Gibson SJ-200: The Grand Daddy of Acoustic Guitars
The Gibson SJ-200 is one of the most iconic and recognisable acoustic guitars ever made. To understand why this particular model has had such a long-lasting appeal, let’s take a quick look into its rich history:
We have come to associate live music with electric guitars and rows of Marshall amps. It’s almost strange to think that not so long ago, the humble acoustic was front and centre of the stage.
Originally, acoustic guitars were much smaller (often referred to as “Parlour” sized) and were only played at home or more intimate concerts.
As the guitar became an increasingly more important feature in popular music, manufacturers soon realised they had to make the bodies larger so they could be heard more easily in group and live settings.
In order to respond to this ongoing trend, Gibson started production of a series of flat top acoustic guitars in 1937. At the time, Martin’s large-bodied Dreadnought guitars were favoured by up and coming singing cowboy artists.
One such artist, Ray Whitley approached Gibson in 1937 requesting they build a guitar to outdo his rival western guitar stars. The result was the prototype of the Super Jumbo, which first appeared in the Gibson catalogue in 1938.
The Gibson SJ-200 in this range was first produced in 1939. With its curvaceous body, fancy inlays and decorations this iconic guitar soon became Gibson’s top of the line model and was often referred to as the “King of the Flat Tops”.
Production of the SJ-200 stopped briefly during WWII due to material shortages and production restrictions and the company had to streamline its range. As a result Gibson only produced six flat top models during this time.
After 1947, the materials used changed from Rosewood to Maple. Gibson also changed the name to the “J-200” during this time, dropping the “Super” as demand for higher-end guitars fell. Due to this change, the early Rosewood models are rare and highly sought after items.
In credit to the guitar’s original design, there have been very few changes since.
In the mid-fifties Gibson changed the pickguard slightly and the tuners went from Klusons to Grover. The moustache bridge also changed in the sixties and the body depth has also undergone various changes but the SJ-200, in essence, has remained constant for over eight decades.
With its majestic splendour, the King of the Flat Tops was always going to attract music royalty. The King of Rock ‘N’ Roll himself loved his 1956 Gibson J-200 and it was often used in his early performances. Elvis’ legendary J-200 was later refurbished by Gibson who replaced the red pick guard with a black one and inlaid his name on the fingerboard. Other artists who have used this powerhouse of a guitar include Pete Townsend, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and Noel Gallagher to name but a few.
While we’ve all been locked down at home during the pandemic, the acoustic guitar has returned to the spotlight. For many the acoustic is the perfect way to keep entertained without upsetting the neighbours.
However, in the case that you actually do want to upset your neighbours without the aid of a large amp stack, the Gibson SJ-200 acoustic with it’s large body and bombastic sound is certainly the one for you.