Gibson Guitar Manufacturer’s Secret Revealed in New Book!

Image634974725949357179Until now the contributions of a band of intrepid, unpretentious, stunningly skillful, thoroughly American women to both the war effort and to the endurance of one of the greatest musical instrument manufacturers ever known, has gone unheralded.

"Kalamazoo Gals” by John Thomas is the forgotten story of the women who built Gibson’s “Banner” guitars during WWII.

It’s a haunting image. At least it was for author John Thomas. Some seventy women sit in four rows in front of the Gibson Guitar factory in the mid-1940s. Conventional wisdom and company lore had it that Gibson had ceased guitar production during World War II, with only “seasoned craftsmen” too old for war doing repairs and completing the few instruments already in progress.

What were these women doing there? The image so bedeviled Thomas that he eventually set out to find at least one of the women in the photograph. He found a dozen. Along the way he would discover that despite denials that endured into the 1990s, Gibson employed a nearly all female workforce to build thousands of wartime guitars, each marked with a small, golden “banner” containing the slogan Image634974724770629759“Only a Gibson is Good Enough.” The banner appeared on the guitars at the moment those women entered the factory in January 1942 and disappeared when the war ended at the end of 1945.

On his personal journey Thomas tracks Orville Gibson from his birth in upstate New York to the founding of his namesake company in Michigan, and finally to his untimely death in a mental hospital. He takes us to meet these women in Kalamazoo and to time travel with them through the Great Depression and into World War II. He wanders the hallways of the abandoned Gibson factory in search of the ghost of its founder, Orville Gibson, steps into an imaging clinic to seek radiographic evidence of sublime quality of the Gals’ craft, and tracks the “Banner” Gibsons from Kalamazoo into the hands of their first owners. Along the way he leads us straight into the hearts of the Kalamazoo Gals.

An informal gathering and book signing in a unique setting: Retrofret Vintage Guitars. Located in the industrial Gowanus Canal section of Brooklyn, NY, Retrofret will honor Women’s History Month and the release of Mr. Thomas’ book on Sat. March 2, 2013 from 5PM to 8PM. Image634974732092858567

"Retrofret is uniquely connected to the subject of Mr. Thomas’ new book, ”Kalamazoo Gals”, for many reasons: First, they have quite a thing for old Gibson guitars!

Retrofret is one of the few major guitar shops dealing exclusively in vintage instruments.

Secondly, their repair shop happens to be run by a woman and the staff includes three female technicians handling most of the repair and restoration work. “Finally, I just love the true stories behind the guitars - especially the little known ones." said Retrofret’s Steve Uhrik


About the Author:

Image634974695886757696John Thomas is a law professor, freelance writer, and guitar player who claims he’s “still striving for mediocrity.” His articles address topics from music and musical instruments to health policy, politics, autism, and juvenile justice.

His writings have appeared in law reviews, medical journals, major newspapers, a wide range of music magazines, and the Oxford Dictionary of Music.

Image634974735836472689The book is accompanied by a CD by American

Roots Songster Lauren Sheehan

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