Prairie State Custom

Typical of instruments made by the Larson Brothers, this enormous 19-inch flat-top cutaway guitar does not bear the Larson name anywhere on the instrument.

Less typical is the lack of a brand name – the letter J and R on the headstock are the initials of country performer Jay Rich, who commissioned the instrument – but shares many features with the Larsons’ Prairie State models.

Based in Chicago, Carl and August Larson had been well-known in Midwest guitar circles since the early 1900s for guitars, harp guitars and mandolins made for Stahl, Dyer and Wack, as well as their own Maurer, Euphonon and Prairie State brands. In the 1930s their clientele included many performers on WLS radio’s National Barn Dance and local star Rhubarb Red, who would later gain greater fame as Les Paul.

The cutaway on this guitar was quite a modern feature for 1939. Gibson introduced it’s first cutaway models that same year, but only on archtops. Martin, then as now the most leading maker of flat-top acoustics, wouldn’t offer a flat-top cutaway for another 40 years.