Before Les Paul and his namesake guitar became poster boys for Gibson in 1952, and before Tiny Tim popularized “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” in 1968, Nick Lucas did both by 1929.
Nick Lucas was born in 1897 in Newark, New Jersey, and his Nick Lucas Special Guitar was born in the mid-1920s in Kalamazoo, Michigan (although Gibson did not make the guitar available to the public until 1927). “The Crooning Troubador,” Nick Lucas was a star of stage and screen throughout the Twenties and Thirties, and the Nick Lucas Special, a small-but-deep-bodied steel-string acoustic guitar, his musical counterpart. Both were significant in their own rights, but within the historical context of the storied Gibson company, the guitar was Gibson’s first signature model (25 years before the Les Paul), and the man its first endorsee.
Though short-lived, the Nick Lucas Special was an experiment in change – changing body shapes, changing neck joints, changing materials – right up until Gibson shipped the last unit in 1941. This final iteration, beginning with the 1934 model year, proved to be the culmination of a decade’s worth of tinkering. It’s maple body and 14-fret neck joint lent the instrument a volume and clarity that belied its diminutive size. Powerful, understated, and all class, like the man who named it.
Skinner’s May 14 Fine Musical Instruments auction features a 1936 Gibson Nick Lucas Special Acoustic Guitar as Lot 36. Visit our Boston Gallery on Friday, May 14 from 12-7PM, Saturday, May 15 from 10:30AM-5PM, and Sunday, May 14 from 9AM-10:30AM to preview all instruments on offer.