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Guild Artist Award Arch-Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1962)
Guild Artist Award Model Arch-Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1962), made in Hoboken, serial # 20177, sunburst lacquer finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; laminated maple neck with ebony fingerboard, black hard shell case.
The Guild Artist Award model was the top of the company's line in the 1960s and for founder Al Dronge represented the pinnacle of his firm's achievement. It is a carved cutaway acoustic arch-top guitar with a floating DeArmond pickup and very fancy trim, intended to compete directly with Gibson and even John D'Angelico's best offerings.
The 17" body is made of curly maple with a carved spruce top, 5-ply bound on the top and back and 3-ply bound on the sides. The f-holes are bound as well. The neck shows its Epiphone ancestry with a 5-piece lamination down the back and bound ebony fretboard inlaid with "Emperor-style" split pearl and abalone blocks. The large elaborate center-peak headstock is multi-bound on the face with an inlaid abalone-bordered pearl centerpiece showing the engraved logo "Artist Award Model' and an etched trophy cup. All hardware except the pickup rig is gold-plated, including the Grover imperial tuners and the engraved Guild harp tailpiece.
The Artist Award was originally intended to be a namesake model endorsed by jazz great Johnny Smith, but a disagreement between Smith and the Guild foreman about how the top of the guitar should be carved led to him nullifying the agreement. The Guild "Johnny Smith Award" model was marketed from 1956-1959, but although pictured with the guitar in publicity materials, the artist refused to actively play it. Smith later admitted the instrument itself was not so much the issue; rather, he felt that as the designer and endorser of the guitar, his preferences should have been followed to the letter, and Al Dronge did not choose to back him up on that. Smith moved his endorsement to Gibson in 1960 and the "Artist Award" name was substituted on the Guild.
Whatever its original namesake's reservations, the Artist Award represents Guild's finest hour as an arch-top guitar builder and one of the best acoustic/electric carved guitars ever made. The sound is a bit brighter and more "electric" than some similar D'Angelico or Gibson instruments from the same period, and the guitar plays and handles extremely well. George Benson endorsed the model in the 1960s, and it remained Guild's most prestigious offering into the 1970s and beyond.
As a very expensive instrument (it listed at $650 in 1962, and up to $700 the next year), the Artist Award was only made in very limited numbers; production figures are not available for the early 1960s, but from 1965-69, the model averaged between 10 and 20 units each year. This 1962 model is a very rare guitar and an extremely fine instrument; an exceptional performance guitar for the lower-volume electric settings it was designed for.
Overall length is 43 1/2 in. (110.5 cm.), 17 in. (43.2 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 1/8 in. (7.9 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).
This guitar shows some general wear but remains in excellent playing condition, all original with no alterations. There is some light wear overall, mostly some dings to the top finish below the pickguard, and the back of the neck shows finish worn down to the wood on both sides. The clear back-painted Lucite pickguard shows a repair to the area where the floating pickup controls are mounted, and a second hole drilled and then filled at some point. The guitar has just been refretted and playability is excellent. This instrument is certainly as fine a guitar as Guild has ever made -- a testament to the very best the Hoboken company had to offer in the 1960s. Excellent - Condition.
Item # 8060
This item has been sold.
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