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Great American Guitars

at the National Music Museum:

The Lillibridge Gallery

D'Angelico signature from NMM 10772. Plectrum Guitar by John D'Angelico, New York, 1937.
Poster, Great Guitars at the National Music Museum

The National Music Museum celebrated the opening of the permanent exhibition, Great American Guitars, with a two-day conference that featured guitar makers, historians, and players from around the country, Friday-Saturday, October 14-15, 2005.

D'Angelico/D'Aquisto/Gudelsky Workshop Collection

The exhibition in the Tom and Cindy Lillibridge Gallery, named for the NMM trustees who underwrote the renovation of the space, highlights the D'Angelico/D'Aquisto/Gudelsky Workshop—moved several times during its years of active use—which includes the workbenches, spray booth, guitar rack, tools, moulds, guitar backs, sides, tops, ledger books, and other related items from these legendary craftsmen of the archtop guitar, along with instruments built by each of the men. Given in memory of Paul Gudelsky (1963-1996) by Louise Palazola and Erwin Gudelsky, the Tom & Cindy Lillibridge Fund, and the Tony and Bonnie Vinatieri Family Trust.

Lillibridge Gallery

With the re-created workshop as a backdrop, the exhibition features superb acoustic guitars and fretted instruments by the leading 20th-century makers and companies, including C. F. Martin, Orville Gibson, Elmer Stromberg, John D'Angelico, James D'Aquisto, Fender, Grammer, Stuart Mossman, and others. It is located just a few steps down the hall from the NMM's exhibition of great Italian stringed instruments built by three generations of the Amati family, Andrea Guarneri, Antonio Stradivari (including one of two Stradivari guitars and the only Stradivari mandolin to be seen in a museum setting), and many other master craftsmen.

Harmony Guitar Company Display

Harmony Company exhibit in the Lillibridge Gallery

Visitors can trace the lineage of the world's greatest luthiers from the 16th through the 20th century, in a way not possible anywhere else. On the NMM's second floor, an exhibit in the Margaret Ann Everist Gallery examines the rise of the electric guitar, including early experimental instruments by Lloyd Loar, a "frying pan" lap steel by Rickenbacker, a Gibson electraharp pedal steel, and the first of only two electric upright bass guitars produced by Gibson before World War II. That exhibit also showcases celebrity instruments once owned and played by Roy Acuff, Bill Anderson, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash (see pick guard of her Gibson Hummingbird model guitar at left), Spade Cooley, Danny Chauncey, Bob Dylan, Howdy Forrester, Tom T. Hall, Barbara Mandrell, Webb Pierce, Tom Swatzel, Merle Travis, Ray Whitley, and others.

These two exhibitions mark the NMM as home to the most important permanent exhibition devoted to the American guitar industry to be found in a public museum setting.

Lillibridge Gallery Opening and Guitar Conference Photos

October 14-15, 2005

Click on thumbnails below to see larger images.

Crowd awaiting opening of Lillibridge Gallery Crowd awaiting opening of Lillibridge Gallery Crowd awaiting opening of Lillibridge Gallery Crowd awaiting opening of Lillibridge Gallery

Family and friends of the late Paul Gudelsky (1963-1996) from Memphis, TN, Washington, DC, and elsewhere; John & Anda Barmeyer (Atlanta, GA), Brian Fischer (Dover, NH), and Shawn Colvin (Austin, TX), who donated guitars; Tom & Cindy Lillibridge (Bonesteel, SD), who underwrote the gallery installation; prominent guitar makers, dealers, and players from around the country; and, NMM trustees and invited guests came together on Friday evening, October 14, to open the NMM's newest permanent exhibition, Great American Guitars.

Tom and Cindy Lillibridge

Tom and Cindy Lillibridge

Tom Lillibridge addresses guests at banquet

Ribbon Cutting

Ribbon Cutting

Photos 1 & 2:    André P. Larson (Director, NMM), Cindy and Tom Lillibridge (NMM Board of Trustees and Gallery underwriters), and Jim Abbott (President, University of South Dakota), await the formal opening of the Lillibridge Gallery.

Photo 3:    Tom Lillibridge speaks to banquet guests following the Lillibridge Gallery dedication.

Photo 4:    Mason Gudelsky, son of Paul Gudelsky (who had the vision to preserve the D'Angelico/D'Aquisto workshop) prepares to cut the ribbon to open the Lillibridge Gallery in which the shop is now preserved.

Photo 5:    André P. Larson, Mason Gudelsky, and Jim Abbott preside over the ribbon cutting.

Shawn Colvin and her parents pose by her Martin guitar

Shawn Colvin and her parents sing 'This Land is Your Land' during banquet

Shawn Colvin sings with her parents during banquet

Shawn Colvin poses by her Martin guitar

Shawn Colvin, the celebrated folksinger/songwriter, was accompanied by her parents, Barbara and Bob Colvin, in an impromptu sing-along during a banquet following the opening of the Great American Guitars exhibition.  Shawn lived in Vermillion, as a child, and her mother, Barbara, ran a boutique just a few steps down the street from the USD library, now the home of the National Music Museum. Shawn donated her 2001 Martin M3SC Grand Auditorium Signature Edition guitar (prototype 3 of 3), that she had played for a number of years.

Guitar-making panel

Thom Bresh entertains guests at banquet

Thom Bresh entertains during banquet

George Gruhn speaks during the two-day guitar conference

Guitar-making panel

Photo 1:    Louise Palazola (widow of Paul Gudelsky), whose efforts led to finding a permanent home at the NMM for the D/Angelico/D'Aquisto/Gudelsky Collection, and her husband, Joe Townsend, spoke eloquently at the banquet that followed the opening of Great American Guitars.

Photos 2 and 3:   Thom Bresh, talented Nashville musician and impersonator, entertained at the opening night banquet and again on Saturday night for the public, where he played the NMM's Merle Travis guitar and Johnny Cash's Bon Aqua, as well as his own Super Dualette.

Photo 4:   George Gruhn, Nashville guitar dealer and researcher, addresses the question, "What Makes a Great Vintage Guitar?" during the two-day guitar conference.

Photo 5:    Among those speaking during the two-conference were (from left) Walter Carter, guitar historian, Nashville; John Monteleone, guitar maker, Islip, New York; Chris Martin IV, CEO, C. F. Martin Guitars, Nazareth, Pennsylvania; and Richard Bruné, guitar maker, Evanston, Illinois. Other specialists included George Gruhn, Nashville; Stan Werbin, East Lansing, Michigan; and Paul Schmidt, Lafayette, California, author of Acquired of the Angels: The Lives and Works of Master Guitar Makers John D'Angelico and James L. D'Aquisto.

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Most recent update: September 16, 2010

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