1959 Guild A-50 Electrified Archtop Guitar

Update 2018: Since originally posting, I wired-up a Kent Armstrong "Johnny Smith"-a-like humbucker floating pickup at the neck. I've updated the photos and description to reflect this.

A customer of mine brought this Hoboken-made Guild in for potential sale, but I snagged it from him because I like it so much. These A-50s are somewhat rare in the market as most Guilds of this spec were sold as an electrified version -- the X-50 -- which is essentially Guild's take on the Gibson ES-125. It has so many specs that match the contemporaneous Gibson L-48 that the ES-125's body is based off of -- 24 3/4" scale length, 16" lower bout, mild/medium C-shaped neck profile, 12" board radius, neck just a hair under 1 11/16" at the nut -- that you almost feel like you're playing a good-sounding L-48.

The big difference, however, is that the body shape is a bit more "Epiphone" in its cut and the side depth is only 2 3/4" which makes this hug the body somewhat like a thinner hollowbody electric. The acoustic impact of that thinner depth change, however, is minimal -- this is a loud, barky, saucy-mids, compressed-lows guitar that sounds excellent for what it is -- an all-ply, pressed-arch archtop. It's not nuanced and "delicious" like a carved-top, but it gets the job of chord-banging done very well.

Since I added the neck electric pickup to it, I've been using it as a jam guitar to great effect -- playing it acoustically until I need to take a lead and turning it "on" for leads via an A/B box with the B-side unplugged and the center running to the amp. The pickup at the neck has a "Johnny Smith" vibe and is made by Kent Armstrong. Adjustable polepieces allow for different string-type dialing-in of your tone and compared to a "usual" humbucker, this type is crisp, clear, clean, and very smooth without a ton of output. If you're into vintage styles, it sounds amazing for them. I used shielded cable to hook it up to the jack so there's little noise. I didn't include any volume or tone controls as I wanted to body to remain as acoustically alive as possible.

This guitar is all-original save the binding (totally replaced), the new pickup and wiring, strap buttons, and the absence of its pickguard and bracket.

The top, back, and sides are all ply maple with a sunburst finish and much of the work on this guitar was in regluing a ton of delaminations and seam separations at the side/top/back joints. Other work included a fret level/dress, said replacement binding, a bit of modification/fix-up of the original bridge saddle, and a good setup with 54w-12 strings. The current strings are those gauges but nickel-wound.

It plays perfectly, with a straight neck and 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret. There's adjustment room at the bridge to raise/lower to suit, too, and if you're into heavier gauges, I think the neck could take it as the truss rod is barely dialed-in. I'd love to hear what the pickup sounds like with some Thomastik flatwounds on it, though the roundwounds give it a good "crazy old Americana" vibe and let it compete easily in acoustic sessions.

It's been played like crazy in the past and shows all sorts of ick from use and abuse -- duct-tape residue in the finish near the tailpiece, scratches and nicks and dings all over, and plenty of finish weather-check and grunge.

Shockingly, the original truss rod cover is extant. The original bone nut is, too.

The dots are pearl in the rosewood fretboard.

The pickup is truly floating off the top and so there's no tone-damping for the acoustic sound.

The mahogany neck has so much playwear.

The heel cap was a quick add to replace the missing original, too.

This is what I mean by the general "wear and tear." Doesn't everyone love ancient duct-tape residue that's melded into the finish at the endpin?