Vintage Kalamazoo Guitars

Guitars, basses and amplifiers made by Gibson

Kalamazoo guitars

Kalamazoo is, of course, a city famous for it's guitars. It was the hometown of Gibson for most of the twentieth century, until 1984; many people would say the best Gibson guitars ever built were the Kalamazoo-built models. But Gibson also produced a US-built budget line in the 1930s, and again in the mid-late 1960s, and these guitars were branded Kalamazoo - in honour of the town in which they were produced. Most were good quality guitars, especially the higher end 1930s and 40s models, but even the 60s guitars were fitted with quality Gibson components. Kalamazoo guitars typically had a KG model prefix.

1930s-40s Kalamazoo

In the years before and during the second world war, the Kalamazoo line consisted of acoustic guitars, banjos and mandolins; relatively well-built with quality woods, but definitely a cut below Gibsons of the same period, most obviously in having no adjustable truss rod, and little ornamentation, e.g. silk-screened rather than inlaid logo. The first run of Kalamazoo instruments was available between 1933 and 1942.

Models included:

Archtops

  • KG-32 available: 1939-1942. 16" wide f-hole archtop. Carved spruce top, with maple back and sides. Checkered binding on the top, plain white binding on the back. Unbound mahogany neck with Brazilian rosewood fingerboard. Effectively the same guitar as a Gibson L-50. Sunburst finish, natural (KGN-32) from 1940.
  • KG-22 available: 1939-1942. 16" wide f-hole archtop. Carved spruce top with maple back and sides. 25" scale maple neck, rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays.
  • KG-31 available: 1935-1940. 16" pressed spruce top with mahogany back and sides. Unbound mahogany neck.
  • KG-21 available: 1935-1941. 14-3/4" wide body. Pressed spruce top with mahogany back and sides. Front binding only. Unbound rosewood fingerboard. Sunburst finish. Equivalent model to the Gibson L-30.
  • KG-16 available: 1939-1941. Bound spruce top, mahogany sides, back and neck. Brazilian rosewood fretboard, 24-3/4" scale. Equivalent model to the Gibson L-30.

Flat-tops

  • KG-14 available: 1936-1940. KGN-14 available: 1940-41. This is the famous Robert Johnson model. 14 3/4" wide body flat top acoustic. Spruce top with mahogany back and sides in sunburst (KG) or natural (KGN) finish. Bound top. Unbound mahogany neck with Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard. Rosewood bridge and a tiger stripe pickguard. 25” scale length.
  • KGN-12 available: 1940-1941.
  • KG-11 available: 1933-1941. Spruce top, mahogany back and sides. Smaller 14 3/4" wide body with square shoulders. Square headstock profile. 24 3/4" scale length.

1940s Kalamazoo KG-32 archtop Image Heritage auctions

1960s Kalamazoo guitars

1960s Kalamazoo KB basses

The 1960s solid body Kalamazoo KG guitars and Kalamazoo KB basses came in two body body styles; Fender Mustang-style, then later SG-style; from top to bottom 1966 Kalamazoo KG2a, 1966 KB bass, 1967 KB bass (SG style).

1966 Kalamazoo catalog

In the mid-1960s, guitar sales increased dramatically; though many of these sales were to new players, inspired by the rock and roll and beat booms of the previous years. A high-end Gibson was out of the question to these players, so Gibson re-introduced the Kalamazoo line, with great sucess.

There was one acoustic guitar, the KG10, four versions of a solid body electric the KG1/KG1A/KG2/KG2A, and the KB bass. Features of the guitar models are summarised below.

KG1 / KG2 Kalamazoo guitar specifications

  Pickups Tailpiece
Kalamazoo KG1 1 stop
Kalamazoo KG1a 1 Maestro vibrola
Kalamazoo KG2 2 stop
Kalamazoo KG2a 2 Maestro vibrola

To keep the solid bodies cheap, Gibson used inexpensive, easy to work with woods and easy non-skilled construction. The bodies were actually some sort of compressed chipboard/fibreboard, outsourced to a 'toilet seat' manufacturer in Wisconsin. Necks were bolt-on and actually quite nice maple/rosewood, whilst the electronics were assembled on the pickguard, remote from the guitar and simply screwed into place. They did have the foresight to use all Gibson hardware - admittedly some of it was obsolete, having been replaced on Gibson models, but it was still quality hardware none the less. Another nod to Fender came in the Fender Mustang style body of the early KG guitar and KB bass. This was fairly quickly updated to a more appropriate SG style. Kalamazoo KG guitar shipping figures do not show body styles, but the Mustang body shape seems to be more abundant.


bigsby
Bibgsby Tremolos
Gibson PAF pickups
Gibson PAF pickups
Kluson tuning keys
Kluson tuning keys


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George Jennings Comment left 20th November 2017 09:09:01 reply
I have a Kalamazoo acoustic flat top with EK 2030 stamped on the back of the peg head. I have not found any reference to that ID. I would appreciate any informaaion.
Annabelle Crow Comment left 6th September 2016 15:03:42 reply
Hal, your Kalamazoo sounds like mine- stamp saying made in USA on back of head, label inside,firestripe pick guard. Only difference is that the neck of mine joins the body at the 14th fret. Mine belonged to my father and I believe it dates from 1935, give or take a few years. I think you can be certain that yours is authentic.
SIMON Comment left 12th May 2016 05:05:12 reply
Thinking of selling a pre war Kalamazoo acoustic - serial number DK 3862. It's in very good condition with original case - I'd love to know an estimated value so I'm not ripped off. Can anyone help?
Herman Comment left 26th March 2017 11:11:52 reply
I have a Kalamazoo archtop serial DK-3345 but i want to know wich model nummer this is.
Jim Comment left 10th April 2016 20:08:15 reply
Hi, I have a Kalamazoo 1930's mandolin and recently went to the luthier for a couple of cracks that has to be repair. Now the instrument is in good condition and playable as well. If possible i want to have some informations on that vintage instrument and the value of it on the actaul market. Regards, Jim
Hal Comment left 1st April 2016 22:10:35 reply
I have a flat top Gibson Kalamazoo. No numbers, but the label inside says Made in U.S.A. by Gibson Inc. Kalamazoo Mich. Stamped into the rear of the head is what looks like Made in USA. The fingerboard is short, and joins the body at the 12th fret. Sunburst finish with fake tortoise shell pick guard.Plain white purfling and edge to sound hole. The bridge is white a NOT angled. Can anyone give me some indication as to authenticity (guide only ) and possible year of manufacture. Cheers.
Jacqueline Wyman Comment left 7th January 2016 08:08:27 reply
I had a v body style Kalamazoo electric guitar in the late 70s and have not seen any anywhere.. Not sure of the year.. :/ Mine was red.. Could you let me know if you know where I can find information on this guitar please ? Thank you... JAX
virgil stice Comment left 19th May 2014 19:07:58 reply
My mom has a kalamazo guitar,with the numbers 3803G-16.Need info if gibson made it or martin made it??????

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