1929 Gibson TG-0

The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Company was founded on the idea that its carved-top instruments were fundamentally different – and superior – to the standard flat-topped competition. The larger volume of the body was intended to create more volume and better tone, though Gibson’s early guitars were so heavily built that they often lacked much in the way of bass. Gibson adhered stubbornly to this philosophy for over two decades, the only exceptions being the flat-topped Army-Navy guitars and mandolins from 1918 (which were sold as cheap instruments for troops on the move and not “real” Gibsons). It’s not totally clear why Gibson caved and started producing flat-top guitars in 1926, but the recent discontinuation of several archtop models suggests that sales were stuggling. By the end of the 1920s, Gibson had a slew of flat-top guitar models including Hawaiian, tenor, plectrum and standard Spanish 6-strings.

The first Gibson tenor guitars debuted in 1927. The TG-1 was intended as a counterpart to the L-1, though until 1930 it had a smaller 12 ¾” body. The TG-0 was likewise a counterpart to the L-0: it lacked the neck binding and headstock decoration of the TG-1, featured a mahogany top instead of spruce, and was finished in a natural “light amber” finish instead of a dark burst. Both models featured Grover geared banjo tuners and, until 1930, bridges with an extra decorative pin.

While the TG-0 was more affordable than the TG-1 ($35 vs $50), the two models were built to the same high standards of construction. Both featured adjustable truss rods and a volute to strengthen the neck, and the tops were braced with an unusual half-ladder, half-x design that allowed for maximum volume from the parlor-sized bodies. This example of a first-generation TG-0 is loud – and surprisingly clear and bright for an all-mahogany body – but it lacks the bassy punch of the later, larger version. The guitar is all original and in excellent condition, showing only some normal pick wear to the top.