The Gibson Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Gibson Guitar Corp., will offer a limited edition run of the iconic J-200 Ray Whitley Specials and donate all proceeds to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s $75 million Working on a Building capital campaign to finance the museum’s expansion. Gibson representatives made the announcement last night during All for the Hall Los Angeles, the museum’s annual fund-raising event held at L.A. Live’s Club Nokia.
“Gibson is proud of our longstanding support for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum,” said Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp. and longtime friend of the museum. “It seemed to us the best way to support the expansion campaign was to do what we do best: make a beautiful guitar, such as this icon of country music, the J-200, in order to encourage major contributions. This guitar is a spectacular representation of craftsmanship and tradition. Gibson is honored to have been a part of the making of country music since the beginning, and we appreciate and support the efforts of the museum to preserve the music’s rich history.”
“We are overwhelmed at this generous gift from our friends at Gibson,” said Museum Director Kyle Young. “Our mission is to identify and preserve the evolving history and traditions of country music, and to educate our audiences. Gibson is very much a part of this history: The iconic instruments they have produced – from Mother Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L- 5 guitar to Bill Monroe’s Gibson F-5 Loar mandolin – are the instruments upon which much of the history we preserve was created; and Gibson is still the choice for many of the artists creating tomorrow’s music history. The J-200 is a historic instrument, and we are thrilled that Gibson is creating this limited-edition guitar to raise funds for the capital campaign to finance our museum’s expansion. The end result will be that we are able to expand how we tell the story of this great, uniquely American art form, and preserve its legacy for generations to come.”
Ray Whitley, a country music and film star with more than 50 Hollywood film credits, is responsible for imagining one of the most famous and distinctive guitars ever made. Whitley’s 1937 collaboration with Gibson resulted in the biggest and boldest flattop guitar ever built – the world’s first Super Jumbo. When fellow stars Gene Autry, Tex Ritter and Roy Rogers saw Whitley’s custom SJ-200, each requested one for himself, and the guitar, now known as the J-200, has been a top choice of musicians ever since. In fact, earlier this year, readers of Acoustic Guitar magazine selected the J-200 as the best acoustic Jumbo guitar.
The custom J-200 Ray Whitley Specials created for the museum’s capital campaign will be limited to a run of only 100 guitars. Each guitar will be built by world-renowned master luthier Ren Ferguson with the same hand-tooled care as Whitley’s original. Several exclusive appointments have been added to this limited-edition offering, including a diamond dotting the “i” in Gibson’s famous logo on the headstock, and handpicked, precious gems, unique to Montana, set in each bridge pin. The guitar is built from AAA Adirondack red spruce and mystic rosewood with traditional tree-rope marquetry binding. The neck, hewn from highly flamed eastern curly maple, has a square heel and is finished with an ebony fingerboard. Whitley’s original country-western icon inlays are hand engraved by Ferguson; the guitar also features Gibson’s signature Tri-burst finish, gold imperial tuners, a four-bar moustache bridge and bone saddle and pins.
Each guitar will be accompanied by a handmade, gold-leafed, custom frame and a custom case, and will be associated with a year in the life of country music of the buyer’s choice. The year associated with the guitar will be imbedded in the guitar’s serial number. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s expansion, due to be completed in spring 2014, will increase the museum’s size from 140,000 square feet to more than 350,000 square feet. The new building will feature an educational center that includes a children’s gallery, classroom spaces and a recording studio; additional exhibit gallery and archival storage spaces; an 800-seat theater; an expanded retail site that includes Hatch Show Print; and much more. The expanded museum will be integrated into a downtown campus with the Music City Center and the Omni Hotel; the museum’s six-floor addition will unite the museum and the Omni Hotel on three levels, allowing the two entities to share space and facilitate visitors’ movements throughout the campus.
Working on a Building honorary co-chairs are Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford and Country Music Hall of Fame member Kris Kristofferson; the capital campaign committee also includes Earl Bentz, Mark Bloom, Bill Denny, Mike Dungan, Rod Essig, Vince Gill, Randy Goodman, Keel Hunt, Ken Levitan, Brian O’Connell, Ken Roberts, John Seigenthaler, Steve Turner, Ernie Williams and Jody Williams.
For more information about the campaign, or to make a donation, please visit www.workingonabuilding.org
For more information about the guitar, click here