Monday, November 19, 2012

1960's Truetone Electric Archtop

1960's Truetone

Here is a 1960's Truetone electric archtop guitar.  Truetone was the name of the electronics division of Western Auto Supply.  Kay produced these guitars under the Truetone name for Western Auto the same way they would produce instruments under the Silvertone name for Sears or under the Old Kraftsman name for Spiegel. 

I had been looking for one of these for a long time.  All of the ones I had seen were in need of some sort of repair that would push the cost of the instrument way beyond its value.  Patience paid off and this guitar came to me just as it was described, in excellent condition.  The neck had been reset(though you can see the work done-it's a pretty good job) and the electronics work great.  The action is nice with room left to move on the adjustable floating bridge.  The guitar is all original including the pickguard which is often missing on these guitars.  I was searching for something I was going to have to fix on this guitar, but could find nothing. 

I love the sound of this guitar and the "pancake" pickup.  I also love the simplicity of the setup - one pickup, one volume, and one tone knob.  Wonderfully clean with the volume cranked down and nasty with the volume turned all the way up.  This guitar is a blast to play and is getting a lot of use right now.  A fantastic guitar built for Thoreau as he cries,  "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity".

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Imagination:

     A friend of mine stopped by the other night.  He is a fine blues picker and an even finer conversationalist. 
      This nights conversation was spurred on by a 1940's Regal guitar that I own and that he was picking on.  The guitar is in wonderful shape for its age and this fact stirred up a whole bunch of questions from the both of us.  Why was it so well preserved, who owned it.  The list goes on and on.
      My friend told me that if he were walking in a field and came upon an old tool half buried in the soil, he could stand over that tool for an hour wondering about its history as well as how this piece of ground became its final resting place.
      My friend questioned his mindset, knowing full well that most of our scurrying population couldn't find this mystery he was imagining to be intriguing.  I responded quickly.  A righteous thinker shouldn't be ill at ease with such thoughts.  This is the way we should be thinking.  These items of the past deserve scrutiny and should invade our imagination and enliven our subconscious, in turn, making us more conscious of the world that presently surrounds us.
      I told my friend that I tend to live with one foot in the past.  The way he would think about that old tool is exactly the way I have always thought about old guitars.  This process of thought has always been very important to me.  Expressing these thoughts is how we locate spirits who are kindred and any day in which we find a kindred spirit is a good day.
      We no more knew the real story behind that tool in the dirt than we did the story behind that old Regal we were picking.  So why not give it a story?  The suspension of disbelief has always driven the best guitar pickers, the best songwriters, the best storytellers and the best listeners(a lost art in and of itself).  If there are no facts to support the life of a given item or guitar, doesn't it deserve to be given a history that stands as much of a chance of being true as it does being false.
      I've often thought that as guitars are passed through time to a new home that they shoud be accompanied by an index card that provides a brief history of the instrument.  Presently, I am not so sure of this fairly idealistic hope.
      I have a 1920's Supertone parlor guitar that has aged and worn so beautifully and so naturally that it just stirs my imagination.  It looks like it was rode hard and I desperately want to believe it lived with a hobo through his travels during The Great Depression or it possibly rode on the back of a cowboys bedroll as he coursed the plains.  If I had received this guitar and found that index card advising me that this was simply an instrument left in a closet after a failed attempt to master it, would I love it less?  Quite possibly.  I love this guitar because I have been able to surround it with my own story.  Imagination is my drug and this guitar feeds and fuels the habit.
      I suppose that in a perfect world of guitar history I would be provided with index cards for about half the instruments I come across.  I believe that oftentimes truth is stranger than fiction and those historical index cards could provide a far better story than I could ever imagine.  Of course, this means that fifty percent of the guitars I come across would remain unaccounted for and need a story attached to it.  The wonderful part of this process is the story we create doesn't have to come out of thin air.  These guitars provide us with a lot of historical information simply by remaining in circulation.  We are able to date them quite specifically and we can generally be sure of the builder and the guitars geographic genesis.  Because I like to collect depression era instruments I can look at that instrument and knowing the date that it was built be able to have an idea of the type of clothes the original owner wore, the type of car they drove,and how the local gas station and main street looked.  When you have no other information to go on, this is where the story of an instrument can begin.
      I guess I have chosen to direct my attention to such companies as Regal, Kay, Harmony, Supertone, etc. not only because their hayday was in the 1930's and 1940's but also because I feel their history/story is more opaque.  Much more so than a Martin or a Gibson.
      With old Martins and Gibsons you are pretty much assured of purchasing a top quality instrument.  Not so with the so called "catalogue guitars" as they were often tiered in terms of quality in the production line.  These companies made many more entry level instruments than they did high end instruments.  The possibility of tripping over a diamond in the rough lies solely in these brands.  Martins and Gibsons reputation is based on the fact that they do not make diamonds in the rough(mind you, we are still talking about the work these companies did in the 30's and 40's).
      Wading through the history of these catalogue guitars is like being on a constant treasure hunt.  I can still occasionally come across a model I have never seen before remaining simultaneously intrigued, entertained, and floored by its unique musicality. 
      Imagine a production line of ten luthiers at Harmony's Chicago factory.  Perhaps out of the ten, nine are good at what they do, but the tenth luthier just happens to have the magic touch.  For him, guitar building is innate.  His talents and love for the process flow through his hands and into the instrument.  He gets his hands on a rogue piece of timber, one that has musical qualities and characteristics that far exceed all the other woods he has worked with that month.  Tap tones sing to him and he braces an instrument as if his life depended on it.  Thats the diamond in the rough and the instrument that I will forever be in search of.
      I can't help but think that oftentimes reality just isn't as good as our dreams.  In time, I have come to realize why I provide content for this site and why guitars stand at the forefront of what I consider art.  My imagination is at stake and in the hands of these instruments.  These old guitars allow me to extinguish reality, letting my imagination be the ruler of the moment.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

1940's Regal Playtime Deluxe

Here is a beautiful Regal that dates to wartime or just prewar.  It has been very difficult to pin down an exact date as I have only seen one other example of this particular instrument in all my years.  A very rare bird indeed.  This was an ebay purchase that needed a bit of work to get back into playing condition.  It came to me in wonderful cosmetic shape which makes it even rarer.  You may find one of these someday lurking in the loft of an octogenarians barn, but I'm pretty sure you will never come across one in this nice of shape.

My friend James Ralston did an amazing job getting this guitar into fantastic playing shape.  He had to reset the neck, redo some bracing, replace the tuner buttons, do a little fretwork and install a bridge doctor to keep a persnickety top from bulging when tuned to pitch.  The bridge doctor was an enormous help.  The top is now holding its place and some say that the bridge doctor goes a long way in adding to a guitars tone.  James also reglued the bridge.  With the bridge properly glued we didn't need the bridge bolts that were common with this era of guitars so he removed them and filled the holes with some nice pearl dots.

This is a ladder braced instrument and I was a little concerned when making the purchase.  I have a few ladder braced instruments and feel that I
have that tonal range covered, so I was pleased to find that this guitar isn't your average ladder braced instrument.  The body size matches that of a dreadnaught at about 15.5" at the lower bout.  The dreadnaught sizing gives the tone a lot of extra body and keeps you out of the tonal range of ladder braced parlor guitars.  It is very loud when strummed, but the complexity of its tone really comes out when it is fingerpicked.  Gorgeous tone when you treat her like a lady.

This guitar was clearly a more upscale model made by the Regal factory.  It has some amazing all original appointments.  The only thing we changed out were the tuner buttons.  We added some very nice ivoroid buttons that play the part well.  The pearl inlays are really unique and beautiful.  The tuners are original Klusons with a pair of the coolest covers on them I have ever seen.  In fact I have never seen any like these before.  James says he thinks he has seen them on a couple of old Nationals.  25.5" scale with 14 fret neck, amazingly clean sunburst top with a fat maple V shaped neck and original bridge.  The nicest surprise was the wide frets that came with this guitar that are now in like new condition.  They allow you to dig into this instruments a little more than you can with those skinny frets that were popular on prewar guitars.
Beautifully aged sunburst finish

that is just a reflection on the pickguard - it is in perfect shape

you have to see this fretboard up close and in person to believe how clean it is

If you are a fan of guitar making history, you can't help but love this instrument.  Not only for its tone, beauty and the fact that it is very well constructed, but also for that little bit of mystery that surrounds it in terms of dating the instrument and exactly where it was made.  Thanks again to James Ralston for doing a great job bringing her to life and thanks to Nathan at Juke Box Bonfire for doing an equally good job making sure these instruments get into the hands of those who love them.

If you want to see a video of this guitar being played go to

if this link does not work just go to you tube and type in "regal playtime deluxe acoustic guitar"

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Come back soon!!

There is more to come in the future including an old Oahu 66k with a reprofiled round neck, a 40's Regal, a couple of little tiny brother and sister supertones from the late 20's/early 30's, harmony roundhole archtop and more.  I have to find the time to get these guitars into blog ready condition before displaying them.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Eastwood Guitars

Here are a few more guitars that snuck into the backdoor of "your grandpa's guitar".  They are Eastwood guitars that were modeled after the old Supro/Valco/Airline models.  They've made it to these pages because though they are contemporary models their design has been based on models that were born in the 50's and 60's.  As I stated earlier in a post about Vintage 47 amps I was much more comfortable purchasing these instruments than I would have been taking a chance on the relics that float for sale across the internet.  Yes those old guitars are cool and have all the vibe in the world but the fact is it can often take an awful lot to get them up and running and most of them are at least double the price that you would pay for these newer Eastwood models that are ready to go right out of the box.

Mike Robinson runs Eastwood Guitars out of Canada.  I discovered him after being highly dismayed by the products Fender and Gibson were pushing out the door.  I mean a signature Merle Haggard telecaster for $5000-$6000 was a little too much to stomach.  I'm not sure who the target audience is for that instrument, especially in today's economy.  Now I happen to be a huge Merle Haggard fan and I can only hope he is receiving a little something for the use of his name, but I'm not sure I would spend that kind of money on the guitar that Merle wrote "Mama Tried" on, let alone a reissue of a guitar that Merle sometimes uses - even if I was rolling in the dough.  I don't mean to disparage the Telecaster name.  It happens to be one of my favorite instruments and one of the greatest guitar creations of all time, but the $300 cheapie that I have with a few modifications has served me just fine.

The point is I was looking for something different for a real fair price.  These guitars deliver.  The construction and electronics are great.  Amazingly heavyweight bodies (unlike their predecessors) that feel like they were really built to last.  These guitars remind me of the way this country used to build cars.  Heavy duty with lots of chrome.  Of course I was compelled to pair these babies up with my '83 Chevy Impala in the photos.  I wouldn't mind transferring some of the colors that Eastwood comes up with to that old Chevy.  I know, I know.  A fair amount of the construction is done overseas and one of my hopes for this blog has been to display uniquely American instruments.  So I failed!!  Oh well, there will be plenty of true American, depression era instruments to come.  These guitars surpassed my expectations by a longshot, so I felt they deserved a nod.

This model is probably one of the prettiest guitars I own.  I went wild for the color which is Indigo.  It is a guitar first, but the finish is so glassy that it moonlights as a mirror.  This is the Airline Indigo 3 pickup Deluxe limited edition model.  Yes that's a mouthful, but they only made 24 of these(this model is #11 of 24).  Each year Eastwood tries to pick a super funky color and do a very limited run of that color on one of their current models.  As you can see this guitar is overloaded with knobs and in turn overloaded with tones.  The action is super low for all the fast flyers out there and it plays great up and down the neck.

Lets get back to simplicity.  That is the way I like to keep it and why I love the aforementioned Telecaster and also why i love this guitar.  This is the H44 DLX.  It was modeled after the 1950's era Stratotone.  Great big baseball bat neck and very thick tone.  I play this guitar every chance I get.  The minihumbuckers are a nice change for me as I generally gravitate toward that single coil sound and bite.  Probably one of the best electric slide sounds you'll be able to conjure up.

Say Cheeeeeese!!  I see you taking that picture.

I'll keep this short and sweet.  I'm starting to feel like an add for Eastwood which is not my intention.  This is the RSII, modeled after the late 1950's Roy Smeck model.  Great rockabilly guitar.  Indescribable tone from the diamond pickups.  Check out Eastwood guitars at and at

Friday, March 2, 2012

Taylor 510

I hesitated to add a post of this guitar as it doesn't even come close to falling in the category of depression era instruments that I am trying to stick to.  I guess I'm doing this one for me.  This Early 90's Taylor 510 has been my number one guitar for a long time.  It has played tons of shows and helped me write tons of songs.  I tend to think of the guitar not only as an instrument of art, but as a tool as well.  If a carpenter has a favorite hammer or chisel then i would have to say this is a favorite tool of mine.  I think of songwriting as a trade or a craft not unlike the work a plumber, electrician, or a carpenter has to do.  The proper tools are needed to do a good job.

I bought this guitar at Maple Leaf Music in Brattleboro, VT.  It was an incredible investment for me at the time.  I was working in a grocery store at the time and saved all my pennies for this guitar.  I saw it in the shop in the morning and literally stayed in Brattleboro all day trying to make the purchase decision.  I'm glad I pulled the trigger.  I can't think of another investment in my life that has paid off so well.

A long way from getting that Willie Nelson/Trigger road rash, but I'm getting there

Quite frankly, i'm not sure if I've seen another Taylor since this one that I would be interested in purchasing.  Something happened along the way that has disallowed me from gravitating towards them in the music shop.  Could be mass production.  The 510 I own was from a day when Taylor was a much smaller brand and Bob Taylor signed the guitars himself right on the neck block.  I can't tell you much about their instruments of the present day, but this guitar has never ever failed me.  Great construction, great tone.  The only work I've had to do on it was a recent bridge reset and fret cleanup by Steve Kovacik.  The bridge was lifting a little and Steve tightened it all up.  She sounds better than ever now.  Check out Steve's work at       

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Vintage 47 Tweed Suitcase Amp

Let's take a little time out from guitar talk and look at a great amp.  There are a number of folks out there now doing reproduction style work on guitars and amps and David Barnes of Vintage 47 amps is one of them.  You can't help but look through his website and be like - Oh yea, I want that one, and that one, and that one, and that one too....  He has a couple models that could double as great tube amps and art deco style furniture(check out his 1942 Oahu 12).  I love these products because not only do you get the great old Valco/Supro stylings, but you actually get an amp that works really well instead of taking a chance on an old ebay purchase that needs a new cord, caps, tubes, speaker.  You get the point.

David is a good guy, he does all the building in house and is extremely knowledgeable, helpful and cheerful to boot.  He clearly loves what he does and it shows in his products.

I won't get into specs on this amp.  I'll let you go to and check them out for yourself.  I will tell you that this suitcase model has been a great amp to have around the studio.  There is enough headroom on it to get you a clean sound.  Crank this baby up and it screams and growls like only these old school amps with big fat tubes can.  A very unique tone for a price that is very fair.  If you are gonna buy, I would suggest getting in now.  David is generally up to his ears in orders and is dealing with some pretty high profile clients.  Billy Gibbons and Tom Waits come to mind.  This suitcase amp is one of the first things people go to in my studio and say - What's That!!
1920's/30's Maybell style 5

Here is another spunky little Maybell.  Unlike the other two Maybells shown, this one is going to take a little work to get her into top condition.  She actually plays okay right now but is in need of a neck reset, some fret dressing and some bridge and saddle work.  When all touched up she is going to be a fine player as this model though not the prettiest person at the dance already has a loud voice and a nice balanced tone. 

Note the solid headstock on this one.  Maybell guitars were made by the Slingerland drum company from the 1920's - 1940's.  There were a large amount of models produced in that time and it never ceases to amaze me how I can still come across a model in my searches that I have never seen before.  They get big points from me for making some of the prettiest looking guitars as well as having one of the coolest sounding brand names in the business.
1920's/30's Maybell with angel decal.

This Maybell has been a little tougher to identify.  It has a little bit of the style 7 in it, a slotted and slanted headstock and the angel decal on the lower bout.  The bridge is not original but it has all those original bridge pins I talked about earlier.  

This guitar has a really balanced tone, giving you more bass than most parlor guitars.  The neck is wider than most Maybells I have seen or played making it a fingerpickers dream.  This guitar is also a lot louder than any other Maybell I have come across.  A real joy to play.  I try to keep this one close at all times!!


 This is a 1920's/30's style O Maybell with slotted headstock, birch body and pearloid neck.  And what a beauty she is.  My friend James Ralston did the necessary work to get her back into tip top shape.  Neck was reset, new compensated saddle was installed, and it was given a nice fret dressing.  James has worked on a ton of these Maybells and says that this is the cleanest example that he has ever seen!  I would have to agree.  This guitar is an amazing find and at 80-90 years old looks unplayed and brand new.  Now normally I like my guitars to have a little wear or "patina" if you will.  A bit of honest wear just shows that she has been played, loved by someone and has a bit of history behind it and a story or two to tell.  With that said it is nice every now and then to find such a clean example.  Clean or not I always wonder about the history of these old guitars and have often thought how wonderful it would be if an index card was provided with the guitar.  Each owner would have to jot a few words about the instruments history before passing it on to the next owner. 

These little parlor guitars have taught me some big lessons about style of play.  I am used to banging out rhythm on a big old dreadnaught with medium gauge strings.  I treat those dreadnaughts pretty hard and they respond fine to the treatment.  These parlors are a whole different animal and it took me a while to first get used to it and then to embrace the need for a style of play change.  The phrase "treat her like a lady" comes to mind.  They must be dealt with a little more reserve.  Lighter strings, lighter touch, very pretty sound.

One last thought regarding a little guitar minutiae.  If you are looking into buying one of these, try to make sure the bridge pins are original as they are really nice.  They resemble the pins used in some 30's era Gibsons.  I had a luthier once say the pins were nicer than the guitar.  He meant it in a nice way not trying to put the guitar down but rather trying to explain how good the pins were.
Kay Jumbo Acoustic Guitar.

This guitar is super easy on the eyes.  She takes over the photos with her 17+ inch lower bout.  I've been very lucky to come across a few guitars that are in great shape and this is one of them.  I would dare say again that you may have a hard time finding one in better cosmetic shape.  Neck is clean as can be with big frets.  The older Kays always seemed to have the best headstock appointments and this one doesn't disappoint.  Grover tuners that look to be original and work great(i have seen these kay jumbos with klusons as well so I can't be 100% sure about the originality - nevertheless they fit the bill).  Bridge has been screwed to the body which was a standard part of the Kay building process.  Thing is, I think this might have been a job done by an over eager previous owner.  The placement and screw type don't exactly fit the bill.  I'll have to check into it a little more.  I love these older Kay models.  I have a dreadnaught that I will feature later that needs a lot of love, but is worth looking at.  These Kays are built like battleships.  Great construction with big necks, and big tone.  This Jumbo is the guitarists version of onomatopoeia.  It sounds just like it looks.  Say the word "Boom" and you are getting close.  Going to give this guitar a neck reset as the angle is just a wee bit off and the heel is ever so slightly pulling up.  But that is about it.  She will be perfect when done.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

1930's Regal.  This guitar is giving me the shivers.  The thing that I love most about picking up these guitars for cheap is finding that diamond in the rough.  Quite frankly that is the way that I feel about most of the guitars that you will see here.  I get them cheap because that is all I can afford.  I can't imagine paying multi thousands of dollars on ebay for an instrument you can't hold in your hands before purchasing it.  I'm not saying that some of them aren't worth it, it's just that I get even more of a thrill finding value in an instrument that was two steps away from the junk yard.  This old Regal is definitely giving me a thrill.  She is one of, if not the loudest parlor guitar I have ever heard!!  What gives me the shivers is that she is currently in need of a lot of work and still sings like crazy!!  The neck is kicked way forward(but straight), the bridge is lifting off the body,  there is virtually no saddle and in turn virtually no string break angle.  The fretboard looks like a mine field.  Check out the photo above of the fretboard - Do you think the previous owner knew their scales???  I thought this would be a problem but I've grown to love the look and it provides no discomfort to me when I play it.  This guitar is in line for some major renovations, but I'm going to take my time with it and make sure I get it right.  Now, a little talk about slide.  I'm no slide pro, but because of the current high action I couldn't resist throwing the glass on my finger to see what happens.  About the only way I currently play this guitar is in open G with a slide.  The tone is crazy.  I'm pretty sure that those proficient at slide would kill for this instrument.

Monday, February 27, 2012

1940's Gene Autry

Okay - so a guitar blog run by a guy who's nickname is Cowboy would have to feature a cowboy guitar or two.  Problem is I'm a guy who demands that the instruments I own actually function.  There are tons of old cowboy stenciled parlor guitars to rifle through.  These guitars are fun to look at but generally play horribly and sound even worse.  They are hard to resist though and if I were to buy a guitar to just hang on the wall these old cowboy guitars would be my choice.

These Gene Autry/Melody ranch models are the exception to the rule.  They are good little players and pretty well constructed to boot.  It helps when you can pick one of these up after they have been gone over by a talented repair guy.  I picked this guitar up from Steve Chipman of Chester, VT.  Steve has a cool little side biz repairing old parlor guitars and sending them back out into the world.  He possesses the two qualities I need from a seller.  He is knowledgeable and nice.  You see a lot of these Autry guitars out there, but you would be hard pressed to find one in this good of shape and that plays as well.  Check out Steve's website at     
Thanks Steve!!

Mystery Kingston/Wurlitzer/Harmony

Well, this guitar is one of lifes little mysteries.  The "Kingston" name clearly stenciled on the headstock is only half the mystery.  The "Wurlitzer" name stamped on the inside of the soundhole is the other half of the mystery.  I know that kingston was a lower quality japanese brand that specialized in "Teisco" type electric guitars.  Kingston also apparently manufactured some lower quality acoustic models in the 1950's(I believe).  I have a hard time believing this guitar is related to either.  First of all it is much higher quality construction than the acoustic models I mentioned of the 1950's.  The jedistar website has photos of a similiar guitar and claims that it could be made by Harmony.  To add to the mystery you will notice that the body looks very similiar to the Kalamazoo KG-11 series.  To further add to the mystery, the finish on the back and the neck is a tiger strip finish which is very beautiful but also seems to be a Japanese finishing trait.  Had enough yet!!  Alright, so I can't properly identify it - fact is this is a smoking guitar.  Huge neck, 14 frets to the body, ladder braced, but with a much more balanced tone than those old ladder braced blues honkers.  It came to me with a floating bridge as well as a fretboard extension that floated over the body much like an archtop.  It was also in need of a neck reset.  I wanted to put a fixed bridge on it which would require getting the fretboard extension flush with the body.  So that's what we did.  Add a little fret dressing and this is one heck of a unique instrument.  Action is low with big frets.  I have a friend who is a great fingerstyle blues player and he loved this guitar.  Big crack on the top below the soundhole that was cleated with popsicle sticks and is very stable(hey, whatever works).  Feel free to provide any info on this baby if you have some.

postscript - 2/28/11 -  I've seen a guitar or two made by harmony with a similiar tiger stripe type of finish to this one, but I've come to believe that this is a Regal made guitar.  It has the same body style as the kalamazoo kg models which Regal made a few attempts to copy(or visa versa - I'm not sure who was first).

Nonetheless - this remains one of my favorites.  Sounds great in standard tuning and really kills it in open tunings.  A fantastic find!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

This is a wonderful 20's/30's Supertone parlor guitar.  I bought this guitar totally on looks.  Didn't know what it sounded like and wasn't sure if I would ever know.  It was fairly unplayable when I got it.  It needed a neck reset, fret work, the top had seperated from the side on the upper bout and we replaced an unworkable floating bridge setup with a fixed bridge that really looks the part.  Now it plays great!  The work was done by my friend James Ralston.  James is an amazing player and just as amazing guitar guru.  You will hear his name mentioned in this blog a number of times as I have used his services on a number of occasions.  As I said I bought this guitar on looks.  The pictures don't do it justice.  Up close it looks like it could have rode on the back of a hobo as he jumped from train to train or was strummed around a cowboy campfire beneath a Montana night.  Oh yea, it happens to sound great as well now.  I used it in a recording project last night and couldn't believe how much it loved the microphone!!  I hope to get some sound clips up at some point because I won't do the sonic description justice.   As we all know, guitars have a tendency to come and go in our lives.  Circumstances may force a sale or we may simply fall out of love.  I don't see this little baby ever leaving my side.