1987 Walter Stanul
13-string Archguitar, formerly owned by Elliot Gibbons
to expand photos to maximum size
Once upon a time, my friend and assistant in all things harp guitar, Frank Doucette, lived in western MA...when one day in the 1980s he found himself two hours away in Harvard Square, Cambridge where he discovered Peter Blanchette and the archguitar. Once Frank was in Los Angeles, I was treated to his vast recording library (and was frequently getting "overdue" loan notices). I fell in love with many of these recordings (original Blanchette cassettes!), and none more so than those by Eilliot Gibbons. When I met the builder of all these instruments, Walter Stanul, I learned more about them (and have actually created a full "Arch Guitar Organlogy," which I should probably publish at some point).
Being thus familiar with nearly every Stanul multi-string creation out there, I immediately recognized - and was astounded to find - one of this early "harp guitar-style" archguitars in one of the Heritage guitar auctions. I was the winning bidder, as I suspect the audience was clueless about such "novelties." Lucky me!
Provenance: This instrument was commissioned by Peter's friend and fellow Boston musician Elliot Gibbons. Walter completed it in 1987, nicknaming it " Al Tacchino" (The Turkey). Something to do with the head shape as I recall.
Elliot (on the left) played it on the recording "Sleepers Awake!," the 1989 duo archguitar cassette with Peter Blanchette (right). Unlike Peter's, this instrument's appearance and sound is closer to a classical guitar than a lute. Ultimately, Elliot had Walter build him a new archguitar more like Peter's, a version of which he still plays today. You can hear this very instrument - as well as his others - on Elliot's Bandcamp page. The key difference between Gibbons and Blanchette's instruments are in the number of strings, Peter sticking with his original eleven and Elliot always using thirteen. As near as I could determine, this is his nominal tuning:
As you see, the other difference in tuning is that while both players tune the highest string to G, Peter utilizes a lute tuning (the 4th interval is moved a string lower) while Elliot uses guitar tuning up a third. (In fact, on his first solo CD in 1993, he calls it a "13-string terz guitar.") Again, the next owner is at liberty to tune it to their own preference.
This unique archguitar/harp guitar is made of spruce (I believe) and rosewood, with a nice rosewood headstock overlay. The wide neck is mahogany, the fretboard ebony. As you can see in the original image of it, Elliot installed a pickup jack in the tail and also a strap button. The opposite strap button was screwed directly into the back (ouch!). These (and pickup) had all been removed when I received it. Condition is otherwise structurally excellent with the expected wear on the top, a large portion of "period costume" wear of the finish on the back and some dings and and chips in the head. There are a couple "bear claws" and orange striations that appear to be in the wood itself. On the head, it looks like the two floating string posts were originally higher, then plugged and moved down. Believe it or not, the plastic (?) friction tuners work well, but of course these days Pegheds are a great option.
Dimensions: 23" scale, 9.75" upper bout, 12.5" lower bout, 17" body length, 3-7/16" depth at end pin, 37.75" total length. String spacing is similar to classical standard (wide).
Like James Kline's Southwell arch guitar, another "historically priceless" celebrity guitar!
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