Professor authors book and produces CD

John Thomas
John Thomas
May 8, 2012 - If you are one of the lucky few to own a 1940s-era Gibson guitar with the slogan "Only a Gibson is Good Enough" on the headstock, John Thomas wants to hear from you.

A Gibson guitar enthusiast and professor of law in the School of Law, Thomas has spent years researching and writing a book about Gibson's "Banner" guitars built during the World War II era. The project started several years ago when Thomas uncovered a little-known fact about these guitars: they were primarily made by women.

Most of the craftsmen working at Gibson's Kalamazoo, Mich. factory shifted to building products for the war. Rather than halt production of its guitars, the company quietly recruited women to work in its factories, but hid it from the public.

Thomas contacted and interviewed many of the women workers. The result is his forthcoming book, "Kalamazoo Gals: the Story of the Extraordinary Women (and a Few Men) Who Built Gibson's WWII 'Banner' Guitars," scheduled for publication in fall 2012.

Thomas, along with American roots songster Lauren Sheehan, is now producing a CD as a companion piece to the book. The 12-track CD will feature WWII-era songs performed on Gibson guitars from the era along with introductions by the women workers Thomas interviewed. The guitars--some of which are valued at more than $30,000--were loaned to Thomas by their owners for the project. Thomas raised funds for the CD project through KickStarter, an online funding platform for creative projects.

Thomas is the curator of an upcoming exhibition, "Vintage Steel: The Art and History of the American Steel String Guitar," on display Sept. 8 through Jan. 11, 2013, at the River Street Gallery in New Haven, Conn. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 5-8 p.m. For more information, go to

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