Gibson Guitars apparently doesn't know the SDMB's "Don't Be a Jerk" rule

Here’s a link to a thread on the Acoustic Guitar Forum.

Respected lawyer and freelance guitar journalist John Thomas uncovered the story and wrote a book on the fact that during WW2, women Rosie the Riveter types built Gibsons. Found a dozen of the women in their 80’s and told their story. Kalamazoo Gals, the book, is a hit.

Gibson had denied they built instruments back in the day - apparently to show full WW2 support. But now, JT was getting support from Gibson to promote the book and they were going to build a special set of Kalamazoo Gals guitars.

Then the door was shut and now Gibson won’t even acknowledge JT’s existence. This should be a PR victory for Gibson, champion of women workers and the war effort. But it seems to be just another sign that Gibson President Henry J is a jerk. ??? The working assumption I that Gibson’s lawyers have decided they should not change their original story of “no instruments built; no women workers” for some reason, even after they gave JT access to their WW2 ledgers which he photographed and published with their knowledge and support.

The linked thread has a link to the local NPR story that documents what has been going on. I know John Thomas. Although his name may raise a chuckle in the UK he is a good guy and very by-the-book in his documentation and scholarship around old guitars. He also writes artist profiles for my favorite guitar magazine, Fretboard Journal.

I am a huge fan of Gibson guitars - acoustics and electrics. I have bought mostly old ones, so used, but a few new ones. I doubt I will do that any more.

That is just about the oddest thing I’ve read in a while. I’d really be curious to hear Gibson’s reasoning behind all this but that’ll probably never happen.

Maybe one of their lawyers found out they were breaking some kind of law with the Kalamazoo Gals, and made themselves subject to lawsuits. Since the genie was already out of the bottle, the best they could do to escape liability was put a gag order on the whole operation. What law they were breaking, I have no idea.

Wow, yeah, very strange and confusing. I can’t think of any reason for this behavior other than the sort of thing Knowed Out mentions.

I don’t know if I’d boycott Gibson over it, though. Partly because it’s confusing, partly because there’s jerks running just about every company. Rickenbacker fired Semie Moseley for building and selling his own guitars, but I’d still buy a Ric.

Holy. Cow. This is all highly disturbing.

Very weird. VOA article on Thomas’s work.

Nah, if you read that whole thread, the author points out that he’s done his research both into the laws of the time and the thousands of government documents he’s obtained that all indicate what was being done was legal and ethical.

I prefer both Martin and Fender to Gibson, myself. Can’t say a “Kalamazoo Gals” guitar isn’t an exciting prospect, though. Too bad they’re being a bunch of assholes, though.

Gibson Guitars apparently doesn’t know the SDMB’s “Don’t Be a Jerk” rule

Well, as long as they don’t try to post here…

The only possible reason for this mystery that I can think of is the suggestion by Thomas in my above-linked article that “executives believed guitar buyers of the day would not embrace instruments built by women”.

Even if that is true, I can’t think why they would still be trying to deny it now. The so-called “Banner” guitars made by the “Kalamazoo Gals” not only have a nifty backstory but apparently are thought by some to be technically superior:

You’d think that the whole story would be great publicity for Gibson guitars, and I can’t understand why the company would want to squelch it in this day and age.

I think more likely this is just a continuation of their CEO’s random hostility to his employees combined with a sliver of his regular assholery.

I’m sure women work in the Memphis Gibson custom shop today. Why would Gibson be reluctant to acknowledge their work during WWII? That’s just strange.

I am surprised they continued manufacturing guitars throughout WWII. I would have thought rationing would have made that difficult. The wire for the strings would have been allocated for war production.

Woody Guthrie’s guitar with the sticker ‘This machine kills fascists’ was a Gibson.

Maybe its time for some stickers [or banners] about machines that kill sexist jerks.

In short, they used cheaper materials because of wartime shortages, which required more work, but they got it cheaper by employing women.

I mean, sure - yes. But the point John was making was far more mechanical: Gibson was known for variability and quality issues throughout their history. With these new-to-the-shop-floor women, they were: a) extra careful not to make mistakes; and b) excellent with fine work, like gluing and carving the braces, the sticks attached to the underside of the top which are Ground 0 for how the guitar’s tone is produced. Scalloping a brace is a big deal - if they did a great job of it, it is a difference maker.

I have John’ book and have heard him speak on it. He also has a friend at Yale Medical Center with access to a CT Scanner. John has had a bunch vintage guitars scanned - they are fascinating and BEAUTIFUL as a print you might want on a wall (I went to an exhibit of them at an art gallery):

So based on his research, he was commenting on how the guitars were physically built.

Some folks here on the SDMB know I have a '46 Gibson J-45. NOT a Banner - the first year without. Banners are known for having HUGE necks - John thinks it was due to both not having metal for a truss rod so making the neck beefier, and also because the women were newbies and following the neck profile templates to the letter, instead of getting the neck to within tolerance then doing further shape based on the worker’s expertise. '46’s are known for having truss rods and a slightly smaller neck profile. Still huge but a bit more comfy to my hand.

Wow, this is weird, and seems really shortsighted. Until we hear a realistic explanation of why Gibson’s legal department would recommend holding to such an easily contradicted historical narrative, it’s just more plausible that all this trumpery is simply the dysfunctional product of one man’s moonbattery.

One of the more sagacious posters in the AGF thread made an excellent point (if only we had some posters like that here :)):

I have two Les Paul style guitars that I rarely play: one’s a 2006 Gibson, and one’s a 1977 Ibanez. Between the two, I prefer the Ibanez, so maybe it’s no coincidence that 1977 was the year that Gibson filed a lawsuit against Ibanez for making guitars which too closely resembled Gibson’s (and which had a reputation for quality that met and often exceeded Gibson quality).

Anybody want to buy a used Gibson?

I have a banner WW2 Gibson LG-2. Was my granddad’s guitar. I never met the man…died years before I was born. Didn’t even know he played. Was given the guitar back in 88’…I had been playing for about 10 years at that time. Still have it, still sounds great. Records beautifully. Full, mid-range woody tone. Love it. The fact that it may have been made by Kalamazoo gals makes it all the better!

I think it’s important to remember that Gibson is not owned by the same people who owned it in '45. I don’t feel like looking it up, but I think it’s a subdivision of Norlin now. Or it was a sub of Norlin. Leo Fender sold Fender to CBS in what, 1965? Of the big three in the USA, Martin is the only guitarbuilder with some continuity; the CEO, C.F. “Chris” Martin IV", is the great great grandson of the founder, Christian Frederick Martin.

*If you’re keeping track, C.F.Martin didn’t become “Sr” until his grandson, C.F.Martin II came along.

Flare4roach - very, very cool. My first old guitar was a '46 LG-2 so I love and understand what a great one can sound like. Does it have any features that are non-standard (much more common during WW2 due to restrictions):

  • Have a truss rod?
  • Spruce top or mahogany?
  • Mahogany body (occasionally maple)?
  • 1-piece mahogany neck (sometimes 3-piece)?

I can’t recommend the book Kalamazoo Gals highly enough, and if you have questions, John is accessible on his website. Also, you might check out the UMGF Vintage Corner and Acoustic Guitar Forum messageboards and search. Finally, you might consider getting the book Gibsons’ Fabulous Flattops so you have some background on such a cool guitar. And Double Finally ;), and I can’t stress this enough: have you had the guitar checked out? Banners have rectangle-shaped bridges. They don’t have a “belly” like Martins which provide more gluing surface. A common occurrence is bridge lift - i.e., seeing a gap where the bridge is glued to the body on the side closer to the endpin. If that is going on, it can be easily repaired. If it is not repaired, it could pull off and take some topwood with it - less easily repaired.

Ranger Jeff - Gibson is now privately owned with the principle owner and CEO being Henry Juszkiewicz. I wish I could describe all the multi-faceted ways that folks seem to HATE, HATE, HATE Henry J. From how he manages employees, to the “innovations” he has introduced that folks have hated (Google Gibson Robot Tuners, Gibson Dusk Tiger and Gibson MAGIC system), to his pricing, to how he treats dealers, to this episode with John Thomas, who is beloved in the guitar geek community. If you go to Gawker, search on Gibson because Gawker hears enough weird shit about Henry J that even they pay attention and stir shit up.

There has been a recent big To-Do with their tonewoods - they got raided by Feds for having improperly-documented wood. I get the feeling that this is a separate issue - for the most part, I get the impression they got caught up in politics and are generally pretty responsible about environmental issues.

There was this stupid bling SG a $2million monstrosity that represents everything wrong with electric guitar. Henry posed for a photo with it and folks tended to use that to summarize Henry.

What percent of factories did not convert to military production during WW 2? I assume the issue here is because guitars are not a staple good?