One last attempt to find one soul who can identify this guitar



  • bopsterbopster St. Louis, MOProdigy Wide Sky PL-1, 1940? French mystery guitar, ‘37 L-4
    Posts: 513

    @Chris Martin my remarks are based on a consensus of luthiers, collectors and shop owners that I have contacted, and that is it. I have very little personal knowledge of construction techniques or other clues as to which hands may have played a part in this guitars construction.

    You are one of the only folks I’ve seen posting with knowledge of where these luthiers moved around, and possibly who may have been responsible for various aspects of this guitar’s design.

    Any expertise/insights or references that you can recommend are greatly appreciated.

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    edited March 2020 Posts: 6,154

    The tailpiece on the one Marcel Bianchi is holding is reminiscent of ones that Carbonell used:

    and Fiore

    and Francesco

  • bopsterbopster St. Louis, MOProdigy Wide Sky PL-1, 1940? French mystery guitar, ‘37 L-4
    Posts: 513

    @Chris Martin - I did reach Joël LaPlane, and he stated that it wasn’t a Carbonell:


    Ce n'est pas une Carbonell.

    Je pense à une facture italienne manche, filets, table, peut-être à Paris, Di Mauro dans les années 1960 ou autre


    Joël LAPLANE - Luthier, Maître d'art

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    edited March 2020 Posts: 959

    Which would tie in with my guess at a neck by Carmelo Catania and possible early Di Mauro body.

    But !

    Coincidentally I was looking for something else when I found this on page 218 of F. Charle's Selmer book.....well right or wrong at least I am in good company !

  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 657

    The black guitar with the white pickguard was the famous Carbonell that Marcel Bianchi brought with him from Marseille when he came to Paris in 1937. In an interview in 1996, he said that the Carbonell was a fine instrument that Django really liked and used it on some recordings. He also said that the quintet was contractually obliged to use Selmer guitars and he was given three of them which he did not like and sold. The black guitar was ultimately stolen and never seen again. I think the photo in Charle was mis-captioned as that guitar doesn't look anything like a Carbonell - no two of them appear to be exactly alike but none of them looked like that guitar.

    To me the body of bopster's guitar doesn't look like a Mirecourt guitar at all - but the peghead does lack the elegance of a typical Parisian neck. Variations on the the d-hole were pretty common before the war and there is even a photo of Gusti Malha playing one with a double cutaway.

    There are a lot of these unidentified guitars around - good luck solving this mystery.

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 959

    Until another identical guitar turns up with a known provenance we can only guess.

    I agree it doesn't look like any other Carbonel (Carbonell?) that I have seen, they do not often turn up anyway but at the same time I would not rule it out.

    That photo of Bianchi looking quite young I would guess is pre-WW2. Most of the luthiers we are interested in on this forum, the usual mix of Parisian, Sicilian, or in Carbonell's case a Spanish immigrant in Marseilles and the rest were just getting started at this time. Selmer probably had a lead on the market, and had the manufacturing experience of a large established company and the Mirecourt luthiers had some longer history although the '30s fashion for Selmer style copies was new to them too. All of which means it is quite possible that many of these luthiers were making things up as they went along and any of them could have been making each one different to the last without any thought to mass production. Certainly the better known models we are familiar with from Antoine Di Mauro - St Louis, Boogie Woogie Modele Django, Chorus etc - were produced in sufficiently large numbers from the 1940s to the '60s that he would have been using moulds, patterns and tooling geared to production in such volume, but what do we know of his earliest, pre-war efforts. Likewise his brother Joseph who was never as productive in such quantities is known for certain recognised models but may well have made some one-offs.

    The above theory could well apply to many others and particularly the one-man workshops like Oliveri, Bucolo or Pappalardo and many others.

    The statement above from LaPlane "....Di Mauro dans les années 1960" seems unlikely, if it was a Di Mauro it would more likely have been from his early pre-WW2 years, and certainly the photo of Bianchi playing one the same must be from 1930s, not 1960s, a basic error which in turn must bring into question the expertise of anyone regarding identifying and dating guitars.

    All of which will mean identifying a pre-war guitar from photographs when we only know of two apparently the same - Bopster's and Bianchi's - is not going to be a definite science.

    What does stand out on both is the unusual headstock shape, but the three piece construction, the thickness of the center spine and even the shade of the woods all are certainly close to those made by Carmelo Catania (who supplied many to Di Mauro, usually with the narrower headstock), so I go back to my previous possibility that Catania was supplying others too.

    One other observation, the tailpieces Michael identifies as being similar to the Bianchi guitar and the Carbonells looks very like the ones that were common to a lot of Italian made guitars. These copies of the shape of National resophonics turn up regularly but I had thought they must have been stamped out in their thousands in an Italian factory although available to some luthiers in France too as an alternative supply to Delaruelle.......anyone know more about them?

  • bopsterbopster St. Louis, MOProdigy Wide Sky PL-1, 1940? French mystery guitar, ‘37 L-4
    Posts: 513

    @Chris Martin Thanks for your input Chris.

  • bopsterbopster St. Louis, MOProdigy Wide Sky PL-1, 1940? French mystery guitar, ‘37 L-4
    Posts: 513

    Bianchi guitar on the left and my mystery on the right. I edited out Bianchi’s arm and fingers for the full effect of the guitar body. My apologies to the Bianchi family.

    I should make this a “Wanted” poster.

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    edited March 2020 Posts: 959

    Well that is as close as you will get to a match. Because of the slightly different angles and that yours is a darker shade it is not possible to be 100% sure about whether the body profile is exactly the same.

    So along with my comments above regarding tailpieces and neck construction it could still have been from Carbonell the elder; he was based in Marseilles so back in the 1930s it may have been as easy to get parts supplies from Italy as from Paris? Failing that, my guess would be a one-off by any of the Sicilians, whether based in Paris or Sicily.

  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 657

    Here are two pretty good pictures of Marcel Bianchi with TWO different guitars obviously from the same maker (also like bopster's guitar), the first erroneously captioned as being from Paris c1939, the second, which was previously posted here, is captioned from the "Kuursal" in Geneva late 1942 or early 1943. The upper guitar has a different tailpiece, pickguard, and bridge, and looks like it has a bound fingerboard and plastic body binding. And most bizarre, that guitar appears to have a volume control, though it might be a floral decoration on the pickguard. I have another photo of Bianchi with this same guitar captioned as being in Geneva '41 or '42 and though the photo isn't as clear, the "volume knob" is clearly visible but a pickup isn't. No cable is visible, but these are obviously posed photos. The guitar in the 2nd photo also appears to have tuners for a classical guitar...

    The plastic bindings make me wonder if the bodies came from Busato and the necks from somewhere else...

    I have two different discographies of Bianchi, neither shows any recordings with Challain Ferret or Marcel Freber (who I never heard of before) so there isn't any real way to say for sure the date of this photo. We do know that the only lefty Selmer was made in 1942, so the caption is incorrect. I think more recordings were made during the war than immediately after, and Bianchi did not record from '46 to '50 and he wasn't in Paris much after 1950. He was in Switzerland during the war, so this photo was probably taken c1946-47, and there were pickups circulating in France by then.

    These must have been pretty good guitars - Bianchi could have had any guitar he wanted, I think. He was an excellent guitarist and you can see his confidence as a musician pretty clearly in the photos.

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