1940s Kay-made Gagliano Jumbo Flattop Guitar

Between structural work on a number of customer parlor guitars, I managed to get this big boy finished-off and ready to go for a customer coming up this weekend to grab it. It's a relatively rare version of a typical Kay ladder-braced, 17" jumbo, in that it's a bit higher quality and earlier than most. It's also the best-sounding of the ladder-braced jumbo Kays I've played to date. Most are very gutsy, forward, and thrilling to bang on but don't tend to have a lot of warmth on the bottom end. This has all that normal stuff but a bit of bottom-end velvet, too.

Work included a fret level/dress, crack cleat/fill to a big one on the treble side of the top, and a hearty bridge shave to improve on someone's previous modification to the saddle area of the bridge. I also added some Kluson-style repro tuners to replace the not-so-nice-condition Grover Rotomatics someone had installed along the way. It plays just as the Dr. ordered and I've got it tuned half a step down for setup purposes as this will probably be kept in some sort of slacked open tuning by the owner.

Solid spruce top over (probably laminate?) mahogany back and sides. The finish is that 40s Kay finish which is glossy and somewhat thin so it really pops the wood out. Add to that subtle green-brown tortoise binding and you have a winning look. I'm not sure about the "ivoroid grained" pickguard, though, but it's growing on me.

The Gagliano nameplate up there looks grand. Replacement bone nut (not mine, but was on it when it came in). This has a 1 11/16" nut width and big old C-shape neck profile.

The thick Brazilian rosewood board is radiused and has brass frets. I love the radius on old Kays... feels nice.

Kay used these weird front-load, bizarre bridges a lot in the 40s and through the very early 60s. The bone saddle appears to be original but someone relocated it for better intonation a long time ago. I had to shave the bridge a bit and reseat the saddle slot some more to get the action where I wanted it and the break-angle over the saddle where I wanted it, too.

The bits on the "wings" are actually bolts that came factory-standard.

Nice looking hog, huh?

There are a few minor hairline crack repairs to the headstock.

I always liked the look of the tortoise trim on old 40s Kays. It's so subtle compared to the darker tortoise we're used to seeing on other makes.


WC Link said…
Hi, Jake

Did this guitar ever sell? Its my old guitar and would be thrilled to have it back!

Thank you

Ian Link
Jake Wildwood said…
Hi Ian,

I don't really remember what happened to it, but it was either traded or sold. Sorry!