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Gibson Byrdland N Thinline Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1956)
Gibson Byrdland N Model Thinline Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1956), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # A-23998, natural lacquer finish, maple back and sides with spruce top; laminated maple neck with ebony fingerboard, original brown tolex hard shell case.
This piece is a well-played but still lovely natural-finish example of one of the Gibson company's classiest 1950s thinline hollow body electrics, the Byrdland. This model was introduced in 1955 as a "more modern" version of an electrified L-5 arch-top, as requested by two of the company's Nashville endorsers, session guitarists Hank Garland and Billy Byrd.
The Byrdland features the same solid, carved wood construction (flame maple and tight-grain spruce) and cosmetic features as the contemporary L-5CES with a thin-rimmed body and a shorter scale neck, the two key requests of Byrd and Garland. The model's name was derived from a contraction of these two player's names, conveniently also reminiscent of a certain famous New York jazz club. The model was considered a sales success, but as a very high end instrument listing originally at $565, the Byrdland N was only built in very limited numbers.
This particular guitar carries a factory order number suggesting a build date of mid-1956 and a serial number indicating shipment in September of that year. A total of only 25 of this model were shipped that year in this gleaming natural finish. The guitar is a very luxurious creation; all edges are multiple bound, the headstock carries the L-5 pearl "flowerpot", and the ebony fingerboard has pearl block inlay. The high-end hardware includes Kluson Sealfast tuners, gold Tune-O-Matic bridge, and the unique engraved "Byrdland" tailpiece.
A special feature of this guitar is the Alnico "staple" magnet pickups only used between 1955 and 1957, which have a very hi-fi sound not unlike the contemporary DeArmond units used by Gretsch and others. This guitar is a rare and extremely fine instrument, with a specific tonal character associated with these rarely heard pickups. Less than 100 Byrdlands with the combination of these pickups and a natural finish were ever built, making this a splendid and rather rare guitar.
Overall length is 41 in. (104.1 cm.), 16 15/16 in. (43 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 2 1/8 in. (5.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 23 3/8 in. (594 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).
This Byrdland shows some moderately heavy play wear but remains in top playing condition, and the finish remains fairly well-preserved and still quite attractive overall. The guitar is crack-free except for a few small stress marks around the jack, and shows no major repair. The natural lacquer has ambered and checked and shows a number of dings, scrapes, and wear spots. There is a decently sized area of buckle wear to the back and some fairly deep dings to the top, including one spot between two of the knobs where the spruce is crushed in a bit. This depression shows some old touch-up, but despite the impact indicated did not cause any cracking to the top; the underside is perfectly smooth.
Much of the original hardware is intact, but there are some later pieces of authentic Gibson hardware substituted. The pickups and wiring, including the amber knobs and switch tip, are original, as are the special "Byrdland" engraved tailpiece and L-5 style truss rod cover. The bridge is a perfect repro no-wire gold plated no-ABR-1, and the tuners are correct style Kluson Sealfast, but also more recent. There is a strap button added to the heel. The original pickguard is included but shows some celluloid deterioration, so the guitar is fitted with a correct styled reproduction. The guitar has also been cleanly refretted with slightly larger than Gibson used in the period.
This guitar plays and sounds excellent. It shows the signs of a gigging guitar's life but remains an exceptionally fine instrument with a fantastic vibe. Includes the original brown HSC in nicely preserved condition. Very Good + Condition.
Item # 7818
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