1949 Gibson L-7

You can't tell from this shot, but trust me... disgusting.

This L-7 is a real winner, but it came in the shop looking pretty miserable. Though structurally sound, the guitar was literally covered in nicotine from years of dive-bar play. I’ve seen dull finishes before, but when I touched this guitar I felt the simultaneous urge to wash my hands and go on the patch. Gross.

Like I said... gross.

How did I bring luster and shine back to this post-war relic? MAGIC? No, not really; just a rag, some non-abrasive deep cleaning solution and a lot of elbow grease. Serious, serious elbow grease. Oh, and love. Don’t forget love. There was lots of that involved.

Success! And only 20 minutes from dull to delicious!

Take a moment to really let the above photo sink in. I was astounded when I saw the good that a little moisture and a cloth could do. Compare the difference between the side I’d just finished and the one I hadn’t started. Unbelievable! Hey, there’s a guitar under there! Also noteworthy is the stark contrast of binding on the left to that on the right- all of that yellowing just on the top layer!

It was a blast to watch as my reflection revealed itself in the area I was polishing. I couldn’t help but wonder just how many hours of cigarette smoking it took for this guitar to end up the way it did. A few ruined T-shirts later, the L-7’s true beauty started to shine through.


And there we have it! A beautiful, All in all, it took 4 1/2 hours to bring this old girl back to her former glory. I didn’t even realize that the finish was so crazed. There was no way to tell with all of that gunk on the surface. And the case… you could tell it was close by smell alone.

Who knew: this rich brown color was hiding under all of that tar!

A few surprises waited for us beneath effluvial deposits, including this chocolate finish on the back. We of course knew the back and sides were brown, but obscured by muck it seemed almost opaque. A real treat to see in person, this color.

Another surprise lurking below the surface was the stinger headstock! “Stinger” refers to black paint on the back of some Gibson necks, covering the entirety of the rear of the peghead and coming to a point just below the first or second frets. Stingers were in some cases applied to cover blemishes (not cracks) but were also a hallmark of Gibson’s Top-of-the-Line models. Very cool, very desirable. (Difficult to photograph, though!)

I’ve written a lot about the look of this guitar, but in my opinion, looks should come second to tone. So how does it sound? Like a brokedown, earth-toned jazz rebel. This guitar was obviously meant to be played with a horn section; strummed even moderately, this guitar’s winsome voice rushes to meet you like a druken herald from across the dance hall. Loud, rough around the edges and slightly pernicious, the L-7 cuts through all the noise and chatter and demands to be heard.

Do yourself a favor and stop on by the shop and meet this beauty in person! Trust me, it’s worth it!


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