Gibson Recording King 1027 Ray Whitley (1939)

  • Very Good + Condition
  • Year: 1939
  • Includes Hard Shell Case
  • Serial #: EW321


A singers guitar - The Recording King Ray Whitley model 1027 is a perfect companion for any singer, and is well recognized by collectors privy to its Gibson history.
Hard hit by the depression, the Gibson company would outsource their skills to other manufacturers at the time in an effort to carry the brand through. Recording King was one such imprint, and was produced for the Montgomery Ward catalogs at this time. Records indicate that Gibson only built 180 of these instruments, between 1939-40 - this example with its "E" serial number denotes '39. These 1027 models (and their 1028 Mahogany backed counterparts) are quite collectable now, as they are built to very similar specifications as the Gibson Advanced Jumbo (which from this era will fetch quite a sum). Their sound is everything a serious guitarist looks in a vintage Gibson - with the classic drier sound, with plenty of bass, a well focused midrange, and defined and bright treble.
Constructed with a spruce top and very straight grained rosewood back & sides - this is pretty jaw dropping instrument from the start and features a not overly deep burst finish. A lively instrument that has seen many stages, there is evidence of a past pickup, and neck reset - all of which now resulting in a very playable and well maintained instrument. These X braced instruments are unique amongst the typical ladder braced designs from Gibson.
The guitar is designed with a typical 24.75" Gibson scale length, and 1 11/16" nut width. The neck is hefty with a soft V profile and broader shoulders - it measures .98" thick at the first position and tapers up to 1.13" at the eleventh before the curvature of the heel. The neck set is fantastic, and the neck itself very straight, yielding action that measures 5-6/64" in height at the twelfth fret, with over 10/64" available at the center of the saddle.
A notable difference on this example, and many Recording King models is the bridge plate. Pinned in with three screws, this bridge plate is oversized and constructed out of two thin pieces of maple joined together side by side. The reason for this was Gibsons attempt at lowering any possible warranty work on their "inexpensive" brand. That said, it is likely that a one piece thin bridge plate would sound... just about the same. The braces on this example are in good shape.
Another notable & subtle difference between the Gibson AJ and the Recording King Whitleys lies in the 5 piece neck - and the lack of an adjustable truss rod. This would act as a way to cut a cost for the Recording King product lineup as well, by providing a product that would be robust and resilient to a possible need for warranty repair. This example has a non-adjustable rod present (and found with a magnet).
Cosmetically this guitar has been through its share of repair work and playing. Aside from checking and wear through the finish, mainly at the elbow and along its edges it has some structural repairs. The two piece top shows a few cracks present that have all been sealed. A few parallel cracks are visible behind the bridge - all of which that don't appear to go completely through. A more typical crack between the bridge and sound hole is present, which has been cleated internally. Nearby, there are two dowels - likely a very old cleat repair that has since been undone, with the dowels still visible. Extensive pick wear is present near the original fire stripe pick guard. The bridge has been removed in a past life with some light surface wear present surrounding it, but nothing serious. The binding appears to have all been replaced, an expert job for sure, with a slightly lighter color as it has no finish applied over. The binding is clean and well seated, but has a crack present in the treble side waist. The back is constructed out of a beautifully book matched piece of rosewood with very straight grain. Overall the back is fairly clean, but does have a well repaired crack with a small gouge from a possible fall. Surface scratches are present but nothing substantial. The sides are in similar condition, with a few well repaired cracks on the treble side lower bout. An expertly repaired hole from a previous output jack near the end pin.
The neck, having been removed for past neck sets, shows some slight scuffs around the heel and fingerboard extension. The binding had likely been replaced many moons ago, but looks good and is solid, less the strip that runs at the end of the extension parallel to the last fret - which appears to have been re-glued more recently. Towards the nut, the fingerboard and the binding sit fine - but as it travels towards the body, both the board and the binding are off center running towards the bass side strings. All of which feels perfectly fine when playing - but results in a slight lip in the upper frets. The ebony fingerboard itself is in good shape, with its original MOP inlay very much intact. There are some indentations in the cowboy chord zone because this is a cowboy guitar. The frets have been replaced, and recently leveled and are fairly low but non-problematic as it is and feel like a classic Gibson style fret. The nut has been replaced with a very accurate bone replacement. The original tuners are present and all function as they should. The peg head overlay still reads "Ray Whitleys" autograph well, but the Recording King logo has worn through fairly. Please refer to the photos of this listing, and let us know if there is anything specific you might need.
This example is a fantastic instrument for any guitar collector, or certainly any singer looking to be inspired by this fantastic piece of Country Western & Gibson history.


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