The English language has the perfect word to describe a vintage J-45 : workhorse. The horse that helps on the farm, the tool of the trade, the machine without sophistication or refinement that does exactly what you want it to. The J-45 is not the flashiest, fanciest Gibson, and it even seems spartan compared with the J-200 or the Hummingbird. Its dark sunburst doesn’t have the warm honey hue of a vintage Martin and it doesn’t have the huge volume of a Nazareth dreadnought either.
But the point of a great J-45 is to be found elsewhere. It is a familiar voice, a comforting and inspiring purr, a big dry sound that can be warm at the same time. It is a neck that naturally curls up in the palm of your hand and invites you to stay for hours on a simple G chord, if only to enjoy the intense harmonic richness of every open string. The J-45 is a songwriter’s ultimate weapon, the guitar that perfectly complements the human voice without taking its place. It is no coincidence that great vocalists like Bruce Springsteen or Buddy Holly have used the J-45.
The only thing more powerful than an old J-45 is a great sounding old J-45, a guitar that has been somebody else’s tool, somebody who has loved it for years and played their most beautiful chords to it. As they get older, J-45s get silkier highs and a warmer attack, with a final result that cannot be beaten.
Let’s not beat around the bush: that 1956 brunette is one of the great ones. It is a player in every sense of the word: the frets, tuners, bridge and pins have been changed, a strap button has been added at the heel of the neck and a few cracks can be seen in the back. From the way it looks, it is obvious that this J-45 has been played a lot and two chords are enough to understand why. It is one of those guitars that makes you want to write better songs so that you have something worthy to play on them.