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Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson's 'Banner' Guitars of WWII Paperback – January 26, 2013
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"John Thomas' personal quest to find the lost Kalamazoo gals is endearingly told in Kalamazoo Gals: A story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson's 'Banner' Guitars of WWII. This is not just one story but many; finally giving these women their voice, to talk about the guitars they made for a manufacturer that denied they ever existed." Feminist Times
"[A]n enchanting story of brittle and eccentric company founder Orville Gibson, these very special guitars and the testimonies of the surviving Kalamazoo Gals." Mojo Magazine
"[A] warm and engaging book that reconstructs the lost story of how [the Kalamazoo Gals] built some of the greatest flat-top acoustic guitars ever manufactured - and then, after the war, stepped quietly back into domestic home life. ... Thomas has written a book that communicates on many different levels; as a work of social history, this has a far broader appeal than just guitar lovers." Songlines Magazine
"I've always believed that behind every great guitar is a great story. The so-called Banner Era Gibsons made in Kalamazoo around World War II are among the greatest flattop acoustic guitars ever made, and the story behind them--and the women who built them--might be even better. John Thomas has given the guitar world a gift by telling this great, and largely unknown tale." -Allen St. John, author of Clapton's Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument.
Kalamazoo Gals reveals the fascinating and previously untold story of Gibson s guitar production during World War II when wartime rationing, governmental regulation of manufacturing and lack of draft age men in the workforce dramatically altered life in America. John Thomas chronicles the stories of the women who took over the workforce, producing superb instruments in spite of no previous manufacturing experience, and later stepped back into domestic home life when the men returned home from the war. These Kalamazoo Gals are finally receiving the recognition they richly deserve. --George Gruhn, author of Gruhn s Guide to Vintage Guitars, proprietor of Gruhn's Guitars in Nashville, and recognized expert on vintage stringed instruments
Kalamazoo Gals is that rare combination of history and detective story that unveils something new and fascinating at every turn. John Thomas has written a book that will excite fans of the guitar as well as armchair historians. There are very few books that weave the history of the guitar into the history of America as engagingly. --HP Newquist, founder of The National GUITAR Museum and author of The Way They Play
True life adventures in the land of banner heads.John Thomas sets out to find everything there is to know about Gibson's famed wartime guitars, and he ends up with a fascinating cross-section of America's social history. Not just for guitar lovers. --Walter Carter, guitar historian, author of Gibson Guitars: 100 Years of an American Icon and proprietor of Carter Vintage Guitars
From the Back Cover
On his personal journey, Thomas tracks Orville Gibson from his birth in upstate New York to the founding of his namesake company in Michigan and to his return to his birthplace and death in a mental hospital. He takes us to meet these women in Kalamazoo and to travel with them through the Great Depression and into WWII. He wanders the hallways of the abandoned Gibson factory in search of the ghost of its founder, Orville Gibson, steps into the imaging clinic to seek radiographic evidence of sublime quality of the Gals' craft, and tracks the "Banner" Gibsons from Kalamazoo into the hands of their first owners. Ultimately, he leads us straight into the hearts of the Kalamazoo Gals.
More About the Author
For information about the art show, visit http://www.vintagesteelguitarart.com/.
For some of that mediocre guitar playing and to check out some of my other projects, visit http://www.johnthomasguitar.com/.
For more information about "Kalamazoo Gals" visit http://www.kalamazoogals.com/.
Top Customer Reviews
We are led through a number of mysterious stories. All of the stories are illuminated by images from the era. First, who was Orville Gibson, really?Read more ›
Into their places stepped many of the young women of Kalamazoo, who despite extreme limits on materials and no experience in the art of guitar building--and despite the fact that officially, Gibson made no guitars at all during this period of austerity--managed to help the few remaining male workers cobble together some of the finest acoustic guitars ever made in America.
When the war ended, the men came back to the workbenches, and most of the women went back to their pre-war lives, their contribution to American musical instrument history all but forgotten.
John Thomas brings the story of these women to life with a remarkable combination of oral history and deep sleuthing. "Kalamazoo Gals" is a wonderful tale, beautifully told. It will appeal to anyone who loves guitars and the history of the American workplace during those difficult years. It's an inspiring read about how ordinary people accomplished extraordinary things.
Today, the guitars made by Gibson during the war are recognized as both unique and superb, in no little part due to the efforts of these "Kalamazoo Gals". In John Thomas, they got the perfect combination of scholar and guitar enthusiast to tell their remarkable story.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Super book. Well written. Given as a gift and will give another.Published 2 months ago by ChuckPhoto
As someone who plays guitar and loves history, I can't say enough good things about this book. To the vintage Gibson guitar player and/or collector, it is an excellent resource. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Lisa Moaiery
I can not give an accurate review... it was given as a gift. Since I didn't hear any complaints, I'm assuming it was a good get.Published 6 months ago by Valkim
This is a wonderful story filled with American history, the human drama of state-side WW2, great guitars, the women who built them, entertainers who played them, and an author who... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Richard Hansen
Id like to sincerely thank John Thomas for his heart warming story about the women of World War two who walked into the Kalamazoo Gibson Guitar factory with their life long... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Michael H
What a fantastic book! I was completely enthralled by it, and as a fellow "guitar geek", I found it simply facinating. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Dale Ptak
In the spirit of Rosie the Riveter and A League of Their Own, a new non-fiction book sets its sights on uncovering the story of the women who worked in the Gibson Guitar Factory... Read morePublished 15 months ago by P Tupper
John Thomas, law professor, writer and Gibson aficionado's book Kalamazoo Gals, tells the lost (or hidden) history of Gibson's guitar manufacturing during WWII. Read morePublished 19 months ago by SET