johnny Smith model combined both schools, resulting in a high end archtop from Gibson that was on a level playing field in both performance and price as the popular L5 and Super 400 models. It was built with an emphasis on its acoustic voice, using X-bracing compared to other similar guitars’ tone bars. It also featured Gibson’s latest humbucking pickup, in this instance their mini-humbucker, which further set it apart from DeArmond-equipped guitars and gave it a great plugged in voice. Additionally, this model was decorated fairly ornately with its fancy inlays and extensive, mutli-ply binding work.
This particular guitar is a reissue of the original Johnny Smith guitars from the ‘60s. One of its more notable distinctions is the “finger” tailpiece which is designed to offer fine tuning and visually complements the larger headstock. Otherwise, this model is consistent with its previous construction over the years. Its 17” body features a Carved Spruce top atop Carved Maple back and sides and has a depth of 31/8”, which is a tad shallower of the aforementioned L5 and Super 400. The shape, in general, is a bit uncommon for Gibson as it’s based off of a D’Angelico guitar that Smith owned.
Upon first holding this guitar, its size and beauty are the first thing one notices. Though the guitar is large, it feels well balanced and the larger headstock seems perfectly appropriate. The maple neck features a gorgeous flame and feels perfectly comfortable for chording as well as nimble runs. Then the real magic comes when you start playing. This guitar has perhaps the most vibrant acoustic tone that we’ve come across from any electric archtop guitar. It’s voice is loud and perfectly balanced. When you plug it in, it retains an incredible degree of its acoustic voice and remains balanced. There’s none of that muddy low end that is all too often associated with jazz guitar tones. Chords and single notes ring full with remarkable clarity. Simply put, the Gibson Johnny Smith Master Model is a luxury ride that offers class and performance with equal distinction.
This guitar’s previous owner took great care of this guitar, as evidenced by its very minimal wear. There is one minor top ding on the treble side of the lower bout, otherwise there is no damage to report. The finish has some faint swirling and there is some minor finish checking along the neck joint at the cutaway. Finally, there appears to be some incipient shrinking/crazing of the binding. We rate this guitar as EXCELLENT+ to NEAR MINT condition.
• Solid carved Spruce top
• Solid carved Figured Maple back and sides
• Fully hollow construction
• Figured Maple Neck
• 17” body width
• 31/8” body depth
• Large headstock with Split Diamond inlay
• Split Block fingerboard inlays
• 20 fret bound Ebony fingerboard
• Ebony bridge with Flourish inlays
• Stair Step/Six “Finger” Gold Tailpiece
• Multiply top purfling
• Bound tortoiseshell pickguard with Master Volume and Tone controls
• Floating Gold Minibucker pickup
• Gold Kluson Bullseye tuning machines
This guitar includes its original Archtop Hardshell Case. (used) (used)
Click below to popup a larger image