Vintage Guitar - February 2018 - 40
with his name, and metal tuner
buttons ornamentally engraved
with the letter S. Any could be
later additions, but the tailpiece
appears to be similar in age to the
guitar and is die-stamped with his
name. Also, there's no indication any
other tailpiece has ever been installed.
The truss-cover engraving is rendered
in a manner consistent with Gibson
work of the period and the tuner buttons could have been engraved by Ihling
Brothers Everard, a local subcontractor
used regularly by Gibson.
In other aspects, the Smeck L-5 meets
catalog specs, with a 16" body, carved
spruce top with f-shaped soundholes,
figured-maple back and sides, elevated
tortoiseshell-grain pickguard, removable/height-adjustable Brazilian rosewood bridge (some others that year were
ebony), two-piece maple neck with dark
wood center strip and adjustable truss
rod, "snakehead" peghead, motherof-pearl "The Gibson" script logo and
flowerpot peghead inlay, Grover G-98
tuners, 19-fret ebony fingerboard (14
clear of the body) with pearloid
block inlays starting at the third
fret and single-ply white binding,
multi-ply binding on the top and
back edges, as well as the pickguard,
and gold-plated hardware.
The L-5 was a strong recruiting
inducement - at $275, the most expensive guitar in the Gibson catalog. By
comparison, in '33 one could have bought
Martin's 000-45 for $170, added a 12-fret
slope-shouldered D-28 herringbone for
$100, and still had $5 left. This is also
an excellent example of how the original
price does not translate to current market
value; today, the two Martins are valued
at more than 10 times the typical '33 L-5!
Throughout his life, Smeck taught
music at his Upper West Side apartment in
New York City. This guitar was purchased
from Smeck in the late '30s and today remains in the family of the second owner.
The Grover DeLuxe tailpiece is
not catalog-spec for an L-5, but
was seen on Stromberg and
archtop Martins of the period.
This L-5 may have been a recruiting
inducement for the "Wizard of the Strings."
Though Gibson focused on student-grade
instruments when this was made in 1933,
the figured-maple back proves its stock
of fine hardwood was not diminished.