A Brief History of the Gibson Nick Lucas Special

Nick Lucas

"When I was working at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, I was playing a Galliano guitar that I brought from New York. Frank Campbell, who was general sales manager for Gibson, was trying to persuade me to get rid of the Galliano. This was in 1924. I said, "If you'll build a guitar to my specifications that's not too bulky, I'll throw this guitar away. 'I wanted a wider neck, deeper sides, and a smaller body that would be more presentable on stage. I was very happy with the instrument they made, and I still have it. That guitar was made in 1925. You'd be surprised how this guitar carries!" - Nick Lucas

from (Reader August 21, 1981 Vol 3 No. 43 Los Angeles's Free Weekly) "The New-Fangled Guitar Sound of 1922" by Mark Humphrey

So what is the true history of that black Gibson that Nick Lucas used to play? Where is it now? What other guitars did Nick Lucas play?

The one Gibson made for him in the mid-to-late 20s, and the one he used all the time went to his youngest brother, Anthony. Nick also kept a backup guitar in case a string would break during a performance. One went into a display of Nick's memorbilia at the theatre he often played at in Santa Monica in his last years.

Nick Lucas played several of the Lucas model guitars. He has been pictured with an early Lucas model with banjo syle tuners, something Martin did later on their OM line.

He is also pictured with other Gibson models including a J-160E He has been pictured with an early Lucas, a Martin 000-45, a Galliano an Orpheum signature archtop and other flattop and archtop guitars.

"I got my big break on radio. In those days radio was one of the only media of entertainment. Between sets with the band I used to go into the WEBH studio adjacent to our bandstand and fill in some time with my guitar and sing - kind of croon. That's when I started to get mail from all over the country. Now this wasn't a network broadcast by any means; it was just that people had crystal sets and would get me all through the night. I started to become very, very popular. So the Gibson instrument company approached me and wanted me to use their guitar. This was in 1924. I said, "Gee, I've got a great instrument now. I'm very happy with it, and it sounds good. However, if you make me a guitar to my specifications, I'll be glad to make the change." I had no ties or contract with the Gallianos because I had bought my guitar for $35. So Gibson said, "We'll do anything that'd make you satisfied, and if you're not satisfied, fine." At that time the guitar was practically obsolete. It was going out and they had to do something."

"The distinction about my guitar was this: The neckboard was a little wider because they used to make them and still make them today - a little bit too narrow. You can't get a true tone out of some of your chords if the strings are so close together. I don't have an exceptionally big hand, but I wanted more room between the E and B strings especially, so when I played a G or C chord all the notes would come out distinct. I wouldn't get any interference from flesh on the fingers. I also said I wanted a little wider body than usual, and I wanted it black and unshiny so the spotlight wouldn't make it glare all around the people in the audience. so they came up with this Nick Lucas model, which was a beauty. I still have the original one, still play it. It's a gem. It's been fixed about 40 times. I wouldn't part with it." - Nick Lucas.

Gibson Nick Lucas Special

Available: 1926 to 1941.

1926 Gibson Nick Lucas guitar :

$125 list price, 13.5" wide, 24.25" scale, deep body (4 1/2" deep or more), slightly arched top and back, mahogany back and sides, spruce top. The shape of the first generation Nick Lucas Special was the same rounded shape used on Gibson's L-1 and L-3. This earliest version had an angled "The Gibson" silk-screened in silver paint on the headstock. The sound-hole purfling rings were alternating white, black, white wood strips. Fingerboard inlays were small varied pattern inlays which included a five-point star at the third fret. Rosewood bridge with pyramids at ends, slight belly on bridge with white pins, extra pin below bridge pins, triple bound top & back, triple bound rosewood fingerboard, 12 frets clear of the body, Grover 98 tuners, angled special round "Nick Lucas" label inside, sunburst finish.

Late 1928 Gibson Nick Lucas guitar:

By the end of 1928 the peghead "The Gibson" logo was inlaid in pearl. Also the pyramid bridge changed and the sound hole perfing changed to ivoroid rings of alternating white, black, white plastic. Fingerboard inlays changed to a large varied pattern with notched diamond at the 3rd fret.

1929 Gibson Nick Lucas guitar:

Gibson completely re-designed their flat-top guitar line including the Nick Lucas. The size and shape was changed from the small rounded shape to a somewhat larger instrument, more flat on the bottom and elongated. The Gibson Nick Lucas was now 14 1/2" wide and had a longer 24.75" scale. 3-ply soundhole ring, rectangle rosewood pin bridge with no pyramids, mahogany body with a spruce top. Usually the pickguard is elevated, but 14 fret models seen to have a glued-on pickguard. Fleur-de-lis peghead inlay added.

1930 Gibson Nick Lucas guitar:

raised ebony fingerboard, rosewood back and side, usually has a trapeze tailpiece with adjustable bridge, sometimes has rectangle pin bridge, raised pickguard, 13 frets clear of the body.

1931 Gibson Nick Lucas guitar:

Pin style bridge or optional adjustable trapeze tailpiece (most seem to have the trapeze tailpiece), most have elevated pickguard (but some have pickguard glued to top), ebony fingerboard raised off the top. Also most have 13 frets clear of the body with a moveable bridge/tailpiece.

1933 Gibson Nick Lucas guitar:

rosewood back and sides.

1934 Gibson Nick Lucas Model guitar:

retail price dropped from $125 to $90, Maple back and sides (some with mahogany), mahogany neck, flat back and top, pickguard glued to top, standard rectangle pin bridge, 14 frets clear of the body, inlay at 1st fret, sunburst finish on top, back and sides. Some made with all black finish.

Gibson Nick Lucas guitar discontinued from catalog in 1938 with the last guitars being shipped in 1941

1991 Gibson introduced the Gibson Nick Lucas Reissue Limited Edition:

Maple back and sides , 14 5/8" wide , vintage sunburst finishes and were signed by Ren Ferguson (only a 100 were made). John Walker, who was head of Gibson Custom shop handbuilt the first NINE re-issued Nick Lucas guitars from Gibson in 1992. Almost all of them were varying versions of the Nick Lucas, with some having Rosewood or Mahogany backs and sides, some having 12-fret neck joints,some with short scale, and some built with the earlier "L-1" body size.Discontinued in 1992 and were reintroduced in 1999 with flamed maple back and sides and were discontinued in 2004.

During the 1990s Gibson also produced other Nick Lucas models such as:

The Nick Lucas Elite with abalone inlays and custom tone woods in 1999

,'29 Nick Lucas Special in 1998 ,

Nick Lucas Rosewood Montana in 1993 and several others..

Nick Lucas Radio

Nick Lucas Special - Headstock

Nick Lucas Special - Headstock
Nick Lucas Special - 1928
Nick Lucas Special - 1928
1928 Nick Lucas Special .

Nick Lucas from the 1929 Warner Bros. film, SHOW OF SHOWS
From the 1929 Warner Bros. film, SHOW OF SHOWS

Nick Lucas "The Crooning Troubadour" the most famous of all Guitar Players uses The Gibson Guitar (ROCHESTER TIMES-UNION, April 12, 1932

Nick Lucas Special - 1928

Nick Lucas Elite
Nick Lucas Elite
Nick Lucas Elite - Headstock
2005 Gibson Nick Lucas Elite Custom

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