The outline of the two competing dreadnoughts was noticeably different: However, it first appeared on the fret, round-shouldered dreadnoughts Martin had made for the Ditson company beginning in In any case, the square-shouldered Martin and the round-shouldered Gibson endure and compete as the signature dreadnought shapes of their respective companies to this day. The J did quite well, more than doubling the sales of all other large-body flat-top Gibsons combined.
In , Gibson added a natural-finish option. But just a year later, it abandoned the J for a new model. It was wartime and Gibson was cutting back guitar production and retooling for war products. The J, as the new model would be called, looked just like the J except for its pickguard and wartime peghead logo. The bracing was a little heavier, but it could just as easily been a continuation of the J Maybe Gibson thought a new model name was necessary to spur sales. The exact date of the first J is uncertain.
The J would be the natural-top version of the J and would have a triple-bound rather than a single-bound top; however, there are some early J examples with the triple-bound top a spec that would not be standard until , so the first Js could be Js. Curiously, the J does not reappear in the ledger books for more than two years. The J, as the only large-bodied Gibson flat-top produced through most of the war years, was quite successful.
The top received three-ply binding by Then the changes became more serious. It became a standard feature in Late in that year, Gibson abandoned the round-shouldered dreadnought shape and gave the J a Martin-style square-shouldered body, along with a longer, The assault on the J continued in with the tone-killing double-X bracing pattern although Gibson did do away with the height-adjustable saddle.
Throughout all of these indignities, J sales remained strong. Since , the J has looked like the quintessential model, with round shoulders, a teardrop pickguard, and post-war decal logo.
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