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Carvin #3-SGB Two Pickup Solid Body Electric Guitar (1957)
Carvin #3-SGB Two Pickup Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1957), made in Covina, California, natural finish, Maple body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, tweed original hard shell case.
A wonderful historical piece, and a surprisingly fine little guitar despite its homey appearance! Carvin instruments are a product of the same Southern California spawning grounds as many of the great electric guitar lines of the 20th century; Fender, Rickenbacker, National, Bigsby, and Mosrite all emerged from the same general time and place.
The confluence of a lively progressive "hillbilly" music scene, proximity to the entertainment colossus of Hollywood, and numerous untraditionally minded craftsmen, resulted in a radical re-thinking of the electric guitar, and the emergence of the solidbody instrument as its ultimate form.
Carvin founder Lowell Kiesel moved his fledgling steel guitar operation from Nebraska to California around 1948, and by 1950 had changed the name from Kiesel to Carvin, which combined his two sons' names. (See our stock #2604 for an extremely rare and early Kiesel steel guitar).
Carvin became famous for selling primarily electric instruments only through mail order, becoming one of the few sources selling individual parts for do-it-yourself electric guitar tinkerers in the 50's. Carvin's most remembered products of the era are the spectacular sounding AP-6 pickups, the early favorite of Semie Moseley for his handmade guitars.
The Model #3-SGB was Carvin's first foray into serious self-made solid-body electrics, debuting in 1956. Carvin had already for several years been offering Fender guitars through their mail-order catalog, and no doubt took notice of the growing sales. This guitar is the second version of the model, slightly redesigned for 1957 with a very Stratocaster-like headstock…the earlier design had been a ringer for the Telecaster! Not surprisingly, by 1958 Fender guitars were no longer listed by Carvin, and the home-grown SGB series became Carvin's flagship line.
When this #3-SGB was built, it was the top of the Spanish solidbody line, retailing at a whopping $119.90. A version with pickups and without adjustable poles was offered at $99.90 and a single pickup version at $79.90. The next year a three-pickup version was offered at $169.90, and electric solidbody basses, mandolins, and doublenecks were also listed. Carvin's main sale items at the time were steel guitars and amplifiers, and these Spanish guitars from this era are relatively rare.
The guitars have design elements owing something to both Fender and Bigsby. The Fender-like maple neck has a truss rod adjusted at the heel and a very thick slab rosewood fingerboard, well before Fender introduced that feature. The deep cutaway solid (these aren't nicknamed "Butcher Blocks" for nothing!) flat-contoured maple body has definite Bigsby design touches, and a rough-cast Bigsby style aluminum bridge saddle. These bodies would be used into the early 1960's before a more Fender-like shape replaced them. Tuners are Kluson Deluxe with plastic buttons (like a Fender Musicmaster) but no Safe-T-Slot string groove. The cream plastic AP-6 pickups and molded plastic tailpiece (with 8 string holes for use on steels) are pure Carvin.
While crude-looking next to a Fender, this is a solidly-made guitar, and with a 3-way switch and individual tone and volume controls, is quite powerful and versatile-sounding. These early Carvins have a rather 'homemade' aspect to them, but this is a good playing and very fine-sounding guitar. These same pickups were used on Joe Maphis' and Larry Collins' Mosrite doublenecks, and the tone is pure Hollywood Hillbilly Heaven all the way.
Known mostly to vintage tone connoisseurs, the AP-6 is regarded as worthy of listing with the pre-war Rickenbacker horseshoe, the Fender Broadcaster pickups, and the Gibson PAF as one of the finest-sounding coils of wire ever wound, and is waiting to be rediscovered by a wider audience.
Overall length is 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm.), 11 7/8 in. (30.2 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm.) deep. Scale length is 25 in. (635 mm.).
Completely original and playable. The finish is very thin and rather well-worn…it feels rather more like 1950's kitchen furniture than a typical guitar finish! All original components -- apart from a repair to the plastic tailpiece and a metal insert securing the low E string, this guitar is as it left Covina in the late 50's, with some serious play but no modifications or abuses. One small notch missing from the pickguard by a screw.
The original tweed case is battered but fully functional. Very Good + Condition.
Item # 2658
This item has been sold.
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