Friday, November 15, 2013

1960's Kay Dreadnought

Here we have a 1960's Kay dreadnought.  This guitar follows as a great companion to the Kay jumbo in the previous post although a bit more of a project and not quite as amenable as the jumbo was.  It took a lot to get her to its current state.  Again, I pulled the bridge on this one.  The old bridge was shaved down way beyond where it should be.  It was so thin that I'm surprised it supported any string tension.  When I pulled it off, it came off in pieces because of how thin it was.  Thankfully I had a period Kay replacement bridge that fits nicely.

The real work on this guitar was the neck work done by James Ralston.  I steamed the neck off and attempted a reset, but had little luck.  I sent it to James and after a lot more hours than either one of us expected he got it reset to perfection.  James had to do a bunch of work on the fretboard as well as a fair amount of fretwork to get everything to where it should be.  The neck is now straight and plays great.  I like the neck on this guitar.  Its not as smooth as the aforementioned Kay jumbo but it has a unique profile.  It has that baseball bat depth but the fretboard is not as wide as you would expect.  Note the nice big frets and the oversized pearloid dots.
The amount of time James had to put into getting this dread to act nice was a lot more than any low budget guitar should require.  A testament to his work ethic.  He comes highly recommended by me.  Check out his website at

The good news is that I probably have one of the few Kay dreads from this period that plays well, has a straight neck and intonates properly.  The guitar itself is not rare, but the fact that it plays well is. 
Note how the Kay dread features more of a square shouldered body.  To my eye is doesn't look like any other dread, which is amazing.  Again, just think, Kay was a company that was pumping out tons of guitars yet they were still able to incorporate elements of style and design that said this guitar is uniquely a Kay.  Kay had many elements of design that made their instruments unmistakable.  There are still a number of their older models on my wish list.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

1950's/1960's Kay Jumbo

All of my life I have considered songwriting to be a trade.  A trade not unlike that which the carpenter , plumber, electrician or house painter performs.  I am sure I envy the carpenters skills more than he envy's mine.  As much as I would like to fancy myself a woodworker, I have put the bulk of my time and efforts towards the task of songwriting.  Needless to say, because of this effort I feel that I am a competent writer and a somewhat incompetent carpenter.
Through the years I have considered the guitar the tool of my trade.  I played one guitar for years, wrote tons of songs on that guitar, played tons of gigs and watched as that instrument accumulated  the nicks, scratches and road rash associated with a well loved and worn guitar.  I kept this guitar in shape.  I buy good products and then treat my possessions well.  I am a firm believer in the old adage "if you buy crap, you are going to buy it twice".

Then something happened along the way.  It wasn't that I had plans to separate myself from my number one guitar(it still gets a lot of playing time) it was just that I felt that guitar needed some company.  If you follow this blog you will see that my number one now has quite a bit of company.

I have become a somewhat fastidious collector, quite adept at finding a diamond in the rough.  In fact, that is essentially how I focus my efforts - finding the diamonds in the rough.  I search out instruments that cost very little and seem to be somewhat unwanted due to their condition or lack of super vintage pedigree or distinction.  This is the world I live in because this is the world I can afford to live in.  It's not for everyone which I suppose is why it is for me. 

With that said I have found another diamond in the rough.  A 1950's/1960's Kay jumbo guitar.  There is something about the Kay line of guitars that keeps me coming back to them.  I love the design elements, the look of most of them and their history.  They are often very hard to date.  Kay never used factory order numbers because they were churning out so many guitars for the department store trade they probably felt no one wanted to know that they were the proud owner of guitar number 135,632 off the line.  You will find serial numbers inside the body of most Kays but that information has been deemed essentially useless unless someone stumbles upon a secret log one day.  It is unfortunate we can't date most of their instruments, but in some ways this just increases my fondness for these guitars as there will always be some intrigue and mystery tied to them.

I would love to know what the serial numbers were intended for

This guitar required quite a bit of work to get her up and running.  When I got it the neck was pulling away from the body - the bridge was warped and lifting - a small metal bar was used as a saddle - the frets needed work and the spruce beneath the bridge had been mangled in a previous repair attempt.  I pulled the bridge and soaked it.  I then clamped it down for days and was very happy to find the bridge had reclaimed its old shape.  I had a lot of time consuming touch up to do after the bridge was off.  I had to fill a lot of chips with tiny pieces of spruce.  It was clear a previous owner wasn't particularly patient when pulling the bridge off in the past.  The bridge border shows a fair amount of abuse.
The bridge was replaced and is tight to the body.  I then took off the neck and sent the guitar to James Ralston of Road Toast Guitars.  James did a magnificent job resetting the neck as well as refretting the guitar and cutting a new saddle slot.  A lot of these old Kays are infamous for somewhat poor intonation due to a certain part not being in the right position.  This was the case with the saddle.  Remember these were mass produced guitars - in order to love them you have to be willing to deal with some of the faults.  Thankfully in GuitarWorld there aren't too many things that can't be fixed.

What we ended up with is probably one of the most tonally balanced guitars I have ever played.  This is a ladder braced jumbo - but the ladder bracing combined with the big body make for a wonderful combo.  The bigger body knocks down some of that trebly ladder braced tone while kicking up the mids and rounding out the lows.  The lows on these x-braced jumbos(and on many dreadnaughts) can be overbearing in my opinion.

James did an amazing job on the neck and fretwork.  This guitar is surprisingly one of the easiest instruments I have ever played.  Remember its a Kay and supposed to be a bit wonky.  Not so.  I will put the playability of this guitar up against any $2000 instrument out there.  It is straight as an arrow and the action is perfect as is the intonation.

You don't see many pearl parallelogram inlays, especially on an instrument that wasn't considered a top of the line product. 

Here is a shot of the unmistakable Kay headstock.  The woods used on this guitar are beautiful.  They used mahogany on the faceplate to match the back, sides and neck.  The top is spruce with a rosewood fretboard. 
What a beauty.  I wish you all could play it to hear and feel what I am talking about.  This is the kind of guitar that keeps me on the hunt.  It is a real score and worth way more to me than what I payed for it.  Keep an eye out for this jumbos sister dreadnaught in an upcoming post.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

1936 Supertone Flat Top with F-Holes

Here we have a 1936 Supertone flat top guitar with f-holes.  That's right, looks like an archtop, but it is not.  The top is flat with a couple little f holes cut into it to make for a spunky/punky sounding guitar.  Here's a little photo - maybe you can see what I'm talking about.
For a time Supertone was the brand name used by the Sears & Roebuck Co. to classify their musical instrument catalog.  I have always loved the "Supertone" brand name.  Someone in the marketing department at Sears got right to the point.  Although, on occasion with some of their instruments, the name might be a bit misleading.  This guitar was actually made by the Harmony musical instrument company which Sears purchased in 1916.  Harmony built most of the Supertone guitar models in the 1930's for Sears along with Regal, Oscar Schmidt and Stromberg Voisinet(which later became Kay) rounding out their manufacturers.  This guitar has an S-36 stamped on the inside back which indicates that this guitar was made in the spring/summer of 1936.
This is the type of guitar that defines this blog.  Depression era/department store branded/working man(or in this case child) guitar.  I say child's guitar because this instrument is at best 3/4 size.  It measures 31 3/4 inches from the top of the headstock to
the base with a 21 1/2 inch scale length.  It is all original with the exception of a tuning post that was changed out some time long ago.  The guitar is in great condition.  I love finding these almost 80 year old survivors.  Again, I can't help but wonder who owned it, where it came from and how and why it survived this long in such good shape 
I can't put this guitar down.  It is so much fun to play and has such a funky tone, that I find myself reaching for it every chance I get.  Because of the size of the guitar, the tone is compressed to give you that nasaly/bluesy sound, but the volume is not.  This little thing is surprisingly loud.  I would have to say that it is currently my favorite instrument.   It plays great for its age and short of replacing the nut, I wouldn't do anything to it right now.  This guitar makes me want to play guitar and was well worth the very minimal ebay purchase price.  She was headed to the island of misfit instruments if I didn't grab her and just goes to show that one mans trash is another mans treasure.  Yes she is a cheapie, but a rare cheapie in that I have never seen another up for sale anywhere. 
the headstock helps to identify this guitar as a harmony product

 Keep your eyes open in the future as I have another tiny Supertone round hole flat top guitar to display.  She needs a little more work than the f-hole flat top so it'll be a while.  But she is a fun little thing as well.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A little trip to Japan

I have a huge soft spot for 1960's Teisco type guitars.  These Japanese made guitars hailed under many different names and were made in numerous different factories.  As far as I'm concerned they have rarely been matched in terms of the boldness of color choices for their instruments and the funkiness factor associated with many of their designs.  Crazy pickup configurations, loosey-goosey wammy bars, and nasty tones make these guitars a blast to play.  These Japanese guitars are difficult to make your main axe as they tend to be cantankerous and difficult to keep set up properly if overused.  But, they make for a great guitar if looking for a specific sound(namely nasty Hound Dog Taylor type blues) or if you just need a little taste of unrefined tone and construction.  In short, you might not want to marry one of these babies, but boy are they fun to take on a date now and again.

HY-LO Guitar and Amp Combo

This was the first electric guitar and amp set up I ever owned.  It was purchased when I was a kid from a local fellow in town for $10.  This fellow was the original "American Picker".  He would go to tag sales on a regular basis and buy things that he could in turn sell at the swap meet.  Of course, in hindsight I wish I had told him to keep an eye out for more guitars.  Here I am some 30+ years later and I still own this combo.  I figured when I became a big time songwriter I could sell this combo off for big bucks as it was my first rig.  Well, the songwriting thing didn't exactly pan out and now this rig is worth about $59.95.  Once you get past the Gold Foil pickups(which were discussed in a previous post) this guitar is nothing to write home about.  I plan on pulling the pickups and dropping them into a more functional guitar shell.  They sound great and have a unique tone that is hard to match.  The amp is a tube amp, that again is no great shakes except for a wild tremolo setup.  This thing can get super watery or slushy in a second.  It really is its own thing and probably can't be classified as a tremolo - I just haven't come up with a clever enough name for the sound the amp pumps out.

Kingston Guitar

Here is another one from my youth.  I can't even remember where this guitar came from, but it has somehow managed to survive with me all these years.  I actually just got this guitar up and running again and have been having fun cranking it up.  I am partial to the single pickup models of these Japanese guitars.  I don't want too many choices, I just want to plug in and play - and that is what this guitar gives you.  Again, you have to wrestle this guitar a bit as its not the easiest to play, but the tone you get is great and well worth the lack of easy play.

Teisco/No Name Guitar

Here's one I picked up pretty recently.  I loved the color and the chrome pickguard.  Funny how a Japanese made guitar can remind me of a 50's/60's American made car.  Unfortunately, the neck suffered some damage in shipping - fortunately, the seller was a compassionate ebayer who worked out a deal with me and even sent me a new neck to fit the guitar with.  The guitar has a great and unique tone as the pickup is placed closer to the bridge giving you a real trebley type of tone.  Its great to A/B this guitar with the previously mentioned Kingston to hear the contrast in tones.  It is a shame that the neck was damaged because this was one of the better playing Japanese guitars I have had my hands on.  Hopefully the new neck will be comparable.  This guitar is fun to look at so I'll just let the pictures do the talking.
the chrome pickguard is hysterical.  I think I might have bought the guitar because of it.  it is obviously like a mirror.  the pictures don't do the guitar justice - its a real looker

I've never seen an inlay in a pickup.  again the pictures don't do it justice.  its a cool touch.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rockabilly Riot II - Epiphone ES-295

Rockabilly Riot II - Epiphone ES-295

I figured I would follow up that 1959 Harmony Meteor with another rockabilly weapon of choice.  Here we have an Epiphone ES-295 which is a copy of the original Gibson ES-295.  Yes, its a contemporary reissue and technically doesn't fit the jist of this blog as I try to present older catalogue type guitars but for me it represents an important part of guitar history and so I will allow myself some poetic guitar license.

So, first off its not a Gibson ES-295, but every now and then a reissue will come along that serves my purposes just fine without having to pay $10,000 for an original.  I'm going to talk a bit about this guitars very important relationship with Scotty Moore and while we are talking prices, Scotty's original ES-295 that he played on the Sun recordings sold for $125,000 back in the early 2000's.  You see where I'm going - this guitar is one of the best bang for the buck guitars in my collection - at around $700 it does everything I need to get that rockabilly tone.

This is a pretty faithful reproduction of the original ES-295 with a few changes.  Most obvious is the Epiphone style headstock which for my money isn't near as classy or cool as the original Gibson headstock.  Epiphone tried to provide a more ornate design which I think distracts from the cool simplicity of the original Gibson headstock design.  This model also has a Bigsby tremolo which is a nice addition and works well.  Scotty's ES didn't have a bigsby and he had the stock tailpiece switched out for a more traditional tailpiece as well as added an early version of todays tune-a-matic bridge for better intonation.  A contemporary tune-a-matic bridge is provided with the reissue and helps maintain intonation especially with that Bigsby temolo which can reek havoc on a players intonation if used excessively.

The neck on this guitar is very comfortable and easy to play and the body is a pretty faithful reproduction of the original right down to the gold volume and tone controls and P90 pickups.  The tuners are a kluson style reproduction and probably the only thing I would change with regard to this guitars construction.  They are similar to the tuners used on the original and in both cases I feel they look a little out of place as the tuning shafts are very long and stick out a fair ways from the headstock.  Probably being a little bit picky.

The tone on this guitar is dynamite and as I said earlier does everything one would need to recreate that great old rockabilly sound.  Scotty used his ES-295 on the Sun Recordings and helped to provide the birth of Rock and Roll.  Though he is clearly a well regarded, influential guitarist, enough can not be said about Scotty's contribution to music's guitar lick catalogue.  Scotty traded in a Fender Esquire for his 1952 ES-295 and one can only wonder if the world of Rock and Roll would be the same if he had not made that trade.  I truly believe certain guitars elicit a certain style of play and the ES-295 gave Scotty the sound he was looking for as he stayed faithful to archtop style guitars for the rest of his life.  An insanely important sound and an insanely important player, I put Scotty in the same category as Bill Monroe in terms of his ability to essentially create a genre of music.

This guitar has been reissued a number of times and must be loved by those who are lucky enough to own one because you don't see them come up for resale very often.  I know mines a keeper.

If you are interested in Scotty Moore history and his guitars check out
This is a great website that provides a chronological history of Scotty's guitar use as well as many other Elvis and Scotty facts.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

1959 Harmony Meteor H70 Electric Hollowbody Guitar

Here we have a 1959 Harmony Meteor single cutaway hollowbody guitar with Dearmond gold tone pickups(not gold foil as we discussed in the previous post).

This was the second year of production for this model as harmony began producing the H70 in 1958 and continued production in this form until around 1966.   This guitar has the woodiest(making up words here) tone I have ever heard.  The Dearmond Gold Tone pickups sound great and make this guitar a rockabilly riot.

The neck is fast and easy to play.  It is also slim, which leaves me in a bit of a conundrum - I love the sound of this guitar, but have always been a fan or thicker/meatier necks.  I've never been a fast player, so slim and fast never meant much to me.  This is definitely more of a players guitar as it is a little banged up in spots.  A previous owner had dropped it on the input jack area which created a bunch of cracks that seem stable for now.  No worries - she still sounds and plays good.

The good news is this guitar is all original and after benefiting from a little setup it will play as well as it did the day she came out of the factory.  It's hard to call any Harmony guitar rare as The Harmony Company pushed out millions of guitars from their factory, but you don't see that many Meteors around.  When this guitar was new it was advertised at a price of $170.00 which seems like a pretty penny for 1959.  That would make it one of their top of the line models for the year.

If you would like more info on just about any Harmony model out there, you need to check out

This is an amazing site of info and pics that will allow you to date just about any harmony product you may have.  A lot of hard work went into this site and we are lucky to have it as a resource.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Teisco Gold Foil Pickup/Ry Cooder Pickup

Okay --- just a little vintage guitar pickup clarification.

This is essentially what Ry Cooder's Gold Foil pickup looks like. 

These pickups are a slight variation in that the screws are center mounted.  On Ry's pickups the polepieces are top mounted(or bottom mounted - depending how you look at it) on the pickup.

Ry uses one of these pickups in the neck position on a strat as well as on a tele as far as I know.  Because of this they have been dubbed the Ry Cooder pickup, especially in Ebay land.  Problem is that just about every pickup with a little touch of gold in it(and even some without) are being called the Ry Cooder pickup.  Similar mistakes are being made with Harmony guitars and the Black Keyes and of course Airline guitars and Jack White.  Jack White's name is probably the most egregiously used name on ebay.  I can't tell you how many Airline guitars get tied to him that he doesn't play.  Folks will say anything to make a sale.  Anyhow, just thought I would throw this out there.  Buyer beware.

There is a ton of info out there on the net if you are interested in Ry's setup.  The gold foil pickups are a very unique sounding pickup.  They are very warm and mellow with lower output eliciting a real nice clean tone.  You can see why Ry and many others have chosen to couple them with different pickups. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lonnie Johnson's Value Leader

Check out this video of Lonnie Johnson playing a single pickup Kay Value Leader guitar.  Pure proof that it is the guitarist - not the guitar.  Not enough O's in Smooooooooth!!!  If you don't know a lot about Lonnie Johnson, take some time to research his story.  It's a good one.  I think he is one of the most underrated players of all time.

I've been searching for one of these Kay Value Leaders for a long time.  Just haven't found the right one ...yet.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


New Vintage47 Amp On The Horizon


David Barnes owns Vintage47 Amps, his goal is to preserve a bit of that 40's era blues tone look and feel, paying attention to the pre 50's non Fender vintage tube circuits and cabinet designs.

You may have seen his work here in a previous post regarding a tweed suitcase amp that I own(and still love).  As a matter of fact that post about the suitcase amp has received far and away the most visitors on this site.  His amps receive consistently glowing reviews from customers and publications alike.  I remember talking to a friend when I received my suitcase amp in the mail and explaining how I thought they were functional pieces of art.  Lo and behold, I had a little more time to explore the Vintage47 website and found David had a headline describing his amps as "collectible functionally fun to play amplifier art --- It seems we are on the same page.

All you have to do to realize how much David loves his job is to read the story about how his grandfather blazed a path of discovery as David searched for a certain bluesy amplifier tone.  If it isn't already, the rest will be amplifier history.  Our world could use a few more stories of skills/trades being passed down through the generations like the education that was imparted upon David by his grandfather.

As I repeat over and over in these pages that there is life beyond Gibson and Martin, David believes there is life beyond the circuitry that powers Fender amps(did I mention it seems like we are on the same page?).  Because of this belief he has devoted himself to Valco inspired circuitry and cabinet design.

This brings us to his latest reproduction:  An authentic replication of the 1955 Gretsch "Twin Western" model G-6169.

this is just the 1st prototype - Only 6-10 more mockups before the final product!!

David is a guru of specs and circuitry.  we have been corresponding about how exciting this project is so I will let him give you the specs:

"Valco built those amps on contract for Gretsch, they were introduced in 1955 as the  Gretsch "Twin Western" model G-6169 which was a dressed up Electromatic Tweed model G-6161. The common nicknames for the Western amp were 'Cowboy' and 'Roundup'

Original specs were ;
Cabinet measurements: 23 inches wide x 15 1/4 inches high x 7 1/2  inches deep. Weight: 21 lbs. Two 11 x 6 inch elliptical speakers and one 3" tweeter. One 'treble' and two 'standard' inputs. Raytheon 5Y3GT rectifier;
Six tubes: 2x RCA 6V6GT; 2xRCA 6SQ7; 1x6SC7, and 1x5Y3GT. On/off switch;
standby switch; 2 amp fuse (with spare in original envelope attached to inside of amp case); 1 tone control; 1 volume control; 3 inputs. 14 watts with tremelo (actually only 12 watts)."

David goes on to describe how much work goes into the re-creation of one of these amps:

 The Gretsch Twin Western  (aka Cowboy) was always white with the same leather trim as the guitar, the guitars where an orangeish finish but the amps where white. I am going for as close to authentic replication as I can make, and that is pretty much 90% period correct. I have even spent a bunch on tooling to make a reproduction of the oval speakers that fall right on the sound frequency response curve of the originals, I am having the bronze castings made for the badges from an original mold, I am tooling the leather straps and duplicating the steer head print on the grill.

The amp in the pictures is a first and early mockup and most of the
different look is the darker Ostrich belt bands and darker grill cloth,
that will all change as I refine the details over time and as the parts get finished and arrive at the shop, probably 6-10 more prototypes before the final. I can do it all but I won't be able to write Gretsch on the front!
As it is the cabinet measurements are from an original cabinet so the size is correct, Valco built these for Gretsch using the same amp and components they were already using for the National Tremo-tone of the same year models, I already build that circuit and have the correct transformers and such.
I am currently building the re-issue Tremo-tone amp for National
Reso-phonic guitars.
Even if someone built a close replication for the cabinet I do not believe they would get the amp to sound like an original without my replicated speakers and  transformers.
With the original 'Cowboy' amps going for $5,000-10,000  I do believe my replications will be a steal of a deal at $1750-1950 (estimated)
including the replica wood wedge doorstop tremo footswitch, an old school canvas amp cover and possibly an accessary direct speaker line out box that can set outboard and get the amps actual speaker tone into mixers, recorders, PA's without disabling the internal speaker.

So that’s the scoop!

David B

I've always loved this amp as well as the companion "Roundup" guitar that he speaks of, but he is right try to find these for a price that wouldn't break the budget.  I can't wait to see the final product which should be due in late spring. 

Visit David and Vintage47 amps at -

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Martin 000-15sm

I have no problem with things that are a little rough around the edges.  This is especially true when it comes to people, cars and guitars.  In fact, I tend to seek this characteristic out.  A little banged up, but still works fine - now that's for me.  That probably explains a lot about why I focus on the instruments that are featured on this site.  Most are a little rough around the edges, and i love them because of it. 

When it comes to guitars I've also never been a fan of easy.  Many times I've listened in wonder as someone stated the action was a little to high, the strings aren't "their brand", the neck doesn't feel right, the string spacing isn't wide enough.... on and on and on.  I get it - Especially if you pay a lot for an instrument - you want it to fit your musical needs and probably deserve that.  But there comes a time when we must say "shut up and play".

Perhaps we should consider that maybe, at least on occasion, we should try to tailor our playing to the construction of the guitar as opposed to the guitar being tailored to our style of play.  You can learn an awful lot from this.  It can get you out of your comfort zone and form new points of inspiration.  If the actions to high, wail away in first position and go back to the basics of I,IV,V - or throw a slide on it in an open tuning.  If you are getting some buzzing, use a lighter touch and see where that takes you.

What's the point of all this?  Well, after a lifetime of playing guitars that were far from perfect and having to take the long way around in figuring out how these sometimes hard to play guitars would fit into my musical scheme of things, I recently bought what may be the nicest guitar I have ever owned, a guitar that is insanely easy to play and just as easy to love.

This is a Martin 000-15sm.  The (s) for slothead, the (m) for mahogany.  It is a beautifully bold piece of guitarmaking by Martin.  They currently have a whole line of these Mahogany instruments including a 000 without the slothead as well as a dreadnaught and cutaway dread.  The whole guitar is mahogany except for the fretboard, bridge and headstock plate.  With this series of guitars it seems that Martin remembered that they are the greatest manufacturer of guitars in the world and decided to show us all what they are made of.  In reading some of the posts in the acoustic guitar forums, I was sensing this underlying current that Martin seems to have spent the last few years(or more) chasing Taylor guitars around.  The chase ended with this Mahogany series as Martin has found a way to look forward by beautifully recreating the past.  The Martin guitar story is one of the greatest American business stories we have as a country.  A company that predates the Civil War should be able to look to their past for future inspiration.
Notice the elongated body with the robust lower bout.  Many feel this body design centers the bridge allowing for more effective movement of the top thereby increasing volume and enhancing tonal qualities.
You can find reviews of this instrument all over the internet and all of them rave about this instrument, so I'm not going to go into details regarding specs... but a few notes...
This guitar was made for fingerpickers and bluesmen.  It truly is a wonder to play - extremely light and responsive.  The guitar was ready to play right out of the showroom and I've seen many stories of those who had their guitar shipped to them that stated the guitar was ready to play right out of the box.  The workmanship is incredible and the woods are beautiful.  I have caught myself a couple times just admiring the grain patterns.
Look at the grain pattern on the headstock plate which is an east indian rosewood veneer.
Look - I'm not here to sell you a guitar, but if you are in any way shape or form a fingerstyle player you need to at least find a way to play one of these.  It is a lovely experience.  I'll be getting back to plenty more "Off Brand" models in the near future.  You know - guitars that are a little rough around the edges.  For now, I'll just bask in the enjoyment of finally becoming a part of Martin Guitar history.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

1940's Regal Parlor Guitar

When I started this blog, my hope was to feature Depression/World War II era guitars, guitars that were owned and played by the working man and guitars that were a little off the beaten path.  This little Regal has all of those characteristics. 

She is not the rarest bird in the flock, but who cares.  Rare just means that you will forever be afraid to take it out of its perfectly humidified situation for a romp through some string snapping blues. 
This guitar has been played, passed around and played again.  It probably hasn't seen a case its whole life.  As a matter of fact, everytime I see one of these listed for sale they look the same way - paint splattered, nicks, gouges and a little rust.  You can find these listed for sale in one form or another pretty regularly.  I have seen this same guitar with all sorts of different appointments - floating bridge, fixed bridge, slot head, flat head, round neck, square neck, fret markers, no fret markers and even a numbering system for Hawaiian style instruction which leads one to call this guitar a student model.  Affixing the "Student Model" title really sucks the mojo from this instrument --- so lets just consider it a parlor guitar.

I really like the sound of this guitar.  It is a small bodied, ladder braced instrument but doesn't have the harsh tone that many of its cousins have.  The tone is much mellower and a bit more midrangy.  Its not blow you away loud, but plenty loud enough.  It doesn't win 1st place in any tone and volume categories but if you take the tonal sum of all its characteristics, then I think you will find its a winner.

This guitar came to me in original condition and if perfection were called for, she would need some work.  It could definitely use a neck reset, tuners are a little tight and in the near future I hope to cut a new saddle and saddle slot as there is very little string break angle right now.  That extra pressure on the top provided by a better string angle should increase those tonal and volume characteristics.  Outside of the new saddle, I think I'll keep her just the way she is.  I keep it in open tunings and bang around on it with a slide.  It performs really well in this situation and plays quite nicely in first position as well.

About as Plain Jane as they come.  I'd add more photos, but there is not much more to see.

This is one of those guitars that when you start noodling on it, you have a hard time putting it down.  It fits close to the body and the sounds that emanate are very pleasing.

Now its time to give away a secret.  Part of me hates to do it, but what the hell - I only need one of these guitars and the real spirit of this blog is to attempt to inform of the good bargains that can still be had out there.  You Ready??? 

I paid around $60 for this baby!!!!  That is less than a tank of gas in my car - less than a basket of groceries - less than a night out at a nice restaurant - I could go on and on.  As I've said, I see a number of them go up for sale and have many times seen them sold for less than $100.  So there it is, one of the few bargains left out there in the guitar world.  Go get 'em.