The Gibson J-200 is called the King of the Flat top guitars. It is an acoustic six string guitar manufactured by Gibson featuring a full size body and no cutaway. Decades after the Blind Reverend made solid use of his J-200, the guitar reigns supreme and is still the King of the Flat tops to this day.
Reverend Gary Davis was also a banjo player, however his favorite guitar was this very Gibson J-200 flat top acoustic. He would often play it without a thumb pick nor a finger pick, but when he was recorded in 1964 on video, he can clearly be seen playing his J-200 with a thumb pick and a finger pick on his index finger. Today, the J-200 comes in a couple of different variants; the standard flat top acoustic and the acoustic/electric. Needless to say, Rev. Davis definitely didn’t play the acoustic/electric! He played all of his guitars without pickups. In his video recordings, the microphones were placed nearby his guitar to “pick up” the voice from his guitar. The fact is that this guitar projected well on the street for him and it has a great neck. It also tolerates medium gauge strings, which Rev. Gary Davis used very well and it really enabled him to dig in and hit the guitar hard without falling out of pitch. This was a good solid guitar for the Reverend, and he loved the way it felt and played. This guitar, the Gibson J-200, is his guitar of choice in his later years when he was able to get a good guitar like this, in his earlier years he had many guitars stolen and he had a rough time. But as he got a little better known, his guitar of choice was a J-200. He used medium strings and tried to get a big sound hitting the guitar hard and kind of rapping the guitar, particularly on his gospel stuff and his ragtime stuff, a very strong rhythmic, heavy right hand. He kept his right hand pretty close to the guitar. On some of his songs, it was almost as if his fingers were hardly moving. He didn’t really plant his fingers the way most guitar players do, but his fingers were kind of loose and he could bring his hand off the guitar. Usually he had his right hand very relaxed, with his fingers resting against the pick guard. If he wanted to get a little harder sound then he would move his hand closer to the bridge and for a softer sound he would move his right hand away from the bridge.
The 1960 Gibson J-200 on display
According to the Gibson.com website, the J-200 now sells for a whopping $3,799 USD. A worthy investment indeed, if you plan to keep this guitar as a family member and a live performance instrument.