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1959 First Rack 345s Reunited 55 Years Later!

Michael Minnis

Active member
Joined
Feb 12, 2004
Messages
1,597
A29845 and A29846, born in Kalamazoo in 1959 parted ways 55 years ago never expecting to be reunited. A29845 eventually found its way across the Atlantic making music in the U.K. A29846 traveled to the southern states, journeyed back to Michigan for a few years, then on to New York, Connecticut and New Hampshire before making it’s current home in Austin, Texas.

The older brother:

I purchased A29846 from Mark’s Guitar Loft in July 2009, but not without a great story. Seeing pictures of the guitar on Mark’s site, I contacted my good friend and ES aficionado/expert Tom Hollyer “TomGuitar” to get his opinion. Tom lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but as luck would have it, he happened to be in New Hampshire and visited Mark’s shop the day before with Billy Loosigian “lpnv”. They both played A29846 at Mark’s shop. Tom was seriously debating buying the guitar when he got my call asking about A29846. It was one of those “You’ve got to be kidding me” moments as Tom explained where he was, how he’d spent the prior day with the guitar and how he was thinking of pulling the trigger. After some discussion, Tom graciously offered to back away and let me buy it. It’s been my main guitar ever since. The one that speaks to me the most and brings out the best in me as a player. Here is a recent picture:

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It wasn’t until a few years later that I read about “first rack” 345s here on the Les Paul Forum. A29846 is a “first rack” example. It has the short leg PAF, the wax potted varitone choke and a big, wonderful neck. I had the varitone pulled out and the magnet flipped for mono shortly after purchasing the guitar. It’s light, comfortable and acoustically more alive than any ES I’ve ever owned. In the last few years I’ve been keeping my eye out for a backup 345 in case some unforeseen accident or act of theft befell my beloved A29846. Armed with information about “first rack” 345s, I was on the lookout for another one like mine. Fast forward to this past May. Charlie Gelber “OKGuitar” had a “first rack” 345 for sale whose serial number was pretty close to A29846. I can’t remember the number off the top of my head. Anyway, I contacted Charlie, but I snoozed and the guitar got sold quickly. Fast forward further to September when I was perusing Gbase and saw an early 1959 345 at Phil’s Guitars in the U.K. Intrigued, I pinged my good friend and Brit John Marlow “Banker” to give him a heads-up. He’d already seen the guitar online, made contact with Phil and discovered the guitar was serial number A29845… one number before mine! John briefly looked into purchasing the guitar, but as we’ve seen with his recent remarkable burst purchase, his thoughts have been elsewhere. The price on A29845 was high, especially converting USD to pounds. I let go of my desire to follow up on the guitar until a couple weeks ago when I sent an inquiry to Phil verifying the serial number and asking for the FON. Phil responded a couple days later confirming that indeed the serial number is one before mine. Turns out the FON is only two digits away as well! A29845 is S8537-14. A29846 is S8537-12! This was significant for me. The FONs indicate construction of the guitars probably started at basically the same time, and the consecutive serial numbers indicate they were probably completed at basically the same time. Brothers! My blood started pumping faster! I’d finally found the one – or the other one! Phil and I exchanged a number of emails before we spoke on the phone and painlessly completed a deal. A few days later the guitar arrived via overnight shipping, and 55 years later, A29845 and A29846 are at last reunited… “and it feels so good!”

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A few details about the guitars. The necks are quite similar. A29846 fills out the back of the hand a bit more, but both have great profiles. The guitars are all straight and original, except A29845 had different tuners at some point. A29845 is waiting to have its varitone removed and wired mono. A29845 also has some beautiful grain to the wood. They both make wonderful music!

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krapac

Member
Joined
Nov 5, 2008
Messages
380
Cool story and guitars..! The ES345 is my favourite best ever guitar..!
 
B

Banker

Guest
Great stuff Michael!

I'm green with envy, and consecutive serial numbers too. Does it get any better?
 

TM1

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 27, 2003
Messages
8,101
This is GREAT! Thanks Michael!
Now.. My Question is, how do they sound side by side? One better than the other even slightly? I'd be interested to know..
Thanks again!
 

CDaughtry

Les Paul Forum Co-Owner and Moderator
Joined
Jul 16, 2001
Messages
12,644
Great stuff right there. That's why I love the LPF!:dude:
 

J.D.

Well-known member
Joined
May 24, 2006
Messages
9,726
I'd be interested in any physical differences between the two. Seems like a great opportunity to see how consistent the guitars are within the same "batch". i.e. neck angle, f-hole position, horn shape, etc.
 

RAB

Active member
Joined
Mar 17, 2005
Messages
2,110
Congrats Michael on reuniting this pair! I owned First Rack ES-345T (full white neck pickup, super birdseye figuring front and back, HUGE neck profile) S/N
A29663 for years and it was absolutely fabulous. IIRC the FON was S8539-20. Like a total moron I traded it for a '61 dotneck 335 because I JUST HAD TO HAVE a dotneck. The dotneck was inferior in all respects to the 345...
 

Michael Minnis

Active member
Joined
Feb 12, 2004
Messages
1,597
Thanks so much, guys. I feel very fortunate. Regarding tonal similarities, it's a little too soon to tell since the new one still has its varitone and stereo configuration. I knows it's controversial, but in my personal experience, removing the varitone has significantly enhanced the tone and overall playing experience of my vintage 345s. As for physical differences, I haven't taken measurements or anything like that. They are quite similar. The neck on A29846 appears to fill out the back of the hand a hair more than A29845, although they're both terrific and very similar profiles. The finishes are quite similar as well. I'll need to have the varitone removed on A29845 to fairly judge any difference in weight.
 

madformac

Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2013
Messages
714
Fabulous guitars anan amazing story. :salude

Some things are just meant to be and this is a great example of that :)
 

krapac

Member
Joined
Nov 5, 2008
Messages
380
Varitone removal is a great thing, i pulled out the harness in my '62 345 and the guitar is more responsive, dynamic, limpid and transparent and controls work right. In this configuration, the guitar and PAFs, take your breath away.
 

zorglub!

Burst Detective!
Joined
Aug 13, 2003
Messages
5,230
Michael, congrats! It looks like you got a killer duo there...!
 
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