That Old Guitar on That Old Guitar
Uncle, a 1934 Gibson L-1 flat-top acoustic, came to me via my wife Cat’s father, Steve, a stellar pianist and big band leader in Chicago. Cat’s great Uncle Ernest, Uncle’s original owner, bequeathed the guitar to Steve.
Cat & I found Uncle (in his original case) in Steve’s basement on a trip to her Chicago home. I tuned him up best he would, and strummed an open G major (the strings were a dozen years old, at least). He rang for less than a second before the bridge popped off. The sound of the chord was brilliant, however, and I took him back to New York, where the luthier of legend Paul Schwartz of Peekamoose Custom Guitars worked his magic (he is “The Moose” in the lyrics).
Paul has modded all my guitars, and also built me Fabien, an extraterrestrial Peekamoose M2 that’s the only electric guitar I’ll ever need if I ever need to have only 1. Definitely the one I’m grabbing, running from a house fire.
Uncle’s restoration process at Peekamoose involved a lot of micro-movements, acclimation periods, and clamps. And took almost 2 years.
The original bridge and half of the top’s bracing were not salvageable, and got replaced. Everything else is a time capsule, a literal message in box. The fretboard is still worn where Ernest spent most of his time playing (lower frets in open G tuning from what I can trace), and the flat-top’s 87-year-old finish reveals the most gorgeous cracks when the light hits it just right.
Uncle plays with the flawless ease you’d expect (and demand) of an instrument that was designed to be slung over the back of a blues traveller.…