Gurian Guitars- Identification & Registry

Gurian Guitars- Identification & Registry of known guitars

 

 

Gurian guitars are considered to be some of the better handcrafted instruments from the 70s and 80s. In direct competition with other high end brands, Michael Gurian combined high quality workmanship with tooling and technical nous to create some of the finest guitars of his era and helped to pioneer the small factory guitar.

Our guide and database is really the work of several individuals (in particular Art Edelstein and Bob Thomas) who have kindly given us permission to amalgamate the results of their toil into as comprehensive a guide/database/registry as possible. We have of course added information from our own experience and research to further improve the existing knowledge on hand.

If you have a Gurian you’d would like to add to the database, please let me know: terence@guitarbench.com
-This guide/database/registry is by no means complete & we would appeal for your help if you should own a Gurian or have information to share!

-We have not yet assigned dates to individual guitars as not enough data is available to do so accurately. This is compounded by the fact that dates are fluid in that the year the guitar was sold may not be the year of manufacture.

Gurians for sale
-I am personally interested in all models made from Brazilian Rosewood or with a cutaway. Please email me if you have one of those for sale.
-We are seriously considering a classifieds section for Gurian here. If you are interested, please email me.

Appraisals
-If you would like an appraisal, I’d be happy to help.
-I have historical data going back to 2000, and can provide an professional appraisal service for insurance etc.
-This is priced at USD$30. I ask for
:Front and back photos of the instrument (required). Additional photos can be uploaded in order to include detailed photos if necessary. Please limit file size to 25MB.
:Serial and model number
:Description of modifications, repairs and other issues not apparent from photos
:Email address
:Paypal payment is accepted.

Updates
30/8/2015 
- Page redesigned to be compact & friendly, different eras available as separate page. Preamble added
31/8/2015 – Facebook group “Gurian Guitars Registry” started for easier contact the link is: http://www.facebook.com/groups/1655943958026148/
1/9/2015 – Our good friend Bob Thomas has been tracking Gurians too and we’re merging our datasets which will:

1. significantly increase the number of described guitars here 
2. result in recalculation of known production totals

Preamble

Michael Gurian and Gurian Guitars: a brief timeline….
-1965: Starts building lutes and classical guitars. He learns from luthiers Gene Clark, David Rubio, and Manuel Velazquez and becames a talented lutenist, lute maker, and builder of the Armenian oud.
-1968: Featured in New York Magazine listings as running a guitar making course.
-Early 1960’s: Early shops on Carmine Street in New York City, where he builts classic guitars and lutes for many of the top recitalists of the era. “In my shop on Carmine Street in New York I built 175 classical guitars just like that, and 75 lutes as well. Did very well by it, without any of the fancy machines and equipment. I got to a point where I never made mistakes on the instruments, and I truly believed I could build the instruments blind. It became automatic, and then so boring that I just didn’t want to do it anymore. The conceptualization and the sound were all that still interested me at that point.” American Lutherie 1995
-1965-1969: Greenwich Village, NY Shop
-1969-1971: Bedford Street, New York City Shop
-1972-1973: Grand Street, New York City Workshop
-1973:1979: Hinsdale, New Hampshire Factory
-1979 3 Feb : Fire due to boiler explosion destroys factory, equipment and many guitars.
-1980-1981: West Swanzey, New Hampshire Factory opens 1 month later (!).
-1982-date: Gurian Instruments established as supplier of tools, parts and marquetry to luthiers. Some guitars completed as late as 1986.

Notable Alumni:
Michael Millard- 1970-1974 | Froggy Bottom Guitars
Bill Cumpiano- 1972-1974 | Cumpiano instruments & Author
Scott Hausmann- ?1975-? | Whetstone School of Lutherie
Joe Veillette- 1971 building course | Veillette Guitars
Thomas Humphrey- 1970-1 | Humphrey Guitars
David Santo- 1970’s | David Santo Guitars (unverified)

 

The guitars:
Bill Cumpiano said “Gurian built his reputation among studio guitarists who liked fast, narrow necks and the punch of a long scale length (his was the longest in the business). Some of the celebrities who play Gurians are Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Paul Simon, who still treasures a custom wide-neck Size 3 Gurian made for him in the early ’70s.”

This is certain true; many players are possessive of their Gurian instruments; the necks were fast and mimic’d electrics, the sound balanced, and the construction tight. We like to think of them as the Taylor of the day, although strangely enough, Bob Taylor was certainly a contemporary of Michael Gurian, having setup shop in Lemon Grove, CA during the same eras.

Our observations are that the majority of Gurians have:
-Narrower neck of 1 11/16″ or 1 5/8″. Although narrow by today’s standards, it is worth bearing in mind 1 11/16″ was standard in that era.
-Wide necks of 1 3/4″ or 1 7/8″ are relative uncommon but more likely in the earlier series
-Aged well. Majority remain problem free with cracks being relatively uncommon; a testament to their superior 
-Neck sets generally easy on later models with the tenon joint; Michael Gurian was amongst the first to recognise the need for future resets so the procedure is on the whole pain free. However, earlier models with the Spanish Heel are much trickier.

Michael Gurians lasting influence:
Michael Gurian certainly made some innovations to the contruction of the steel string guitar; set up in a production style factory, tenon neck joint. However, in my eyes, his main legacy is the philosophy of controlling the supply chain; from marquetry to timber, as well as an unerring eye for detail and a determination to build the best guitars possible.

Looking for similar small workshop guitars from the Gurian Eras? Here are some luthiers entering into production during the 70/80’s:
Augustino LoPrinzi in Plainsboro, NJ
Michael Gurian in Hinsdale, NH
Bob Taylor in Lemon Grove, CA
John and Don Gallagher in Wartrace, TN
Stuart Mossman in Winfield KS
… of course we all know that outfit from Lemon Grove, CA.

Identification Notes

Model and Serial Number

The key to identifying a Gurian Guitar is to obtain the model and serial number. Both are easily seen through the soundhole on the neckblock, just like a Martin. The model will be above the serial number and will take the form of a combination of letters and numbers. The serial will take the form of a letter from A to D followed by a 4 digit number. So in the example below, the Model is J-R and the Serial number is C1179.

1973 Gurian J-R. SN C1179. Guitar Database. Serial Number.

 –

Sizes, styles and options

From a 1975 catalogue:

Size 2 Measurements Styles

Vintage 1977 Gurian S2M guitar. SN C2293. Guitar Database. Front.

Total Length: inches
Body length:
Upper bout: 11 1/2″
Waist:
Lower bout: 14 5/8″
Maximum depth: 4″Cutaway
Total Length: 40.7 inches

Body length: 19.7
Upper bout: 11.9
Waist: 10.5
Lower bout: 15.3
Maximum depth: 4.0
S2M (Mahogany back and sides) $420
This is the smallest model and the least expensive of the Gurian line. It is a superb professional instrument of light mellow sound.
It uses the finest machine heads available at any price.
S2R (Indian rosewood back and sides) $550 A mellow sound with the sweetness of S2M 6ut slightly more precise. Darker in colour and more figured than S2M. Features take some superb chrome machine heads.

S2R3H (Indian rosewood back and sides with 3-piece back and herringbone binding) $650
Identical to S2R, but with 3-piece back, full herringbone decoration of the bindings, and superb machine heads, heavily plated in real gold. This magnificently beautiful guitar is the ultimate in small guitars.

Cutaway
This latest instrument in the Gurian family is both acoustic and electric. In balance and tone, it is unsurpassed by any other instrument. For the electric musician, the Cutaway is a new experience. It is the fantastic but slightly altered sound of the Size 3 Undistorted plus the power of amplification. To achieve a truly flat-top sound, amplified, has been an unrealized dream since Charley Christian first attached a crude pickup to his arch-top. The Cutaway, with its specially designed and amplified transducer, achieves this dream. No words can adequately describe the purity of tone and balance found from the low E to the highest fret on the first string (which due to the cutaway, is fully accessible). With the Cutaway, a new page is begun in the history of the development of the guitar. The sound of the Size 3 Gurian, either acoustic or amplified, with superb electronics, combined with the increased range and speed of a cutaway guitar.

Size 3 Measurements Styles

1980 Gurian S3M guitar. SN D21XX. Guitar Database. Body

Total Length: 40.7 inches
Body length: 19.7
Upper bout: 11.9
Waist: 10.5
Lower bout: 15.3
Maximum depth: 4.0
S3M (Mahogany back and sides) $470
A middle-sized instrument with great power, brilliance and sustain. An excellent instrument for solo or accompaniment (finest chrome machine heads).S3R (Indian rosewood back and sides) $590
Darker and more figured wood with a sound slightly solider and more precise than S3M (same fine chrome machine heads). The Size 3 guitar has become a standard for recording work.S3R3H (Indian rosewood with 3-piece back and herringbone binding) $700
Like S3R, but more beautifully decorated and inlaid, with 3-piece back, herringbone binding, goldplated machine heads.
Jumbo Measurements Styles

1975 Gurian J-M guitar. SN C2374. Guitar Database. Front.

Total length: 40.7 inches
Body length: 19.9
Upper bout: 12.1
Waist: 10.7
Lower bout: 15.6
Maximum depth: 4.9
JM (Mahogany back and sides) $500
The largest Gurian, with the heaviest bass response and thickest, fullest sound. Favoured by accompanists or soloists who need to fill a large room with a bossy sound. Like all Gurian guitars, it’s an instrument worthy of the professional musician.JMR/ JR (Indian rosewood back and sides) $630
Darker and more figured, with a slightly heavier, more precise sound than JM. (Finest chrome machine heads.)J3R3H (Indian rosewood with 3-piece back and herringbone binding) $750
like JR, but decorated and beautifully inlaid with 3-piece back, herringbone binding, and goldplated machine heads.
Classical Guitar Measurements Styles
  Total length: 39.5 inches
Body length: 19.6
Upper bout: 11.9
Waist: 10.5
Lower bout: 15.2
Maximum depth: 4.0

CLM (Classical guitar with mahogany back and sides) $425

CLR (Classical, Indian rosewood back and sides) $545

CLB (Classical, Brazilian rosewood back and sides) $675

FLC (Flamenco guitar with yellow cedar back and sides, friction pegs) $515

Materials

Top woods:
Sitka Spruce

European Spruce

Back and sides woods:
Honduras Mahogany

Indian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood
Koa

Bindings:
Maple

Fingerboards:
Ebony

Machine heads:
Schaller

Pickups:
FRAP GF100 3- dimensional transducer available for Cutaways. The Fraps were installed in 1980s and 81 according to the 1981 catalog. Back in 1981 they cost $960 for the CM, $1295 for the CMPH and $1460 for the CRH models.

Serial Numbers

The letter is often referred to as the series which announces which era and location the guitar was built. The number represents the individual identification allocated to the instrument from that era. Bearing in mind all numbers started at 1100, a guitar with the serial number A1173 is a different and earlier instrument to say one with B1173.

We have been told by numerous owners and dealers that the serial numbers started from 1100. Although we have yet to confirm this with Michael, our records suggest this is the case.

S1
Others unknown

Totals 24 known

“A” Series
“A” Series 1100
Last Known # 1471

A Total 371

“B” Series
Last Known # 1514

B Total: 414

“C” Series
Last Known # 4156
Lost in Fire 231/232 (depending on the source)

C Total 3056

“D” Series
Last Known # 2518
D Total 1418

Production en+ds, winter 1981

Total known production 5283 – lost to fire 231/232=5051/2

 

Series and registry of known Gurian guitars:

Series 1
1965 to 1969 | Greenwich Village, New York City

Models reported:
Size 1

Classical

Distinctive Features:
2 guitars reported from this era have no recorded serial numbers.

Known craftsmen:
Ed Colman

Known Guitars:
View File here

A Series

1969 to 1971 | Bedford Street, New York City

Models available:
Size 1

Size 3
Jumbo

Distinctive Features:
Jumbo was exceptionally deep bodied–5 inches at the tailblock. Many A-series Brazilian Rosewood models were made.
The necks were integral with the sides (Spanish construction).

The truss rod was a single embedded rod.
Top purfling was full (double) herringbone.

Known craftsmen:
Michael Millard- 1970*

Known Guitars:
View File here

B Series
1972 to 1973 | Grand Street, New York City
Grand Street shop had 8-10 workers*

Models available:
Size 3

Jumbo

Distinctive Features:
Separate neck held to body with wooden taper pins.
G decal appears on headstock.

Top purfling was “white line” half-herringbone.
Mahogany and East Indian soundboxes, with only some Brazilian Rosewood/German Spruce models were made.

Known craftsmen:
Michael Millard- 1970*

Bill Cumpiano- 1972*

Known Guitars:
View File here

C Series
1973-1979 | Hinsdale, New Hampshire
pre-Civil War factory on Ashueleot River.
Workforce in excess of 20*
Michael Gurian dealt directly with logger to source timber he process at the sawmill in New Hampshire. #

Models Available:
Size 2

Size 3
Jumbo

Distinctive Features:
Double (“over and under”) truss rod wrapped in aluminum tape introduced.

Three cutaway guitars were made.
Curly Maple available.
Mahogany and Indian Rosewood common, but very few Brazilian Rosewood guitars made.

Known craftsmen:
Michael Millard- left March 1974*
Bill Cumpiano- left March 1974*

Known Guitars:
View File here

D Series
1980 and 1981 | West Swanzey, New Hampshire (“post fire” Gurians Hinsdale factory burned 1979)

Models Available:
Size 2
Size 3
Jumbo
Cutaway

Distinctive Features:
Two of fanciest models (Brazilian Rosewood J3R3H–Jumbo three-piece back rosewood/herringbone with Englemann spruce tops) were made, one was stolen.
One prototype Gurian 12-string made.

Known Guitars:
View File here



©Terence Tan,
Photos:
Rudi from The Fellowship of Acoustics, Hologeek

Many Thanks to Bob Thomas, Art Edelstein and Tom Penrose for their invaluable information and work
*Guitar Makers: The Endurance of Artisanal Values in North America | Kathryn Marie Dudley
#Richard Brune “Huttig Obiturary” Guild of American Luthiers (1992)

Any infringement of copyright or errors is entirely unintentional- although we try very hard not to make them. Any guitars represented remain property of their current owners. Any issues should be address to: writers@guitarbench.com. We will attempt to resolve these issues quickly.

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