L-5 Guitars

1948 Gibson L-5

Color: Natural, Rating: 8.50, Sold (ID# 00212)
Call to Inquire: (818) 222-4113

Eric Clapton's 1948 Blond L-5 Premier...Which Belonged to Frank Sinatra's Guitarist Allan Reuss

Weighs 5.90 lbs. and has a nut width of just under 1 3/4 inches and a scale length of 25 1/2 inches. Carved spruce top with two-piece book-matched curly maple back and curly maple sides, two-piece book-matched curly maple neck with center mahogany strip, and multi-bound Brazilian rosewood fretboard with a small, graceful point at the end of the fretboard, 20 frets, and inlaid pearl block position markers. Nine-ply binding on the top of the guitar, five-ply binding on the back, and single-bound f-holes. Multi-bound headstock with the pre-war "Gibson" thick script pearl logo inlaid diagonally across the face of the headstock and with the pearl "L-5" flowerpot inlay. Bound plastic bell-shaped truss-rod cover. Black-painted headstock rear face with widow's peak. Individual Kluson Sealfast tuners with single-ring Keystone plastic buttons (two of the tuners have been replaced, possibly by Eric Clapton). Style number ("L-5-P") and serial number ("A-1852") on the white oval printed label inside the bass f-hole. Later multi-bound pearloid pickguard (now removed and in case). Rosewood bridge with pre-set compensating saddle and gold-plated flat plate tailpiece with engraved "L 5" and small hole at the bottom center (for allen wrench tension adjustment). All hardware gold-plated. This guitar is in excellent (8.50) condition. There is some finish checking. On the left-hand side of the face of the headstock, between the fifth and sixth tuners, there is a very small chip out of the binding, and to the right of the truss-rod cover, beneath the first tuner, it appears that the black veneer has been repaired. There is moderate finish wear on the back of the neck, especially on the bass side, a couple of tiny marks on the sides of the guitar, and on the treble side of the guitar there are two closed cracks which appear to have been expertly and almost invisibly repaired (probably for Eric Clapton). There are a few marks and a couple of very small cracks on the top of the guitar and a small waterstain on the edge of the treble bout. Despite these flaws, this is one of the best-sounding acoustic guitars in the world. Housed in the original (quite worn) Gibson tweed hardshell case with five latches, original handle, and purple plush lining (8.00). On the top of the case is a piece of green adhesive tape inscribed by Lee Dickson: "AUCTION/#20" and another piece of green adhesive tape inscribed: "GIBSON/AL REUSS L5/1948/ #/A1582." On the end of the case is a piece of white adhesive tape inscribed: "GIBSON -- 1948 -- ALAN REUSS/L.5. BLONDE./#A1582."

This guitar was Lot 37 in the 24 June 2004 Christie's New York auction of Eric Clapton's guitars ("Crossroads Guitar Auction: Eric Clapton & Friends for the Crossroads Centre"). "We've had this guitar since the mid-1990s. It apparently used to belong to a famous jazz player called Alan Reuss. Andy [Fairweather Low's] a big fan of big bodied jazz guitars and he's used this in the studio for a few blues albums. He would have played some big fat chords on it, here and there" (Lee Dickson, quoted in the 24 June 2004 Christie's New York catalogue). Eric Clapton had another 1948 Blond L-5P, but with a CES conversion with two Alnico pickups (see Lot 38 -- which brought $101,575), which he used on the blues album. He also owns another blond L-5P, "with the grain on the top slightly more accentuated." The guitar offered here is the 1948 Blond L-5P that has been "used in the studio since the mid-1990s, mostly by Andy Fairweather Low, on a few of the blues albums."

"Timeless elegance. A jazz icon. The inspirational archtop guitar. These are just a few of the descriptions that fit Gibson’s L-5. Add to those a historical antecedent: the L-5 in various forms has been in constant production since late 1922, longer than any Martin, Gretsch, Epiphone, or National model...Originally conceived by acoustic engineer Lloyd Loar, the L-5 was the first guitar with design principles incorporated from carved instruments of the cello family. It represented a complete break from existing guitar design. Sporting simple appointments such as dot fingerboard inlays and a dark sunburst finish, the guitar was elegantly finished with a pearl “flower pot” inlaid in the headstock below the Gibson logo, and a karat at the end of the fingerboard. The timing of the L-5’s introduction was nearly perfect since the guitar at that time was growing in popularity, but had yet to graduate from being just an instrument of vocal accompaniment to use in ensemble and orchestra settings. The 16" wide L-5 provided volume lacking in Gibson’s roundhole archtop guitars, and by the early 1930s the instrument had grown in popularity and sales enough to cause rivals Epiphone and Gretsch to introduce their own carved top/back instruments. In ’34, Gibson upped the ante by introducing 'advanced' versions of the L-5, which increased the width of both the upper and lower bouts. While the advanced version was a little fancier, with larger fingerboard inlays and more binding, there was still an elegance to the details that made the instrument stand out. Certainly by the early ’40s the L-5 was a staple in jazz band and orchestral settings. At 17" across the lower bout, it was a perfectly sized instrument. Loud enough for orchestral use, but not so large and difficult to handle as Gibson’s Super 400 or the Epiphone Emperor, the L-5 was extremely popular among musicians in jazz, country and western, and large orchestras. Demand for the guitar was such that after World War II it was one of the first models rushed back into production, even though some materials were in short supply. There were other detail changes along the way; a natural-finish option, a cutaway option, fancier tailpiece, and better tuners, but the instrument was otherwise unchanged until the original non-cutaway model was discontinued in 1958...The cutaway model soldiered on until ’82 when it was supplanted by the L-5CES...Today, the L-5 is one of the most collectible guitars from Gibson’s pre-war period. It is sought not only for its historical importance, but also for sound and playability, for its elegant design, and for its influence on the music of yesterday and today" (Eric C. Shoaf, "Gibson L-5: Loyd Loar's Timeless Masterpiece," at

Allan Reuss "was a protégé of George Van Eps. He began studying the guitar with Van Eps in 1933 and replaced Van Eps in the Benny Goodman band not long after. He played with the Goodman band until 1938. He then played in the big bands of Jack Teagarden and Jimmy Dorsey among others. In the 1940's Allan Reuss moved into the studios for much of the remainder of his career. Allan Reuss, like most of his contemporaries, was mostly a rhythm player. But every now and then he was called upon for intros and brief solos. In 1935 he played solos on If I Could Be With You and Rosetta with Benny Goodman and he had some short spots on Lionel Hampton records from this period. In 1939 Allan Reuss moved to the Jack Teagarden organization where he recorded his famous Pickin' For Patsy. Some of his solo work from the 1940's can be heard on recordings by Corky Corcoran and Arnold Ross. The Arnold Ross material offers some of the best examples of Allan Reuss's style. In 1944, Allan Reuss was recognized by Downbeat as the best guitarist that year" (The Classic Jazz Guitar article on "Allan Reuss" at

Reuss was a studio first call guitarist at Disney. He is featured on Kay Starr -- The Complete Lamplighter Recordings 1945-1946. Reuss also played guitar in the Sinatra Symphonette on Frank Sinatra's radio show "To Be Perfectly Frank," a twice weekly feature on the NBC network from late 1953 to the spring of 1955. The shows were rebroadcast over the US Armed Forces Radio and Television Services.

"Allan could play any fretted instrument. He could play anything. If they wanted him to play bouzouki, or whatever he could play it and was such a superb musician. I would be sitting across from him, and so totally aware of just how great he was and quaking in my shoes to be there" (from an interview by Jim Carlton with guitarist Jimmy Wyble at

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