Double-Neck Guitars

1932 Gibson Double-Neck

Color: Sunburst, Rating: 8.75, Sold (ID# 01087)
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Jack Penewell's "Twin-Six" - "The Original Gibson Double-Neck Guitar".


1932 Gibson "Jack Penewell Twin-Six" Double Neck.

This is the original 'Double-Neck' 'Twin-Six' that was built in 1932 by Gibson specially for Jack Penewell. This 15 3/4 inch-wide flat-top, "First Gibson Double-Neck", has a body depth of 4 3/4 inches and weighs just 7.30 lbs. Close-grain spruce "X braced" top with a 3 13/16 inch diameter sound-hole, surrounded by inlays of white, black and white. The back is made of two-piece highly-flamed maple and the sides are also of highly-flamed maple. The top and bottom of the guitar are single-bound. The two necks (which are joined together at the top 'Siamese style' are each made of one-piece 'curly' mahogany. The two necks each have a Brazilian rosewood fretboard with 19 fret markers and pearl dot inlays (being a lapsteel guitar there are no actual frets - just white markers). Each neck has a scale-length of 24 3/4 inches and a black plastic bell-shaped truss-rod cover with two screws. The top neck is strung 'EADGBE' and the lower neck is strung 'DGDGBG'. The 'lower' neck has a wooden 'nut', whilst the 'upper' neck has a 'bone' nut. The single headstock is laminated in black and has the "Gibson" script logo inlaid in mother-of-pearl. Below the logo, also inlaid in mother-of-pearl is "Jack Penewell / [four diamonds surrounding a central notched diamond] Twin-Six".

Both necks have a huge nut width of just over 2.00 inches - rising to just over 2 1/2 inches at the twentieth fret. Both necks have similarly huge, deep 'V' profiles of just over 1.00 inch behind the first fret, rising to just over 1 1/4 inches behind the ninth fret. Each neck with a single line of individual Grover sta-tite tuners with cloverleaf metal buttons. The back of the headstock also laminated in black with a 'stinger' on each neck. Combined rosewood bridge (with four screws) with two 'bone' saddles and each with six 'ivory' string pins. One of the inner top braces is marked in pencil "Sample". This incredible piece of guitar history is in excellent plus (8.75) condition. Everything on the guitar is original - there is some significant 'playing' wear on the top and four slight surface cracks running with the grain of the spruce. There is some nice finish checking and no signs of any repairs or re-setting of the necks. Housed in its original Gibson five-latch black hardshell case with purple plush lining (8.75).

The importance of this guitar in the history of the instrument cannot be underestimated:
• Jack Penewell invented the six-string double-neck guitar.
• During the 1920s- early 1930s, Penewell was the most popular guitarist in America.
• He toured across the country in Vaudeville, and was one of the earliest solo musicians to
• appear on radio.
• He was one of the first solo musicians to make records.
• He used multiple guitars in his act and commissioned Stella to make him four-neck and two-
neck guitars, with six strings for each neck. The two-neck was the first "Twin-Six."
• He patented the "Twin-Six" Hawaiian-style guitar.
• Using a slide, he played blues, Hawaiian, Country, and pop music tunes.
• In 1932, he asked Gibson to build him another "Twin-Six."
• This is it. The only acoustic double-neck guitar that Gibson ever made, and the only example
ever produced.
• This Gibson "Twin-Six" became the prototype for Gibson's later, electric double-neck, the ES
-1275, in 1958.
• When Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin began playing the Gibson double-neck, the instrument
came of age.

"Born in Stoughton, Wisconsin, and a Madison resident since 1917, John Bernard 'Jack' Penewell (1897-1973) was as George [Gibertson] put it, 'the old legend on the steel guitar, or just the Hawaiian guitar, from the vaudeville days.' As a teenager, Penewell taught himself to play Hawaiian guitar, won a contest sponsored by the Madison Boy Scouts in 1917, and landed a tour on the Keith-Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit. By the mid-1920s, he had performed all over the country...

"Perhaps less prolific and innovative than the Milwaukee area's younger, more celebrated guitarist and studio wizard Les Paul, Jack Penewell was nonetheless billed as 'the world's greatest guitarist' during his vaudeville days. He was also a distinguished recording artist and inventor, making 78rpm recordings of Hawaiian, old time country, blues, and popular tunes on the Apex, Autograph, Broadway, Paramount, and Puritan labels, while patenting guitars and related accouterments that included the 'Jack Penewell Twin-Six,' a double-necked, twelve-string guitar manufactured by the Gibson company of Kalamazoo, MI" (Leary, James P. Polkabilly: How the Goose Island Ramblers Redefined American Folk Music, pp. 85-86).

"Asked why he turned to the multiple-neck guitar for his performances, he has given this reply:

"'My main reason for inventing the Double-Neck guitar was to get a wider range of harmony and chords, as you were very limited on only six strings no matter how you tuned it.

"'I used to do a lot of solo work, sometimes using four guitars on stage all tuned differently. Not only that, but if you should break a string on the stage in front of a large audience, you were up against it and it would throw the whole guitar out of tune. So here was a very good point for the double-neck. Also, combining the major and E-7th tunings together made a sensational effect" (Steel Guitar Design Changes with Comments by Jack Penewell. Music Studio News*, volume 14, number 1, Jan/Feb 1956).

This Twin-Six is a one-off custom-built instrument. It pre-dates the Gibson Double-Neck L-10 with six- and four-string fingerboards custom built for Art Pruneau in 1936 that found its way into the Scott Chinery collection. Pruneau could not have been unaware of the Twin-Six; Penewell had been performing on stage all over the country and recording with it for over ten years.

The road from Jimmy Page and John McLaughlin playing Gibson double-necks leads directly backwards to this singular guitar.

The Gibson Jack Penewell Twin-Six is the instrument that started it all.

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