It’s a well-worn cliché that every vintage instrument has some stories to tell. Analyzing every scratch, scrape, and dent and wondering where a particular instrument has been and who has played it can make any guitarist’s imagination run wild. Like many others, I frequently wish I could go back in time and see what a guitar played like when it was brand-new, and compare what thousands of hours of playing have done for the sound and playability of the instrument.
Gibson’s LG series has been a specific part of my own daydreaming for years. I’ve always been drawn to these modest guitars but have never bought one, because I swear that each example I play is better than the last. The new 50s LG-2 is no exception. As soon as I picked it up, this guitar felt instantly familiar, and it was easy to imagine that I was holding a new old stock guitar, straight from the 1950s. After years of trying out heavily played vintage models, I feel like I know well just how this guitar will age after years of playing.
A Guitar Meant for Fun
The Gibson LG series was introduced in 1942 and was comprised of three models—the LG-1, LG-2, and LG-3, with an LG-0 model coming much later. All featuring a similar minimal design, these small-bodied flattops were intended to appeal to a more budget-minded market—“students, teachers, strolling players, and anyone who wants to have fun with the guitar,” according to the 1960 Gibson catalog—with the ladder-braced LG-1 at the lower end of the line, and the higher-end LG-2 and LG-3 featuring X-bracing. The series stuck around for a while, with the LG-0 and LG-1 lasting into the 1970s, while the LG-2 and LG-3 were replaced with the B-25 and B-25N in the late ’60s.
Over the years, plenty of players and collectors alike have fallen in love with these guitars. Once available more readily at affordable vintage prices, the market has gone up, and Gibson’s reissue of the LG-2—as well as a series of reissues that also features a ’50s J-50—is clearly a response. Back in 1960, an LG-2 was a modestly priced instrument at $105 (about $920 today). With a street price of $2,499, the new 50s LG-2 is functioning as a higher-end guitar than the originals were intended to be, targeting the vintage market with a competitive and more affordably priced reissue.
Small Body, Big Tone
The 50s LG-2 has all the simplicity of the original and the same basic specs, with a mahogany back and sides and a sunburst Sitka spruce top, all solid tonewoods. Thanks to its compact body size—just under 14-1/2 inches across the lower bout, 19 inches long, and around 4-1/2 inches deep at the tailblock—the LG-2 is voiced with a strong midrange response. Notes really pop with lots of attack, but the X-bracing helps deliver a warm low end that rounds out the tone without sounding particularly mellow.
While the tone is excellent, perhaps the biggest appeal of the LG-2 is its playability. It’s a really fun guitar that is hard to put down. Its mahogany neck features a comfortable V profile and its rosewood fretboard has a 24.75-inch scale length and 12-inch radius. It feels almost effortless to maneuver around the guitar’s 20 frets, 14 to the body.
From easy fretting to a well-voiced tone and resonant body, it doesn’t take much to make the 50s LG-2 sing. Everything I play seems to work on the guitar, and I’m constantly finding easy rewards at both ends of the fretboard. It’s a loud guitar with a lot of clarity. Chords sound full and balanced, while single-note lines sound focused, making it a great all-around choice for just about any style of playing, from fingerstyle to bluegrass to jazz to rock.
Once I get in the zone on this reissue, there is little to remind me that I’m not playing a vintage model. The sound and response are so similar, and I imagine that with more breaking in—and a few scuffs and scrapes—it might be hard to tell that this guitar is a reissue.
My enthusiasm for the LG series makes the 50s LG-2 easy to love, and Gibson did a great job re-creating the feel and sound of the original. My one complaint is that Gibson chose to include an L.R. Baggs VTC undersaddle pickup as a standard feature. I’d rather the electronics be optional, as I don’t think they really capture the quality of sound the guitar is capable of and I’d appreciate the opportunity to choose my own pickup instead.
That aside, there are certainly plenty of people who love the LG series but would prefer to avoid the possible pitfalls of buying a 60- to 70-year-old acoustic. It’s certainly not cheap, but the attention to detail on the 50s LG-2 definitely makes a case for the expense, while the tone and playability make the guitar an essential addition to Gibson’s acoustic catalog.
BODY LG-2 body shape; Sitka spruce top with hand-scalloped X-bracing; mahogany back and sides; multi-ply top binding, single-ply back binding; Vintage Sunburst or Antique Natural nitrocellulose lacquer finish
NECK Mahogany neck with Historic V profile; 24.75″ scale length; rosewood fingerboard with mother-of-pearl dots; 12″ radius; 1.72″-wide bone nut
OTHER Nickel-plated tuners with plastic cream buttons; rectangular rosewood bridge with bone saddle; teardrop pickguard; Tusq bridge pins; L.R. Baggs VTC pickup with volume and tone controls; hardshell case; available left-handed
MADE IN USA
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PRICE $2,499 street
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.