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Please help with this Hummingbird Country Western Mix-up Guitar

Please help with this Hummingbird Country Western Mix-up Guitar
« on: January 02, 2016, 03:40:20 PM »
Hi everybody,

I'm hoping someone may have some insight for me about this guitar I just acquired.

It was labeled by the store a '62 Gibson Country Western. But as you can see from the photographs, there is a bunch of evidence that goes against that description.

First and foremost being the Hummingbird pick guard, which the retailer must have written off as a replacement of the original Country Western pick guard (smaller, thinner, no graphic etching...) Well maybe the store is right and somebody did replace the original pick guard, but that seems pretty weird to me.

Secondly, if you can see from the photo, this thing has serial number 40175, which would make it a 1961 model year based on the Gibson serial number info I have recently read on several sites including this one. So it's a 1961, not a 1962. But here, then is the kicker: According to these same sites with historical info about Gibsons, Gibson didn't start making a SQUARE-shouldered Country Western until 1962. A 1961 Country Western would have been a version of the Southern Jumbo Natural (SJN), which had round shoulders. In 1962, Gibson switched the Country Western to become a natural top version of the square-shouldered Hummingbird.

Also I want to point out, but I don't know what it means yet, that the face of the headstock matches the rest of the neck, sides and back of the body, i.e. mahogany color. From pictures of ones on sale, etc. it looks like the 'Birds from the same period have a black or dark finish on them. (Do the CW's have the natural look of this guitar?)

So that brings me to my theory, which is still pretty doubtful. That is that the label inside the guitar is the anomaly. If this were a '61 'Bird it would have had the orange label with the serial number on it too. I think that most likely, somebody replaced that label with this "Gibson Country Western Model" label at some point, and this is in fact a 1961 Hummingbird.

Finally, I'll add that the thing plays beautifully (and easily!) with super rich and shimmering tones. I think I really scored on this thing. I'm not saying that to be boastful. I just am super-excited about this find and I feel totally lucky to have run into this guitar.

So, please, if somebody knows something that might help me understand its origins better, I would be delighted to hear back. Thanks!



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Please help with this Hummingbird Country Western Mix-up Guitar
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2016, 03:44:24 PM »
Hi Ben,
Gibson acoustics are not my strongpoint, so hopefully someone else will chime in...

First it's a great looking guitar and i'm not at all surprised it sounds amazing!

The neck inlays and bridge both point to a SJN Country Western rather than a Hummingbird. See the 1962 Gibson catalogue (produced in 1961) and compare the two models.

Is the scratchplate original? Gibson did a lot of custom order work on (new) guitars in the early 60s - the Summer 1961 issue of Gibson Gazette mentions that Gibson produced around 1000 customs in 1960 alone.

"Special pickguard? a speciality at Gibson. Many different pickguards of assorted shapes and sizes came out of the factory last year - 90% of them riding on new Gibson instruments"

So if somebody wanted a Country Western with Hummingbird scratchplate, Gibson would certainly oblige.

However - the condition of the guard looks better than the body - but that may be the images. Does examining wear patterns around and on the scratchplate give any clues as to what came first? You would expect similar wear on both if original.

As for the serial number, 40175 would suggest quite late 1961, and there are numerous examples of necks being produced and not shipped immediately. Generally serial number charts for this period give data as to when guitars were shipped from the factory, even though the serial numbers were stamped weeks, or potentially months before this date.

On balance I would say you have a, SJN Country Western produced over a period from late '61 with a (perhaps) non-original scratchplate.


Please help with this Hummingbird Country Western Mix-up Guitar
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2016, 03:34:32 PM »

Thanks for all the information in your reply. The pickguard does seem to have less wear on it than the surrounding wood, particularly around the sound hole. This could because it's plastic not wood, or more likely, because someone put the Hummingbird pickguard on later. I'm sure from a collector's standpoint this cuts into the value of the instrument. But I'm a player not a collector and I'm just happy to have a piece of Michigan history to play on!


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