Airline guitars were being made in USA from 1958-1968 by Valco Manufacturing Company and sold primarily through the Montgomery Ward catalog company. Valco also made other popular brands like Supro and National. Today they are being made through Canadian company Eastwood Guitars. By the early 1960’s Airline were producing many different models – the more valuable vintage models were made of res-o-glas – but most in those early days were solid wood designs like this Town and Country Standard.
Bigsby’s first “commercial” design for Magnatone was the Mark III, a neck-through-body semi-hollow guitar, Bigsby’s take on a Ricky Combo. We know some of these were built because one turned up a few years back at an L.A.-area yard sale (how often have you had that fantasy!). But it appears that Magnatone’s production folks made some changes and almost all that are found with solid bodies and a glued-in neck with a “tongue” extension that slips in under the neck pickup. The formica pickguard and Daka-Ware knobs are a little dated now, but back in ’56 they were strictly the cat’s pajamas!
When I first learned of this guitar, it was known among cognoscenti as the State of Ohio guitar. I once wrote and essay in which I dubbed it The Ugliest Guitar In The World. All of us had a point. The real name, however, is the Kay Solo King K4102, and it dates to that heady period just before guitars really took off in 1960. Clearly somebody was hung over at Kay that day! When I got a chance to actually have one, how could I pass it up?