FACTOIDS & TRIVIA
Gretsch attempted to go head to head with Gibson
and Epiphone in the acoustic archtop market in the '30s and '40s. Gretsch
failed even with endorsements from famous jazz artists such as Harry Volpe
and Django Rheinhardt. Gretsch guitars from the 1930s through the late
1940s did not have truss rods and no musician wanted a guitar with a neck
that could not be adjusted. The war also hurt any momentum that may have
been gained by the "Gretsch 7 Points of Supremacy" advertising campaign.
In response to poor sales, Gretsch dropped all, but four, of its acoustic
archtops in the early 1950s. Hence, Gretsch acoustic archtops of any kind
are considered rare or uncommon. Of the four remaining models, only the top
of the line Fleetwood/Eldorado was constructed of solid wood. The Corsair
was in the Gretsch lineup from 1955 to 1959 as a non-cutaway model and from
1960 to 1969 as a cutaway model. Gretsch guitars were not as highly regarded
in terms of craftsmanship as the aforementioned manufacturers. Many of the
craftsmen in the New York City area were of Italian and Hungarian descent
and worked at Gretsch, Epiphone and Guild. It's not likely that these craftsmen
were solely responsible for Gretsch's alleged reputation of poorer quality
than its competitors. More likely it came from the designs, materials (glues
& resins) that were not as good as they could have been. Still, there
is some truth to the craftsmanship stories - Gretsches usually will require
a neck reset, and that includes this Corsair which had it's neck reset in
1993. Despite some of the shortcomings, very few guitars can match the comfort
and playability of a Gretsch.
Like Gibson, Epiphone made it's finest archtops from 1930 to 1941 and had it's mainstay guitars; namely, the Emperor and DeLuxe models. The Triumph was fourth in the Epiphone line behind the Emperor, DeLuxe, and Broadway, and competed directly with Gibson's L-7 in price, but not in appointments. The Triumph had fancier bindings and tuning machines. Note, too, that the Triumph used cello-style F-holes whereas the L-7 used the traditional guitar F-hole developed by Gibson. Epiphones were made in New York City until 1952 when production was moved to Philadelphia. Epiphone was purchased by Gibson in 1957 which continued to manufacture Epiphones using the original designs until 1970. The Epiphone name was then used for Gibson's economy line of guitars that were imported from the Orient. The Triumph pictured is interesting in that the spruce used for the top is not of the quality normally associated with this model due to wartime shortages. However, the guitar sounds terrific which is a testimony to the craftsmanship that went into this guitar despite the materials. The guitar was refinished at the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan during the 1970s.
Gibson archtops were made in Kalamazoo, Michigan until the mid-1980's when production was moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Gibson made their finest archtops from 1925 up to World War II. The L-5 and Super 400 were the mainstay of jazz and swing band guitarists for many years. The L-7 was fourth in the Gibson line behind the L-12, L-5 and Super 400. The difference between the models in within the L series was the quality of wood and level of appointments. The L-7 was really a plain version of the L-12/L-5 and was quite popular due to it's lower cost. Gibson ceased production of all models above the L-7 during the war and had limited production of guitars all together during this period. In fact, many wartime Gibsons had wooden trussrods and tailpieces due to metal shortages. !947 marked the beginning of post-war production of Gibson archtops. The neck profile, neck construction, pickguard, and headstock logo were the only significant changes to the model from '47 - '54. The neck profile changed again in the mid-50s and by the end of that decade, the non-cutaway L-7 was discontinued. This particular guitar is an interesting transition model since it retains the pre-World War II neck construction (3 piece maple), but has the rounder post-war neck profile.