GUITAR
ACQUISITION
SYNDROME

Capital (EH-J

 



My apologies for running behind on this month's G.A.S. Attack. July was a busy month at GUITAR FUEL with the introduction of our new line of mini amp harnesses. We've started a cottage industry of cigar box amp builders worldwide! However, on a sad note the last piece of the Gibson Family, my ETB-150 (electric tenor banjo), headed to a collector in Belgium. After 10 years of G.A.S. induced collecting, the remaining handful in my vintage collection (note the word "vintage" not contemporary LOL) represent very special instruments not necessarily just in value but more importantly, tone. Several are ultra rare examples and others, like this month's G.A.S. Attack, a name most would not even recognize and considered a budget "house brand". All share the same thing, my personal tone preference. After hundreds of instruments passing through my hands the select few are the ones that move me and have been played consistently through the years.

Capital was the name used by J.W. Jenkins & Sons Music Company, a small Kansas City mail order company. Like most mail order companies of the era they used manufacturers, in this case Gibson, to provide instruments with their brand name such as Capital. The relationship with Gibson was very brief, 1936 to 1938, so the number of Capital labeled instruments is quite low. Like most of the Gibson "house brands" they are considered budget grade as compared to their Gibson siblings even though they were built by the same skilled craftsman on the same benches using wood from the same inventory. Even the hardware, such as the open back Grover tuners used on this model were top of the line.

The Capital EJ-H's pear shaped body design was also released under the Cromwell (EG-H) and Recording King (Roy Smeck AB104) house brand names for the mail order giant, Montgomery Ward. With an inlaid pearl script Capital logo, V end fretboard and extra center stripe of binding also found on Cromwell labeled models, it stands apart cosmetically from anything that bears the Gibson name. The standard Gibson metal nut is present but even the brown bakelite knobs are very different than those used on their cousins.

Unlike the majority of electric steel guitars that are built with one slab of solid wood, prewar Gibson took their guitar building approach with a hollowbody design. This required bent sides using a mold like an acoustic guitar. Several strips or "layers" of maple were used forming the unique pear shaped body. A neck and tail block can also be found inside so all it lacks is the bracing which, of course, is not necessary. With 13 countersunk screws holding on the back, access to all the "goodies" takes a few minutes. The sunburst finish is all Gibson showing off the beautifully grained 70+ year old maple.

Manufactured between 1936-38, it was graced with what was Gibson's original blade pickup referred to as the "Charlie Christian". Although in an oval housing to differentiate from the housings used in their EH-150 and EH-100 models, the design is identical including the two flat bar magnets. As the only "Charlie Christian" powered instrument left in my collection it was all about this particular instrument's tone. Even up against the full EH series (100, 150 & 185) of the Gibson Family, it became my primary player and maintains that title today however that almost didn't happen.

    

After collecting examples of the majority of Gibson's "house brand" electric steel guitars (Kalamazoo, Cromwell, Capital, Mastertone, Recording King, etc.) during my G.A.S. induced collecting phase they became the first sacrificial lambs to be slaughtered or in this case, sold.  Basically they didn't bear the Gibson name so off they went to various new homes. An amazing collection in itself, the Capital was part of the purge and sold with the rest. All of us have a few guitars we regret selling and this was one of them. So why not the Recording King Roy Smeck AB104 or Kalamazoo KEH? They just didn't have the tone which stuck in my head. 


It must have been fate as about a year later she was listed on eBay by the individual who purchased her. I contacted them and we worked out a deal so she was back home. It is not often that you have the opportunity to purchase back one of your regrets so I was willing to pay more than I sold it for. I vowed never to sell her again.

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