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J. Geils - Gone at age 71 - A Guitar Retrospective

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:37
J. Geils


J. Gelis was the leader of what was perhaps the preeminent band to come out of the Boston rock scene in the 1970’s.




The J. Geils Band

His group started up In Worcester, Massachusetts in 1967 and by 1970 the band had released their first album. By the 1980’s The J. Geils Band had a string of chart topping hits, including Centerfold, Love Stinks, Come Back, and Freeze-Frame.

While Peter Wolf stood out as the lead singer and front man, J.Geils was the guitarist and the name behind the band. .

You're Gettin' Even,
While I'm Gettin' Odd



The bands final album, Your Gettin’ Even, While I’m Gettin’ Odd, was released in 1984. The following year the band officially split.




1999 Reunion Concert



The group reunited for a reunion show in 1999. However in 2012 Geils filed a lawsuit against the band for conspiring to go on tour without him and unlawfully using the band’s trademarked name.


Bluestime - J. Geils and Magic Dick

After leaving the band Jay Geils remained a busy musician in the Boston area. In the mid 1990’s he put together a band called Bluestime along with The J. Geils Band harmonica player, “Magic” Dick Salwitz.


New Guitar Summit -
Geils,Beaudoin, and Robilard

By the next decade he remained active as a Jazz guitarist and recorded three solo albums. J. Geils was part of the New Guitar Summit along with Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoin.


Geils - KTR Motorsport Shop
As a young man, Geils attended the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and studied mechanical engineering. He parlayed that knowledge into restoring, collecting, driving, and racing sports cars.

Geils even started the KTR European Motorports Shop in a garage in Carlisle, Massachusetts which serviced vintage Italian sports cars; especially Ferraris and Maseratis . He eventually sold the business in 1996. But he remained active in the vintage car community, attending shows and displaying some of his personal automobiles.

John Warren Geils was born February 20th, 1946.

J. Geils 1946 - 2017

He was found dead in his home on April 11th of this year when police responded to a well-being call. He died of natural causes at the age of 71.


Aside from collecting automobiles, Jay had a wonderful collection of vintage guitars and amplifiers.

Modified '58 Flying V




During the years with The J. Geils Band he could be seen playing a Les Paul, a Fender Stratocater, or even a Gibson Flying Vee.






J. Geils with Gibson ES-335
In later years he performed with a Gibson ES-335, or some of his hollow body archtop jazz guitars.

His taste in archtop guitars was influenced by his love and admiration for the guitarists that he believed changed the way we played guitar; Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker, and B.B. King.


He sought out the instruments similar to the ones that they played.

1936 Gibson ES-150
For Charlie Christian this included purchasing a Gibson ES-150 with the single coil pickup unit that came to be known as "The Charlie Christian" pickup.

He owned this guitar as well as a Gibson ES-250 with a Charlie Christian pickup, just like the guitar Christian used later in his career. In the picture you can also see an ES-150 tenor guitar. These are paired with Gibson EH-150 and EH-185 amplifiers. He parted with the Gibson ES-250.

1939 Gibson L-5
Part of the Geils' collection includes a Gibson L-5 that was previously owned by jazz guitarist Howard Alden.

Stromberg Deluxe
Geils owned a few Stromberg instruments that were made in his beloved city of Boston. One of these came with a Charlie Christian pickup, although the pickup was not original to the guitar.




Geils Archtop Collection

In fact Geil's collection of archtop guitars represented each of the major builders of archtop guitars.



Geils Archtop Collection


These included a Gretsch Synchromatic, an Epiphone Emperor, a D'Angelico New Yorker, a Gibson Super 400, and the Stromberg archtops.


1950's Fender Deluxe Amplifier


Geils also collected amplifiers. He states that he wanted to get the sound similar to what his guitar triumvirate of Christian, Walker, and King used to get "their sound".


Jay even owned an early 1950's Fender TV panel Deluxe amp that was decorated with the same wording as the one that B. B. King had used as a young man.

Jay got his love of Jazz music from his father, who encouraged him and exposed him to well known Jazz acts by taking him concerts when Jay was a child. As a boy Geils played trumpet up until he was almost out of high school. At this point he took up the guitar.

Geils' '60's ES-345



In 1967 Geils had purchased a 1960’s Gibson ES-345 after seeing B.B. King in concert playing an ES-335 through a Fender Super Reverb.






Geils with 1956 Les Paul
Upon hearing Eric Clapton playing with Mike Bloomfield, Geil set his sights on acquiring  a Gibson Les Paul. He found a 1956 Les Paul Custom at a New York city music store. This guitar  had an alnico and a P-90 pickup. Shortly after purchasing this guitar the J. Geils Blues Band was formed and the group started out by playing local gigs.

J. Geils with 1959 Les Paul
It was at one of these events he ran into a kid that wanted to sell his 1959 Les Paul Standard. The guitar needed a standard tailpiece, and someone had tried to varnish it with a brush. Despite its appearance, Geils spotted a treasure and offered to swap his ‘56 Les Paul Custom for that guitar. He took the guitar to a tech that scraped away the varnish, found the requisite parts, and took the covers off of the PAF pickups. He played this guitar on most of the J. Geils Band Records.

J. Geils with a Fender Stratocaster


During that era he also purchased a Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster and a Martin D-28 for use in the studio.







Geils' '58 Flying V
He also found a 1958 Gibson Flying V and got it by trading a Gibson ES-350 and a National Steel guitar. He took the Flying V on the road to play in concerts.

During his band years he purchased a 1958 Gibson Cherry Les Paul and put it to use. Geils later sold this guitar for three times what he originally paid for the guitar. The 1959 Les Paul is still part of the Geils' collection.

Ampeg Gemin II



As for amplifiers, his first amp was an Ampeg Gemini  II.







Late 1950's Gibson GA-40


During the early J. Geils Band recordings, he played through a tweed Gibson GA-40.







Fender Bandmaster Reverb



On the road he played through a pair on Fender Bandmaster Reverb amps, each with a cabinet housing two Electro-Voice SRO’s.






MusicMan RD112-100


During the final days of the band he was using a 100 watt Music Man amplifier.






KTR European Motorsports
As stated before, after leaving the J. Geils Band, Jay immersed himself in restoring classic Italian sports cars  opening his own shop; the KTR European Motorsports Shop.

Eventually he came back to the guitar, but this time as a Jazz player.

J.Geils and Gerry Beaudoin

He ran into guitarist Gerry Beaudoin, a notable jazz player, who invited him to join him on one of his regular gigs. This lead to his career as a Jazz guitarist.




Geils at a jazz gig with ES-250

He utilized several of the guitars in his collection at his jazz gigs, including the Howard Alden L-5 and his Gibson ES-250. He usually played through different Fender combo amplifiers.




Jay with his classic Ferrari
Geils lead a most interesting life and his career revolved around the things he loved. He was a dear friend to one of my childhood friends, Tennie Komar. Jay certainly left his mark on the world. Though his first love was playing Jazz guitar, he will always be remembered by most for his work in the J. Geils Band.








Categories: General Interest

Electra MPC Guitars

Sat, 04/08/2017 - 09:21
Vintage Electra MPC guitars


Around 1977 Keller Music, the local store in my town began to offer a new guitar brand called the Electra MPC. Tim Keller, the owner, had built up a respectable business. The guitar's distributor was more than happy to send a demonstrator to perform one night.


I could not believe how many Les Paul owners and owners of other respectable instruments traded these guitars in for an Electra MPC Les Paul style guitar.

MPC Modules
Each guitar held two effects modules and a nine volt battery in a body compartment. Instead of a toggle switch found on the upper bout of a Les Paul, there was a rotary switch to control which combinations of pickups/effects were turned on. There were twin toggle switches on the guitars body to turn on or off the modules.

The four potentiometers were lined up in a row. The upper knobs controlled volume/tone and the lower two controlled the effects level and attack.

These unusual Electra guitars were imported from Japan by the Saint Louis Music aka SLM from 1971 to 1984. The Electra guitars with MPC models were made by Matsumoku of Matsumoku, Japan. We have already discussed this company in detail if you would like to refer to an earlier post.

Matsumoku has made many popular guitar brands over the years including; Aria, Westbury, Westone, Epiphone, Vantage & Vox to name but a few.

In 1975 Tom Presley was hired by St. Louis Music as the Product Manager and part of the marketing team to begin MPC project. Electronics engineeer John Karpowitz was hired to design and build the Modular Powered Circuits knowns as MPC modules.


Finally in 1976 The MPC guitars made their debut.

By 1978 the Outlaw MPC & Outlaw MPC Bass (both named after the band "The Outlaws" who endorsed Electra MPC guitars). Around the same time, the Semi-Acoustic MPC (ES-335 style) was offered for sale and the X910 "Derringer" MPC (Explorer)debuted.


Due to a lawsuit for patent infringement that Gibson initiated, all Electra guitars with Gibson style head stocks were changed this year to what is called the wave or fan shaped head stock.


Also in 1978 the Contoured Ultima MPC Les Paul and the Vulcan MPC (a Les Paul copy with a Tele curve on upper bout)were offered.





The Leslie West MPC (sort of a Les Paul Special) and the MPC Ultima X960 also made it's debut this year.

1981 saw ties with Matsumoku further solidified and decision was made to merge SLM Electra brand with Matsumoku's Westone brand. In the early 80's, some production is moved to Korea. This is mentioned in the Matsumoku post.

Unique Electra MPC ES-335 style guitars
By the fall of 1983, the Electra brand changes it's name to Electra-Phoenix. In 1984 the company became Electra-Westone and by the end of 1984 it is just Westone as St Louis Music abandoned the Electra MPC line due to lack of marketing success.

The Electra MPC's forte was it's on-board effects or module powered circuits. There was no need for a stomp box. This was before the era of affordable digital effects and pedal boards. If you needed to use an effect, all that was necessary was to flip a switch on the front of the guitar, and turn a knob (also on the front of the guitar) to adjust the intensity of the effect.

These twelve Module Powered Circuits that gave the guitars their name. These modules plugged into a compartment in the rear of the guitar and were controlled by two potentiometers on the guitar front surface.

The guitar could hold two modules at a time and could be switched or combined with a toggle switch on the guitar



There were major musicians that endorsed the MPC line; Peter Frampton, Leslie West,ELO, Allen "Free Bird" Collins, Chris Squire, The Outlaws and Rick Derringer. Some artists had their own model, such as Derringer with the X910 known as the "Derringer" model Electra MPC.



Electa MPC Guitars 
Despite these endorsements, the Electra line still disappeared while the SLM went on to produce Westone & Crate products. As of now, Westone is just a memory, but Crate products are still in production.

Today, SLM distributes Crate, Ampeg, Alvarez & Austin products. Though they have simplified there product line, St. Louis Music continues to distribute musical instruments, music books and sheet music.



Early on some people thought the Electra MPC line were of inferior quality and poorly manufactured gimmick guitars.




As we lurch forward in search of vintage instruments they are finally starting to be recognized for their playability and superior build when compared to some Asian instruments that are considered to be vintage.

Electra offered the following options for their modules:

Phase Shifter – self explanatory
Dymanic Fuzz – pick harder = more distortion
Trebel /Bass boost – self explanatory
Tank Tone – provides a hollow percussive mid range sound. Sort of a Wah stuck in one position. The Vox Crybaby was designed on an EQ filter known as a Tank Circuit.
Overdrive – Self explanatory
Filter Follower – Envelope filter
Auto Wah – self explanatory
Tube Sound – provides a clean tube like sound
Octave Box – Provides Octave below
Flanger – self explanatory
Frog Nose – built in headphone amplifier (a reference to Pig Nose amplifiers)
Compresor – self explanatory.

During it's early years Electra guitars were ordered from all the Japanese factories and distributors. As a result, early models especially vary in details and quality. Which set the Electra name up for failure.

However during the MPC years all guitar models were manufactured by the Matsumoku Company. Therefore the quality of Electra guitars were superior to other Asian made instruments. But in this era of Buy American, most all Asian manufactured guitars were considered to be inferior. This stigma still exists.


Electra produced a total of 18 different MPC guitar models.

Of these the most popular was the was a Les Paul copy known as The Super Rock.



They also made at least one bass model.
©UniqueGuitar Publications







Categories: General Interest

April 1 - Annual Diddley Bow Shootout

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 20:56
So it is that time of year again for our annual shootout. This year we will be judging the top five Diddley Bows in the electric Diddley Bow category.

The Diddley Bow

1.This is a stunning example with a flamed pine body, and a raised pickup section. The bridge saddle is an empty beer bottle.




Top of Diddley Bow

This is topped off with a genuine Condor pickup and one lone Grover tuner at the headstock.





Lalloguitars Diddley Bow
2.The competition increases with this stunner from Lalloguitars. This instrument has a gorgeous mahogany body with a hand rubbed tru-oil finish. It is topped with a rosewood fretboard. On board is one special design Italian handcrafted MAMA pickup.

Lalloguitars Diddley Bow
The string is secured at one end with a Kluson MG33N Grover button. (Wait a minute. Is it a Kluson or a Grover?) and at the other end it has through-the-body stringing. The nut is genuine bone. At the opposite end the flask saddle is secured between two maple strips.

This baby has built in tone and volume controls.

DaShtick Diddley Bow
3.Our next model comes courtesy of an Irish company called DaShtick.. This is their three string Celtic model made from a hurley stick. This handmade instrument utilizes ash, ebony, and mahogany. The bridge and saddle are genuine bone. The saddle rests upon a guard of leather, that come with a single volume control for the built-in piezo pickup. A Fender stratocaster jack is at the end of the hand polished body.

DaShtick headstock



Three open Grover style tuners with pearl buttons adorn the offset headstock. It even comes with a leather strap.






C.B. Gritty Crafter Supply Diddley Bow

4.C.B Gritty Crafter Supply brings us our forth nominee.

This do-it-yourself model includes all the parts you need including a Montesino cigar box body with a sound port, imported from the Dominican Republic.

C.B. Gritty Crafter Diddley Bow body

The wooden dowl is topped with 17 Home Depot supplied staples that are useful as frets. The string attaches to a single un-named tuning peg at one end of the dowl and attaches at the other.



A piezo pickup is built into the body to give this bad boy it’s bang-your-head-against-the-wall, funky, get-down-with-your-bad-self, heavy metal, Saint Louie Blues character.

Helldorado Diddley Bow
5.Our final entry comes is the Helldorado single coil pickup, single string model. This unusually shaped model is made of finest-kind pine wood with a nice red stain and the instruments logo running down the center of the body. The satin finish sets this instrument apart.

Helldorado Diddley Bow
It comes with a single Grover style tuner at one end and a trapeze style guitar tailpiece at the opposite end. The bridge is a cast metal cylinder. The built in controls feature a single volume potentiometer.


The judges have rendered their decision and it was a tough call between the Lalloguitars Didley Bow and the Irish DaShtick model.

DaShtick - Da Winner!
The 2017 winner is DaShtick. Who can argue with a hurley stick!

By the way, did I mention this was April Fools Day?

Enjoy yesterdays Guitar article and next week we will get back to profiling Unique Guitars.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)






Categories: General Interest

Mini Acoustic Guitars

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 06:24
Ever since the origins of the modern guitar in the 18th century, the instrument has been available in various sizes. Antonio d Torres gave the modern classical guitar its form as we know it today. The modern classical guitar has a scale of 648 to 650 mm, which is roughly 26 inches. Full size electric guitars have a slightly shorter scale. Most Fender instruments are 25 1/2” while Gibson has maintained the 24 1/2” scale.



Sizes of Classical Guitars

Classic guitar builders have offered guitars that are 1/4 sized, 1/2 sized, 3/4 sized, and full size for players of different ages and differing physiques.



1830 Stauffer Terz


In the 1930’s C.F. Martin introduced the Terz guitar. It was based on the size of the Terz or Treble classical guitar. Joseph Stauffer, from whom C.F. Martin senior learned his craft, had built Terz guitars. So it would stand to reason Martin would continue the tradition.





Martin 5-18 Terz Guitar


The Martin Terz was a 3/4 scale guitar and offered in different styles. The 5-18 was probably the most popular. Marty Robbins used his on stage. This guitar was designed to be tuned three frets above standard pitch.





1937 Gibson L-00


In 1932 Gibson introduce the L-00 Flat top guitar. This was a small bodied instrument, and one of the nicer versions of the L series. By 1937, Gibson offered this model in a 3/4 sized option.





1950 Gibson LG-2 3/4 size

In 1933 Gibson had also introduced the very fancy LC model in a 3/4 sized version. In 1942 Gibson offered the LG-2 and by 1949 it was available in a 3/4 size version. This is the guitar that Arlo Guthrie favors.


Arlo Guthrie LG-2 

In 2002 Gibson decided to reintroduce this very model when Arlo Guthrie contacted Gibson’s craftsmen to ask for help In reconstructing a guitar that his father Woody had given him as a present. After painstakingly rebuilding the instrument, Gibson decided to offer the same guitar to the public as the Arlo Guthrie LG-2 3/4. This list price was $2079, but they are available for much less.


Back in 1945, following the World War II, Harmony guitars of Chicago was back in business and reintroduced The Stella guitar. Stella had been a brand offered as far back as 1899 by the Oscar Schmidt Company. When the company went bankrupt in the 1930’s, Harmony guitars stepped in a acquired their assets.

Harmony "Stella"  H929

The 3/4 sized Stella H929 was in the line up from 1945 through 1970 and was popular as a student model. The guitar was made mainly from birch and used all solid woods. It was ladder braced. Despite being 3/4 sized, it still had a 24 1/2” scale.





Bob Taylor working on a guitar
Bob Taylor was working for a small guitar manufacturing business in 1972 when he was only 18 years old. Within two years, Bob, and co-workers Kurt Listig, and Steve Schemmer bought the company. They needed a band name to put on the guitars.

Schemmer Guitars and Listig Guitar did not seem to sound as marketable as Taylor Guitars. So Taylor Guitar it was. None of the men had studied Martin’s guitar making techniques, so their ideas were fresh and had a new approach. By 1983 Taylor and Listig bought out Schemmer’s stake in the company.

1996 Baby Taylor (Baby on head stock)

Back in 1996, at a time when most of us were interesting only in dreadnought sized guitars,  the Baby Taylor made its debut and starts a new trend in guitar manufacturing.


Baby Taylor neck
Taylor Guitars had already come up with an interesting concept in its bolt-on neck, which utilized precision cut spacers and bolts to attach the neck to the guitars body, which made neck adjustments quick and painless and this same process was applied to the Baby Taylor.

The instruments heelless neck attaches to the guitars body by means of two screws that are flush with the fretboard and located between the 15th and 16th fret.

Baby Taylor arched back
The guitars back and sides are made of 3 layers of laminated sapele wood and the instruments back is slightly arched. Other guitar companies, such as Guild, Framus, and Gibson, have used this same method of arching the back through heated pressing for strength, so the back requires no internal back bracing.

The guitars top is made of solid Sitka spruce. Black matte veneer covers the headstock that bears the decal with the Taylor logo.

The guitar comes with its own gig bag.

Taylor Swift Baby Taylor

The Baby Taylor has a 22 3/4” scale on its diminutive 15 3/4” by 12 1/2” body. The guitar was an instant hit and notice was taken by many other guitar manufacturers. The first year offered the Baby Taylor sold over 1,000 units. Sales of the tiny guitar increased from there.




Martin guitars offered the Backpacker around 1993. Chris Martin IV had visited luthier Robert McNally’s booth at the 1993 NAMM convention where the luthier was displaying his 3 string Strumstick.

Bob McNally with a Strumstick
The original instrument was based on the mountain lap dulcimer, but was meant to be played like a guitar. A deal was struck up at this show for 5,000 units to be made. The neck was changed to a six string guitar design and it was dubbed The Backpacker.


1995 Martin Backpacker


Although the guitar did not have the greatest tone or volume, its compact size, and durability made it successful. The Backpacker was even taken into outer space by one of the astronauts.








Martin 5-15 & Backpacker

The design changed in 2002 when the instruments body was enlarged to enhance the tone and make the instrument easier to hold. Martin has also offered this same instrument with nylon strings, and a mandolin, and ukulele version.





Martin LXM
In 2003 Martin took the concept of a small guitar a step further a with the introduction of the Martin LXM. The LXM or Little Martin is designed as a modified 0-14 fret tenor Martin shape. The scale is 23’ in length. The entire guitar is constructed of high-pressure-laminate or HPL, which is essentially the same process used for making Formica. The neck on the Little Martin is made of Rust birch laminate. The fretboard is constructed of black Micarta, while the nut is made of white Corian. The saddle is made of white Tusq. The tuners are made by Gotoh.

Martin LXME


The original version was only offered as an acoustic instrument. Later on the LXME came with Fishman transducers and Mini Q electronics. The LXM models all come with a gig bag.






Martin LX1



The Martin LX1 is the same style of guitar, but it has a solid Sitka spruce top.








LX1E Ed Sheeran model

Ed Sheeran began his busking career using a Little Martin and Martin guitars offers the Ed Sheeran X signature series LX size guitar with built-in Fishman Isys T electronics.


Martin LX1e


Martin also makes the LX1e electric acoustic models, which feature a solid spruce top.









2013 Taylor GS Mini
In July of 2013 Taylor Guitars introduced the GS Mini guitar. After experimenting with changes to the Baby Taylor, a new design, the Grand Symphony, was decided on. The GS has a different body shape and different bracing.

The top is made of solid Sitka spruce and the back and sides are sapele laminate. The body is approximately 2” larger than the Baby Taylor. The scale is 23 1/2”, and the body is an inch deeper than the Baby Taylor. Once again, it features the arched back design.

Taylor GS Mini E


The neck on this model, although a bolt-on featuring Taylor’s NT design, does have a heel. The action is low and feels quite good. The original models were only offered as acoustic guitars, but could be equipped with the optional ES-Go acoustic pickup.





ES-Go Pickup System

This unit is built exclusively for the GS Mini guitar. The ES-Go is stacked humbucking magnetic pickup which clips onto a bracket in the sound hole that is underneath the fretboard section. Once in place, the player swaps out the end pin and replace it with the one attached to the ES-Go unit. It is made to be paired with Taylor’s “V” cable, which has a volume control. The unit sells for an additional $100.

Taylor GS Mini Mahogany-Spruce


Since its inception, Taylor has improved this guitar, by offering it with optional body woods, such as a mahogany top or spruce top with laminated walnut back and sides. The electronics have also been updated.




2015 Taylor GS Mini E
The Taylor GS mini e is now is available with a built-in Taylor Expression System 2 electronics, which places 3 pickup sensors behind the guitars bridge. Taylor feels this is superior to under the under the saddle method that many designers have used. This also comes with a built-in preamp.

This option adds $100 to the guitars price, but eliminates the need for putting on or removing the ES-Go unit.

Back in 1997, just a year after Bob Taylor introduced the Baby Taylor, Tacoma Guitars of Seattle Washington introduced The Papoose mini guitar.

The Tacoma Factory - Frets magazine
Tacoma Guitars was a division of The Tacoma Lumber Company.  In 1991 this company was processing hardwood that was milled into piano soundboards exclusively for the Young Chang Piano Company of South Korea.

The lumber company's general manager, J.C. Kim persuaded Young Change to build a guitar manufacturing plant nearby, and the company started turning out some rather unique instruments. Among these was the tiny P1 Papoose guitar that was designed by luthier Terry Atkins and George Gruhn.

1997 Tacoma Papoose


The Tacoma P1 Papoose had a short scale neck with only a 19.1” scale, and  it was built to be tuned a fourth higher that normal guitar tuning. In other words, the strings were tuned from A to A.






Paisley Soundhole on Papoose
This guitar introduced the Paisley sound hole, which became a Tacoma trademark, and the Voiced Bracing Support system. This was a system designed to minimize the bracing as much as possible down to what the instrument needs to remain stable.

Back of 1997 Papoose



The heelless neck on the Papoose was bolted on and secured by two screws. The bridge was uniquely shaped and had 3 unusual C-shaped cut-outs to secure the strings. Some later models came with bridge pins.




Papoose 12 String
The Papoose was available in a variety of sound board woods. Tacoma also came out with the P112 Papoose 12 string. Towards the end of the line, Tacoma had introduced and electric version of The Papoose.

Young Chang put the company up for sale in 1999 and it was sold to Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in 2004.

Sadly in 2008 Fender closed the plant and laid off the staff. Though the Papoose is no longer produced, it can still be found on auction sites at a fairly reasonable rate.

Since the Baby Taylor and the Little Martin have proved to be successful, many major guitar manufacturers, too numerous to mention, have developed and offer 3/4 sized mini acoustic guitars in their line up.

Dean Flight



Among them Dean Guitars offers the Dean Flight that retails for around $150 USD. It is a laminated guitar with a 22” scale. The neck is mahogany, and the headstock is done in the Dean-wing style. It comes with a gig bag.





Fender MA-1
Fender offers the MA-1 Parlor 3/4 size guitar. The top is laminated Agathis and the back and sides are laminated Sapele. As with most of the mini acoustic guitars a gig bag is included.



Yamaha JR1



Yamaha’s product is the JR1 Mini Folk.




Luna Safari




Luna Guitars offers a similar 3/4 sized guitar called the Muse Safari guitar.








Takamine GX18CE-NS

Takamine has the GX18CE-NS, which retails around $400, but it does have a solid spruce top, rosewood fretboard and electronics with a built-in preamp.


KLOS Mini guitar


One of the more unique mini guitars comes from a company called Klos. Their instrument has a carbon fiber body. The neck is made of mahogany and topped with a rosewood fretboard.






KLOS Mini guitar
Despite being small in size, the scale is 24 3/4”. Plus the neck is removable. It comes with a gig bag and sell direct from the manufacturer for around $600 USD.





Categories: General Interest

Chuck Berry: His Career and His Guitars

Sun, 03/19/2017 - 17:37
Chuck Berry playing a Gibson ES-335
Chuck Berry passed away on Saturday, March 18th, 2017 at his home in St. Charles County Missouri. He was 90 years old.

1950's publicity photo
For those of us that grew up in the era of the 1960’s and who learned to play rock guitar, it was essential to learn Berry’s songs and guitar licks. The Beach Boys hit song Surfin USA was set to the music of Chuck Berry’s song Sweet Little 16. Even the intro to the Beach Boys song "Fun, Fun, Fun" was cobbled together from the intro to Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven".



In the Beach Boys song "Do You Remember", Brian Wilson wrote "Chuck Berry's got to be the greatest thing that came along, He wrote the guitar beats and the all time greatest song". Chuck Berry essentially defined early Rock and Roll with his 3 chord songs, guitar introductions, and lyrics.

Young Chuck Berry
Berry grew up in St. Louis and by high school showed an interest in music and guitar. During those years he got in trouble with the law and spent 3 years in a reformatory. He worked briefly in an automobile assembly plant, before meeting Blues musician T-Bone Walker, who was impressed with Berry’s guitar riffs and showmanship. Walker encouraged him to get into the music business.

With Jimmy Johnson Trio
 Chuck holding his Gibson ES-295



In 1955 Berry traveled to Chicago and began performing with the Johnny Johnson Trio. It was there where he met Blues player Muddy Waters. Waters introduced him to Leonard Chess of Chess Records who signed Chuck Berry to the label.




Chuck’s first hit song was Maybellene, which was an adaption of an old Country song called Ida Red. The recording sold over one million copies and was on Billboard Magazines’s Rhythm and Blues chart list. This lead to more hit songs and a lucrative touring career.

Chuck Berry in the 1950's
Berry had hits in the mid 1960’s, No Particular Place to Go, You Can Never Tell, and Nadine never matched the chart toppers of his earlier songs such as Maybellene, Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, and Rock and Roll Music.

Chuck Berry inducted into
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


In 1986 he was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Chuck Berrry was ranked fifth on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.



Chuck Berry with an ES-335
However his success became an encumbrance for him. His income was derived from touring and he was playing the same three chord songs night after night. In an interview he stated that his success stripped him of an artistic credibility. He felt as if he were a relic people came to see. Touring became so mundane that he stopped using his own band. When he did a show he played with whatever local band the promoter had hired to back him.

Westbury, NY Fair 2004

I knew a keyboard player that once backed him up at a state fair show. He said that Berry pulled up in a rented Cadillac convertible with his guitar in the back seat. He walked on stage, plugged into an amp that was already set up, and began playing to the crowd.

When his set was over, he thanked the crowd, walked off stage without saying a word to the band, and drove off.

Doing the Duck Walk
Berry was not just an excellent singer/songwriter, but a consummate performer and showman. His “duck walk” and facial expression he did while playing guitar became his trademarks. And he was an excellent player. He often borrowed “Hillbilly” guitar licks, inserting them into his songs. Throughout his lifetime Berry had some skirmishes with the law, but eventually came out on top.


Chuck Berry
playing a Gibson ES-350TN



When Chuck Berry first started out he is probably best known for playing a 1956 Gibson ES-350TN (thin natural finish) on several TV appearances. In fact he is probably best known for playing Gibson electric guitars.





'59 Gretsch 6121



He also owned and played a 1959 Gretsch 6121 Roundup in appearances.







With Gretsch
stereo White Falcon

For a movie called Rock! Rock! Rock!, Berry is seen with a stereo Gretsch White Falcon, however that was possibly a prop guitar provided by the production company.

Berry also played an early to mid 1960’s model of a Gibson ES-335. He is seen playing a number of different ES-335’s. Possibly some were provided for him so he didn’t have to fly with his own instrument.

Berry with Gibson ES-335


The most iconic and photographed guitar he played was the Gibson ES-355. You can tell this guitar by the split diamond inlay on the headstock. He played a number of versions of this instrument. Some had Maestro vibratos, some had Bigsbys, and some had no vibrato.


Berry with Gibson ES-330



Berry can be seen playing a Gibson ES-330 hollow body electric.







With '67 version of a Flying Vee


There is but one image of an older Chuck Berry playing a red 1967 Flying Vee.

Berry playing a Gibson Lucille model






Berry was also known to use a Gibson B.B. King Lucille model guitar.






Chuck Berry with Gibson Super 400


And Berry brought this guitar to the 2012 Awards for Literary and Lyrics Excellence.





As for amplifiers, Chuck probably insisted on the venue providing one. He was fond of Fender Dual Showman amps with reverb, and Fender Twin Reverb amplifiers. In fact a concert rider states the venue should supply: "Two Dual Showman amplifier heads and two Dual Showman speaker cabinets. Any alternative equipment must be in above watts and speaker size."

Chuck Berry's amps - Dual Showman - Pro Amp - White Dual Showman - Ampeg - 2 Dual Showman Reverb Heads
However he was also photographed playing through a Marshall amplifier, and a large Ampeg amplifier.

Themetta (Toddy) and Chuck Berry
He married his wife Themetta in 1948 and the two were still married at the time of his death.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)






Categories: General Interest

The Rogue Aluminator and Able Axe Guitars

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 23:10


The Rogue Aluminator was featured for a few years in the late 1990's in Musician's Friend catalogues.  It was truly a unique instrument.  The slotted body was made from billets of aircraft grade aluminum. 

The history of this guitar is somewhat fuzzy, however here are the facts as I have researched them.

The body shape of the Aluminator is reminiscent of a Fender Stratocaster. As mentioned already the guitar's body was made entirely of aluminum.


The 25.5" scale, 22 fret, bolt-on neck was made of maple with a rosewood fretboard with dot markers.  The six on a side headstock pointed and painted featuring the Rogue logo.


Rogue has been the house brand featured by Musician's Friend for years. The instruments are made by other companies for Musicians Friend.

The perimeter of the Aluminator body is slotted, thus allowing a decrease in the guitar's weight.  The center section of the body contains the pickups controls and wiring harness.


This guitar had a single volume and tone control. The potentiometer knobs were similar in appearance to those on a Telecaster.  The Aluminator also came with 3 mini-throw switches; one for each pickup.  This allows any combination of pickups to be off or on and gives 11 different sounds.

The end of the body featured a non-trem Strat-style bridge with six adjustable saddles.


Although it did not allow for the Kahler style, dive bomb sounds that were popular with the shredders of the day, the fixed bridge did help with sustain. 

It was offered in different MF catalogs from $549 to $699.  The catalog I recall was asking $599 for the guitar. 

The guitar came in silver, purple, red or black.

The Rogue Aluminator is sometimes confused with guitars manufactured by Able Axe.  This is probably since it was Able Axe guitars that manufactured the Aluminator for Musicians Friend to sell under the Rogue Brand.

Able Axe was a guitar manufacturer started by Jeff Able. He selling guitars he built out of aluminum between 1994 through 1996. He started up again in 2001.

Abel Axe guitars bodies are made of solid 6061-T6 aluminum billets and are only one inch thick. Less than 250 of the original Swiss cheese body style were made from ~1994-1996. The bodies had holes drilled into them. The holes were there to reduce the body weight.


The bodies on these instruments were approximately 9.5 lbs or 4.3 kilograms

All of the guitars were designed and manufactured by Jeff were made at his shop in Bitteroot Valley,Wyoming. The original run, like the guitar pictured her featured holes drilled in the body. When hee started building again in 2001, the guitars featured slots instead of holes, as those on the Aluminator. 

All the bodies were coloured with anodized aluminum finishes. Most were finished in red, black, blue, violet, gold, teal, and some even multicolor. There rarest would be 3 with a green grass finish and 20 with a clear (aluminum) finish.




These guitars featured a small Strat-type body and were equipped with either a trem or fixed bridge. Since they were made one at a time by Jeff there are subtle differences in hole beveling, spacing, and drilling depth. There was a small original run of single humbucker Abel Axe guitars made with slots instead of holes. 





The very first batch (a dozen or so less) were released withDiMarzio humbuckers: PAF Pro in the neck position and Tone Zone in the bridge position. These were replaced by Kent Armstrong pickups (which at one point were manufactured by Sky pickups) which were HRE-1 in the neck position and HSDE-1 in the bridge position.


The original guitar necks were made by Musickraft Inc. and were rosewood or maple fret boards on quarter- sawn hard rock maple. All guitars made after 2000 featured Warmothnecks were used. From 2007-present, necks are made by Delaney Guitars. Scale length on all necks: 25.5″.

These pickups are now called are sold through www.wdmusic.com.

In 2010 there was an article that Jeff Able was going to sell his guitars in partnership with Mike Delaney of Delaney guitars.  There is no mention of this on the Delaney website.

According to recent posts by Jeff Able’s daughter Jenna, Able Guitars will be back in business. There is a Facebook page for Able Axes.

.The retail cost in 1994-96 for an Able Axe was $1395 to $1495.  A variety of colours were offered, including plain stainless aluminum.

©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)







This is mostly about Mike Delaney Guitars, but around 5:53 he talks about the Able Axe




Categories: General Interest

Parker Guitars - Ken Parker

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 19:26
Ken Parker and Parker Fly



Ken Parker built his first archtop guitar in 1974. This was long before he rose to fame with his well known electric guitar; The Parker Fly.






Ken Parker

In regard to the origin of the Parker Fly, Parker, in his own words states, "Larry Fishman and I met in 1984 and began a playful but productive design partnership.


Larry Fishman
We shared techniques and technologies, and tried to envision some new tools for guitar players. Long story short, we founded Parker Guitars in 1991 in order to realize the Fly Guitar project. We created tools to build the guitars, and established our factory in Massachusetts, where we produced about 30,000 guitars and basses."

1993 Parker Fly Guitar


In doing so, Ken created a modern ultra-light guitar, and made use of some unusual materials. Official sales of the Parker Fly began around 1993.






1992 Parker Fly
The Parker Fly was made from a variety of woods, including poplar, basswood, and spruce. Once the unique shape of the body and neck were carved the instrument was coated with a composite of resin and carbon glass to reinforce the structure.

Parker Fly - custom marbled colour

The fretboard was also made of a composite material and the frets were made of stainless steel. The design process has given Parker Fly guitars the reputation of having the “fastest neck in the business”.

Due to their durability, these materials will pretty much last for the lifetime of the owner.

The electronics used in the instruments were very unique as well. The guitar used either coil split humbucking pickups or single coil pickups. Both had active circuitry. The Fly also had a piezo pickup for acoustic sounds.

Original Parker backside



The structure of the neck was unique since it used multiple finger joints for stability.








Parker Vibrato
The guitars vibrato was unique as well. Instead of using wound springs, The Fly utilizes a shaped flat steel spring that returns the guitar to pitch. It could be set for bend down down mode, balanced mode (full floating), or fixed mode.

Adjustment Wheel

The tension is controlled by a balance wheel. (The guitars manual cautions not to set it too tight as this could cause the spring to break). The vibrato was engineered in a way to bring the strings back to pitch. Sperzel locking tuners aided in maintaining the instruments pitch and eliminated the need for string trees.


Ken Parker and Larry Fisher set up their business and manufacturing facility in Wilmington, Massachusetts.

2002 Parker Fly Bass
In October 2002, Parker began offering the Fly Bass guitar in both 4 and 5 string versions. These basses were well received for their ease of use. They came with both magnetic and piezo pickup and the player could blend the two sounds together. The basses were also manufactured in the Massachusetts factory.

In 2003 Ken Parker sold his stake in the company to the U.S. Music Corporation.



2003 Redesigned Parker Mojo Flame
As he states, "In 2003, U.S. Music purchased Parker Guitars, and moved the production facilities to the greater Chicago area. Since that time, all of the new models produced by Parker Guitars, including any acoustic or semi hollow instruments, have been designed solely by Parker Guitars' design engineers. I have had no involvement with any of these new design projects.

Creating the Parker Fly, Nightfly, and the Fly Bass was a labor of love. I had a lot of fun designing them and then devising and building the production tooling to make them. These instruments have worn well,  and now the product line has been expanded by the new owners."

U.S. Music Corporation Home Page


The U.S. Music Corporation is a distributor of multiple products, including Parker guitars. This organization manufactured the guitars from their Illinois based factory. They developed the line and changed up a few things.




2003 Parker Fly Classic

U.S. Music took a different approach to Parker Guitars. Some Parker guitars were no longer made with the original composite finish, but were now made of wooden bodies. To be fair, by 2001, Ken Parker had offered some models with wooden bodies.

Also some of the new models appeared to be Parker guitars that had morphed with other popular guitar designs.

For instance, the Single Cutaway Fly Mojo may have been a wonderful guitar, but the Les Paul influence is obvious.

Parker Single Cutawy Fly Mojo Flame
This was a single cutaway guitar with twin Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups. The body and neck were made of mahogany and were joined by using Ken Parker’s multi-finger neck joint. This guitar featured a tune-o-matic style bridge and a stop tail piece. The neck was topped with an ebony fretboard that had no position markers and the unique Parker 6 on-a-side headstock.

Tuners were still made by Sperzel.

Fly Mojo Flame
The Fly Mojo Flame did have the body shape of a Parker Fly guitar. The literature suggests it was made of mahogany with a “unique AAA flame maple skin over a solid mahogany body allowing the sound of mahogany to fully resonate through.” I cannot determine if this means the body had a maple veneer or a maple photo-flame finish.

This guitar came with a mahogany neck topped with the Parker headstock and included one Duncan Jazz and one Duncan JB humbucking pickup. Once again the fretboard was ebony with no position markers.

The Fly Mojo Flame also had the Parker Fly vibrato, sans the adjustment wheel. U.S. Music eliminated the vibrato adjustment wheel on all models that they produced.

2006 Fly Mojo


The Fly Mojo was similar in all aspects of the previous guitar, but the body was made of natural unstained mahogany.

U.S. Music continued to build The Parker Fly guitar, but changes were made from the original design to correspond with their vision of this instrument.




2005 Parker Fly Classic
The body was now made of mahogany with a basswood neck. The Fly Classic weighed in at 5 pounds and had the features of the original Fly, except for the choice of body wood and composite finish.

The U.S. Music Parker Fly came with two Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups and included the Parker vibrato. The guitar was available with three colour options.

2005 Parker Fly Deluxe Ice Blue Burst

The Fly Deluxe was a similar instrument that apparently was voiced differently than the original. It came in different six different colour schemes.


The Parker Nitefly Series included two guitars with features in the same shape as the original Parker Fly model. However these both had solid mahogany bodies and bolt on mahogany necks.

NiteFly Mojo Flame
The NiteFly Mojo Flame guitar had the same style neck, with a plain ebony fretboard, topped with the Parker style headstock. The thing that stood out on this guitar was the two humbucking pickups that were topped with chrome covers. One pickup was a Seymour Duncan Jazz pickup and the other was a Seymour Duncan JB pickup. This guitar featured the Parker vibrato. The mahogany body came with what the literature called, “a flame with a traditional AAA flame maple top over the solid mahogany body.”This guitar was offered in cherry sunburst or transparent blue-burst.

NiteFly Mojo



The NiteFly Mojo guitar had the same accouterments however the pickups lacked the chrome covers and there was not a flame veneer topping the mahogany body. It was bare wood and available in a natural finish, a transparent cherry finish, or a dusky black finish.




Southern NiteFly
The Parker Southern NiteFly was Parker’s answer to the Fender Telecaster. The body on this guitar was made of swamp ash and the bolt on neck was maple. The guitar even had black plastic pickguard. The neck pickup was a single coil with a chrome cover that could have been right off of a Tele. The Powerbridge™, looked like the rectangular chrome plate on a Telecaster. It contained a second single coil, slanted pickup and the adjustable bridge saddles contained the Fishman™ piezo elements. There was no vibrato on this model.

What set this apart from a Telecaster was the Parker Fly body, and the Parker headstock. The chrome control plate featured a third knob for the piezo volume. Above it was a second toggle switch to activate the piezo pickup. It was available with blonde, butterscotch, or transparent red finish options.

There were other variants that U.S. Music came up with for their Parker guitars.

NiteFly M


The Parker Nite Fly was one of the models designed by Ken Parker in the late 1990’s. The U.S. Music version of this guitar, called the NiteFly M, had a solid mahogany body and was topped with two humbucking pickups. The bolt-on neck was also made of mahogany. This instrument was offered with a natural oil and wax finish or a similar finish in black. It had the Parker vibrato.



NiteFly Alder
The Nite Fly Alder was Parker’s version of the Fender Stratocaster. This time the body was, of course, made of alder wood, while the neck was maple topped with an ebony fretboard. The pickup layout was similar to that on a strat, but the bridge pickup was a Seymour Duncan humbucking model. The controls were the same as those on a Stratocaster; a master volume, and two tone controls. It too came with the Parker vibrato. It was offered in cream white, Indigo blue,and cherry red.



NiteFly SA


The NiteFly SA was based on the original Parker model. It had the typical Parker shape, but was topped with a white plastic pickguard that contained the electronics, including two single coil pickups and a humbucking pickup in the bridge position. A slider switch acted as a pickup selector. The guitars body was made of swamp ash and the neck was maple. It came complete with the Parker vibrato and was available in transparent red or blue.


Parker PM and Parker P Series
The Parker PM Series and P Series were similar to all of the previous versions, but are noted by the company as having significant upgrades.

U.S. Music Parker guitars included in its line up a series four solid body Parker Fly basses, in addition to their hollow-body PAB 40.

PB61SP



The PB61SP featured neck-thru construction of a spalted maple top and mahogany neck with an ebony fretboard and a spalted maple headstock veneer. The tuners and adjustable bridge/saddle were gold-plated. The body was in the Parker Fly Bass shape. This bass, like all Parker basses, featured twin EMG 35CS active bass pickups.




PB51TR



The PB51TR (Transparent Red) was very similar, except the body and neck were made of mahogany and it was finished in transparent red. The tuners and adjustable tailpiece were in a black gun metal finish.






PB41



The PB41 series offered the same great features, such as EMG pickups, however the body was made of Sitka spruce with a Urethan finish, and the bolt-on the neck was maple. It was available in Silverburst, Black Matte, and Gold Matte. The hardware was also done in a black finish. These basses were available in four or five string models.



In 2006 the company added a line of acoustic-electric and jazz guitars under the Parker brand name. These were manufactured off-shore by Washburn guitars.  At that time U.S, Music owned the US distribution rights to the Washburn brand as well.

Bronze Fly



These acoustic models included the 24 fret Bronze Fly, which was a solid body guitar in the shape of the Parker Fly. It had no magnetic pickup, only a Fishman piezo pickup in the Parker style bridge, however there was no vibrato. Ken Parker had offered this guitar when he owned the company under the name The Fly Concert.




Nylon Fly


The Nylon Fly was a similar guitar. This model came with the Fishman piezo placed under a handcrafted ebony bridge.  Both models were topped with gold-plated Sperzel locking tuner. During the years Ken owned the company this guitar was called The Spanish Fly.


The PJ14N and PJ12 SB were true archtop hollow-body guitars. Both of these guitars had the most unusual body designs as well as unique f-holes.


PJ14N
The body of the PJ14N was made of natural spruce and the guitar featured a single Egnater floating Humbucker pickup with pickguard mounted controls and a 5-ply Rock Maple neck with Gold Grover Titan Tuners. The inlaid trapeze tailpiece appears to be made of ebony and the headstock was highly inlaid. This jazz box had only one sound hole. The bound ebony fretboard was inlaid with mother-of-pearl block fret markers. This guitar came with a 3-on-a-side headstock and it was simply awesome!



PJ12SB


The PJ12 SB (sunburst) featured two Egnater Humbucker pickups mounted on the guitars body with individual volume and tone controls, a stunning brass tailpiece, and a 5-ply Rock Maple neck with Gold Grover Titan Tuners. This guitar featured a bound ebony fretboard with block position markers. The 3-on-a-side headstock had a large split-diamond inlay and above it the Parker logo all in mother-of-pearl. The PJ12 was the same guitar with a natural finish.


Parker Event Series
Another development in 2006 was the introduction of a line of acoustic-electric guitars under the Parker brand.  These models all had ovular sound holes. The guitars were actually made by the Washburn guitar company under the Parker logo and were given the designation of Parker Event Series guitars. These included three wide bodied models and five thinner body instruments. All had the same unique Parker body shape as the Jazz series. The line up included three non-electric acoustic models.

Parker P8E

The P8E guitar was designed with a solid cedar top, with a flamed maple back and sides. The unbound fretboard was made of ebony and had small dot inlaid position markers on the boards bass side The electronics were designed by Larry Fishman and included a piezo unit in the bridge and a Fishman magnetic pickup just under the neck. The master volume control is on the guitars top and on the upper side bout are the controls for treble, bass, and pickup balance.


Parker P9E


The P9E was very similar, except for the choice of wood. For this guitar, the top was solid cedar, but the back and sides were made of Indian rosewood The neck was made of mahogany.






Parker P10E



The P10E came with all the features of the P9E, however the neck had an ivoroid fretboard with dark dot position markers. The bridge was made of this same material.






Parker P6E Event Series
The Parker P6E models featured a thinner body than the aforementioned instruments. This guitar was available in various styles.

This guitar had a solid Sitka spruce top with single ply binding. The accouterments were similar to th aforementioned mode,  with biggest difference being the depth of the body.

The other difference was the necks which were made of 5-ply mahogany and maple. The body on the P6E models were made with mahogany back and sides. Once again the fretboard Is made of ebony with microdot inlays, The electronics were designed by Larry Fisher. These guitars were available in white, black, and transparent red.

Parker P7EQS



The P7EQS had the same accouterments, but had a fancy quilted sapele top.








Parker Intrique Series acoustic



The Parker Intrigue Series, were acoustic guitar, with no electronic features. The unique body shape on these instruments was much different as there is no cutaway section.





Parker Intrique Series acoustic
The PA28 came with a solid cedar top and solid Indian rosewood back and sides. The neck was 5 ply mahogany/maple topped with gold-plated Grover Stay-Tite open back tuners. These instrument had a zero fret to help with intonation.

Also it 2006 Parker also came out with a unique acoustic bass guitar to match up with their Event Series guitars.


Parker PAB 40
The PAB 40 bass guitar featured the same shape as the Event Series guitars. It included nine feedback suppressing slots routed into the bodies upper bout. The piezo and electronics were the customized Fishman Matrix Bass system and installed on the upper side. The bound body was made of American black walnut and included a thumb rest. The ebony fretboard had only dot inlays at the 12th fret. The 2 on a side headstock was topped with gold-plated tuners. The pin bridge was uniquely designed of ebony wood.


JAM Industries 
In 2009, the brand was acquired by JAM Industries of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Production remained in Illinois. JAM is a multi-national distributor of musical instruments, pro audio and lighting and consumer electronic.

This company has acquired many smaller distribution companies and owns the distribution rights to quite a few well know brands including Digitech, Washburn, Marshall, Hagstrom, Randall, Oscar Schmidt, and Korg.

2010 Parker Maxxfly
In 2010 the MaxxFly model was introduced. This model was based on the Fly guitar, but featured a refined headstock which allowed it to be hung on a wall guitar hanger. The top horn was reshaped to be more traditional and ergonomic.

Standardized pickup cavities were set up to aid in manufacturing. The frets were reduced from 24 to 22, and the body became slightly thicker and heavier.

In 2015 the JAM Corporation announced that Parker's US production had ceased and a search for a new off-shore facility was underway.

Fly Mojo Snakeskin


Parker did create several special edition models after the 2015 announcement including the Fly Mojo Snakeskin model, the Koa Fly Mojo model, and the Four Season Fly Mojo guitar, which was offered in differing finishes corresponding to the seasons.





Parker Guitars  US Music page
The Parker Fly brand was being manufactured until November of 2016 when the factory in Buffalo Grove, Illinois was shut down. The U.S. Music website states, “The Parker Guitar line-up is currently being updated for re-release in 2017.


Ken in 2013 Holding his archtop


So what is Ken Parker doing these days? He has returned to his first love, which is building archtop guitars. He started doing this in the 1970’s, long before he became preoccupied with the Parker Fly guitar. During these years he was able to strike up a friendship and get advice from Jimmy D’Aquisto.


1991 model
much different Parker
Ken says on his webpage that he has been busy creating and selling his own archtop guitars. And these are very unique instruments, like no other guitars on the market. Each guitar is handmade and though they share the same outline, each is a one-of-a-kind piece. Ken has experimented with different woods that exhibit different tonal variations.

After selling his stake in Parker Fly Guitars in 2003, Ken began experimenting with the archtop guitar neck attachment. He felt that one of the pitfalls of the archtop acoustic was the bridge.

Parker Archtop "Grace"
On most models this involves a bridge with a saddle that is adjusted by means of some knurled knobs to raise and lower the action of the strings. He feels the bridge is such an important element in transferring the string vibrations to the guitars body and the standard method needed to be improved upon.

The bridges on his instruments need no adjusting.

Parker archtop neck and post
To solve this, Ken has created a unique adjustable and removable neck. The neck sets above the guitars body on a post made of carbon fiber.

This allows the player to not only adjust the neck, but to play in upper registers without being impeded by the instruments body or neck heel, as there is no neck heel. Another advantage to the removable neck is that the instrument can be dismantled and placed in travel size containers for safe travel on airlines. Parker can even build an instrument available with a variety of differing necks for the same body, such as a 25.5” scale or a 30” baritone scale, even six or seven string necks that would fit the same body.

Parker neck, bridge, fretboard

Parker’s fretboard design involves an altered conical parabolic curve that is based on the players preference for string gauge and action. He suggests using 12 gauge string sets for his instrument, preferably made of phosphor bronze material, since he uses Fishman Rare Earth SA220 humbucking pickups on his instruments.



Fishman Rare Earth pickup
top and side view
These pickups attach to the pickguard and are snug up against the distal end of the neck. All the wiring is concealed under the pickguard, including the 1/8” output jack. He prefers these pickups to piezo versions as he feels they deliver a more realistic sound.



Parker Archtop headstock & tuners
The headstock on Parker's archtop guitars is similar to the minimalist six-on-a-side type that he used on the Fly guitars. He has chosen Gotoh Stealth tuners to top his instruments. These are the smallest tuners on the market. He covers the back of the tuners with a plate so the machines are not visible.

Ken Parker archtop guitars have a base price of $30,000.

Click on the links under the pictures for the sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
© UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)





.
Categories: General Interest

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