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  #1  
Old 11-17-2019, 12:11 PM
JoeYouDon't JoeYouDon't is offline
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Default NGD - 1939 Kalamazoo KG-21



Technically today's not the NGD, I've had it for a few weeks now, but just now getting around to posting about it.

It's a Kalamazoo KG-21, FON# EK4905, which from what I've read means it was built in 1939.

That same year, among other things, Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, the movie Stagecoach premiered, Billie Holiday recorded "Strange Fruit", The Grapes of Wrath was first published, and the deadliest conflict in human history began.

Built by the Gibson company, Kalamazoo was their budget line that kept profits coming in and kept the business afloat through the depression. Pressed-arch spruce top over mahogany back (also pressed-arch) and sides. 1 3/4 nut width with a pronounced (but not sharp) V neck with no truss rod. The body is L-00 sized, right about 14.75" across the lower bout and 24.75" scale, but it has a fairly deep body - just under 5" - that gives it a surprising level of balance on the bass end.

The back is ladder braced; from what I can see in the F-holes and what I've read, the top is likely H braced, but there may be some other funky stuff going on under the hood I can't quite see. Gibson wasn't always the most consistent with these.

It looks to be all original, and is in startlingly good shape - not a crack on it anywhere, only a few dings here and there. The neck has no warp to it, and the action is just where I like it. Good thing, too, since without a truss rod there's not a whole lot that could be done about it otherwise.

It came with what looks to be its original chip-board case, which has essentially disintegrated around the hinges, so I'd like to find a bag to be able to cart it around in -- if anyone has any suggestions that might fit, I'd be most grateful. From end to end it's about 40 in., it's the added depth of the body and the arched top and back that have made it tricky to find so far.

Anybody else have one of these neat old guitars? Information on the net is pretty scarce for these - most of the info I was able to find was relating to the ladder braced flattops Kalamazoo was also putting out.
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2016 Waterloo WL-K
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1941 Epiphone Emperor
1939 Kalamazoo KG-21

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2005 Fender Telecaster Standard MIM
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  #2  
Old 11-18-2019, 07:04 PM
KalamazooGuy KalamazooGuy is offline
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How does it sound? Are you pleased or expect more?
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:47 PM
JoeYouDon't JoeYouDon't is offline
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I'm very pleased with the sound, it's been great for old-timey, and sounds right at home playing some gypsy jazz rhythm (my playing, on the other hand, leaves plenty to be desired!).

It definitely has its own thing going on compared to my flat tops, and nicely compliments what they do. I'm interested to take it out to a picking circle and see how it cuts through. It feels more suited for being a rhythm guitar, but difficult to make that determination until getting it in action.

I still need to find the right set of strings for it, it had phosphor bronze on it when it arrived, which sounded decent but didn't feel quite right. I might go back to those after some experimentation. Currently I have D'Addario Chromes on it, which have the right feel, but are a bit bleh tonally.

Next up will be Martin Retros, which I've either loved or hated on everything I've tried.
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2016 Waterloo WL-K
2002 Santa Cruz D/PW
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1974 Conn F25
1941 Epiphone Emperor
1939 Kalamazoo KG-21

2006 Fender Stratocaster Classic 50s MIM
2005 Fender Telecaster Standard MIM
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Old 11-18-2019, 08:39 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Cool! The headstock is a dead give away it is late 1930s or early 1940s.

The guitar might be a hybrid X braced. I own a 1935 Gibson-made Capital archtop which has a fairly heavy X brace with a ladder brace running right through the middle of the X.
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Old 11-18-2019, 09:09 PM
1Charlie 1Charlie is offline
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It would have come from the factory strung with monels, most likely. I’m willing to bet it likes the Retros.
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Old 11-19-2019, 08:00 AM
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Jim Owen Jim Owen is offline
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Looks great, Joe.

I owned a KG 14 for several years. And while it appeared to have no truss rod, it did. Test the neck with a magnet and you’ll see.
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Old 11-19-2019, 11:15 AM
redir redir is offline
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That's a beauty. Yeah definitely more of a Western Swing / Gypsy Jazz guitar for sure. But I bit it will cut through the mix in that style too.
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Old 11-19-2019, 11:58 AM
beatcomber beatcomber is online now
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My, that's purty!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeYouDon't View Post
Currently I have D'Addario Chromes on it, which have the right feel, but are a bit bleh tonally.
If you decide to explore flatwounds again, I highly recommend Thomastik Infeld Jazz Swing Series, which are substantially better than Chromes, in both feel and tone.
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Old 11-19-2019, 12:50 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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I’ve seen a few original Kalamazoo guitars over the years, but that one you have is in the best condition of any of them. By far.

So that’s a great score. To find one that’s that clean is exceptional.

Here’s my offbeat Kalamazoo encounter story: sometime around the mid-70’s I was hanging around with some other kids my age and there was a guy there who had what looked like an archtop guitar. He was strumming on it a little bit, playing ON it rather actually playing music. The impression I got was that he was trying to show us what a cool guy he was, and - not coincidentally - attract the attention of the girls.

I was very new to playing music then, hadn’t even started playing guitar, but was interested enough to look closely at the headstock to read the logo: “Kalamazoo.”

It also had eight tuners on it, instead of six.

So I said: “That’s different: your guitar has eight tuners on it instead of six. I’ve never seen that before.”

He immediately got all huffy and defensive and said: “Hey, it’s an eight string guitar, okay? You’ve heard of twelve string guitars, right? So this is an eight string guitar, OKAY?!?”

I said: “That’s cool, man, I’d just never seen one before, that’s all.”

It wasn’t until more than ten years later, when George Gruhn and Walter Carter’s book “Acoustic Guitars and Other Stringed Instruments” came out, when I saw a group photo of all the Kalamazoo instruments. What Wonder Boy had wasn’t an “eight string guitar” at all, but a Kalamazoo mandocello.

Back then neither of us would have had the slightest clue as to what a mandocello was, so naturally he strung it as a six string guitar and played it that way.

So at least he was getting some use out of it!

Anyway, congratulations on your cool “new” Kalamazoo once more.


Wade Hampton Miller
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Old 11-19-2019, 07:26 PM
JoeYouDon't JoeYouDon't is offline
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Thanks for the kind words everyone. I love that story, Wade!

Here are some more pictures I was able to get -- difficult to avoid reflections with all the angles going on:










There's some distinct discoloration around the F holes, not sure what caused that. Also, while not a crack, there is about an inch along where the back meets the sides that shows some separation. Something I'll keep an eye on, but given that's the closest thing to a problem this thing has, I consider myself very lucky.

I'd never bought a guitar without playing it beforehand prior to this, and couldn't be happier with how it all turned out.

It's now got monels on it and sounds just as it should! Now, to find a bag or (preferably) case that fits! Anyone have any suggestions?
__________________
2016 Waterloo WL-K
2002 Santa Cruz D/PW
1997 Ovation Collector's Edition
1974 Conn F25
1941 Epiphone Emperor
1939 Kalamazoo KG-21

2006 Fender Stratocaster Classic 50s MIM
2005 Fender Telecaster Standard MIM
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  #11  
Old 11-19-2019, 08:40 PM
The Growler The Growler is offline
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Beautiful! Congratulations on a really nice guitar.
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  #12  
Old 11-23-2020, 01:19 PM
ballynally ballynally is offline
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Great looking guitar. As i have a flat top K14 which i love i am looking for an archtop equivalent like the KG21 or 22.
Hard to come by.
For me, the arched back mahogany back and sides plus the depth of the guitar and ladder bracing gives the guitar a bit more depth and warmth in the lower register as opposed to the slimmer maple back and sides archtops from the 1930s/40s that are more mid/high focused, i presume to keep up with the brass.
From what i can hear from the various Youtube clips it seems to prove my assumptions. My K14 has Martin retro Monel strings that seem to give the small body an extra bit of zing on top and bulk in the lower register.
I bring that wee fella to jams and it just shoots those single notes at my fellow strummers. Every note is clear and thick, no matter where on the neck. If i find it's brother, a KG21 or 22 for a reasonable price i will i think buy it.
Not too many of those here in Europe..
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  #13  
Old 11-24-2020, 02:44 AM
Spook69 Spook69 is offline
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This book;

The Other Brands of Gibson by Paul Fox,

is a good resource on the Kalamazoo brand.
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  #14  
Old 11-25-2020, 03:23 AM
robroy robroy is offline
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Such a beautifully colored burst. Congratulations.
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  #15  
Old 11-25-2020, 07:00 AM
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hubcapsc hubcapsc is online now
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I had to get cases for a couple of guitars...

I took my not-dreadnought-sized old plywood guitar to
guitar center and they rooted around in their
cases and found one that fit fine.

I took some measurements of my Country Western
because it was a little to big to fit in the couple of "regular"
dreadnought sized cases I had. The lady at the Music Zoo
listened to what kind of guitar I had, took down the measurements
and helped me zero in on a case. She went out into the warehouse
and measured it and called me back.

-Mike
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