The history of Gibson’s L-1 and L-00 acoustics, contemporaries of the legendary Robert Johnson

Gibson L-1 and L-00
(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Flat-tops were popular instruments in America throughout the 19th century, with market leaders Martin introducing its first US-made guitar in 1834. However, the first Gibson flat-tops appeared as late as 1926, beginning with the small-bodied L-0 and L-1 models. 

Prior to this, Gibson’s L-series guitars comprised archtops – Orville Gibson’s grand contribution to the guitar world – including the 1918 L-1 pictured here. Robert Johnson is perhaps most famously associated with the L-1, having been photographed holding one, albeit the later flat-top version, a markedly different design to its earlier namesake, which was produced from 1902 to 1925. 

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David Mead

With over 30 years’ experience writing for guitar magazines, including at one time occupying the role of editor for Guitarist and Guitar Techniques, David is also the best-selling author of a number of guitar books for Sanctuary Publishing, Music Sales, Mel Bay and Hal Leonard. As a player he has performed with blues sax legend Dick Heckstall-Smith, played rock ’n’ roll in Marty Wilde’s band, duetted with Martin Taylor and taken part in charity gigs backing Gary Moore, Bernie Marsden and Robbie McIntosh, among others. An avid composer of acoustic guitar instrumentals, he has released two acclaimed albums, Nocturnal and Arboretum.