The Gibson L-5 guitar was first produced in 1922 by Gibson Guitar Corporation, then of Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA under the direction of master luthier Lloyd Loar, and has been in production ever since. It was considered the premier rhythm guitar in the big band era. It was originally offered as an acoustic instrument, with electric models made available in the 1950s.
The L-5 was the first guitar with f-holes. The L-5 was first produced in a 16" body width and in late 1934 became the 17" body, compared with 18" for the larger Super 400.
1929 Gibson L-5
Wes Montgomery was a major guitarist commonly associated with the L-5. Also, the RCA fifties recordings of Elvis Presley feature the sound of Scotty Moore's L-5. Contemporary guitarists who have played an L-5 include Tuck Andress from the Tuck and Patti duo, Lee Ritenour, Pat Martino and Jan Akkerman. John Mayer uses one on his cd/dvd Where the Light Is during the main concert and extra features. Eric Clapton used an L-5 to record Reptile and he also he used one on his cd/dvd One More Car, One More Rider during the songs Reptile, and Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Early players of the L-5 include Eddie Lang, and Maybelle Carter from The Carter Family, who played her now-famous 1928 model for the majority of her career. Maybelle Carter's L-5 is now kept at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. Django Reinhardt played an L-5 fitted with a DeArmond pickup during a short tour with Duke Ellington during November 1946.
Several different L-5 hollow-body models have appeared over the years, including the L-5 Signature and the L-5 Studio. The L-5CES was an electric version of the L5 introduced in 1951. These originally used P-90 pickups, but used humbucker pickups from 1958 on. In the 1970s, Gibson produced the L-5S, which was effectively a solid-body version of the L-5 archtop; though it was not popular, it was used by Paul Simon, and a custom-made 5-string version was used by Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. George Gobel had a special version of the Gibson L-5 archtop guitar built, featuring diminished dimensions of neck scale and body depth, befitting his own small stature; a series of several dozen of this "L-5CT" or "George Gobel" model was produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s.