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Updated: 2 weeks 5 days ago

The Fender Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 05:40
1951 Fender Esquire
Fender introduced their solid body electric guitar, the Esquire, as early as 1950. This "Spanish-style" electric guitar was made in the style of Leo Fender’s lap steel guitars, with a single slanted pickup placed right next to the bridge and saddles.

'50 Broadcaster
In the fall of that year Fender added an additional pickup and called that guitar the Broadcaster, which didn’t last long as Gretsch had trademarked that name for their drum sets. So the word "Broadcaster" was cut off of subsequent headstock decals.

1951 Fender Telecaster
By the summer of 1951 the guitar was renamed the Telecaster.

1954 Fender Stratocaster

Moving forward to 1954, Fender introduced the Stratocaster. The introduction of this guitar coincided with the year Elvis Presley became popular, which caused an increased interest in the guitar.

By 1956 Leo Fender thought it might be a good idea to introduce a student model to the Fender line up, which would have a shorter scale for small hands and also had a reduced price point.

1956 Fender Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic Guitars
The 3/4 sized Fender Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic guitar guitars were both offered in the spring of 1956. Both guitars featured a 22 1/2” scale bolt on, soft V style maple neck with a maple fret board. The tuning machines came with less costly plastic buttons instead of metal ones found on the strat and tele. The guitars double cutaway slab body was made of either an ash or alder and featured shorter horns than those on a Stratocaster. Both instruments came with a single volume and tone control.

1956 Fender Musicmaster

The Musicmaster featured just one single-coil slanted pickup in the neck position.

'56 Duo-Sonic

The Duo-Sonic added an additional pickup, without a slant, in the bridge position and a 3-way selector switch on the lower horn. The middle position on the Duo-Sonic placed the single coil pickups in series, thus acting like a humbucking pickup.

Bridge for 1956 Duo-Sonic

Both guitars had adjustable bridges which had 3 sections, much like the older Telecaster bridges, with each section doing duty for two strings. This bridge was fastened directly to the body and it came with a bridge cover, which generally was taken off the guitar.

1956 Duo-Sonic

The initial models of each instrument came with an anodized aluminum pickguard done in a gold colour. This provided shielding. The serial number was stamped on the chrome neck plate.

The original run of these guitars came in only one color that Fender called Desert Sand. The suggested retail price at the time for the Duo-Sonic was $149.50.

1959 Musicmaster

This model went unchanged until later in 1959 when a rosewood slab fret board was added to the maple neck. Within a year Fender changed this to the veneer style rosewood fret board. The anodized aluminum pickguard was changed to a plastic one with shielding under the potentiometers.

1959 Musicmaster

1959 was also the year that the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic came in Sunburst which replaced Desert Sand.

1963 Musicmaster

In 1963 the sunburst finish was discontinued and the guitars were available in white with brown plastic pick guards.

1966 Fender Duo-Sonic II

Big changes occurred in late 1964 when the Duo-Sonic and Musicmaster were redesigned. That year the guitars were renamed the Duo-Sonic II and the Musicmaster II.

1964 Fender Duo-Sonic II
Fender had released the Mustang in that same year and this guita featured a larger offset body. The headstock on the Mustang was larger. These features were added to the Duro-Sonic, which became essentially a Mustang without the vibrato. The 3-way switch was also gone, and replaced with two 3 position slider switches, similar to those on the Mustang.

1965 Fender Duo-sonic II
Both pickups were slanted and available with red pearl or white covers. The pickguard was now a 3 ply style and offered in white or red pearloid material. Just like the Mustang, the volume and tone controls and the jack were mounted on a separate metal plate.

1964 Musicmaster II

Similar treatment was done to the Musicmaster, but it had no slider switches.

The bridge/saddle on both guitars were redesigned to have a raised lip on the end to attach the strings. The neck was still available with the 22 1/2” scale, but the guitars were also offered the same 24” scale neck found on the Mustang.

1964 Musicmaster II and Duo-Sonic II

Both guitars were available in Dakota red, white, or Daphne blue finishes.

The Duo-Sonic II lasted until 1969, when Fender determined that the popularity of Mustang sales did not warrant maintaining the “hard-tailed” Duo-Sonic.

1971 Musicmaster

However the single pickup Musicmaster was still kept in the line up.  However the designation Musicmaster II was dropped in favor of just Musicmaster. The Musicmaster was offered by Fender through 1982.

'93 Duo-Sonic

In 1993 Fender decided to reissue the Duo-Sonic. This time it was made in Mexico. The scale was still short, however this time it was 22.7” instead the of 22.5’ length. The neck was now back to maple with a maple fretboard. The twin slider switches were replaced with the 3-way toggle selector on the guitars upper horn. The bridge still had the raised lip. These models were available in black, Torino red and Arctic white. These guitar remained in the line up through 1997. The pickguard was made of one piece of plastic, with no chrome control panel.

1998 Squier Affinity Duo-Sonic
In 1998 the Duo-Sonic was produced as a Chinese made Squier Affinity model. The biggest changes on this version was the the pickups, which looked more like strat pickups with the pole pieces showing. The two knobs were plastic strat-style versions instead of Mustang or Tele style knobs. This guitar was dropped from the line up in 1999.

2008 Squier Classic Vibe Duo Sonic
In 2008 the Duo-Sonic resurfaced under the company’s Squier brand as part of their Classic Vibe series. This time the guitar attempted to be a recreation of the 1956 version, including the Desert Sand finish, the gold anodized pickguard and the maple neck/maple fret board.

There were a few changes. The body was made of basswood and the neck was a 24” scale with a C-shape. The frets were updated to medium jumbo ones and the bridge pickup was moved 3/4’s of an inch further from the bridge compared to the original. This model was discontinued in 2011.

2016 Fender Duo-Sonics

In 2016 Fender offered two updated versions of the Duo-Sonic under the Fender brand name. Both guitars came with 24” scale necks.

2016 MN

The Duo-Sonic MN featured 2 single coil pickups with a slanted neck pickup and a bridge pickup that was parallel to the bridge/saddle. This guitar appears to be fairly close to the original model, but for the scale and the six-section adjustable bridge with the strings going through the body and anchored in the back of the guitar.

2016 HS

The other model was the Duo-Sonic HS, which featured a single coil slanted pickup in the neck position and a humbucking pickup in the bridge position that featured coil tapping. The bodies are made of alder wood, while the necks are maple and offered with either a maple or rosewood fretboard. Both instruments are manufactured in Mexico and remain in the Fender line up at present.

Bronco Set

A close cousin to the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic was the Fender Bronco. This was another student guitar that was initially sold as a student package along with the Fender Bronco amp, which was actually a very nice Fender silverface Vibro-Champ amplifier. The only difference in the amplifiers was the colour of the logo. This amplifier came with red lettering that stated Bronco, instead of blue lettering stating Vibro-Champ.

1967 Fender Bronco
The Bronco guitar was introduced in 1967. The guitars body was the same as the Mustang and Duo-Sonic of that era. The C-shaped neck had a scale of 24” and included a large headstock, similar to the one on the Mustang.

The fretboard was of the Fender laminated rosewood variety with dot position markers. Like the Musicmaster, the Fender Bronco has only one pickup, but it was placed In the bridge position. This was a slanted single coil pickup with no exposed pole pieces.

1967 Fender Bronco amplifier
The 3 ply pickguard was was white or black plastic and included a section for the volume and tone controls and jack. The Bronco came with an unusual vibrato system that Fender never used on any other guitars.

The Bronco stayed in the Fender line up until 1981. It was then replaced by the Fender Bullet 1.

1981 Fender Bullet 1
The Fender Bullet 1 was another unique Fender instrument marketed to students or players looking for a low cost Fender guitar.

This first version of the Bullet included an anodized pickguard with controls for tone and volume.. The distal end of the metal pickguard had a lip that held the six adjustable bridge saddles.

The guitars body had a shape more like a Telecaster than a Mustang. The twin single coil pickups were done in the same manner as the original Duo-Sonic; the neck pickup slanted downward and the bridge pickup was parallel to the bridge saddles. The bolt-on maple neck was topped with a laminated rosewood fretboard and a Telecaster style headstock. The 3 position blade switch was very similar to the one used on early Stratocasters.

'81 Bullet Deluxe

Later models, known as the Fender Bullet Deluxe, were produced with a plastic pickguard and a metal plate that housed the bridge/saddle unit. By 1982 the Bullet was redesigned and this version bore no similarity to the Duo-Sonic.

Fender Swinger

One other very interesting Fender student guitar worth mentioning;The Fender Swinger.

Babe Simoni
Vigiliio “Babe” Simoni was hired at Fender when he was a 16 year old kid. He rose up the ranks and became the product manager. Simoni stayed on with Fender after CBS purchased the company.

Swinger body routed for Bass V pickups

The new bosses gave him instructions to find something profitable to do with leftover parts. Simoni was not a designer, but he was skilled in shaping bodies, necks and routing.

He came up with two very unique guitars and one of them was the Fender Swinger, which was fashioned from leftover Musicmaster, short-scale necks, and Fender Bass V bodies.

Fender Swinger
Babe had workers saw a curve section into the bottom end of the body and then the sawed off a portion of the upper horn. He also had them cut the end of the headstock on the the 22 1/2” Musicmaster necks into a sharp point.

These guitars  utilized left over 1969 pick guards that had been cut out to allow space for the metal control panel. This guitar came with a single slanted neck pickup. The 3 section bridge/saddles were the same ones used on Musicmasters and Duo-Sonics that were made during the 1964-1969 era.

1969 Fender Swinger
Swinger bodies were offered in various colours, including Olympic White, Daphne Blue, Dakota Red, Black, Lake Placid Blue, and Candy Apple Red.

Logos on the Headstock

The tuning keys had white plastic buttons and the Fender logo decal (in black font) was put on the headstock. On some models to the right of this was “Swinger” in a similar black script. Most models deleted the guitars name.

Back of the Swinger body

Though the Swinger was an inexpensive 3/4 sized guitar at the time it was offered to the public, its scarcity has made this guitar very collectible and commanding thousands in today’s vintage market. 

Another variant of the Duo-Sonic and Musicmaster guitar was the Fender Musicmaster bass guitar.

1966 Fender Mustang Bass
Fender had launched the Mustang guitar in 1964. Two years later Fender produced the Mustang Bass. This was a short scale bass with a 30" neck, split single coil pickups, somewhat like the ones on a Precision Bass, but with rounded corners, and a body just like the one on the Fender Mustang guitar.

This bass came with a plastic pickguard and a metal control section similar to the one on the Mustang guitar. The bridge/saddle section consisted of a chrome plate with a raised lip at its end and 4 adjustable saddles.

1971 Musicmaster Bass
In 1971 Fender introduced a budget version of this bass and called it the Musicmaster bass. The body was similar. This instrument was made of surplus parts of other guitars.

The controls and pickup were mounted on the plastic pickguard, which was much smaller than the one on the Mustang bass. The bridge/saddle was different from the Mustang bass.

The strings attached to the lip of a chrome plate and passed over two adjustable sections, much like the saddles found on a Telecaster.

1972 Musicmaster Bass

This bass had one single coil pickup with a cover that did not expose the pole pieces. If you removed it, then you would find six pole pieces, as it was actually a Stratocaster pickup. This led to a common criticism that the Musicmaster bass sounded thinner than other bass guitars.

1971 Fender Musicmaster Bass

Most Musicmaster bass guitars came with a white or black pickguard, while some had a pearl design. The 30” scale maple neck was capped with a rosewood fretboard. The headstock was smaller than the Mustang bass. The tuning keys were triangular.

Original models came in black, red, or white. Later models were available in other Fender finish options.

The Fender Musicmaster bass was in the line up until 1981. It was reintroduced as the Squier Musicmaster bass in 1997.

1997 Squier Musicmaster Bass
There were several differences in this model, aside from being made off shore.  This version had four exposed pole pieces. The bridge was still mounted on a screw in chrome plate, but it had four adjustable saddles instead of just two.

The control knobs on the Fender Musicmaster bass were made of plastic, while the Squier version had metallic knobs.

Squier Bronco Bass

The Squier Musicmaster bass was produced for less than a year, when Fender introduced the Squier Bronco bass. This was a simlar bass, but utilized a covered pickup that had 4 pole pieces. The bridge/saddle reverted back to the two section type.

2002 Fender Mustang Bass MIJ

The Fender or Squier Musicmaster bass never resurfaced. The Fender Mustang bass was reissued in 2002. It remains in the Fender line up.

Squier Bronco
The Squier Bronco Bass is now part of the Squier Affinity series.

Unfortunately, the vintage Fender Musicmaster bass, though no longer available, is one of the least collectible Fender instruments.

The links under the pictures will take you to their source. The links in the text will take you to more interesting information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)

Categories: General Interest

Larry Coryell, The Godfather of Fusion Guitar, Dead at age 73 - A Retrospective of his guitars

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 07:53
Larry Coryell playing his Hagstrom Swede guitar
Larry Coryell passed away of heart failure this past Sunday at age 73. Larry was best known as a Jazz-Fusion player and even dubbed the “Godfather of Fusion.”

He was born Lorenz Albert Van DeLinder III in Galveston Texas and grew up in Richland, Washington when his mother re-married. Larry took his beloved stepfather’s surname, Coryell, at this time. He attended the University of Washington and played in some club bands.

Coryell with Chico Hamilton Quintet

In 1965 Coryell moved to New York City and attended the Mannes School of Music where he got his first big break by joining drummer Chico Hamilton’s jazz quintet.

Coryell in the Gary Burton group

A few years later he recorded with Jazz vibraphone player, Gary Burton.

The Free Spirits

He was also part of a Jazz-Rock group called The Free Spirits and recorded with them.

Larry and Julie Nathanson Coryell

It was during this time period he married Julie Nathanson, a writer-actress and released a solo LP entitled Lady Coryell. This and subsequent LP’s featured his wife’s photos on the cover as well as her poetry.

1970 Album Spaces

In late 1969 he recorded Spaces, the album for which he is best remembered. It was a guitar blow-out that also included John McLaughlin.

Larry Coryell 1971 Barefoot Boy

In the early 1970’s he was in a group called Foreplay, Albums from this era include some of his finest, including Barfoot Boy, Offering and The Real Great Escape.

 Coryell at Long View Farm

After Foreplay disbanded Coryell briefly turned to the acoustic guitar. He returned to the acoustic guitar for albums with the Brubeck Brothers and Mouzon.

The Guitar Trio

By 1979 Coryell formed The Guitar Trio with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia. The group toured Europe. Sadly his addiction lead to him being replaced by Al Di Meola.

Larry stated that he sought help for his problems and became sober, but attended counselling most of his adult life.

1967 Super 400

Throughout his career, Larry Coryell played a variety of interesting guitars. He seemed to be most fond of archtop, hollowbody electrics and even states in an interview that his favorite guitar was his 1967 Gibson Super 400.

Younger days with the '67 Super 400

Interestingly, he views guitars as "wood and metal"; Coryell was all about the music.

Coryell with his first Super 400

In his younger days he played a different Gibson Super 400. This one was blonde and had a single floating pickup mounted on the pickguard.  This guitar was stolen.

With Hagstrom Swede

For a long time he played a Hagstrom Swede.  This was a solidbody guitar that he says he received when his manager made a deal with the company and he used it for nearly 12 years.

Coryell with Ovation Adamas

Coryell also liked the older Ovations that were made in the 70’s, as they were durable road guitars, had great piezo pickups, and had the feel of electric guitars. At one time he even played an Adamas 12 string.

With Matthews Telecaster
Coryell has been photographed playing Martin guitars, classical guitars (actually a Rodriguez Flamenco guitar that was a gift), a white Les Paul guitar, even a Stratocaster and a Telecaster.

Coryell with Parker Guitar

Larry Coryell is well known for playing a blonde Parker semi-acoustic hollowbody guitar. He also played a similar model with a sunburst finish.

Coryell with Parker Event Series acoustic

Coryell must have been fond of Parkers, as he also owned and played a Parker Event Series acoustic steel string guitar, that was made by Washburn.

Larry Coryell Cort model

At one point Cort Guitars offered a Larry Coryell model.

Coryell with his SF Twin Reverb

For much of his career Coryell relied on Fender Twin Reverb amplifiers. Later in life he only used this amp for loud gigs, instead relying on a Jazz-Kat BluesKat amp or a Henriksen amplifier.

With Hamer Monaco III

He said that used little or no reverb, preferring a touch of delay and chorus to get his sound.

The Original Eleventh House
Larry Coryell has collaborated on stage with so many great artists, from Herbie Mann to B.B. King and others too numerous to mention. Larry was still touring the world right up until his passing. He had played two shows at the Iridium in New York city on February 17th and 18th.

He was planning an extensive 2017 summer tour with a reformed the Eleventh House.

He is survived by his wife, Tracey, his daughter Annie, his sons Murali and Julian, and his daughter Allegra, as well as six grandchildren. Both of his sons play guitar and have their own trios

Categories: General Interest

Who is Mel Bay?

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 07:32
Dodd's Music was in the white building

I started taking guitar lessons when I was 13 years old; first at the YMCA in a group setting and then at Dodd’s Music Store, in Covington, Kentucky.

One of the acts on WLW radio

My teacher at Dodd's was an old guy named George Olinger. George made a living playing guitar in Country groups around town as well as being a staff guitarist on WLW radio, back in the days when the station played live music.

George taught me the basic chord patterns mainly from the books he had me purchase, which seemed to all be written by one man; Mel Bay.

Tommy Flint
Last week I learned that a fairly well-known guitarist named Tommy Flint had passed away. It seems that Mr. Flint was not only an excellent finger-style guitarist, in the style of Chet Atkins, but also an author of guitar instruction books that were published by Mel Bay.

This got me to wondering, who was Mel Bay?

Mel 1928 with National Triolian

Mel grew up in a small Missouri town in the Ozark Mountains. He bought his first guitar at the age of 13 from a Sears and Roebuck catalog. Within months of acquiring the guitar, he was playing in front of people. Mel Bay never had a guitar teacher.  He watched other guitar player perform and memorized their fingering on the fretboard.

That is the way I learned to play guitar.  I stood in front of bands and watched the lead guitar player and copied his fingerings. I am certain many of you reading this article honed your skills in much the same manner.

Bay was not satisfied to just learn the guitar. No sir. He went on to learn fingerings on the tenor banjo, mandolin, ukulele and Hawaiian slide guitar. This was all back in the 1920's when he was still a young man.

D'Angelico with "Melbourne Bay"
engraved on the pickguard
Mel Bay became hooked on playing in front of audiences and decided to make a career out of being a professional musician. So he moved to St. Louis in 1933 and joined numerous local and traveling bands. He also was hired by several radio stations as a staff guitarist.

He put together The Mel Bay Trio, which consisted of him, a bass player and a drummer. And this became his steady gig for the next 25 years. His career was briefly interrupted by a stint in the US Army during WWII.

His custom D'Angelico New Yorker
As a working musician he had extra time and was able to teach guitar to others. In fact Mel Bay taught as many as 100 students a week. During those years he found out there was not a lot of instructional material available at the time.

He determined some of the material availabe was flawed. It only offered students chord patterns; not the ability to learn notes on the guitar.

So Mel began writing his own instruction books. These books became the basis for the Mel Bay Publication House.

Mel Bay's 1st Book
After getting out of the Army, he published his first instruction book in 1947 and called it The Orchestral Chord System for Guitar. This book was the first of many to be published it under his own business; Mel Bay Publishing Incorporated. Amazingly this the book is still in print, but now it is titled The Rhythm Guitar Chord System. This book has been used by countless students to learn how to play guitar.

Mel Bay's 2nd Book

By 1948 another book was published called Modern Guitar Method. Through the years Modern Guitar Method has sold more than 20 million copies in its original version.

Mel teaching guitar to
high school students

By the mid 1950’s Elvis Presley's career was the talk of the nation, and this caused the guitar to experience a surge in popularity. During these years Mel Bay traveled around the country talking to guitar teachers and their students about his publications with the goal of selling them as texts.

In doing this he came to know most every guitar teacher in the United States on a first name basis. Guitar Player Magazine dubbed him as The George Washington of Guitar.

Mel Bay playing a mandolin

Since first publishing guitar instruction books, his company has branched off into publishing method books for violin, banjo, mandolin, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, harmonica, folk instruments, and accordion. His books for guitar include methods for differing styles, including folk, jazz, classical, rock, blues and jazz.

Mel Bay Book by Tommy Flint
Getting back to Tommy Flint, who I mentioned early on; Mr. Flint was the author of Mel Bay’s books on Finger Style guitar, Chet Atkins style picking, as well as Bluegrass Guitar and Christmas Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar.  In all, Tommy Flint wrote over 40 books for Mel Bay Publishing

Mel Bay received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guitar Foundation of America from the Retail Print Music Dealers Association and he also received the Owen Miller Award from the American Federation of Musicians.

Bay received a Certificate of Merit from the St. Louis Music Educators Association, as well as a resolution from the Missouri House of Representatives honoring his achievements. He ever was sent a letter of commendation from President Bill Clinton, and was honored by St. Louis mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. Making October 25, 1996 “Mel Bay Day” for citizens of that fair city.

Mel's D'Angelico New Yorker 
I often wondered about the image of a D’Angelico guitar on the cover of the Mel Bay instruction book that I purchased so many years ago. A similar guitar image also shows up on the cover of other Mel Bay guitar instruction books. It seem that Mel used to sell D’Angelico guitars and kept a half a dozen D'Angelico guitars at his home that were for sale to perspective students.

One of Mel's personal guitars was a New Yorker model with a cutaway and a slightly thinner neck custom made for him.

Mel Bay

Mel Bay kept playing guitar every day until his death at age 84 in 1997.

From St. Louis WOF Inductees
On June 30 of 2011, the city of St. Louis, Missouri honored him one more time by inducting him into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. There is also a Mel Bay Jazz Festival held annually in DeSoto, Missouri; the town where he grew up. The music center at the town’s high school is named in his honor.

Ode To Mel Bay

A song was written by Michael “Supe” Granda of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils called “Ode to Mel Bay”. It is featured on the album by Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins called The Day Finger Pickers Took Over the World. It sort of makes fun of Mel’s instruction books.

Mel Bay Books
Today Mel Bay Publications offers hundreds of books for a variety of instruments that were written by many different authors including Mel’s son, William Bay, who is a very proficient guitarist as well as an author and runs Mel Bay Publications


Categories: General Interest

Kurt Cobain Guitar and Jerry Garcia Guitar to be Auctioned

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 20:12
1958 Hagstrom Deluxe 90
One of Kurt Cobain’s guitars is to be auctioned on eBay with the proceeds going to charity. The proceeds will benefit Transition Projects, a Portland, Oregon based organization that benefits homeless veterans and their families.

This auction marks what would have been Cobain’s 50th birthday had he not taken his own life at age 27. A cardigan sweater once owned by the musician brought in $137,000 USD some years ago. This auction will run from February 16 starting at 11:00 am EST to February 26, 11:00 am EST,

Owner Nathan Fasold displays the Hagstrom

The guitar is a vintage 1958 Hagstrom Sparkle Deluxe guitar that is currently owned by Nathan Fasold of Black Book Guitars in Portland.

It has been authenticated by Earnie Bailey, who was formerly Nirvana’s primary guitar tech who personally delivered it to Cobain in 1992. At that time it was converted to a left-handed model. 

Jerry Garcia with Wolf Guitar
Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf” guitar is to be auctioned off this May with proceeds to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center.

This gorgeous guitar is a 1973 creation of Grateful Dead builder Doug Irwin and was given the name “Wolf” after Garcia affixed a sticker of a cartoon wolf to its lower bout.

Through the years, the guitar went through many updates with pickup combinations.

Body of Wolf guitar

Garcia used this guitar for over 20 years before retiring it in 1993.

After Garcia’s death in 1995, a dispute occurred regarding ownership of Garcia’s instruments. As a part of a settlement, Doug Irwin reclaimed this guitar.

Jerry play Wolf in later years

He later sold it auction to its current owner for over $700,000. The anonymous owner will auction the Wolf guitar at an event to be held at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl.

The back of the Wolf guitar

The Wolf guitar is an exceptionally gorgeous instrument as was hand-made with book-matched curly western maple for it’s body and the builder also used amaranth wood, also known as purple heart and African ivory. The inlay work on the neck is superb.

Categories: General Interest

Electro-Harmonix Effects Pedals; A Brief History

Sat, 02/11/2017 - 06:24
Electro-Harmonix original logo
For electric guitarists it is not enough to have your instrument sound like a guitar; We leave that to the jazz players, the classical players, and the folkies. Electric player want to make their instrument growl, wail, and and scream.

Guitar George

We are not like “Guitar George, he knows all the chords. Mind he’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make them cry or sing.” The majority of us want to express ourselves and be heard.

Maestro Fuzztone
Aside from a loud, over driven amplifier, effects pedals are necessary tools for most guitarists and bass players. The granddaddy of them all was the Maestro Fuzztone. This was the original pedal used on the Rolling Stone’s hit song, Satisfaction, and it started a whole industry.

One of the original and most prominent manufacturers of guitar and bass effects pedal is Electro-Harmonix. This company emerged on the scene in New York City back in 1968.

Mike Matthews in 1979

Back in 1967 Mike Matthews, the companies owner and founder was a rhythm and blues piano player and had a day time sales job. His friend, Bill Berko, was an audio repairman who had just constructed a circuit for a guitar fuzz pedal.

'67 Axis and Foxey Lady fuzz pedals

Under the advice of Matthews, Berko hired a company to construct these pedals under a deal with the Guild Guitar Company and the device was given the name of the Axis fuzz pedal. It was also sold under the name Foxey Lady.

All parties made a little money off the deal, and eventually Berko and Matthews parted ways.

Mike Matthews 1967
However Mike Matthews was smitten with the idea of creating guitar effects. As I've mentioned, at the time Matthews was a salesman for IBM and he next teamed up with an IBM colleague who was an electrical engineer by the name of Bob Myer.

In 1969 they worked together to create a distortion free sustain device. Some fuzz tones of that era produced a buzz saw like effect that produced some sustain, while others like the Maestro box, just added gain to distort the guitars signal. Guitarists at that time wanted the ability for notes to be played and held, just like those played by horn players.

Original LPB-1
What Myer and Matthews came up with was a small device the Linear Power Booster, and called it the LPB-1. This pedal boosted the signal and made the guitar stand out. It did not sit on the floor, but was made to be plugged directly into the amplifier input.

Vintage LPB-1 interior

The price for this unit was about $20 USD, and it was an instant hit. The original units were hand wired with no circuit board.

1969-70 version Big Muff Pi (π)
The next effect that Matthews and Bob Myer created was the a fuzz tone that added a low end heavy sustain to any guitar sound. They gave it the name of The Big Muff Pi. It mixed harmonic distortion, sustain, and fuzz sounds together to make even a small amplifier sound huge. Plus it distorted at any volume. Both devices were instant hits and were put to use by well known artists.

'75 Big Muff Pi (π) interior
The original version of the Big Muff Pi was pretty much hand-made on perforated electronic boards with the wiring and parts hand-soldiered. But by 1970 these devices were updated to etched PCB boards.

Double Muff and Little Muff
The Big Muff was such a hit that subsequent versions emerged in later years, such as the Metal Muff, which had a higher gain threshold, and the Double Muff, which was two Big Muffs wired in series that offered overdrive through a single circuit, or through a cascaded version.

The Little Big Muff was a smaller version of the unit and had a slight variation in the circuit. The NYC Big Muff came with a tone bypass switch that allowed the user to bypass the tone control and another switch the adjusted the frequencies of 3 filters embedded in the circuit.

EH Bass and Treble boost

There were several other devices made by Electro-Harmonix in the late 1960's and early 1970's that included a Treble Booster, called the Screaming Bird and a Bass Booster called the Mole, that were made in a similar format to the LPB-1; These small boxes had an input on one end to accept the guitar cable and a plug on the opposite side that went into the amplifier. These units originally sold for around $20 USD.

EH Slap Back Echo

The company also produced the Slap-Back Echo box that produced a slap-back effect and came with a filter switch to shape the tone.

1975 EH Small Stone Phaser
One of the more popular effects the company produced at this time was the Small Stone Phase Shifter. It was a 4 stage phasing circuit, design by David Cockerell. This device had one large knob to adjust the rate of phasing and a slider switch labeled “Color” that engaged an additional stage of feedback for a more pronounced sound. Think of the Doobie Brothers song “Listen to the Music”.

EH Band Stone Phase Shifter

The Bad Stone Phase Shifter was an upgraded circuit that added a Feedback control and a Manual Shift control to filter the sweet spot.

'77 EH Octave Multiplexer

Electro-Harmonix came out with an octave box called the Octave Multiplexer which produced the clean signal and a filtered signal an octave below.

EH Elecric Mistress Flanger

The Electric Mistress Flanger Chorus Pedal came out in the mid 1970’s and was one of the first multi-effects devices.

Mid 70's EH Attack Equalizer

The Electro-Harmonix Attack Equalizer pedal was a combination of a parametric EQ to produce desired equalization and a pre-amplifier to boost the guitars signal.

1981 EH Graphic Fuzz

The Electro-Harmonix Graphic Fuzz was not only a fuzztone/distortion unit, but it added a six band graphic eq control section.

1980 EH Full Double Tracking Effect
The Full Double Tracking Effect, split the guitars signal. One signal was given a slight delay that was adjustable, while the other was the original guitar signal. It came with a switch that allowed the delay to be 50 ms or 100 ms. The knob adjusted the mix of the original and filtered signals.

'77 EH Triggered Y Filter

The Triggered Y Filter was sort of a phaser unit that allowed the frequency range to be adjusted to Lo or Hi and the amplitude/depth of the filter sweep.

Late '70's EH Echoflanger

The Echo Flanger produced a modulated Echo and a flanging effect, similar to what record producer did when they would press their finger or thumb on recording tape to cause the one of the tracks to be slightly delayed.

1978 EH Memory Man

The Electro-Harmonix Memory Man, was introduced in 1978 and produced analog delay and echo using “bucket brigage” integrated circuits and incorporated a chorus effect. So the user could choose echo or chorus

EH Deluxe Memory Man

Several models of this effect including a stereo version and the Deluxe Memory Man that added a chorus/vibrato feature to the echo.

EH Small Clone Chorus

The Small Clone chorus, introduced by EHX around 1981 remains a very popular chorus pedal. it was also produced in two different smaller versions known as the Neo Clone and the Nano Clone.

EH Holy Grail Reverb

Electro-Harmonix issued a very popular reverb pedal called The Holy Grail.  This pedal came in several different formats including The Holy Grail Plus and the Cathedral. The Holy Stain was a multi-effects pedal that offered two different types of reverb.

EH Wigger 

Tremolo was one of the very earliest guitar effects and Electro-Harmonix offered a solid-state tremolo/vibrato pedal called the Stereo Pulsar and a tube based model called the Wiggler.

1972 Mike Matthews Freedom Amp
In 1972 the company came out with The Mike Matthews Freedom Amp. This DC powered amp put out around 25 watts RMS into a 10” speaker and was wired point-to-point. The controls included Volume, Tone, and Bite. The housing was rugged and built to be carried around. It was possibly the first battery powered amplifier.

Interior of Freedom Amp with battery clips

The only drawback was that it took 40 D cell batteries to power the thing.  It was also available as a bass model or as a public address amplifier which came with built in reverb.

'90's EH Freedom Amp
An updated 1990's version of this amplifier was later produced with a lower wattage but in an all wood cabinet. This version came with a wall adapter and a rechargeable battery.

By 1982 Electro-Harmonix was facing a multiplicity of problems. First there was a labour union dispute. And about the same time the company filed for bankruptcy protection. Two years later, in 1984 Electro-Harmonix was in deeper financial problems and Mike Matthew decided to shift his attention away from the little effects boxes to a new venture.

Mike Matthews

He launched a new company that he called the New Sensor Corporation, which was based in the Soviet Union. Matthew saw the need for vacuum tubes, which were no longer being manufactured in the United States and in short supply, but were plentiful in the USSR.

Sovtek Tubes
Matthews put together factories in three Russian cities to produce Sovtek tubes and eventually became one of the largest suppliers of vacuum tubes in the world. To this day they still offer a variety of the most popular tubes used in modern amplifiers.

Sovtek Mig 50 amplifier
At the time the company went on to produce several tube amplifiers under the Sovtek brand name that included the Mig 50, the Sovtek Mig 60, and the Sovtek Mig 100, were all named after Russian fighter jets.

These amps were based on popular circuits and can still be found on the web at bargain prices.

New Sensor EH Russian made Big Muff Pi

In 1990 Electro-Harmonix resumed the building effect pedals. Some of these were made in Russia through 2009.

EH 2006 Nano Pedals

In 2006 the smaller and more standardized "micro" and "nano" effect lines using surface-mount circuit components were introduced.

The circuit board manufacturing was outsourced, but the final assembly of the pedals was done in New York.

Vintage EH Micro Synthesizer

When synthesizers came into vogue, EH offered the Micro Synthesizer for guitar or bass and the HOG effects unit; Harmonic Octave Generator.

An original EH POG

The POG or Polyphonic Octave Generator was released in 2005 and an enhanced version called the POG 2 came out in 2009. These units allowed your instrument to produce notes 2 octaves up and one octave below the guitars signal.

EH 22 Caliber Amplifier

Two of the more interesting and modern Electro-Harmonix creations may look like effects pedals, but are actually amplifiers housed in pedal sized effects box. The EHX 22 Caliber was a 22 watt solid-state amplifer capable of driving an 8 or 16 ohm speaker cabinet.

EH 44 Magnum Amplifier

It was discontinued and replaced by the EHX 44 Magnum, which could pump 44 solid-state watts into an 8 or 16 ohm speaker cabinet. These are small enough to pack into your guitar case. It is important to note, these units must be connected to a speaker load to work.

Electro-Harmonix C9

For 2016 and 2017 Electro-Harmonix has developed some amazing pedals that can coax organ or piano sounds from your guitar without the need for special pickups.

Electro-Harmonix B9

The C9 and B9 Organ Machines replicate the sounds of several different types of organs, from Hammond organs to church organs, to combo organs.

Electro-Harmonix Key 9

The Key 9 Electric Piano Machine produces a number of electric piano sounds. Combine any of these with the Lester G Deluxe Rotary Speaker emulator or the Lester K Rotary Speaker emulator and as a guitarist you now have all the tools of a keyboard player without the weight of hauling a B-3 and a Leslie cabinet.

Electro-Harmonix Mel 9

The Mel 9 Tape Replay Machine produces sounds from your guitar that were only possible with a Mellotron.

A few of the Electro-Harmonix effects

Electro-Harmonix now offers a line up that is far too numerous to mention every product. And these include not just guitar effects, but bass effects, drum effects and vocal effects.  And they have also updated versions of their original effects that sell at a much lower price than the vintage models.

As a reminder, the sources for the pictures can be found by clicking on the links below them and the links in the text will take you to further interesting facts.
©UniqueGuitar Publishing (text only)

Categories: General Interest

The Gibson ES-335

Sun, 01/29/2017 - 07:23
Mark Knopfler's '58 ES-335
The 1950’s were essential years in perfecting the design of the electric guitar. For Gibson Guitars, under the leadership of Ted McCarty, 1958 was a magical year. He and his team had come up with a series of futuristic solid body guitar designs, which included the Flying Vee, the Explorer and the elusive Moderne, but they also created one of the most original and iconic electric guitars of all time; The ES-335TD, or Electric Spanish model 335 Thin - Double Pickups. Or as it is more commonly known; the Gibson ES-335.

1958 ES-335

McCarty felt the ES-335 was right behind the Les Paul solid body as the companies most important body design. He stated, “I came up with the idea of putting a solid block of maple in an acoustic model. It would get some of the same tone as a regular solidbody, plus the instrument's hollow wings would vibrate and we'd get a combination of an electric solidbody and a hollow body guitar.”

In 1952 Gibson had taken a chance on production of Les Paul’s concept of a solid body guitar which would eliminate the electronic feedback that was common to hollow body electric guitars when they were amplified loudly.

Les Paul with The Log
To prove this point, in 1941 Les Paul had created “The Log” which was a solid piece of 4 x 4 pine wood on to which he had attached an Epiphone Broadway guitar neck. Two single coil pickups were mounted to the wooden frame, along with a tailpiece to attach the strings. To make it appear to be a guitar, Paul had sawed the body of an Epiphone guitar in half and bolted the “wings” on either side of the pine plank. And that instrument did not feed back.

A modern ES 335 with maple block

This concept was essentially repeated with the Gibson ES-335. Its body had wings that were hollow shells of maple with F-holes over those chambers, but a significant maple block  separated the two sides and it was routed out to contain the pickups and anchor the neck.

'48 L-5
In the 1950’s Gibson had its feet staunchly planted in the hollow body guitar market manufacturing some of the finest electric and acoustic instruments. Up until the production of the ES-335, all the Gibson guitars with cutaways had only been manufactured with one either Venetian or Florentine cutaway, but never with two cutaways.

'49 Bigsby Guitar

Fender had been making its double cutaway Stratocaster since 1954. Surprisingly enough Paul Bigsby had built double cutaway guitars as early as 1949. And Bigsby’s guitars, though solid in appearance were actually hollow body instruments.

'55 Mousegetar
Now this may sound far fetched, but in the year 1958 one of the most popular television shows was The Mickey Mouse Club. Host Jimmy Dodd played a tenor guitar that Walt Disney commissioned to be produced by Candeles Guitars of East Los Angeles. Walt wanted that guitar to appear as if it had “mouse ears”. So the Mousegetar was built with double cutaways in 1955, three years before the ES-335. I have to wonder if this particular guitar inspired anyone in the Gibson design department.

By 1958 Gibson had latched on to the double cutaway concept.

An original 1958 Gibson ES-335 was given a suggested retail price of $335. Although in 1958 most were selling at around $267.50. By the way, in today's money $267.50 is equivalent to around $4,000 USD.

1958 Gibson ES-335
In 1958 the ES-335 body was 1 3/4” deep and had the usual Gibson scale of 24 3/4”. The top and back on the double cutaway body were made of laminated maple as was the center block. The body had single white binding around its perimeter. The neck was also made of laminated maple, for added strength and on original models, it was not bound and had a rather large feel to it. The fretboard was made of rosewood with pearl dot inlays.

1958 ES-335 Neck view
The original ES-335 guitars came with either a stop tail piece or a Bigsby B7 vibrato tail piece, which sometimes came with a sticker that said “CustomMade” to hide the routing holes for the stop bar. The bridge/saddle was a tune-o-matic model with adjustable nickel saddles.

PAF Stricker from 1958 humbuckers
This guitar came with twin PAF humbucking pickups and each had an individual volume and tone control in a gold finish with gold tops. Nearby was a three-way selector switch with an amber plastic top. The original models came with the long beveled pickguard. The strap button was made of plastic.

This year the ES-335 was only available with a sunburst or natural finish.

1959 ES-335 Cherry finish
A year later the familiar cherry red finish was added as an option. This year binding was added to the neck. Some of the 1958 models had irregularities in the shape of the neck. By 1959, these issue were resolved. A 1959 ES-335 is considered to be a very desirable guitar to collectors.

1960 ES-335

A few changes occurred in 1960. This year the neck was given a thinner feel to the back shape. The volume/tone knobs have a chrome reflector top. The pickguard was shortened this year and does not extend past the bridge.

1961 ES-335

In 1961, Gibson discontinued the ES-335 with a natural finish. This year the strap button were changed to metal. The selector switch tip colour was gradually changed to white. Most notably the serial number was stamped into the back side of the head stock.

1962 ES-335
Big changes occurred in 1962. Instead of pearl dot inlaid fret markers, the markers were now small block inlays. The shape of the cutaways have a slight change in that they are now rounder instead of being more pointed. The saddles in the tune-o-matic bridge are now made of white nylon. Most of us will never see this, but the PAF sticker on the back of the humbucking pickups now shows the patent number.

By 1963 the neck shape gradually got larger again.

1965 Gibson ES-335 
In 1965 Gibson changed the stop tailpiece to a chrome trapeze model. This may have been the most visible change. However the most dramatic change was the width of the neck at the nut. It changed from 1 11/16th” to 1 9/16th”.

1966 ES-335

By 1966 the Brazilian rosewood on the fretboard was changed to Indian rosewood. The neck angle decreased from 17 degrees to 14 degrees. The bevel of the pickguard was also changed making the black/white/black layers less noticeable.

1968 Gibson ES-335

By 1968 Gibson resumed making the nut and neck slightly wider by going back to the 1 11/16th” spacing.

1969 ES-335 Walnut Finish

It was not until 1969 that any more changes occurred. That year the guitar was offered with a walnut finish.

1977 ES-335 with coil tap switch

In 1977 Gibson, now owned by Norlin added a coil tap switch on the upper treble cutaway to keep up with the trends of the day.

1981 ES-335DOT

In 1981 the ES-335TDC was discontinued, but replaced with the ES-335DOT. These were made through 1985 and were very good guitars.

1990 Gibson ES-335

By 1990 the Gibson ES-335DOT was discontinued and replaced with the Gibson ES-335 reissue which remains in production.

ES-335 Artist
Through the years Gibson issued some variants on the ES-335 model including a 1981 model called the ES-335 Artist, or more properly, ES Artist, which came with a large headstock logo, no F-holes, a metal truss rod cover, gold hardware, and 3 knobs. The circuit inside the guitar was developed by Moog.

1987 ES-335 CMT

From 1983-1987 the ES-335 CMT was available. A very similar guitar to the ES-335DOT, but with a curly maple top and back and with gold hardware.

1990 ES-335 Studio

I recall the music store I used to spend time at had a Gibson ES-335 Studio model. It was Gibson’s effort to update and offer a lower price point. This guitar had no F-Holes, and came with twin Dirty Finger humbucking pickups. These were made from the mid 1980’s through 1991.

1988 ES-335 Showcase Edition

The Gibson ES-335 Showcase Edition lasted only a year. The hardware was black. It came with two EMG pickups. The guitar was either white or beige. Only 200 units were made in 1988.

'94 ES-335 Centennial

1994 gave us the Gibson ES-335 Centennial model to celebrate the company’s founding. This also was a limited edition of only 100 units. This guitar came with a gold medallion on the headstock and the tailpiece had diamond inlays.

1998 ES-335 Historic '59

Four years later Gibson came out with the ES-335 Historic Collection, which was a replica of their original 1959 ES-335.

'85 ES-335 Nashville made
By 1984 Gibson had moved all electric guitar production our of Kalamazoo, Michigan to Nashville, Tennessee. The ES-335 was then being made at the Nashville factory.

However in 2000 Gibson opened a facility in Memphis, Tennessee. This is where ES-335’s are built today.

Through the years following 1958, Gibson made other models that were either based on the model ES-335, such as ES-330, which was a hollow body guitar, or the ES-345 and ES-355, which had a broader tonal palette and were fancier guitars, and even the Trini Lopez Standard, which had a similar body, but different sound holes, inlays, and headstock, the ES-335 is the original starting point for all similar models.

Click on the links in the photographs for their source. Click on links in the text for further information.

© UniqueGuitar Publishing

Categories: General Interest

New Guitars from C.F. Martin

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 20:08
C.F. Martin Guitars made a hit at this years winter NAMM show with their D-200 Limited Edition guitar that has a suggested retail price of $149,999.

Martin D-200 
The 2017 Winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention not only attracts musical instrument retailers, but also artists and lovers of musical merchandise, especially guitars. The D-200 is a collaboration with the RGM Watch Company and celebrates the fact that Martin Guitars has built 2 million guitars. Only fifty D-200’s will be made.

Martin D-200 back side
The company’s press release states"This unprecedented instrument is symbolic of the passage of time with a unique watch theme displayed throughout the many highly decorative aspects of the model. A classic 14-fret Style 45 Dreadnought is the basis for this work of art. The top is crafted from highly-figured bearclaw Engelmann spruce that features an aluminum rosette with guilloche engraving - a refined process of cutting geometric patterns into metal that also appears on the stainless steel tuning machine buttons of the edition. 

Martin D-200

The guitar's back of rare pre-CITES Brazilian rosewood, is inlaid with spectacular watch gears cut from reconstituted stone, mother-of-pearl, bloodwood, Hawaiian koa and ebony. The equally spectacular soundboard inlays feature a minute track in mother-of-pearl, birdseye maple, flamed Hawaiian koa and ebony, and a pickguard with pearl inlaid watch gears. 

D-200 Side view
Yet another unique decorative detail is the triple-strand abalone pearl striping that bisects the length of each side, referencing the early Spanish-inspired instruments of C. F. Martin Sr. The maple bound ebony fingerboard showcases watch gear mechanisms with the highest level of delicate inlay art. 

Martin D-200 with RGM Watch

Each guitar is furnished with a newly-designed wearable edition watch from RGM that references details from the D-200 guitar design and bears a matching serial number with each edition instrument. 

Martin D-200 with aluminum case

Lastly, each guitar comes in a premium aluminum Zero Manufacturing attache case with a built-in hygrometer that allows the interior environment of the case to be seen without the need to open the case."

DD-28 Dwight Yoakam

C.F. Martin unveiled two other models that are more affordable. These include the Dwight Yoakam DD-28 model with a suggested retail price of $5,999.

DD-28 Dwight Yoakam
This gorgeous dreadnought style guitar features a solid sitka spruce top with East Indian rosewood back and sides. Thre fretboard is ebony with three mother-of-pearl clover fret markers and a mother-of-pearl inlay of reconstituted stone playing cards that cover the 11th through the 13th frets. The pickguard is in Martin’s “bull horn” style. The highly flamed headstock veneer of Indian rosewood features the deluxe C.F. Martin vertical logo.

John Prine D-28 LTD
Martin has also come out with a limited edition of 70 John Prine D-28 guitars to honor one of the world’s great songwriters and singers. This beautiful guitar features an Engleman spruce top that features an antique toner finish along with antique white binding. The bridge saddle is made of ebony with a bone saddle. Wood used on the back and side is Madagascar rosewood. The headstock veneer, also made of Madagascar rosewood features pearl angel wing inlays to commemorate Prine’s popular song, “Angel from Montgomery.”

Head and neck detail

The neck comes with an ebony fretboard with abalone pearl snowflake inlays. The case is also unique. It features a cream tweed exterior and plush bright red inner lining. The John Prine D-28 has a suggested retail price of $5999.

Martin CEO-8.2
When does a Martin guitar not look like a Martin guitar? When it is designed by Martin CEO C.F. Martin IV. Chris Martin came up with this exquisite grand jumbo guitar deemed the CEO 8.2, and topped it off with unique Bourbon Sunset Burst shading. The guitar is made entirely with Forestry Stewardship Council certified wood. Martin has done a great job with conservation over recent years. The headstock has a unique design taken from very old Martin archtop models and has an ornate design, and an unusual slanted logo.

Headstock and neck detail

The fret markers are unique and match the headstock inlay. It is priced at $3999 or if you prefer a Fishman soundhole pickup it will cost an extra grand. It comes with grained ivoroid binding and heelcap, a bone nut and saddle. The bridge is ebony and the bridge pins are called liquid metal. The case for this guitar is also unique and is a TKL Alumin-X case with a precise fit for this guitar.

C-1 amd C-3 Ukes

To celebrate 100 years of uke production, Martin unveiled three new ukuleles. These include the Style 3 Centennial Ukulele, with a suggested retail price of $2999, the Style 1 Centennial Ukulele, with a suggested retail price of $599, and the new Bamboo Natural Uke with a retail price of $449.

Categories: General Interest

Guild Electric Guitars

Sun, 01/08/2017 - 16:32
Guild Electric Guitars
One of my favorite guitar companies is Guild. During the guitar boom of the 1960, when it came to electric guitars, most performers preferred Fender, Gibson, and even Gretsch. Of the electric guitars players that were known for their use of a Guild electric guitar, only a few come to mind.

1976 Guild S100 Carved

Guild acoustic guitars seemed to enjoy better name recognition than the companies electric brands. But in my opinion, Guild electric guitars were every bit as good and in some cases superior to the products being put out by their competition.

Al Dronge on the right
The Guild Guitar Company was founded in 1952 by Avram “Alfred” Dronge, a guitarist and music-store owner, and George Mann, a former executive with the Epiphone Guitar Company.

Dronge immigrated with his family to the United States in 1916 and grew up in Manhattan, near the Music Row district, around West 48th street.

He was an accomplished banjo player and guitarist. He eventually opened a music store in that part of town back in the mid-1930’s and successfully ran it until 1948. He then amassed a fortune by importing accordions and distributing them in the early 1950’s when the accordion was a very popular musical instrument.

Al Dronge - George Mann
In 1952 his friend George Mann suggested they partner in the guitar business. Mann had been employed in management by Epiphone Guitars. This company was facing upheavals by employees who wanted to unionize. To put a halt this the Stathopoli Brothers left their manufacturing facility in New York City and set up shop in Philadelphia leaving many craftsmen without work. George Mann saw the potential in hiring these out of work craftsmen.

Another friend of both men, Gene Detgen, suggested the name “Guild”. In 1952 the company was founded with Mann as president and Dronge as vice-president and former Epiphone employees were hired. A year after forming the company Mann departed leaving Al Dronge in charge.

Guild Guitar Factory Manhattan
By 1956 the company set up shop in Manhattan, but soon moved to Hoboken, New Jersey due to expansion. The men were fortunate to hire seasoned people to run the operation such as Bob Bromberg, who was the plant manager, Carlo Greco, who was an exceptional luthier, Gilbert Diaz, who was in charge of final assembly, and Fred Augusto, a finishing specialist.

Guild F-5212
During the “Folk Era” of the 1960’s the company thrived due to its acoustic guitar production and reputation. Especially popular was the amazing Guild F5212 that sounded like a canon.

Carl Kress & George Barnes
Because of Al Dronge’s ties with the New York Jazz scene, where he played guitar at clubs during his younger days, he was able to get a lot of input from players like Johnny Smith, Son Armone, Carl Kress, and Barry Galbraith on the needs of a jazz player for an electric guitar.

'58 Johnny Smith Award

In fact Johnny Smith worked with the factory to develop a signature guitar which became the Artist Award. Another jazz giant, George Barnes, helped develop another signature guitar. Both of these models were in high demand among studio performers. A signature hollow-body guitar designed for Duane Eddy became a rockabilly classic.

1962 Guild X-175

It was during this era that Guild created some of their classic electric models such as the X-175 and the M-75 Aristocrat.

1957 M-75 Aristocrat
The M-75 Aristocrat may have looked like a Les Paul, but it was far from that guitar. The M-75 was introduced in 1954. Although it had no f-holes, it was a hollowbody guitar with a spruce top. Guild fouder Al Dronge was not looking at the Les Paul, as his attention was bent towards Jazz guitarists and their needs.

'58 Guild Aristocrat

The pickups on this guitar looked like P-90 soap bar models, but were made by the Franz company of Astoria New York and were of a lower output.

Guild Bluesbird
This model was produced through 1963, but was revived in 1967 with the name BluesBird. At this time the body was routed instead of being hollow and the pickups were replaced with humbuckers.

'70 Guld M-75

By 1970 the designation changed to the M-75 and hardward was downgraded from gold-plated to chrome plated. The body on this guitar was solid beginning around 1971.

Guild S-200 “Thunderbird”, S-100 “Polara”, S-50 “Jet Star”

It was during the 1960’s that Guild produced their finest electric guitars.

These included the Thunderbird series, the S-100 Polara, and the Starfire series.

Jerry Garcia with Guild Starfire IV
Guitarists Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia and bassist Phil Lesh, all of the Grateful Dead had their Guild Starfire guitars and basses modified by the Alembic company as did bass player Jack Cassady of Jefferson Airplane. 

Zal Yanovsky with Guild S-200

Guitarist Zal Yanovsky of The Lovin’ Spoonful and Bluesman Muddy Waters used Guild Thunderbird S-200 guitars.

'63 S-200 Thunderbird
The S-200 Thunderbird was possibly one of the more unique guitar ever created. Sometimes it is referred to as the Gumby Guitar since it's body bears resemblance to the green claymation character.

This guitar was equipped with twin humbucking pickups, each with separate volume controls and tone controls. It also had a faceplate on the lower side of the upper bout that housed 3 slider switches in a similar manner to the Fender Jaguar.

The 2 lower switches were on/off controls for each pickup. The upper switch was an on/off mode switch. Housed between the switching faceplate and the volume potentiometers was another mode switch. Switched upward it effected only the neck pickup and downward effected both pickups. When the mode switch was on it activated capacitors that produced a single coil type of tone, while maintaining the humbucking capability of the pickups giving the guitar a sparkling clean sound.

Hagstrom Tremolo

The strings attached to a tremolo unit that was made by the Hagstrom Guitar company. The guitars neck was bound and had mother-of-pearl block inlays. The headstock was made with a very unique carve on it's top and the Guild logo was inlaid above a "thunderbird" inlay.

S-200 Built-in stand

Due to the inward carve on the bottom of this guitar, some ingenious designer at Guild decided the finishing touch would be to add a metal bar to the back of the guitar that acted like a built-in guitar stand.

S-100 and S-200

The S-200 Thunderbird guitar was also produced with twin single coil pickups. The S-100 was another guitar in the series that had less switching features and  a less fancy headstock but retained the built-in guitar stand.

In 1966, the Guild Musical Instruments Corporation, as it was now known, was bought out by electronics giant Avnet Inc. This was right at the end of the guitar boom, but corporations were still hoping to profit from the popularity of the guitar.

Guild's Westerly, Rhode Island factory
The company had outgrown it’s facility in Hoboken and the new owners decided, to move manufacturing to Westerly Rhode Island. Al Dronge was still in charge.

Sadly he was piloting a small aircraft and commuting to Westerly when his plane crashed in May of 1972. He was a popular and respected man and his employees, and the industry felt his loss.

'79 Guild D-40C

In 1972, under Guild's new president Leon Tell, noteworthy guitarist/designer Richard "Rick" Excellente conceptualized and initiated the first dreadnought guitar with a "cut-away" with the Guild D40-C. By the 1970’s and 80’s, the Folk Era, and the Guitar Boom were history.

'84 X-79, '87 Detonator, '88 Liberator
To keep afloat and survive the competition Guild introduced a series of Superstrat style solid body guitars including models such as the Flyer, Aviator, Liberator and Detonator, the Tele-style T-200 and T-250 and the Pilot Bass, available in fretted, fretless, and 4- and 5-string versions.

These guitars were the first Guild instruments to bear slim pointed headstocks.

Guitars drying at Westerly plant
In 2001 Fender Musical Instruments Corporation was on an acquisition spree and purchased many of their competitors leaving them in name only. FMIC (Fender) purchased Guild this same year. Production had been great in Westerly for over 30 years and Guild had employed many fine craftsmen.

But Fender had plans to move production to their facility in Corona, California.

The last job the good folks in Westerly did for Guild was to put together archtop and acoustic guitar “kits” that were to be shipped to California where they would be finished and assembled. Although Corona does have a wonderful plant, production of Guild guitars was not to be continued there. Later on there were rumors that FMIC may move production back to Westerly, but nothing ever happened.

The Tacoma Guitar Factory
In 2004 FMIC purchased the assets of the Tacoma, Washington based Tacoma Guitar Company with the thought of having workers there build Guild Guitars.

Sadly Tacoma Guitars, which were unique and excellent instruments, were never built again. Guild guitars were built in Tacoma for only a few years.

Kaman Music Corp, New Hartford
In 2008 Fender acquired Kaman Music Corporation aka Ovation Guitars and moved production of Guild Guitars to that facility in New Hartford, Connecticut where production of US made Guild guitars resumed the following year.

By then FMIC was also outsourcing production. To be fair, as far back as when Guild was in Westerly, Rhode Island, the company had outsourced some of its products, but not under the Guild brand name.

1979 Madeira Guitar Ad

In the early 1970’s Guild was importing Madeira acoustic and electric guitars from Japan. Later on these were made in Korea. The pickguard shapes and headstock shapes on these instruments are different than USA made Guild guitars.

Burnside Electric
Another line imported in the 1990’s was called Burnside Electric Guitars. These were Superstrat style guitars manufactured outside of the United States. The headstocks bore the logo “Burnside by Guild”. This line up lasted only a few years.

DeArmond Rhythm Chief pickup
As I have already indicated the Fender Musical Instrument Company was busy acquiring brands made by other companies. One of these was DeArmond, which was well known as the guitar pickup manufacturer, Rowe-DeArmond of Toledo, Ohio.

DeArmond M-77T

In the late 1990’s Fender made some reissues of Guild electric guitars that were manufactured in Korea and in Indonesia and marketed under the brandname DeArmond. These guitars and basses were variations on the Gulld Starfire, the X-155, the T400, the M-75 Bluesbird, and the pilot series bass. The headstock bore the DeArmond logo and some included a modified version of Guild’s Chesterfield inlay. Some even had the word Guild etched into the truss rod cover.

DeArmond Starfire IV

The best models came from Korea, while the less fancy guitars and bass examples were made in Indonesia. The DeArmond brand was first offered in Europe and then in the United States and was discontinued in the early 2000’s.

New Hartford F-412
The Guild guitars produced in Connecticut at the New Hartford facility were of very high quality. These were mostly acoustic guitars.The New Hartford facility had also created a new line of specialty, limited edition guitars, referred to as the GSR Series. The GSR designation stands for "Guild Special Run." This series was first revealed to Guild dealers at Guild's dealer-only factory tour in mid-2009 called the "Guild Summit Retreat".

Guild F-30 GSR

These models featured unique takes on classic Guild Traditional Series models.

2012 Starfire VI
In fact only one electric model was built at this facility and that was the Guild Starfire VI. Only 20 examples of this guitar were produced.

In the summer of 2014 Fender sold off the Guild brand to Cordoba guitars. Most Ovation production had already been moved to Asia and the Kaman Corporation was entirely out of the music manufacturing business.

Oxnard, CA Guild plant
Though it has taken them nearly two years to get fully back into business, Cordoba has built a new facility in Oxnard, California and placed master luthier Ren Ferguson is in charge.

Ren Ferguson
Ren Ferguson has worked for Gibson Guitars since they acquired the Flatiron Mandolin company in 1986 and is a well known figure in the music industry.

Guild GAD series

In 2015 the GAD (Guild Acoustic Design Series) was replaced by the Westerly Collection, which included the models such as the T-50 Slim, the Starfire IV, and the Chris Hillman Bass.

Later that year the first M-20 and D-20 guitars were built in the Oxnard factory and in the spring of 2016 shipped to the Chicago Music Exchange.

A Few New Guild Electric Guitar Models
Based on the website and checking online store, Guild electric guitars and basses are back in full production and selling in the $1,000 USD range.

Categories: General Interest

Dick Dale - His Guitar and Amplifier and His Contributions to Music

Fri, 12/30/2016 - 19:02
Dick Dale
One of the men that has done more than most to shape the world of modern rock guitar, and even the world of heavy metal music gets very little respect or recognition these days.

King of the Surf Guitar

I am of an age where I can recall Surf Guitar being played on the radio. I am not certain how players learn songs anymore, but I grew up listening to The Ventures, The Surfaris and Dick Dale. I learned to play guitar by listening to those songs over and over until I could duplicate them.

Dick Dale and the Del-Tones
In those days, Dick Dale was just a name of the guy playing lead guitar on some popular songs that I wanted to play with my garage band. I knew he was from California and his bands name was The Del-Tones, but had no idea that his persistence in seeking a better, bigger and louder sound from his guitar would eventually turn into the industry standard and change live guitar music and concerts. 

Dick Dale
Dick Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour on May 4th, 1937 in Boston Massachusetts. His father was Lebanese and his mother’s family came from Poland. Due to his Lebanese heritage Dale developed an interest in Arabic music. I mention this because the song everyone associates him with is Miserlou. When he was very young his uncle taught him how to play the tarabaki, while the uncle played the oud.  Because of this Dale developed his rapid and alternating picking technique. He states the music had a sense of pulsating.

Misilou 45 RPM
One can certainly hear the Arabic influence in Misirlou. Much of this song is played on a single string, up and down the neck. In reading about the song, it was first popularized by a Greek recording in 1927 and called Misirli which roughly translates to The Egyptian. Dale would have learned this song as a kid.

The Fender Discussion Page

In the late 1990’s, when I first got on the internet I used to visit The Fender Forum aka The Fender Discussion Page. Early on this site was not just a discussion page for fans of Fender guitars, but also received visits and comments from Fender employees, including Bill Schultz, the CEO at the time.

Fender Facts Newsletter

Fender had a newsletter back then and one issue featured an interview with Dick Dale. We thought it humorous that Dick Dale spoke in the third person throughout the interview and we poked fun of that.

Mr. Dale
I took the initiative of email Mr. Dale, hoping that he might join in the discussion. Boy was I mistaken. I received a terse reply. I wrote him again and apologized for remarks like, Dick Dale uses bridge cables to string his guitar. (Which is almost true. His choice of Ernie Ball strings at the time ran from .60 to .16 gauge.)  (Note: After rereading an article I wrote about Jazz and Session player Howard Roberts, I discovered that Roberts choice of string sizes was similar; .58 to .16.)

Dick Dale with his cats
Dale took the time to email me back and was very gracious. I have nothing but respect for this man. In his text he related some similar experiences that I could relate to. We both took care of our elderly parents. And we both loved animals, Dick Dale more-so than I, because he raised a menagerie of around 40 assorted lions, tigers, leopards, hawks, eagles, ravens, a baby elephant and other non-domestic critters that had been rescued from poachers.

He also elaborated to me about the nights that he spent with  Leo Fender discussing his amplification needs; such as why the current Fender amps kept burning out during his shows. The men also discussed his guitar.

Dick Dale and the Del-Tones
Dick Dale was one of the first to receive a Fender Stratocaster.

Indeed there are a number of Fender innovations that although Dale did not create, he was the impetus and drive behind them. For instance, most amplifiers in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were putting out 12 to 15 watts. There were a handful, including the Fender Bassman that pumped out 40 watts RMS.

With the Del-Tones

When Dick Dale first started playing music, he says he was in a 17 piece band, with horns and a drummer. He was playing Big Band Music and the guitar could not be heard.

Town Hall Party cast in the 1950's

Later he attempted to be a Country singer for a while and even got a gig on a popular west coast TV show called Town Hall Party where he played with a number of famous Country Music stars.

Then Rock and Roll came along and the band became a combo, but the still the guitar was pretty much a background rhythm instrument.

When guitar based Surf Music hit the scene around 1962 he needed to do something. Leo Fender was a generous man and provided amplifiers and guitars to California musicians as a form of not just advertising but to see what worked well and what needed improvement.

Leo Fender in the 1950's
When Dick Dale first met Leo Fender he told him that he was a surfer and a guitar player and did not have money for a decent instrument. Leo recognized the drive and determination and gave him a Stratocaster and right on the spot asked him what he thought about this Fender guitar. Dale, being left-handed, turned the right handed instrument over and began playing, which made Mr. Fender laugh.

Here was a guy playing his guitar upside-down and backwards, meaning the 6th string was on the top and the 1st string was on the bottom. So Leo Fender made a left-handed Stratocaster for him.

Late 1950's Fender Pro - 18 to 25 watts
Dick Dale’s amps would all burn out from his intense and loud playing. He says that he blew out almost 50 amplifiers and speakers. I’m told that when Fender and Freddie Tavares came to see him play. Leo Fender went home and thought about this situation. This prompted Fender to make a larger and better output transformer.

Dale's Original Showman Prototype
Dale relates, “ I get a phone call one time, it was 2:30 in the morning and Leo said, “Dick, I got it, I got it, I found it! I got it! You gotta come down.” He says “I made an 85 watt output transformer, peaking 100 watts because using 5881 tubes would give it that WhOOm sound, ya gotta try it, ya, ya gotta try it.”

Vintage 15" JBL Lansing D130F
The trouble was they didn’t have a speaker that could handle this much power. Fender had been routinely using Altec Lansing speakers in some of their amplifiers, but Dale wanted something much stronger. So they approached another company called JBL Lansing and asked for a 15” speaker with a 10 to 11 and a half pound magnet.

15" JBL Lansing D130F speakers
The speaker needed to have an aluminum dust cover. So JBL Lansing went about creating this speaker which was not just sturdier, but came with a rubberized coating around the edge of the speaker which was connected to a metal frame. The JBL Lansing D130F was born.

Early 1960's Fender Dual Showman

The speakers were housed in a separate cabinet than the amplifier. This cabinet had what Fender called a "tone ring" that encircled the edge of the speaker and let more of the natural bass sounds come through.

The output transformer that Mr. Fender created emphasized the lows, mids and high sounds, something that had not been accomplished until then. The 100 watt amp and the cabinet were dubbed The Showman Amp.

The next step that Dale suggested was to place two of these speakers in a cabinet. The Showman Amp was born. When twin 8 ohm 15” JBL Lansing speakers were added to the cabinet to run in series it came to be known as The Dual Showman. Leo Fender had to upgrade the transformer to accommodate the 4 ohm load.

The version that Dick Dale uses is the one with cream coloured Tolex. Later the amp was rated at 100 watts and peaked at 180 watts. When the black Tolex models came out they were once again rated at 85 watts.

Dick Dale never set the amplifier on top of the speaker cabinet, since his intense style of playing guitar causes too much vibration in the speakers which can affect the tubes in the amplifier.

Fender Reverb Unit & Controls
The Fender Reverb unit was another invention that Dick Dale did not invent, but certainly pushed forward. The Showman and the Dual Showman amplifiers were self contained amplifiers with a separate cabinet for the speakers and the only effect that was built into them was vibrato.

By 1961, only a handful of amplifier manufacturers had installed reverberation units in combo amps, most notably Ampeg, with their Reverb Rocket. Though none of these amplifiers had been rated at 100 watts up until now.

Dick Dale state he took apart his Hammond organ and discovered the reverb unit had 9 springs, which the signal traveled through. He took this to Leo, who made a chassis with a small amplifier that contained a 6K6 power tube, a 7025 and a 12AX7, which are both preamp tubes. Dale plugged a mic into this and loved the sound.

Inside the Reverb Unit
Leo then went on to create the Fender Reverb Unit, which was used by Dick Dale, the Beach Boys, and many other Surf band to get that exceptional reverberation sound. Dale also utilized an Echoplex.

Getting back to the Dick Dale guitar. Even early photos show that Dale stripped that guitar down to the bare essentials. He took out all the parts that he did not need on that guitar.

Dick Dale with his original Fender Stratocaster
For instance, Dale’s Strat does not have any tone potentiometers. He removed both of them and replaced them with metal plugs. The guitar has only a 250k master volume pot. On Dale’s personal guitar, there is not even a volume knob, just has the end of the potentiometer sticking out.

Dick Dale Stratocaster
Dales guitar has a 3-way pickup selector switch, just like on the original Stratocasters and he prefers it that way. Fender offered to update it with a five-way switch but Dick Dale declined. Instead he added a mini-toggle switch that turns the middle pickup off and on, so it can be used in combination with either of the other two pickups.

One would think that a Surf player would utilize the vibrato, but not Dick Dale. Though his guitar still has 5 springs on the back side holding the vibrato block (5 springs were standard on original Stratocasters) there is a wooden block wedged between the block and the guitars routed area to keep the block from moving.

Dick Dale’s Fender Stratocaster is a mid 1950’s model, which is odd as it has a rosewood slab fretboard. The body is finished in sparkle gold paint

Dick Dale's Stratocaster
The only other modifications include the addition of an America Flag sticker on the upper bout, a pick-holder/dispenser on the lower bout and a Kenpo karate sticker placed on the guitars body. This sticker is from the same organization that Elvis Presley was a part of and was founded by Senior Grand Master Ed Parker. Dick Dale has been a student of Karate for over 30 years.

Late 1960's Fender Rhodes electric piano

Around 1959 Leo Fender was interesting in adding a piano to his company’s inventory. He struck a deal with Harold Rhodes, who was a musician and inventor.

Rhodes had come up with a piano-type instrument that employed tuned metal bars called tines being struck by a hammer instead the usual piano action of a hammer striking of strings. The sound was then amplified. This instrument eventually came to be known as the Fender Rhodes piano.

By now Leo Fender considered Dick Dale to be not just a guitarist, but the ultimate test machine.  If he could give Dale a piece of equipment and let him use it in concerts, then Fender could see if it was worthy. Apparently, the Fender Rhodes Piano passed the test and though it never became a substitute for an acoustic piano, it became a studio and concert mainstay.

Fender Contempo Organ
Another device that was tested by Dick Dale and his band was the Fender Contempo Organ. In the early and mid 1960’s, many bands were utilizing portable organs such as those manufactured by Farfisa, Vox, Maestro (Gibson), and a number of other companies.

A company called Pratt Read, was manufacturing parts for the Fender Rhodes piano and was asked by Fender if they could put together a combo organ.

Dick Dale's Prototype Contempo organ

The Fender Contempo was one of the sturdier of the portable organs of that era. This was another product that Fender gave to Dick Dale to test for road-worthiness.

Dick Dale Acoustic
Some time before 2010, Dick Dale ask Fender if they could build a signature acoustic guitar for him. He complained that most acoustic guitars are too deep and too wide, which causes cramps in his abdomen. In 2010 Fender came up with a full size acoustic-electric guitar that was only 3" deep and based on the Fender Malibu series guitar of the 1960's. This instrument had a solid mahogany top, back and sides. The neck was a reverse Stratocaster style with a rosewood fretboard that was set in to the heel and the guitar was painted cherry red. It had two pickguard for Mr. Dale's aggressive style playing.

Jimmy Dale Acoustic

Since Dick's son, Jimmy, often travels with him and is a part of his act playing guitar and drums, Fender also built a Jimmy Dale Kingman SCE model. This guitar is a full sized with an all mahogany body. The set-in maple Stratocaster-style neck without the reverse headstock. Both guitars are no longer offered.

Dick Dale and the Del-Tones from Beach Party
Dick Dale’s fame rose when he was featured, along with his band, The Del-Tones, in the 1963 movie Beach Party, with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

Dick Dale in the movie Muscle Beach
A year later Dick and the band were featured in another movie called Muscle Beach. From the picture it appears that Dick Dale either had his Stratocaster painted gold sparkle and changed the pickguard from tortoise shell to white or perhaps he got a new Stratocaster.

This is the guitar that he is still using today.

Dick Dale in recent years
Dick Dale has survived numerous health issues. He has recovered from rectal cancer and almost lost a leg to a terrible infection. He has endured radiation and chemotherapy and has come out on top.

Dick Dale at 78 - same equipment
In 1987 he appeared in the movie Back to the Beach, once again playing Surf guitar. In 1993 he recorded the song Pipeline with Stevie Ray Vaughn and the following year Quentin Taratino used Dale’s version of the song Miserlou in the movie Pulp Fiction, which revived interest in Dick Dale’s career. At age 78 despite all his health issues Dick Dale is still playing concerts and putting on energetic live shows.

Like I said before, I really admire Dick Dale. Dick is a viable part of the history of the electric guitar and all the equipment that changed the face of rock music and he deserves recognition.

Click on the links beneath the pictures to see the source and click on the links in the text for more information.

Categories: General Interest

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Sat, 12/24/2016 - 06:10
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

On the eve of this Christmas, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a most Happy Holiday from The Unique Guitar Blog.

Framus Christmas guitar 

Some of my favorite guitars were Christmas presents. Send me a note if you received a guitar for this Holiday season and let me know all about it.

Fender guitar ornaments

I want to thank you for reading the blog. I love reading your comments as much as I love writing about guitars.

I have some new articles ready to go for the new year. Speaking of which, may you all have a very Happy New Year.

Categories: General Interest

Elvis' Guitars

Sun, 12/11/2016 - 14:14
Elvis, That's The Way It Is
I watched a show on Turner Classic Movies last night called Elvis, That’s The Way It Is, which went behind the scenes to show Elvis and his band rehearsing for a 1970 Las Vegas show that was attended by a bevy of celebrities.

Elvis with Gretsch Country Gentleman
During the show Elvis played two guitars; A Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar and a 1956 Gibson J-200N, which was updated  in the 1960’s with a custom pickguard.  In taking a look at Elvis' history I am surprised at how many guitars the man owned.

Early Elvis with Martin D-28
Early in his career, you can tell he was always looking for a better and perhaps louder instrument. To Elvis guitars were mainly used as props. That voice was what was important. There is no question Elvis was gifted with a unique and beautiful voice. Watching him in action on this movie, I can attest that Elvis was a plausible rhythm guitarist that knew enough chords to accompany himself on many of his songs.

Elvis Tossing a Martin guitar
Though he was fortunate enough to own and play some wonderful instruments, Elvis was not at all kind to his guitars. He dropped his beautiful Gibson J-200 on the floor several times during this production. His close friends confirm that he would occasionally toss a guitar to them during a concert which they would fail to catch.
Broken Martin D-35

His style of strumming was very rough. Perhaps this was due to the lack of adequate amplification during his early days of fame that he played so aggressively that he damaged the top of his guitars. His huge belt buckles attributed to a bad case of “buckle rash” on the back of a number of his instruments.

As I already related, we see Elvis changed guitars quite often and no doubt the damage that he inflicted accounts for some of this reason.

1946 Kay Guitar

Elvis received a Kay guitar in 1946 for his 11th birthday that his parents bought for either $7.00 or $12.50 from a hardware store in Tupelo, Mississippi. Accounts tell us he wanted a bicycle, but instead received a guitar. And his fans are grateful. This Kay instrument may have been the guitar that he took to Sun Records to make his first recording. There are several stories about the history of this guitar.

One states that Elvis gave the guitar to his friend, Red West when he (Elvis), enrolled in Jones County College. Then Red gave it to his friend, Ronnie Williams, who bequeathed it to his brother William. The other story states that Elvis traded the Kay guitar at the O.K. Houck Piano Company in Memphis when he purchased a Martin guitar. This story goes on to say upon selling Elvis the Martin guitar the store promptly threw the Kay instrument in the trash. Whichever story is correct the guitar still exists, and is held together by tape and has no strings. It was offered for auction in 2002, but due to the lack of provenance to document it, failed to attract bidders.

Elvis with Martin 000-18

In 1954 Elvis purchased a 1936 Martin 000-18 from the O.K. Houck Piano Company in Memphis, Tennessee. This guitar was purchased for $5 down and $10 a month which cost $79.50 in 1954. Included with the purchase was a set of “autogram” Metallic letters that spelled E-L-V-I-S. Presley put these on the body of the guitar.

Recording King Guitar
That same year, 1954, Elvis acquired a Recording King guitar. This instrument was a brand sold at the Montgomery Ward store in Memphis. I have found no record of him ever using this instrument. He eventually gave it away to a famous harness horse racer named Delvin G. Miller in 1964. It has a note from Elvis to Miller inside the guitars body. It presently resides in a private collection.

Elvis' 1942 Martin D-18

Elvis apparently was not happy with the sound of the Martin 000-18 that he had purchased from the O.K. Houck Piano Company and in November of 1954 he traded it for a 1942 Martin D-18, which was a larger bodied instrument. He immediately put the same metallic lettering on this guitars body to spell out his name.

1955 Martin D-28
Within a few months Elvis traded his D-18 in for a 1954-55 D-28. That guitar would have cost $210 new. An employee that worked at the O.K. Houck Piano Company named Marcus Van Story, made a hand-tooled leather cover for this guitar at Elvis' request. Elvis had seen Hank Snow with his Martin Dreadnought which had a similar cover and Presley wanted one just like it.

1956 Gibson J-200
In 1956 Elvis acquired his first Gibson J-200, which like his previous instruments was purchased from the O.K. Houck Piano Company. Scotty Moore, the guitarist In his band, had just signed a deal that year to endorse Gibson guitars and figured Elvis would appreciate a free guitar. So Scotty had the store order the J-200. However Colonel Tom Parker would not let Elvis endorse any products. Subsequently Elvis was billed for the guitar.

He was supposed to visit the store in person to pick it up, but was unable to get out of other commitments, so Moore picked it up for him.

1956 J-200 with cover

The Gibson J-200 became one of Elvis’ favorite guitars. And it still is a gorgeous instrument. Within a year, Elvis had a hand-tooled leather cover made for it by Charles Underwood. (This was not the high-end leather manufacturer of the same name.)

Isana Guitar

It was 1958 when Elvis was drafted into the United States Army. While stationed in Germany his friend Lamar Fike, purchased a German guitar for Elvis called an Isana. This was a jazz style archtop instrument with soundholes that resembled the letter “S”. Elvis may of owned a couple of these guitars. One had a floating pickup, but was constructed in a way to be played without amplification.

Elvis used these guitars during his military service and when he was discharged gave them away to some local men he had befriended.

The modified Gibson J-200
Upon leaving the service in 1960 his 1956 Gibson J-200 was sent away to Gibson Guitars to be repaired and refurbished, so Elvis ordered a new 1960 Gibson J-200 from the same music store to use for a recording session.  Scotty Moore asked the folks at Gibson guitars to modify the 1956 J-200 by engraving his name in mother-of-pearl inlaid letters that were surrounded by two stars. Scotty left it up to Gibson to modify the pick guard to "something that Elvis might like". The Gibson craftsmen did a great job and it remained as one of Elvis' favorite guitars.

Elvis used his newer 1960 Gibson J-200 for the next eight years including on the 1968 Elvis Comeback Special.

Elvis with borrowed Hagstrom Viking

In 1968 for this same show Elvis borrowed a 1968 Hagstrom Viking electric guitar from session player Al Casey. During the taping the shows producer asked if any of the musicians had a flashy looking instrument that Elvis could use. Al Casey had this guitar in his cars trunk.

The background of the scene was red with silhouettes of guitar players and Elvis was dressed in all black with a red bandanna and was holding this bright red Hagstrom Viking. It was a very striking combination.

And though Elvis did not own the guitar, it became a great prop. By the way, Al Casey was one of the top California session players of the 1960's and '70's.

1968 Black Gibson J-200

In 1963 Elvis was given a black Gibson J-200 during a recording session in Nashville. He used this guitar on stage during Las Vegas shows throughout the 1970’s. Elvis had a decal put on the guitars top that was for Kenpo karate, to honor his friend Ed Parker, the founder of Kenpo karate.

With Scotty Moore's Super 400 CES

During the Elvis Comeback Special, Elvis borrowed Scotty Moore’s 1963 Gibson Super 400. This guitar had a Florentine cutaway, twin humbucking pickups and gold-plated hardware. During this scene in the special, Elvis played the Super 400, while Moore played Elvis’ 1960 J-200.

'64 Gretsch Country Gentleman

Elvis also owned and played a 1964 Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar that was quite similar to the one that George Harrison played. This guitar had a dark walnut finish on its flamed maple veneer top. It also came with double flip-up mutes which worked by turning two knurled knobs on opposite sides of the lower body.

'64 Gretsch pickups
This guitar was unusual in that the two pickups were mismatched. The neck pickup was a Super’Tron II with blade pole magnets while the neck pickup was a Filter’Tron pickup with 12 pole pieces. The tuning machines were Grover kidney style buttons instead of the stepped buttons usually found on this model. Though the hardware on this guitar was once gold-plated, including the Bigsby tailpiece, it has since faded and tarnished.

1969 Gibson Ebony Dove
Elvis owned a 1969 Gibson Ebony Dove, sometimes known as the Black Dove. He used it on stage from 1971 to 1973. This was a customized guitar.  When Gibson received the request for the guitar it specified that Elvis’ name was to be inlaid on the rosewood fretboard in mother-of-pearl lettering.

Close up of inlay 

The inlay work was done by Gruhn Guitars , since Gibson Guitars was in a time of transition and had no craftsman that could accomplish fancy inlay work at the time the guitar was ordered.

1969 Ebony Dove
The glossy black body featured a three-ply black/white/black pickguard with no dove inlay. It was just a solid black pickguard. The headstock had a single crown inlay, Twin mother-of-pearl inlaid "doves" faced each other on opposite sides of the rosewood bridge unit. One the lower section of the body Elvis had placed a Kenpo karate decal.

Elvis dropped this guitar during a 1972 show and had it repaired.

A year later he handed to an audience member that had been looking at the guitar and told him, “Hold on to that. Hopefully it’ll be valuable some day.” Mike Harris, the audience member and guitars owner, put the guitar on eBay in 2008 and rejected a bid of $85,000.

Elvis with Guild F-50
In 1977 Elvis began playing a 1974 sunburst Guild F-50. This was a beautiful jumbo instrument in the style of the Guild F-50-12, their top of the line 12 string guitar. The top was made of solid spruce. The sides were a 3 ply laminate of mahogany/maple/mahogany and the back was select maple laminate with an arch. Guild used this style of back on several of their models. It eliminated the need for back bracing. The adornments on this guitar were deluxe. The top and back of the body was double bound as was the neck.

Elvis tossing the Guild 
The rosette was inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The block position markers were also mother-of-pearl. The headstock was bound and the Guild was inlaid on top and the “G” logo was inlaid beneath of it. Elvis used this guitar in concerts during 1976 and tossed it to Charlie Hodge like it was a baseball.

Elvis - Martin D-35

In 1976 Elvis purchased a Martin D-35 of that same year and utilized from 1976 until February of 1977 when he damaged it during a performance. Part of the lower end of the guitars top cracked and split off. It could have been a simple repair.

Broken D-35

Instead Elvis gave this guitar to an audience member who had camped out in a lawn chair to see The King.

The guitar sold it at auction in Guernsey’s of NYC for $20,000 in 2002.

Elvis with 1975 D-28

Elvis’ last guitar was Martin D-28 that he used for his last 56 concerts including his final show on June 26, 1977. Ironically this is the same model of Martin guitar that he used when he started his career back in 1955. Less than a month later Elvis had left the building for good. He passed away on August 16th, of 1977. The Martin D-28 remains on display at Graceland.

Guitars on display at Graceland

Elvis owned many other guitars, some he was intrigued by, while other he collected or was given.

Elvis starred in 31 movies and played. or used at least 28 different guitars in these movies that were property of the movie company and he was given some of these guitars.

Please click on the links under the pictures for sources and additional information. Also click on links in the text for additional information. 

Categories: General Interest

Eric Clapton's Guitars For Sale At Gruhn Guitars

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 14:57

The Staff at Gruhn Guitars with the Eric Clapton Collection
Photo by Steve Cross Photography

Gruhn Guitars of Nashville, Tennessee has just announced it is offering the sale of 29 guitars owned by Eric Clapton. This sale runs the gamut of acoustic and nylon string instruments to electric guitars and bass guitars.

Two guitars are pre-WWII Martins, while others are custom shop one-of-a-kind guitars. Each guitar will be accompanied by a photo of Clapton with the guitars and a signed letter by him attesting ownership and provenance. Be advised that you will need a rather fat wallet when you make the trip.

1941 Martin 000-45
Clapton’s 1941 Martin 000-45 is being offered at $150,000.

The asking price for his 2014 personal Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster is $42,500.

Among the other pieces offered are the following:

1931 Martin OM-28

A 1931 Martin OM-28, which as already been sold at an undisclosed price.

1980 Santa Cruz

A 1980 Santa Cruz FTC-17 that was recently restored by Santa Cruz guitars and is going for $30,000.

1998 Gerundino GF1

A 1998 spruce top Gerundino GF1 Flamenco guitar that Clapton purchased in 2006 has been sold.

2003 Gerundion GF4

Another Gerundino Flamenco guitar. This is a 2003 model number GF4 with a cedar top has already been sold.

1929 National Tricone

A gorgeous 1929 National Style 3 Tricone resonator guitar that Clapton purchased in 2006 and Derek Trucks used on a tour that same year is offered, but has been sold.

Gruhn’s is also offering some of Clapton’s Fender Custom Shop Stratocasters and a few have already been sold.

2007 Crossroads Strat

His black 2007 Crossroads Antiqua Foundation Stratocaster, number 1 of 100, which was built by Mark Kendrick, features a 25 db active boost, and Fender noiseless pickups is going for $35,000 with hardshell case.

2006 Stratocaster

Two Porsche Atlas Grey 2006 Custom Shop Stratocaster have already been sold.

2009 Stratocaster

A 2009 Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster in Daphne Blue, featuring Fender noiseless pickups and an active boost has also been sold.

2011 Stratocaster

His 2011 Fender Custom Shop red Stratocaster that he used for warm-up before shows.

2006 Blackie Relic Strat

Another Fender Custom Shop creation was Clapton’s 2006 “Blackie” relic. This guitar has been sold.

2007 Crossroads Strat

A 2007 black Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster that was built for Clapton's Crossroads Antiqua Foundation by Fender custom builder Dennis Galuszka is also for sale. Asking price is $35,000.

2014 Buddy Holly Style

A 2014 Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster in the style of Buddy Holly’s guitar, with a two-tone sunburst finish has been sold.

2007 Gibson SG

Clapton’s 2007 Gibson SG Standard features a cherry finish, however it has been sold.

1991 Firebird V

Clapton’s 1991 red Gibson Firebird V with a two-tone headstock (red and black) has also been sold.

2000 Epiphone Les Paul

A 2000 black Epiphone Les Paul with a white pickguard (signed by Les Paul) and a Bigsby vibrato has been sold.

Gretsch G612TCB-JR

Clapton’s 2015 Gretsch G612TCB-JR, which was given to Clapton by guitarist Ed Sheeran has been sold.

'80's Roland Synth Guitar

A 1980’s Roland G-505 Synth guitar unit was offered for sale, but has been sold. This is similar to the one used by Randy Bachman in the Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive.

'80 MusicMan Fretless Bass

Clapton has offered a sunburst 1980 Fretless Music Man Stingray Bass which has already been sold.

2009 Byrdland Custom

Clapton’s beautiful cherry red 2009 Gibson Byrdland Custom with dual humbucking pickups has been sold.

2009 Byrdland

Another natural maple 2009 Gibson Byrdland Custom with a single alnico pickup has also been sold.

2013 L-5 Wes Montgomery

Clapton’s sunburst 2013 Gibson Wes Montgomery Custom L-5 that he used at the Royal Albert Hall has been sold.

Svistunov Archtop

A gorgeous handmade Alexandr Svistunov 17” archtop acoustic guitar with a violin finish, made in the tradition of Stromberg guitars has been sold.

'41 D'Angelico New Yorker

Clapton is also parting with his collection of vintage D’Angelico guitars including a 1941 3 tone sunburst D’Angelico New Yorker that he purchased in 2006. The asking price is $20,000.

'38 D'Angelico Excel

His 1938 dark sunburst D’Angelico Excel, with a 17” top and a DeArmond pickup has already been sold.

'45 D'Angelico Style A

Clapton’s 1945 D’Angelico Style A with a natural finish and a DeArmond pick can be yours for $20,000.

'37 D'Angelico Excel

A 1937 dark sunburst D’Angelico Excel that he purchased in 2006 has been sold.

2013 D'Angelico Excel

Two newer 2013 D’Angelico guitars are also offered including a 2013 D’Angelico Excel that was handmade in the USA with a 3 tone sunburst finish and a single pick is offered at $20,000.

2013 D'Angelico Style B

And finally a 2013 sunburst D’Angelico Style B, which was handmade in the USA is priced at $20,000.

You can see these at Gruhn Guitars at 2120 8th Avenue South in Nashville, Tennessee 37204.

Categories: General Interest

Bob Dylan's Guitars

Sat, 11/26/2016 - 15:13
“Johnny's in the basement, 
Mixing up the medicine 
I'm on the pavement, 
Thinking about the government 
The man in the trench coat, 
Badge out, laid off 
Says he's got a bad cough, 
Wants to get it paid off…” 

Maybe if I wrote lyrics like that I would have won a Noble prize? Bob Dylan did!

Bob Dylan - Susie Rotolo on the cover

In the mid 1960’s Bob Dylan wrote many wonderful songs with poetic lyrics which were sometimes very bizarre. Some of his music and some of the lyrics were taken from older folk songs. No worries, as those songs were public domain at the time. But most of Bob's songs were pure genius.

Bob Dylan - Albert Grossman

When manager/impresario Albert Grossman took him on as a client, it seemed like Dylan became famous overnight.

'63 Dylan -Washburn - North Country Blues
Bob Dylan was probably not interested in what guitar he played. He even borrowed guitars on the spur of the moment at major concerts back in the day. Dylan was all about the music and lyrics.  However, he played and owned a variety of very interesting guitars.

I've been a Dylan fan since I was a kid in the mid 1960's, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the guitars that Bob Dylan has used throughout his career.

Bob Dylan in High School with Stella guitar
Bob Dylan’s first guitar was probably a cheap Silvertone Stella. This was not the Oscar Schmidt made Stella model, since the company had been acquired by Harmony Guitars of Chicago in 1939. Bob's guitar was made by Harmony.

Dylan's Silvertone

The next guitar he is said to have owned was a Silvertone Aristocrat 642 Archtop. He played this in a high school talent show. It is currently on display at the Hibbing, Minnesota public library.

 Dylan with '49 - 00-17

Dylan's first decent guitar was a 1949 Martin 00-17 all mahogany guitar. He was probably inspired by his hero and mentor Woody Guthrie.  Guthrie played "00" and small bodied guitars. In pictures and videos of his early concerts Dylan is usually seen playing a small body guitar. This one look like it has been through the mill.

Dylan with Gretsch Rancher

When he was a young man, Bob also made use of a 1950's Gretsch Ranger.

Bob with Washburn 5250

In 1963 Dylan showed up at the Newport Folk Festival with a Washburn model 5250. This guitar had a slightly arched top, with a round sound-hole. The strings went over a wooden bridge, that was held in place by the strings. Then the strings were secured to a trapeze tailpiece.

Dylan with Washburn Tanglewood guitar
In a 1986 concert to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Dylan showed up with another Washburn guitar. This time it was a Washburn Tanglewood. The Washburn 5250 was made in the USA by the Tonk Brothers, who made banjos and stringed instruments in the 1930's. The newer Washburn Tanglewood model was made in Asia.

Dylan with 1950's Gibson J-50N

His next guitar was a late 1940’s Gibson J-50N. It must have been a model made after WWII because it does not have the Only A Gibson Is Good Enough banner. This guitar had a teardrop pickguard and is featured on the cover of “Bob Dylan”. This guitar was lost or stolen.

Dylan with Gibson Nick Lucas Special
After losing the J-50, in 1963 Dylan purchased an early 1930’s Gibson Nick Lucas Special from a shop in New York City called Fretted Instruments. It was originally sunburst, but when Dylan got it, the guitar had been refinished blonde and the bridge had been replaced with one off a Guild guitar.

The original Nick Lucas models from that era had trapeze tailpieces. Later models featured the belly bridge.

Bob's Gibson LG-1

In 2006 a photographer was touring Gibson's Montana facilities when he spied two Gibson LG-1 with tags that had Dylan's name on them. Bob had ordered the custom shop to build them, perhaps because he was so fond of the Nick Lucas guitar, which by the way was based on the LG-1 body with a 13 fret neck.

Dylan -Baez - Martin 0-45

Dylan borrowed a Martin 0-45 from Joan Baez, who he was dating at the time for a performance at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.

Dylan with Gibson J-200

Dylan also owned several Gibson J-200 guitars that were played in concert. One was a gift from George Harrison. One was custom made by Gibson and it had a double pickguard.

Dylan with Martin 0-18

Bob Dylan was also fond of Martin 0-18’s and 000-18’s and can be seen playing both. In a 1974 concert to benefit the nation of Chile; a country in the midst of a revolution at the time.

Dylan with Martin  00-21

Dylan owned and is photographed here with a Martin 00-21. During the 1960's,

Dylan at '65 Newport Folk Festival
Dylan gravitated to the electric guitar in 1965. His image as the darling of the Folk Crowd instantly became tarnished when he took the stage with an early 1960's sunburst Fender Stratocaster to play Like A Rolling Stone.

Folk singer Pete Seeger became so angry it is said that he wanted to cut the electric lines going to the stage. (Other accounts say, that he was just yelling, "Cut, cut" in an effort to make Bob and The Band to stop playing.)

With a '60's Strat and Ampeg amp

Some black and white photos from the session at the Colombia recording studio A, show Bob playing the Strat.

Fender Jazz Bass - Bandmaster - Jaguar

Possibly from the same photo shoot we also see him with a 1960's Fender Jazz bass, and a 1962 Fender Jaguar.

Dylan playing a Fender XII

In a poster for the Bootleg Series Volume XII, we see Bob playing a Fender XII.

'65 Fender Jazzmaster

In another publicity photo Dylan is seen with a 1965 Fender Jazzmaster.

John Sebastian - Bob Dylan - ? Bass
In another photo from the Bootleg series, Dylan is seated at what appears to be an Italian restaurant playing an off-brand Precision Bass copy while a young John Sebastian plays guitar.

Playing a Fender Kingman
Dylan played some fairly odd guitars, including a 1966 Fender Kingman acoustic guitar. This was designed by Roger Rosmeisl and had a metal bar inside of it that went from the neck block to the end block. Fender discontinued this series of acoustic guitars in 1971.

Martin OM-28

He also received a special Martin guitar through his guitar tech, Cesar Diaz. This was a Martin OM-28 Perry Bechtel model. Bechtel was an entertainer in the 1930's and requested that Martin create the OM style guitar with the neck joining the body at the 14th fret. Note the pyramid bridge.

Dylan with Martin D-28

Dylan also played a Martin D-28 at the Concert for Bangladesh and a HD-28 in the Rolling Thunder Revue.

Yamaha L-6

Bob utilized a Yamaha L-6 for the Budokan Tour.

Dylan with Yamaha L-51
In 1978 he purchase three Yamaha L-51's at the Hong Kong airport.

This guitar had an unusually shaped headstock.

Then later on he used a black Yamaha L-52.

Dylan with Yamaha L-52

The L-6 is a low end Yamaha, while the L-51 is a solid wood guitar with an unusual rippled headtock. The L-52 model has a jumbo body, like a Gibson J-200, only with squared off upper and lower pickguards and a bridge similar to a Gibson Dove. This was a nice guitar, with cloud inlays on the ebony fretboard. Yamaha offered this model around 1972. Paul Simon also used a similar guitar.

2001 Negative Martin

Bob must have liked the look of the black Yamaha L-52, since around 2002 Martin came out with a Negative HD-28, which had a black body and a white neck and headstock. Dylan had one commissioned with twin white pickguards and used it in a 2002 concert.

Dylan with Stratocaster

For as much trouble as the electric guitar caused for Dylan, he did not play it in concert as much as his acoustic guitars. His best known electric guitar would be the 1960’s sunburst Stratocaster that he played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, when he got booed while playing “Like A Rolling Stone”.

The Strat that Dylan used in 1965

It was also featured in some early pictures of him in a recording studio. He only used it a few times and then it went missing.

1965 Dylan with Telecaster

Dylan also played several Telecasters starting in 1965 with a sunburst model with his band called The Hawks.

Tele used with The Band
Later when he played with The Band he used a black model and a blonde model.

One of the more interesting guitars that Dylan is said to have played, but not owned, was Mike Bloomfield's 1963 Fender Telecaster. 

Bloomfield's Tele - before and after
Bloomfield played this guitar before it went under the knife. He used in on the original recording of Like A Rolling Stone, and in the Newport Folk Festival Concert where Dylan went electric and got booed off the stage.

Bloomfield also recording those guitar licks on Highway 61 Revisited with this guitar and Dylan is said to have borrowed it during the recording sessions.

Bob with Kramer Ferrington bass

While in the Traveling Wilburys, Dylan sported this 1987 Kramer Ferrington bass guitar.

The Traveling Wilburys 

He is also seen with the Wilburys posing with this Gretsch Silver Jet.

Dylan with Gibson Hummingbird

Around 1993 Dylan played a Gibson Hummingbird guitar in concert.

With a Gibson Black Dove

A year later Bob was using a Gibson Dove.

Dylan with Gibson J-45

Dylan also owned a Gibson J-45 with twin pickguards.

2016 Nobel Prize

In 2016 Bob Dylan was honored as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in literature.

Categories: General Interest

Al Caiola, One of New York Cities Most Prominent Session Players Has Passed Away.

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 19:58
Al Caiola with his Gretsch model G6210DSW
One of the greatest guitarists and most prolific recording session players passed away last week. Al Caiola was 96 years old when he died on November 9th of this year.

In addition to being an influential guitarist, he was a composer and arranger. His work spanned a diverse array of styles.

Caiola worked with many, many famous artists including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Mitch Miller, Tony Bennett, Buddy Holly, Percy Faith, Steve Lawrence, Bob Crosby, Tony Mottola, Bobby Darin, and others.

One of Al's albums
The list of recordings that feature his guitar are almost too numerous to mention. If you have heard Darin's recording of Mack The Knife, you've heard Caiola's guitar. If you've heard Buddy Holly's True Love Ways, you have heard Caiola. If you've heard Petula Clark's Don't Sleep in the Subway, yes, that was Caiola on guitar.

He has played guitar backing King Curtis, Perry Como, Glen Campbell, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Paul Anka, Petula Clark, Burt Bacharach, Louis Armstrong, Benny King, Rosemary Clooney, Dion, Mary Robbins, Del Shannon, Barbara Streisand, Jackie Gleason, Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Andy Williams, Joe Williams, Tom and Jerry (Simon and Garfunkle before they were famous), Julie London, Solomon Burke, and so many others.

In the Marine Corps Band

During WWII he played in the Marine Corps 5th Divsion Band. During the 1950’s he became a studio player and arranger in New York City.

Squeeze Play

Early in his career, Al recording on Dot Records on an album called Squeeze Play that featured John Serry. Caiola moved on to the United Artists label where he recorded the theme to The Magnificent Seven and the Bonanza theme.

Early recording with Tony Bennett
Caiola teamed up with arranger Don Costa and made at least 36 albums featuring his guitar playing with a large and lush orchestra. He also released singles that received air play back in the 1960’s. Other albums were based on the Western TV themes that were popular at that time, including Wagon Train (Wagons Ho), The Ballad of Paladin, The Rebel, The Gunslinger, Bonanza, and others.

James Bond Themes - Al Caiola

He also performed on albums based on movies such as From Russia With Love.

Al and fellow guitarists
He was a member of The Manhattan Guitar Club, which was a collaborative of New York City studio musicians that paid dues into this organization for use of Ampeg amplifiers that were kept in various recording studios. This amplifier had a lock on it in place of an of/off switch. Each member was given a key to the amp to use it when the played in that studio.

'65 Caiola Custom

In 1963 Epiphone guitars, which was then owned by Gibson/CMI introduced the Al Caiol guitar. It was designed in the Gibson ES double-cutaway shape and called the Al Caiola Custom.

Although this instrument was semi-hollow, there were no f-holes. The 7-ply bound maple body was 16” wide and slightly less than 2” deep. The instrument came with a deluxe 5-ply pickguard. The bound neck was of a 25 ½” scale and the rosewood fretboard came with pearl block markers.

The open-book headstock was inlaid with an “column” design done in pearl and elongated, as are Epiphone headstocks. It came with a zero fret.

This guitar had two mini humbuckers, with volume controls for each pickup.  It also came with an unusual feature; 5 “Tonexpressor” switches. The pickups were turned off and on with two slide pickup selector switches.

Al Caiola Custom 
The guitar was offered with 3 different finishes; shaded, walnut or cherry. The strings were attached to a trapeze tailpiece with a walnut block that said “Al Caiola.”

Al Caiola Standard

Three years later Epiphone introduced the less fancy Al Caiola Standard model. This came with twin dog-ear P-90 pickups.

With Epiphone Archtop

Earlier in his career Caiola can be seen playing Epiphone archtop electrics.

Al with Gold Gretsch Guitar

He  was also well known for using a gold-coloured Gretsch guitar.

Al Caiola with Epi model gold finish

He did use his Epiphone signature model during the sixties.

Al Caiola with Heritage Guitar

Most recently he played a large bodied single cutaway Heritage guitar.

Though many modern readers may not know about Caiola, he was an integral part of modern guitar history.

Click on the titles under the pictures to view sources. Click on the links in the text for more information about Al Caiola.

Categories: General Interest