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Here is a Hawaiian guitar that certainly stands out: a Gibson Console Grande Double-Eight (two sets of eight strings) from 1939, in excellent original condition.

In 1938, the year this model was introduced, the concept of a double-neck electric guitar was not unknown: already, many guitarists playing in orchestras or bands had recognized the usefulness of such an instrument, simultaneously offering two distinct tunings allowing you to immediately follow the harmonic changes of an ensemble. Towards the end of 1937, Walter Fuller, Gibson’s in-house electronic engineer who had already two years previously offered up the first version of a Kalamazoo-built electromagnetic pickup, returned with a new type of Hawaiian guitar, displaying an original and ornamented design (sic). Under a patent filed in June 1938, this innovative instrument was equipped with two distinct necks in two main configurations: one 8-string and one 7-string set, or two sets of eight strings. Each of the necks is equipped with a bar pickup (later known as the Charlie Christian pickup) with protruding studs to separately capture the vibrations of each string, and both pickups are connected to a volume control. We note on the Console Grande a particularly innovative point since they include a system of mutes allowing to muffle the sound of the strings of the set which is not used, which in a way constitutes a primitive form of pickup selector! This instrument is contained in a large rectangular body made of flamed maple, decorated with multi-ply binding and complemented with a stunning Sunburst finish (a few rare examples were produced in Natural finish) – Gibson’s advertising brochures are, as often, just barely exaggerating: there are few instruments that have as much panache as the Console Grande!

The instrument presented here is among an estimated total of 90 Console Grande produced for the year 1939, and comes to us exceptionally well preserved. We of course find the metal plate engraved with the name of the model fixed to the body between the two tuning heads, as well as the three removable feet fixed under the body of the guitar during use – quite comically, Gibson had initially praised an instrument that could be placed very comfortably on the musician’s knees, but confronted with the “weight of reality”, the manufacturer quickly changed their mind, so much so that from the publication of the 1939 catalog we find the Console Grande sold with its removable concert stand, justifying this novelty with the following statement: […] the guitarist can be spotlighted to better advantage by using these removable legs to form a sturdy stand, behind which he plays in a standing position – clever! Two original Charlie Christian pickups, combined with the original wiring, two Bakelite No. 504-A knobs (one black and one brown, traditionally allowing Gibson to distinguish at first glance the one adjusting the volume and the one for tone), two bridge covers chrome completes the lot.

Sold in its original tweed case (with its intact handle and key!), the instrument is tuned with the first set of strings to A6 and the second to C13.

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