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Orville Johnson demonstrates his 1970s dreadnought.

by Teja Gerken
July 18, 2016

Peghead Nation’s Blues Guitar Instructor Orville Johnson owns many guitars, but he frequently returns to his A. LoPrinzi LR-15 dreadnought, which he purchased new in a Springfield, Illinois, guitar shop in the 1970s.

A pioneer in contemporary American guitar making, barber-tuned-luthier Augustino LoPrinzi began building guitars in the 1960s, and by the early ’70s, he was running a shop with 17 employees, making him one of the earliest small-shop alternatives to established brands such as Gibson and Martin. LoPrinzi’s efficient manufacturing process caught the attention of a young Bob Taylor, who has said that the advice he got from Augustino in the early days of Taylor Guitars was crucial in establishing his own building process. The original New Jersey LoPrinzi factory closed in 1980, but LoPrinzi returned to guitar making a few years later on a smaller scale, and today, his daughter Donna continues to build guitars and ukuleles in Clearwater, Florida (check out augustinoloprinzi.com for info on current instruments).

The LR-15 in this video is a dreadnought clearly based on the Martin D-28. It has a European spruce top, Brazilian rosewood back and sides, and a mahogany neck. In a departure from the practice of using the same wood for the fingerboard and bridge, the instrument has an ebony fingerboard and rosewood bridge. Perhaps this was due to LoPrinzi’s experience with classical guitars, where using lighter weight rosewood for the bridge is standard.

Orville played the guitar regularly until it required a neck reset a few years ago, which caused him to put it in the closet for a while, as it had become too difficult to play. But recently he had Seattle, Washington, luthier David Haxton do the necessary work, and he’s now enjoying being reaquainted with his old pickin’ pal. “I’ve gone through many, many, guitars, but on this one, every horrible scratch, every bit of damage, I did myself,” he says.

To study guitar with Orville Johnson, enroll in his Blues Guitar course now!

Category: Instruments & Gear

Comments and Discussion

Posted by Richard Young on
I inherited a Augustino LoPrinzi guitar from my wife's step-mother who's husband was a bluegrass musician. I don't know the year, but the label inside is signed by "Augie LoPrinzi" and for Model it says "Custom" with Serial Number of 1699. Please email me if anyone has any information on this guitar. Thanks! ryoung011@yahoo.com
Posted by Matt Weiss on
I recently bought an Augustino dreadnought--an AR-38, number 597, in fact. This was one of the guitars Augustino LoPrinzi made after AMF bought LoPrinzi and Augie didn't want to be associated with the mass-produced models. He refused to sign a non-compete agreement and moved back into their old factory next door, making guitars with his first name on the headstock. He moved to Clearwater, Florida and that's where he made mine.

The instrument is nearly pristine and sounds so rich and clear, I sometimes just strum an open E chord to hear how long it takes to fade away. I fell in love with the guitar the moment I touched it and will treasure it for as long as I can hold it.
Posted by matthias kay on
@jutta gruetzner Recently I bought your former LR-15 with the number 717. It is such a unique and outstanding Instrument! Never heard a guitar sounding so dry and musically. A pure inspiration to me!
Posted by Joseph Befumo on
I have an LR-15 that I bought new in early 1978. Unfortunately it was one of the one of the AMF models, but still an incredible instrument.
Posted by John Dupree on
I recently found #693 a '73 LM-12 maple b/s that is also from the blue rosette period. Outstanding guitar. I have had over 10 LoPrinzi / Augustino guitars in the last 5 years. Many models and woods. Last month I found an Augustino #728 an AR-38 from '80-81 approx. Tone has always been consistent with his guitars. Woods always outstanding. Highly recommend this builder.
Posted by Mark Howard on
I have a 1974 LR-25 all original, case too! I have been playing for 40 years, I've played everything from Martin to Guild + Gibson etc..... a guitar from 74' has wood for the most part that is unattainable! Growth rings and so on , long story short it would take a lot for me to part with this( I'll call 1 of a kind)! As for tone , we'll need I say more....btw the neck is as straight today & never has been adjusted EVER 43 years !!!!!!!
Posted by jutta gruetzner on
I have two loprinzis - a lr 15 1973 with brazilian and spruce (europian or appalachian i dont exactly now). The 1973 has number 717 and is from his elite blue series (because of the blue soundhole ring). The woodquality is aaaa or aaaaa and the guitars are, compared to a martin from the same period, superbe!. The other one is a lm 12 from i think 1977-79. Its a maple dread with swiss spruce - woods are super quality. at all the guitars sound warm with good stiffness - not as boomy like a martin but with more nice overtones (compared with my freinds 1961 martin d 18) - the sound quality is much more better compared to the martin.
Thanks for the great video vom germany
Posted by Brian Nagy on
Sweet sounding guitar. I have an LR-50 from the mid 70's that I inherited from my brother when he passed back in 2013. He had worked for Augie in the finishing department and bought it direct from them. Mine is unique because its probably the only one that has a NOS neck that I had installed after he passed. The story is that my brother never liked the tone because he felt that the necks dove tail to neck block was poorly joined. He had bought an extra neck from Loprinzi while he worked there and planned on replacing it and redoing the joint himself. Long story short he was correct. The original joint was barley glued. I took the half done project to a local luthier who spent a few months on putting her back together. When I picked it up it was magical. It sounds just like the guitar in this video. Rich, full and oozing with sustain and overtones that please the ear. So good that my friend sought one out on ebay and bought it. Enough said! Thanks for the video.
Posted by John Dupree on
I also have a few A LoPrinzi guitars. Love them all. Some from '73 some from early '80's. Magnificent tone, woods, and construction. They are the most reasonably priced used guitar on the market considering the quality.
Posted by Chris Cochran on
Great guitar! I bought one he made in the early 80's under the Augustino name, a spruce/mahog dread. Still playing it after a little neck work and saddle shave by 3rd Coast.
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