From 1933 to 1942, Gibson used the "Kalamazoo" name to sell a line of low-cost, no-frills department-store guitars. Similar in size to the Gibson Nick Lucas, the Kalamazoo KG-11 has developed a cult following as one of the more inspiring, depression-era guitars. With its squat shoulders and ladder bracing, the KG-11 is a quintessential blues guitar.
When we came across this particular KG-11, we could tell it had a ton of potential, and we have been oh so rewarded! The neck block is stamped with factory order number 709—a line of KG-11s made in 1933. This FON corresponds to later in the year, and that makes sense because this one has a proper full-size square neck block, instead of the problematic wedge neck block that rolled out with the first batch.
Since this one dates to '33, it would've originally had the dark "pumpkin" sunburst you expect to see on a Kalamazoo. But at some point along this way, the finish was stripped, and this KG-11 was given a clear coat of lacquer. As far as we're concerned, that makes it a KG-11NA, and it looks especially stately with the natural grain of its Adirondack Spruce top and its authentic checkerboard rosette.
When we found it, the original bridge was badly cracked, and the guitar needed a proper neck reset. We brought it to John Baxendale of Colorado Guitar Co./Turtle Lake String Instruments in Durango, CO, and he did an incredible job optimizing the sound and playability of this old Kalamazoo. He hand carved a Brazilian Rosewood bridge for it, and it's even a good match for the original Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard. Then, he reinforced the bridge plate, reset the neck (cleaning up a whacky past neck reset in the process), replaced the nut, replaced the saddle, and refretted the fingerboard. Thanks to John's expertise and attention to detail, this '33 KG-11 plays and sounds better than you could ask for.
A lot of old Kalamazoos we come across need work and love, but this 1933 KG-11 is ready for the next 90 years of songs and inspiration. It looks like something you'd find on an boxcar, and it has a great voice for blues, fingerpicking, or old-time music. You'll be surprised by the big, bold sound that comes out of this little box. It includes an old chipboard case that isn't an ideal fit, but will get it around town as necessary.