Author John Thomas (a law professor, solo musician and "Banner" guitar collector) from Connecticut, USA states:
“I can no longer recall just how I stumbled upon this photograph. But I do know that it haunted me for some years. I printed it out, pinned it up on a board on my office wall, and found my attention drawn to it more often than I care to admit. So, I took out ads in newspapers in Kalamazoo and surrounding towns and eventually tracked down 12 of those women.”
|"Kalamazoo Gals" in front of Gibson Factory in 1944|
Some 9,000 of those instruments were the "Banner" guitars. That term is based on the guitars with the gold color banner decal on the headstock which simply stated: "Only A Gibson Is Good Enough". This specific logo only appeared on the guitars made by this group of women during that short period during World War II.
As part of his research John Thomas uncovered thousands and thousands of files. Included in that mountain of paper were handwritten ledgers thought lost forever, but found in the Gibson company quagmire of old paperwork. He actually tracks a bit of history of some of the "Banner" guitars through these ledgers.
Thomas also coordinated a thorough X-ray project. Complete state-of-the-art X-rays were taken of several "Banner" guitars. The idea was to detect any variations in construction or technique from one guitar to another. Interesting results and details are described in the book.
- An extensive search for personal information and history about founder Orville H. Gibson, revealing a somewhat eccentric inventor who left confusing information about his past.
One 'Kalamazoo Gal' told the author,
“I just watched the person working next to me and copied what she did."
Rarely does one read a more entertaining, enthralling and, at times, emotional account of music history as we do throughout this writer's journey.
Thank you, John Thomas for sharing this "gift" that came to you. Thank you for sacrificing so much of your family time, and for investing so much of your own money into this extraordinary project. Thank you for not allowing the mounting expenses involved to stand in the way of this high quality book I now hold in my hand. Keeping the cost of this invaluable history at under $20 U.S. Dollars is another sacrifice, and we thank you for that as well.
But most of all -- Thanks for a deserving story now told to the world about an important, yet all but forgotten and unheralded group of women who posed for one mysterious single photograph in 1944. These Kalamazoo Gals who arguably saved Gibson Mandolin and Guitar Manufacturing Company when they built such unique collectible guitars, in one unpredictable four-year period of American history.
Title: Kalamazoo Gals - The Story of Extraordinary Women and Gibson's "Banner" Guitars of WWII
Author: John Thomas (Professor of Law, editor/writer Fretboard Journal, solo musician, "Banner" guitar collector)
Publisher: American History Press
Format: 6" x 9" perfect-bound paperback with hinge crease, and 20 coated pages; museum quality printed in the
288 pages, including 158 images of Kalamazoo Gals, guitars, and vintage material.
$19.95 USD from AHP and Amazon.com
ISBN 13: 978-0-9830827-8-1
'Kalamazoo Gals' Companion CD
"The Light Still Burns" by Lauren Sheehan