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Old 09-14-2020, 03:16 PM
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mhw48 mhw48 is offline
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Originally Posted by Wengr View Post
My guitar was built in 1992. It measures 3 1/2'' at the neck and 3 7/8' at the tail block. I purchased it some years back from Bat McGrath, and he referred to it as a Prairie State. I cant say What Nick called it.
Nothing new is happening with my build at the moment so I have had to satisfy myself with related pursuits, including roaming the internet looking at listings and descriptions of Franklin guitars.
When I noticed that a Franklin guitar that was listed at Luthiers Collection is referred to as a Franklin Prairie State:
but the exact same guitar, when it listed at Guitar Gallery, is called a Franklin Jumbo:
I was reminded that a couple of posts ago Wengr had asked about why Nick’s Jumbo is sometimes referred to as his “Prairie State” and whether Nick had ever called it that. I had posted a short reply after I asked Nick about it.
Then I stumbled across another discussion of the Franklin “Prairie State or Jumbo” name question from a late 2003 thread on the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum. It adds a few more pieces of information, although it also adds some more confusion as well.
Here’s the post on the UMGF that got me going:
From this discussion — which gets quite heated at one point — it appears that initially the guitar shape was labeled “Jumbo” in the earliest Franklin Guitar Company brochures. You may have seen them posted in a thread on AGF, but if not, here’s the link:
When I asked Nick about it he said he hadn't named the model himself: the “Jumbo” moniker was a decision in the 80’s by his distributor, Laury Ostrow at Guitar’s Friend, when Nick first started building and selling Franklin guitars. Laury Ostrow was responsible for putting out the Franklin Guitar Company Brochures and he decided to label it the “Jumbo”. Nick added that calling it a “Prairie State” doesn’t really make sense because Prairie State is actually a whole line of different sizes and shapes that includes the jumbo (actually a re-topped archtop guitar) that Nick based his model on.
In the thread on UMGF, the OP announced that he had just received his new “Praire State” Guitar from Nick, and says that’s how Nick referred to it in their correspondence. However, he later mentions that the build (and all correspondence) was actually handled through a friend and former assistant of Nick’s, Mike Dulak of Middle Missouri Mandolin. In the early 2000s Nick was starting up Franklin Guitars again after a hiatus. According to the thread on UMGF, Mike helped Nick start promoting his return to building guitars. It was actually Mike Dulak who informed the OP that Nick was making two models: A Prairie State and an OM. So once again it may have been someone acting as an intermediary for Nick who named the model, this time the “Prairie State.”
The thread on UMG adds an interesting footnote — at that time, 2003, John Greven was offering a “Praire State” model, and apparently credited Nick’s guitar and Stefan Grossman’s original Larson Bros. guitar as being the inspiration. It was initially going to be a “Stefan Grossman signature model,” but that doesn’t seem to have come to pass.
If you look at the current Greven website, he doesn’t offer a “Prairie State” anymore. While he does have a Jumbo, the shape seems inspired by a Gibson J200.
As a footnote to this footnote, here’s an old listing for the Greven Prairie State prototype:
It seems that John Greven only made about a dozen of his “Prairie States” and discontinued the model in 2018.
So, that’s the long answer to the question.
The short answer is that it was a “Jumbo” in the early brochures, and is currently a “Jumbo” on Nick’s website. Apparently at one point in the early 2000s Mike Dulak briefly marketed it as a “Prairie State,” probably in reference to the Prairie State guitar that belonged to Stefan Grossman. I think Mike Dulak's involvement with Franklin guitars was short-lived. Nick seems to have been managing Franklin Guitars on his own fairly soon after this, calling the model a Jumbo. In any case, neither name seems to have originated with Nick.
I think the bottom line is that no matter what you call it, it’s an incredible design with an incredible history. It was Nick who repaired Stefan Grossman’s original retopped Prairie State Jumbo — the replacement top had “caved in”, according to Nick, because it was too lightly braced. Nick was enchanted with the shape of the guitar and traced it, going on to build his own version. Later he showed it to Stefan who loved it, but asked Nick to build him one that was not as deep — closer to the depth of an OM. Thus was born the fantastic guitar that Nick continues to build.
Maybe to be most accurate, it could be called a “Franklin Stefan Grossman Prairie State Jumbo”, but that’s a mouthful!

Last edited by mhw48; 09-14-2020 at 03:55 PM.
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