From his humble beginnings to influencing iconic guitar players, Robert Johnson is now a name that most, if not all guitarists have heard of. Incidentally, his weapon of choice for his brand of delta blues is a 1926 Gibson L-1, a parlor shape guitar which has been immortalized by his influential recordings and iconic photos.
Interestingly, the L-1 had an archtop body back in 1902 when it was originally released, but was turned into a flat top acoustic with a smaller body in 1926. This parlor style body became the guitar of choice for many guitarists because of its midrange focused sound, which works great for blues and slide guitar playing. As expected, Gibson honored Johnson’s legacy with a signature version that makes the old design available for today’s players.
The Gibson Robert Johnson L-1 follows after the original in terms of look and tone. It has a solid sitka spruce top supported by x-bracing and mahogany back and sides, crafted into the L-1’s distinctive shape that is smaller than regular dreadnought and concert guitars. This particular combination gives the guitar the characteristic boxy “growl” expected of a blues box, while having a more reliable and durable structure, thanks to modern building and production technology.
The neck is crafted from mahogany and features a modified V profile that makes playing feel familiar and comfortable. It has a scale length of 25″ and a nut width of 1.75″, following the specs of original L-1s from the late 1920s. Like many Gibson guitars, the headstock is angled (17 degrees) and features a mother of pearl Gibson logo and a discrete black truss rod cover.
Check out the demo video below to see the Robert Johnson L-1 in action:
The demo video showcases the guitar’s genuine vintage appeal, and the tone is definitely something else. It would certainly feel great to play his classic “Crossroads” deltablues track on this guitar. Now if only Epiphone would make a mass production affordable version of the L-1, more players will get to appreciate the instrument.
Other features include mother of pearl dots fretboard inlay, bone nut and saddle, rosewood bridge, single-ply binding for the top and back, traditional multi-ply single rosette ring and vintage style tuners with white buttons. Finally, Robert Johnson’s signature is inlayed into the last two upper frets.
The Gibson Robert Johnson L-1 has an MSRP of $2699.