Kel Kroydon-branded instruments were built by Gibson from late 1929 into 1932. They were the company’s first budget brand, and unlike later, lower-cost Gibson lines (such as Kalamazoo, Cromwell, and others), they were built quite similarly to their counterparts. The Kel Kroydon flattops are structurally identical to the L-1 and L-2 Gibson models built during this period, the one exception being that they were made without truss rods in their necks. Squared-off headstocks with a unique red logo and natural-finished tops set the Kel Kroydons apart cosmetically from their counterparts, but their remarkably light build and X-bracing make them sound unmistakably Gibson.
These two Kel Kroydon KK-1 flattops share the same Factory Order Number, FON 9956, indicating that they were built alongside each other in late 1931. They were likely transported from Kalamazoo to Toronto, Canada, in the same shipment sometime in early 1932. Eighty-six years later, they’ve been reunited at Folkway Music in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, where they were separately brought within a month of each other by heirs of the original owners. Both instruments arrived in need of very similar restoration work. The tops of the guitars are perfect, without loose braces, cracks, or deflection—and the backs of each are cracked similarly. The two guitars’ bridges are still perfectly glued down, as well. It is interesting to note how the years have affected these sister Gibsons so similarly.
While it remains unknown how many Kel Kroydon guitars were built as part of FON 9956, or if this batch shipped to Canada in its entirety, the research into Gibson’s history during these formative years of acoustic guitar development is unending and continually fascinating.
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.