Gibson SJ-200 12 Fret
The Gibson Super Jumbo first appeared in 1937. It was built for Hollywood singing star Ray Whitley as the world's biggest and fanciest acoustic guitar. Other singing cowboys who later owned Super Jumbos include Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Western movies were tremendously popular and the singing cowboy heroes needed instruments as big and bold as untamed West. As a consequence, the details were grand in scale and the bindings high in contrast to look good in black and white on the silver screen.
The first versions of the Super Jumbo guitar had a neck joint with 12 frets clear of the body placing the moustache bridge geometrically in the center of the distinctly round 16 7/8" lower bout. The soundboard was so large and the body so deep that the sound was immense.
The model started production in 1938 as Gibson's top-of-the-line flat top guitar. It was initially called the Super Jumbo but the name changed in 1939 to the Super Jumbo 200. It had a double-braced red spruce top and rosewood back and sides with a sunburst finish. In 1947 the name changed to the J-200 and the standard back and sides became highly figured maple. Gibson changed the name again in the 1950s to the SJ-200. Due to the depression and the following wartime austerity, demand for this expensive instrument was limited and production quantities were small.
The Gibson SJ-200 12 Fret is a recreation of the original Super Jumbo prototype.
The photograph is of Cindy Walker (1918-2006), Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member, playing Gene Autry's 12 fret Super Jumbo Custom. (Cindy Walker penned hits like: 'China Doll' and 'You Don't Know Me' as well as all 39 songs recorded by Bob Wills for Columbia Western films.)