The Gibson JS200

 From the Nicky Garratt collection - click image to enlarge

The history of the Gibson JS200 goes way back to the singer/cowboy Ray Whitley, who helped to develop it.  Incidentally, the 200 stands for the original dollar price, which made it a top-of-the-line expensive guitar in 1938.

This super jumbo (SJ) acoustic guitar has, as they say, stood the test of time.  I had, even before my Telecaster in 1972, a Gibson Hummingbird copy. I'm not sure of the make and it was most like a bit of a pig, but there's something compelling about some of those early designs.

Now, whether they were simply what were around at the time, which established these classics: The Hummingbird, J45, The Dove, and the SJ200, or perhaps they just don't design them like that anymore, I don't know?

It's interesting to note the degree that a successful band influences guitar sales: Airline guitars after the White Stripes, Les Paul Juniors after Green Day, the battle worn Telecaster after Joe Strummer, The Mosrite Ventures 2 after Johnny Ramone...

Many of these guitars were out of production and brought back to life by various triumphant new artists. One can see it clearly in Guitar Center, as black metal kids gravitate towards the absurd black concoctions with locking tremolo, ultra low action and appendages all over the place. They sit with a fully fuzzed out tone shredding in no particular key.

Then there's the Irish punky tattoo crowd, honing in on the semi acoustic Gretsch. Well I'm sure I'm no different, but it wasn't really a particular artist that drew me to these instruments, just generally the guitar itself. The SJ200 just looks so cool.

The artist list is quite diverse for this guitar: Elvis, Townshend, Greg Lake, The Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris are just a few of the SJ200 users. When someone picks up an SJ200, you get the sense they mean business.

The Monarch, Studio, Montana Gold, Pete Townshend, Custom, Presley and True Vintage are all variations of the SJ200 design, the give-away is the large body and mustache bridge assembly, but I didn't need an overly elaborate model, instead I opted for a standard version.  

I've grown to love this guitar. It never disappoints. It's loud with a big bottom end, but balanced and clear. I haven't yet recorded with the U.K. Subs using my SJ200 because, well, we don't have a lot of call for an acoustic. It is however, a guitar I reach for to flush out an idea or just to gratify myself. When you drop the bottom E down to D it's as rich as can be.


Nicky Garratt - August 23rd, 2010