In many ways, the 1930s was the decade that defined and shaped the modern acoustic guitar. On the heels of Maybelle Carter, more and more players began to use guitars as lead instruments in string bands. Relative to other instruments, guitars were also more affordable—and more portable! Not only did guitars fit depression-era budgets, but guitars were the perfect companion for thumbing a ride out on the dust-bowl or hopping in a boxcar to get to the next Juke Joint.
In today's market, '30s models often come with exorbitantly high price tags, and because of their historical significance, they mostly deserve to. Nevertheless, there were many low-cost, workingman's guitars built in the '30s, too, and perhaps these more accurately embody the era. While these guitars might not demonstrate the same level of impact on the future of the guitar industry, they can still be inspiring guitars, more than capable of capturing the sound, feel, and mojo of yesteryear.
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. Simply put, the KG-11 is a quintessential blues guitar.
As a first-year-of-production model, this 1933 Kalamazoo KG-11 features the early small brown sunburst that fades quickly to a deep black. Its Factory Order Number is 575, and since it does not have a pickguard, it is likely one of the earliest KG-11s made. It has a 1-3/4" wide ebony nut and the medium soft V profile that is typical of the Kalamazoo line. Its body is only 14-3/4" across at the lower bout, and combined with its 24-3/4" scale length, it is a manageable small-body guitar that sits comfortably on your lap.
But don't let size fool you! This KG-11 barks when you push it, and like any good ladder-braced guitar, it breaks up like a good tube amp. It sustains and resonates like only a well-seasoned vintage guitar can. It is a fingerpicker's dream and a natural fit for lead players who want a wide dynamic range, but its strong, warm voice would be well suited for chunking out chords, too. There's a reason modern boutique builders have borrowed so much from this design, but an authentic 1933 KG-11 captures so much more vibe and mojo than any modern recreation ever could.
This 1933 Kalamazoo KG-11 has been nicely preserved, and it has been properly restored to maintain optimal tone and playability. It has had a neck reset and full refret, and in the process, it was fitted with a slightly oversize saddle (to fill the wide saddle slot which had deteriorated over the years). Because of that, it plays really nicely for a '30s guitar, and the larger saddle provides a strong breakover angle on the top, which translates to volume and refined tone. It also sports modern Kluson tuners, which keep the guitar in tune nicely. It includes a high-quality modern hardshell case.