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David Bowie red guitar

The Guitars Of David Bowie

2016 was a year of great musical losses, but none was as shocking or as saddening as David Bowie’s. One year on, let’s remember a side of Bowie that’s been often forgotten: the guitarist! Here’s our guide to the guitars played by David Bowie over the years… enjoy!

David Bowie has had many different faces and personas over the years, but, surprisingly, one has been overlooked by most – David Bowie, the guitarist. In a way, it’s not very surprisingly, considering he was far from being a guitar hero, and, most importantly, has collaborated with some truly stellar guitarists who contributed greatly to his music, including: Mick Ronson, Carlos Alomar, Earl Slick, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Nile Rodgers and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Quite an impressive list!

Which Guitars Did David Bowie Play?

Though not primarily a guitarist, Bowie had a consistent taste for vintage, rare guitars and his choice of instrument often changed with his ever-changing musical directions. Here’s a guide to some of his most notable guitars. We usually talk about electric guitars, but in Bowie’s case we can’t help but mention a few acoustics, too… after all, he was a huge fan of 12-string acoustic models, throughout his career! In any case – Bowie was a true connoisseur, and his choice of guitars over the years is nothing short of fascinating! 

Here’s Bowie’s career – in 20 rare, amazing guitars.

1) Framus 12-String Acoustic (1965-66)

Of course, many of you will know that Bowie started his musical career as a saxophone player, and then became the frontman of different bands (The Mannish Boys, The Lower Third) but never playing a guitar. This pic of an young David Jones with a Framus 12-string  is the earliest photograph of Bowie with a guitar.

David Bowie circa 1965-66 with Framus 12 string

David Bowie circa 1965-66 with Framus 12-string 

According to Bowie biographer Paul Trynka, Bowie bought a guitar in late 1965. Considering Bowie’s well-documented taste for 12-string acoustics in later years, it’s fair to assume that the Framus in the photograph was indeed his first guitar, though there has never been any specific information about it. It’s interesting to note that his guitar had pickup, volume and tone controls – perhaps it was modded and bought second-hand by the still struggling Bowie. Little trivia: the guitar was redburst. 

Playing guitar was an important step in David Bowie’s career, as he started to use the instrument to compose songs, such as “Maid Of Bond Street” and his first true classic, “Can’t Help Thinking About Me”.

2) Gibson B45 12-String (1968-69)

Bowie live with Feathers

Bowie performing with Feathers

After the commercial failure of his 1967 debut album, Bowie tried other directions, including joining Lindsey Kemp’s mime troup, buddhism and forming folky trio Feathers with his girlfriend Hermione Farthingale and John Hutchinson. During this period, Bowie used a Gibson B-45 12-string acoustic.

Gibson B-45, as played by David Bowie

Gibson B-45, as played by David Bowie

He’s never been seen or photographed with this guitar again, after the end of Feathers. We actually believe this is the first time this guitar has ever been mentioned in relation to Bowie, as we couldn’t find anything else elsewhere. Well, now you know!

3) Hagstrom 12-String Acoustic (1969-1972)

Bowie live at the Beckenham Free Festival in 1969, with his Hagstrom.

Bowie live at the Beckenham Free Festival in 1969, with his Hagstrom.

This is perhaps Bowie’s most legendary guitar. It’s believed it’s the one he used to write his first hit, ‘Space Oddity’, as well as used live and to write most ‘Ziggy Stardust’-era songs, including ‘Starman’.

Curiously enough, the guitar is now on display at the ‘Beatles Story’ museum, in Liverpool. At some point, it seems to have had pickup and tone & volume controls added to it, though it’s not shown with this configuration in any Bowie photos.

David Bowie's Hagstrom on display in Liverpool.

David Bowie’s Hagstrom on display in Liverpool.

4) Espana 12-String Acoustic (1969)

Bowie and his Espana 12-string

Bowie and his Espana 12-string

This guitar was used on a famous promo shot for the ‘Space Oddity’ single, but strangely enough, there’s not a whole lot info about it. It might have been used just as a prop for the photograph. It looks very similar to the Hagstrom 12-string, and it could indeed be the one he’s using in other pics and footage, but it’s hard to be sure!

5) Guild 12-String Acoustic (1971)

David Bowie live in 1971 with Guild 12-string

David Bowie live in 1971 with Guild 12-string

When David Bowie toured the US for the first time, to promote ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ in 1971, he could be seen playing a Guild 12-string acoustic. There’s no report or pics of him using one before or since, so he probably just borrowed it for the tour.

6) Harptone 12-string (1972-83)

Bowie and his Ziggy-era Harpoon 12-string

Bowie and his Ziggy-era Harpoon 12-string

This Harptone 12-string is “the” Ziggy-era Bowie acoustic. He used it when touring with the Spiders From Mars and this guitar can be seen on most footage from the era. 

Curiously enough, it seems Bowie decided to dust it off years later, after the release of Let’s Dance, as this live pic suggests:

Eighties Bowie meets Ziggy-era acouistic.

Eighties Bowie meets Ziggy-era acoustic.

7) Harpotone 12-String Jumbo (1972-75)

Bowie Harptone 12 Jumbo

Bowie Harptone 12 Jumbo

Many people don’t realise this, but Bowie also regularly used ANOTHER Harptone 12-string, which at first sight looks similar to the previous one, but you’ll notice that it has a different scratchplate and is also bigger. He used this model on the second, Ziggy-era “Space Oddity” video; during the Ziggy tour and up until the Young Americans- era.

8) Egmond 12-String, Blue (1972)

Bowie and his blue Egmond.

Bowie and his blue Egmond.

This is one of Bowie’s most important guitars – if not for anything else, simply for being the guitar he used on the watershed moment of his career – playing “Starman” on Top Of The Pops, which finally launched Bowie as a bona fide popstar in the UK! He also used the Egmond on a few promo shots, and that seems to be about it.

9) Vox Teardrop Mark XII 12-String (1972)

Bowie and his Vox 12 string

There’s no record of Bowie using this cool Vox guitar other than in 1972, for promo pics. Years later, he used a Vox Teardrop Mark VI for the recording of one of his best songs in the Eighties, ‘Absolute Beginners’. The guitar is now on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Warsaw. There’s no photo of him and this guitar, though.

Bowie's Vox VI guitar

10) Gibson 1972 Deluxe Les Paul (1972)

David Bowie and a Gibson Les Paul

David Bowie and a Gibson Les Paul

David Bowie was always very conscious about his image and symbolism. That’s why he posed with a borrowed Les Paul on the cover of the “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” album – to show the world he was now a tougher, “rock’n’roll” act.  Maybe for this reason, he was up for using a Les Paul during his 1972 USA tour.

Presented to Bowie by Gibson, he used it live and on the ‘Jean Genie’ promo film. But given his more esoteric tastes in guitars, it’s not surprising that it soon became Mick Ronson’s back up guitar, never to be used by Bowie again. 

11) Hagstrom I Kent PB- 24-G (1974)

David Bowie red guitar

David Bowie and his Hagstrom I Kent PB-24-G

Now we’re talking! The red Hagstrom I Kent PB-24G guitar was Bowie’s first truly iconic electric guitar. Though many fans will recognise and love it, this guitar was only used in promo shots for his ‘Diamond Dogs’ album, and there’s no record of him ever using it elsewhere, apart from a TV appearance:

As most hardcore Bowie fans may know, he played most guitar parts on the ‘Diamond Dogs’ album, but according to those who worked with him, his guitar choice during the sessions was a Dan Armstrong plexiglass model – which he’s never been pictured with… a shame! Unless, those recollections are slightly wrong and they really meant the next guitar…

12) Dan Armstrong 341 (1976)

Bowie's Dan Armstrong 341

Bowie’s Dan Armstrong 341

Yes, David Bowie had for sure another Dan Armstrong guitar, but it was not a plexiglass model! Auctioned in 1991, this is an important guitar. Besides featuring on a famous pic used for the Sound + Vision compilation, it was also used to write one of Bowie’s finest albums. According to Bowie, in ’91: “I’ve had this Dan Armstrong guitar since the early 70s. I wrote most of the songs for Station to Station on it.” Considering the cronology, it may have been used on ‘Diamond Dogs’, too.

13) Custom Fender Telecaster, Natural (1976)

Bowie and a customized Fender Telecaster

Bowie and a customized Fender Telecaster

During the tour to promote ‘Station To Station’, Bowie played a custom Fender Telecaster, with 3 pickups with individual on/off switches. A pretty cool guitar, never seen since.

14) Fender Stratocaster, Red and Sunburst (1977)

Bowie Red Strat

Bowie and his Red Strat

Two  more conventional choices, during Bowie’s least conventional period! In 1977 Bowie could be seen playing a red Stratocaster for the ‘Be My Wife’ promo, one of the most commercial tracks from ‘Low’, which became a single. 

Bowie was also spotted playing a sunburst Strat that same year, for his duet with Marc Bolan, on Bolan’s TV show. This guitar belonged to Marc, who gave it to Bowie as he turned up without one on the day!

David Bowie, Strat and Marc Bolan.

David Bowie with a Strat and Marc Bolan.

15) Gibson L4, Black (1989-90)

Bowie and his Gibson L4

Bowie and his Gibson L4

Owned and used by David Bowie in the studio, on stage and while on tour with Tin Machine, accompanied by a Sound + Vision tour program showing Bowie playing this guitar, a signed letter of authenticity from Reeves Grables and guitar picks. The guitar can be seen in videos for the Tin Machine 1 album, in Music News reports and was used heavily in the studio for the recording of Tin Machine II. 

16) Gibson Chet Atkins Country Gentleman, Wine Red (1990)

Bowie and his Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman

Bowie and his Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman

The guitar was used on stage by Bowie during his March – September of 1990, Sound + Vision World Tour.

Bowie also subsequently used this guitar during studio sessions for his 1995 concept album “Outside.”

17) Takamine FP 400SC (1990)

Bowie and his 12-string Takamine

Bowie and his 12-string Takamine

Bowie used this guitar during his 1990 Sound + Vision tour. It was his main acoustic guitar then, used on classic hits such as ‘Space Odyssey’. The tour included 108 concerts over seven months in more than 80 cities around the world. Bowie promoted the tour as a “greatest hits” tour and stated it was the last time he was going to play songs from his back catalog. 

18) Steinberger GL2, Custom Silver (1991-92)

Bowie and hiscustom Steinberger

Bowie and hiscustom Steinberger

Bowie was a big fan of headless guitars, since he saw Tin Machine’s Reeves Gabrel’s: “David saw mine and decided he wanted one like it. My guitar tech, Andy Spray, called the factory in Newburgh to see if they could make another chrome L series. Apparently, they had a guitar they used as a test run for the chroming process. That one had a normal fretboard (it did not have a chromed fretboard) making Bowie’s copycat completely playable while mine was not. The non chromed fretboard is the easiest way to tell them apart.”

19) Supro Dual Tone (2003)

Bowie and his Supro Dual Tone

Bowie and his Supro Dual Tone

The Supro Dual Tone is one of his most iconic later-years guitars. He used it during his last world tour, in 2003, and it even appears on his 2010 live album of that tour, ‘A Reality Tour’:

Bowie 'A Reality Tour' cover

Bowie ‘A Reality Tour’ cover

More recently, Eastwood did a great job at recreating this model (first made famous by Link Wray in the Fifties) as the Airline Twin Tone – a fitting tribute to Wray’s model, but now also a great choice for fans of Bowie who also play guitar…

The Airline Twin Tone, now also popular thanks to the David Bowie connection.

The Airline Twin Tone, now also popular thanks to the David Bowie connection.

20) Hohner G2, Red (2013)

Bowie and his Hohner G2

Bowie and his Hohner G2

Bowie went back to a headless guitar in the video of ‘Valentine’s Day’, from his superb comeback album ‘The Next Day’. As ever, his choice of instrument was unusual but made total sense with his tastes over the years. Unique just like the man himself.

Blonde Redhead live

Forgotten Offset Guitars: Teisco TG-64

Offset Guitars have been, for a long time, a favourite amongst alternative rock and indie rock players. Let’s have a look at a forgotten classic – the Teisco TG-64, now being reissued by Eastwood.

Blonde Redhead live

Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead, one of the players who discovered the joys of a Teisco offset – she plays the bass version of the TG-64, the TB-64 now being resurrected by Eastwood. VIEW INFO

Don’t get us wrong – we love a good Jazzmaster, Jaguar or Mustang. Fender was and still is the big daddy of the offset guitars. But if familiarity doesn’t always have to bring contempt, on the other hand many of us prefer guitars with that little spark of mystery, which add to an unique touch when you’re on stage, or simply helps making it more interesting to play. That’s why a few lucky guitarists can’t help but loving their rare, 1960’s Teisco TG-64. Let’s be honest, it has a certain mojo lacking in modern-day Jazzmasters!

The Forgotten Offset Classic?

While its shape is familar, it’s all about those other details: three single coil pickups stripy scratchplate, push buttons and that cut-out handle on the body – what’s it all about? One of those features no one really needs, but which in fact looks pretty cool. It was the Sixties, after all, and who knows what the designers were smoking, then!

Original Teisco TG-64

Original Teisco TG-64

The thing about Teisco guitars, is that they were unashamedly cheap knock offs of bigger brands such as Fender – but with enough personality to stand out on their own. They were never meant to be GREAT guitars, but put them through a valve amp and a good fuzz pedal, and it could be the coolest thing ever.  Originally unpopular offset models such as the Jazzmaster and Jaguar were affordable, and for this reason rediscovered in the Seventies by Punk and New Wave acts, but as soon as they became a staple in 90s alt-rock, thanks to Nirvana, Sonic Youth and others, they became prized commodities – and, somewhere along the way, lost just a little bit of their “cool” factor (for all it’s worth!).

Owning a Teisco TG-64 is a bit like owning a Jazzmaster back in 1976 – because it’s still an odd and rather cool choice, not seen too often. Some of the people who’ve used one recently include Blonde Redhead and Conor Oberst. But this model is still not the easiest to find! This is perhaps the coolest of all non-Fender offset guitars, and certainly a “forgotten classic”!

Conor Oberst and his Teisco TG-64

Conor Oberst and his Teisco TG-64

Eastwood Custom TG-64 Monkey Grip

It’s great news that Eastwood Custom are planning to reissue the Teisco TG-64. The plan is to make it even better than the original, but still quite affordable. While in the past Teisco were cool but cheap guitars, the new ones are of much better quality. If you’re looking for a cool alternative to a Fender Jaguar or Jazzmaster that really stands out, maybe the new Eastwood Custom TG-64 will do the trick for you.

Eastwood Custom TG-64 Monkey Grip

Eastwood Custom TG-64 Monkey Grip

At the moment guitarists have to pledge a small amount to guarantee theirs… if you’re interested, hurry up, because opportunity ends TODAY (17th November)

VIEW EASTWOOD TG-64 PAGE FOR INFO

Eastwood Custom TB-64 Monkey Grip

Tesco TB-64... new Eastwood custom project

Teisco TB-64… new Eastwood custom project. Find out more

The Teisco TB-64 looks very closely to the TG-64, but with a few differences besides the longer scale: a more “Fender-y” headstock, different neck joint and a vibrato arm closer to the edge of the body. Yes, it might’ve been inspired – in principle – on the Fender Bass VI but, frankly, has quite a marked difference… and, dare we say, looks much better?

Eastwood launched a custom shop project to reissue the TB-64, ending on April 20, 2017. They’ve successfully crowdfunded the TG-64 and it looks likely the TB-64 will also get made… but the best way to make sure this happens, and to guarantee yours, is of course to help crowdfunding and leave your pledge, too!

VIEW EASTWOOD TB-64 PAGE FOR INFO

Watch: Teisco TG-64 Demo

TOP 10 WEIRD VINTAGE GUITARS

Six strings, wood and metal. That’s what guitars are made of, at least the boring ones. However, there will always be something else, something different than every other guitar you have ever seen. New shapes. Mixed elements. Screaming colours. Or, simply MADNESS. Ladies and gentlemen, freak out all you want because this is the top 10 of the weirdest vintage guitars.

                                                                                           10. Rickenbacker 620

rickChubby, but splendid. The 620 features the unusual ‘cresting wave’ styled body, as well as an oddly shaped pick-guard. Designed in the 50’s, it is less popular than the 300 series although much more bold and unconventional.

                                                                                            9. Ampeg Dan Armstrong

ampegExactly how it seems, the Dan Armstrong has a ‘see through’ design. Its body is made of clear plastic which may look a little gimmicky on the 2006 vintage edition, but was already played by big names as Keith Richards and Dave Grohl. In other words, the Dan Armstrong is “clearly” weird.

             8. Gibson Explorer 120

exWould you dare to play this wild pointy creature? The Explorer was initially marketed as Gibson Futura until its later success. Unsuccessfully released in 1958, it has a classic space-age perfect for hard rock and heavy metal.

 7. Gibson Flying V

flyThis one is a monument. From Jimi Hendrix to Lenny Kravitz, everybody loved its V shaped Maple body. The Flying V was futuristic, light and crazy enough to overcome its rough launch in 1958. Nowadays, it is one of the most iconic models ever made. How about that?

 

6. Kawai MS-700 MoonSault

kawHouston, we have landed on a weirdo. The MoonSault was released during Japan’s guitar making boom in the early 70s. Its moon styled body is really one of the most unique guitar shapes ever created! And take a look at the fret markers, they follow the entire lunar cycle with quite some detail. Kawai just made the coolest guitar for a night out!

5. Vox Phantom

voxLove won’t ever tear us apart. The Phantom is not just a guitar, it is more of a badass violin: light, small and weirdly pentagonal. In fact, its shape became an icon of the British Invasion since the release in 1962. Ian Curtis, huge psychedelic rock legend, owned about 3 Phantoms.

4. La Baye 2×4

bay

 

The name says it all, 2×4=6 strings and a rectangular shaped body. As simple as that. It may look like a joke, but this one is quite a serious vintage guitar. Devo, probably the most futuristic and quirky band ever, worshiped the 2×4.

3. Ibanez Iceman PS1CM

iceMadness made in Japan. The Iceman was built with an appealing original design that mixes both classic and modern styles. It was released internationally in 1978 by Ibanez, but its Japanese version belongs to Greco. Paul Stanley, from KISS, is a fan and even signed this broken glass vintage edition. It is as weird as awesome!

2. Gibson EDS-1275 Double-neck

edsMeet the Frankenstein of all this freak show. The Double-neck integrates 2 different guitars in a single one resembling Gibson’s SG model. Introduced in 1958, it is big, heavy and noisy enough to be a scary scary scary monster. After all, you get 6 strings plus 12 to rock the house down (Jimmy Page’s style).

 

1. Airline 59 2P

At last, the award for most weird vintage guitar goes to… Airline’s 59!!!

The future is with this one, and it is beautiful. Every part of the 59, from the styled body to the controls or the colours, look as if it was stolen from a Stanley Kubrick’s movie. The Airline 59 model is almost a rock spaceship, a quality futuristic statement embraced by great artists as Jack White or PJ Harvey. And its sound? It is absolutely MIND-BLOWING!

Do you agree with our top 10? What would your weird guitar picks be?

Rock on, weirdos |..|

 

Hell On Wheels

by Michael Wright

The Different Strummer

1978 Travis Bean TB500

There are any number of things I associate with pickup trucks (from Handicaps to gun racks), and guitars aren’t one of them.  Yet—as anyone who’s followed the recent advertising battle between the Ford F-150 and its competitors—the two sometimes flirt with the use of aluminum to optimize performance.  Certainly there more than a passing relationship between this Travis Bean TB500 and motor vehicles.

Now, Travis Bean may have owned a pickup truck, I don’t know.  But he for sure was interested in motorcycles, which he apparently raced and presumably worked on.  And it’s almost impossible not to conclude there was some crossover influence between working on motorcycles, being a machinist, and putting aluminum necks on guitars.

However, Travis Bean wasn’t the first to put vehicles and guitars together.  Back in around 1959-1960 Wandré Pioli—another motorcycle fanatic—began making aluminum-necked guitars in Milan, Italy.  Those were way cool, with weird body shapes and exotic one-off paint jobs and great names like “BB” (for Brigit Bardot!).  Some other Italians—well, depends on what you consider Sicilians who emigrated to Paris—the Jaccobacci brothers also used aluminum necks.  As far as I know, they had no interest in either motorcycles or pickup trucks, though I may be wrong about that.  It doesn’t show up in the biographies.  A little later in the 1960s—and I believe totally independently—John Veleno in Florida also used aluminum to build guitars.  He built the whole shebang out of aluminum.  I don’t think John was into motorcycles or trucks either.  He was actually a music teacher who built a guitar-shaped aluminum sign as advertisement.  A friend suggested he make a real guitar out of aluminum, so he did.  In 1967 the Messenger company of San Francisco briefly made guitars with aluminum necks.  (Eastwood offers wood-necked versions of the Wandré and Messenger guitars.)

1978 Travis Bean TB500 Rr

            Anyhow, in 1974 the Travis Bean guitar concept was born.  The story is somewhat confused, obfuscated by the passing of time and varying accounts.  Bean apparently teamed up with a guitar repairman named Marc McElwee and Gary Kramer.  Kramer’s telling, given long after, has himself as the main money man and sales department.  The chronology is a bit muddled.  According to Kramer, Bean kind of lost interest before things got off the ground.  Kramer left in 1975 to start his own aluminum-necked guitar company and according to other accounts actual guitar production didn’t begin until 1976.  When the company closed down in 1979, a little over 3600 guitars and basses had been produced.

There were basically four Travis Bean models: the TB500 seen here, the slab-bodied TB1000 Standard (the most common), the carved-top TB1000 Artist, and The Wedge, whose shape you can readily imagine.   These got heavy coverage in the guitar press of the time and a lot of big stars toyed with them, including Keith Richards, Jerry Garcia, Stanley Jordan, Ace Frehley, and Slash, to mention just a few.

The TB1000s had teak bodies.  They are exceptionally cool, but also very heavy.  You’d best be in good shape to sling one around an arena rock show.  The TB1000s had humbucking pickups.

1978 Travis Bean TB500 CU

The Wedge and the TB500 models are pretty rare birds.  This TB500 was meant to be a less expensive guitar.  This one (#234, 1978) was made of magnolia wood and is considerably lighter weight.   These have single-coil pickups.  I’ve played this guitar and several Standards.  While both models are pretty nifty, I found the TB500 to be a little white bread compared to the Standard (and presumably the Artist, which was just a bit fancier version), but there’s no accounting for tastes, as they say.  Both certainly did give you plenty of sustain.  Then again, the older you get, the less interested you are in a heavy guitar!

The skinny on Beans at the time was that the aluminum  was sensitive to temperature changes, although I’m not sure if that wasn’t more about conservative guitarists trying to find a reason not to like them.  I do know that John Veleno found resistance to the feel of an aluminum neck.  That was part of Gary Kramer’s “improvement” of putting in wooden inserts on the back.  In any case, Travis Beans were a pretty interesting episode in guitar history.

In 1999 Bean announced a big comeback and a revival of the legendary Travis Bean guitars.  There were pictures of revamped, very fancy guitars that I presume were of prototypes.  I’m pretty sure the line ever made it into production, and the aluminum-necked Travis Bean guitars sank back into legend.  (Clifford) Travis Bean passed away in 2011 at age 63.  Both the Ford F-150 and Travis Bean guitars used aluminum to improve performance, albeit for completely different reason.  Even after all this time, the jury’s still out on that!

Roll Out the Barrel, And We’ll Have a Barrel of Fun!

By Michael Wright

The Different Strummer

 

It’s curious how wildly tastes can swing in a relatively short period of time.  When, in the 1967 classic movie The Graduate, Murray Hamilton (Mr. Robinson) leans in to advise Dustin Hoffman (Benjamin Braddock) to consider a predictably successful future in “Plastics,” the very concept of “plastic” was loaded with highly negative cultural connotations.  Plastic people were disingenuous, fake, mindless pursuers of a corrupted American Dream that created the Viet Nam War.  Yet only a couple years earlier plastic was viewed as an ideal way to add beauty and attraction to a guitar such as this 1965 Avanti solid-body!1965 Avanti

The term “plastic” comes from Greek and more or less means “moldable.”  Moldable natural materials have been used for millennia, but synthetic or man-made plastics date from mid-19th Century America.  At that time, the economy was shifting from agrarian to industrial.  A part of this shift was increasing demand for consumer goods by larger numbers of people.  Many of these products had traditionally been fashioned from natural materials.  For example, hair combs were carved out of bone.  Tortoise shell used to be, well, tortoise shell!  The problem was that, as demand rose, raw materials became scarcer.  Just one example of how cultural changes affected things: cattle ranchers stopped de-horning their steers, thus decreasing the supply of horn material.

The catalyst for modern plastics was the popularity of billiards in the 19th Century.  The growing upper middle-class found it necessary to have a billiards room (for the guys to light up cigars after dinner, you know).  Billiard balls were carved out of elephant ivory.  Enormous numbers of pachyderms were slaughtered.  Obviously, this was unsustainable.  In 1863, a contest was promoted offering $10,000 in gold to anyone who could come up with a man-made alternative.  The result was the first celluloid invented by a New York printer named John Wesley Hyatt.  Alas, early celluloid was highly flammable and prone to exploding.  Nevertheless, they eventually got the formula worked out and modern plastics were on their way.

Just when instruments began to be covered in celluloid remains to be elucidated.  However, a good candidate for the first instrument is probably the accordion, which makes sense for this guitar.  Accordion history is far less well documented than that of guitars, but in the 1850s and ‘60s accordion-making developed in and around Castelfidardo, Italy, in the northeast in the Po River delta.  The region also had a guitar-making heritage.  Castelfidardo remains the center of accordion-making to this day.  Accordions came to the U.S. in the early 20th Century and became popular by the ‘teens primarily through the Italian immigrants Pietro and Guido Deiro, who recorded extensively for Victor.  Sears sold Castelfidardo-brand accordions around this time with glued-on celluloid, including sparkle.  By the 1940s accordion technology had evolved to include covering curved surfaces in celluloid.

avantidual

In the early 1950s there was an accordion craze among young Baby Boomers—my sister was captivated—but it fizzled out mid-decade.  This left the accordion makers—and importers—sitting with lots of capability and a greatly reduced market.  Fortunately for the accordion makers, the region of Italy where they existed was also home to a guitar-making tradition.  When Baby Boomers started turning to guitars later in the decade and into the 1960s, many accordion makers—EKO most famously (or actually Oliviero Pigini, EKO’s maker)—threw their hats into the guitar ring.  It was only natural that they should hit on covering guitar bodies in celluloid, just like their accordions!

As far as I know, EKO was the first to start making plastic covered guitars in around 1962 or ’63.  This Avanti was imported by European Crafts of Los Angeles I’m guessing around 1965.  European Crafts was importing Italian made solid-bodies at least by December of 1964, most made in Castelfidardo by the Polverini Brothers.  Presumably, this is one of those.  This is actually a pretty serviceable guitar once you’ve set it up right.  There are some amusing features, like the fake truss rod cover (the rod adjusts at the body).  What can I say?  They made accordions, didn’t they?  The pickups are controlled by a 4-way rotary switch that gives you neck, middle, bridge, all.  But really, the story here is plastic meant to look like root beer barrel candy!  Yummy!

Now, there’s nothing I love more than highly figured woods on my guitars, but root beer barrel candy plastic?  What’s not to love?  For better or worse, guitars like this Avanti were kind of yesterday’s news.  They were fine for combos in matching collarless suits with matching guitars.  But Dylan had “gone electric” and folk rock was hot.  And someone was, no doubt, working on the script of The Graduate.  Of course, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since this Avanti appeared and today we recycle plastic.  So, show me a root beer barrel candy-coated guitar and I’m all in!  Plastics!

 

 

Bad Moon Rising

By Michael Wright

The Different Strummer

 

I’ve always been a sucker for oddball guitars.  A LaBaye 2×4?  You bet!  A Bunker Astral Series Sunstar?  Yup!  A Jay Turser Shark?  O’Hagan Shark?  Of course.  So, when a chance to get a moon-shaped guitars beckoned, the call was irresistible.  Now, despite its hallowed place in the annals of electric guitar history, the LaBaye 2×4 is, in reality, pretty much a novelty.  The Kawai MS-700 MoonSault, on the other hand, is one serious guitar.1982 Kawai MS-700 MoonSault

Ironically, while Japanese guitar-makers made their reputations by making copies (more or less) of popular guitar models since the early 1960s, at least, there has always been an opposing stream of Japanese guitar design.  To the yin of guitars that look like European and American models has been juxtaposed a yang of uniquely Japanese designs.  For every Burns Bison of EKO Violin guitar inspiration there were a a few Kawai Concerts or Teisco May Queens.  For every Les Paul and Strat there were a few Ibanez Icemen or Kawai MoonSaults.

I think in some ways, these original guitar shapes can be seen as a manifestation of Japanese pride.  As in, all right, I’ll make copies of your Les Pauls in order to sell guitars and gain market share and keep people working.  But I’m going to build this totally unique guitar, too.  Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.

The Teisco May Queens and Kawai Concerts of the 1960s were a bit too radical to find much acceptance in Western markets.  I don’t even think Japanese companies ever really pushed them for exports and very few American importers were interested in try to sell them.  Plus, those guitars appeared in around 1967 and ’68.  By that time popular music was well on its way to worshipping the guitar god, like Jimi or Eric.  No way either of them would show up to a stadium playing a May Queen.

As near as I can tell, guitars like the Iceman and MoonSault—and a few others—showed up right around 1975 or thereabouts, ironically just as the ‘70s “copy era” was kicking into high gear.  Like I said, it’s hard not to see this 2nd wave of Japanese designs  as a reaction.  The difference this time was that they appeared just as glam rock was becoming popular.  Axemen in platform shoes, full costumes and Kabuki make-up didn’t have any problem at all showing up with a Kramer Axe or Ibanez Iceman.  It made the act all that much more outrageous.  In your eye, mom and dad!

The Iceman, made by FujiGen Gakki, and Kawai’s MoonSault, seem to be the only of these exotic Japanese designs to make it to North America.  Thanks to KISS, the Iceman was the more successful of the two.  I don’t think that tons were ever made, but it became a mainstay of the Ibanez catalog for some time.  Fuji also made some Greco versions for domestic consumption.  Kawai did promote the MoonSault, but Kawai didn’t have an American subsidiary (Ibanez had Elger Guitars), nor did it ever have a Gene Simmons.  If I’m not mistaken, Devo briefly played a MoonSault, but by Devo’s time serious rifts in the music industry were already becoming apparent, and guitar players didn’t rush out to buy what Mark Mothersbaugh played.  So, Kawai MoonSaults are pretty rare birds.kmn

Of the rare MoonSaults, this MS-700 is an even rarer example.  These were only built from December of 1982 to April of 1983, maybe 5 months.  This guitar has a serial number of D-150, which I presume to mean December, guitar number 150.  The blue-silverburst finish was very popular for a brief period during the early 1980s.  I never cared much for it, even though it qualifies as oddball, I think! 1982 Kawai MS-700 MoonSault HS

I don’t know what the body on this is, but the neck is glued-in mahogany and I suspect so is the body.  Note the abalone phases of the moon for position markers!  Many pickups from this era were Gotohs, but I don’t know what these are.  They scream.  There’s a master volume control and a tone control for each humbucker.  Those are push-pull pots that give you a coil tap and phase reversal.  I love this kind of tonal versatility.

The MoonSault offers great visual imagery, but if, like me, you haven’t played in a band for more time than some readers have been alive, you might, like me, enjoy playing sitting down.  A Vee actually sits nicely on your right leg.  The waist of a Les Paul on your left.  A MoonSault, not so much on either!  It kind of slips and slides.  Better for the young.

But that’s no reason not to heed the call if a MoonSault ever beckons you.  This guitar was loaned to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for their ground-breaking Dangerous Curves exhibition of 1999-2000.  You can see it in the exhibition catalog.  It’s now part of the MFA’s permanent collection, a reminder of Japanese pride in their ability to design great guitars!

Vintage Surf n’ Turf

In the good old days, guitar cognoscenti used to snicker at ‘60s Japanese guitar styles because they looked as if they just co1964 Montclair Model No 3904uldn’t get it right.  As in make a guitar as clean and cool as a Fender Strat or Jazzmaster.  The joke was on the experts.  If the Japanese guitar designers did anything, they got the essence of ‘60s style just right!  Like with this classic 1960s Montclair.

I never really thought much about Japanese guitars back in the day.  By the time they started showing up, I fancied myself a “folksinger” and was plunking on Harmony and Guild acoustics.  I didn’t pick up an electric again until late in the decade and Japanese guitars still weren’t on the menu.  But I kind of shared the standard opinion.

The truth is, of course, that Japanese guitar designers probably could have made copies of Fender Jazzmasters—and, indeed, except for a smaller size and certain details, they did with some early guitars—but they weren’t really trying to.  The Japanese weren’t really thinking about “copies” yet, like they would a decade later.  But they did have their eyes on guitars being made in England by Jim Burns!  As is obvious the moment you ogle those big pointy horns and the nifty multi-part pickguard on this Montclair.

Later, when I became interested in these strange beasts, my opinion began to change quickly.  While these guitars looked a little goofy at times, I began to learn that they weren’t so poorly made, after all.   As Jack Westheimer use to tell his associates about their role, they were there to sell guitars, not set them up.  Make sure the neck angle’s right, set the saddle intonation, adjust the action, optimize pickup height, and these guitars often turn into mean playing machines.  And they don’t sound like a Strat.  That’s the whole point!

Anyhow, I’d se1964 Montclair Model No 3904 CUen other Montclairs and really didn’t have a clue about them.  Who made them?  And for whom?  That is, until I started to look into it recently.  I still don’t know who imported/sold Montclairs.   They’re actually fairly plentiful, relatively speaking, so it must have been someone kind of significant.  But now we know a bit more about who actually built this guitar.

This Montclair is basically identical to an Ibanez Model 3904.  Montclair was just one of the labels produced by Hoshino at its Tama factory beginning in 1962.  In addition to Ibanez, other brands made by Tama included Continental, Goldentone, Tulio, Jason, and others.

According to internet sources—notoriously unreliable—Hoshino/Tama began producing guitars inspired by Burns London—especially the Burns Bison—almost from the beginning.  For sure by 1963, they produced the Models 994, 1802, 1803, 3902, and 3903, the final digit signifying the number of pickup units.  These same sources suggest that these Burns-style guitars were produced at least into 1966.  The Tama factory was closed down in 1967, so that would be the outside limit in any case.  There’s really no way to tell when this guitar was made.  I’ve assigned 1964 to it because I’m pretty certain the 3904 was in production by then.

bison

The Burns Bison was famous for introducing the “Wild Dog” effect. I actually bought a Burns just to experience that sound.  Which was a bit underwhelming.  Actually, it was just two pickups out of phase.  I guess “wild” was a little milder in the early 1960s than today!  Oh well.  The Tama-made Montclair didn’t feature the Wild Dog effect.  But it was relatively sophisticated.  Four sliders activated each pickup, though, as was often the case in the ‘60s, the differences were more subtle than distinctive.  The two other switches let each pair of pickups alternate between solo and rhythm modes, basically toning things down with a capacitor for chording behind your lead singer.  The rollers are tone controls, the knobs volumes.  The 2-piece maple neck is reinforced with a generous piece of mahogany, an idea borrowed from classical guitars.  Plus there’s an adequate truss rod.  The body’s a big chunk of premium mahogany.

In retrospect these Montclairs were pretty decent guitars, available amazingly early, given the old prejudice against Japanese guitars.  No, it’s not a Strat or a Jazzmaster.  But if you have a yen to light up a rave on Apache or Little Deuce Coup, you could do a heckuva lot worse than plugging in a well set-up Montclair Burns Bison copy.  And you’d sure look clean and cool, Fender guitars notwithstanding.

Vintage 1967 Guyatone LG-160T Electric Guitar

Ugly Mugs No. 3: Walk, Don’t Run (Vintage 1967 Guyatone LG-160T Electric Guitar)

For this last musing on ugly duckling guitars, let us turn our attention to this example from Japan, this Guyatone LG-160T. The Fenton-Weill Tux-master we contemplated was pretty much unrelentingly ugly, only redeemable if you fondly remember it from your youth. The Burns UK Flyte was more of a space oddity than especially ugly, but it sure didn’t grow on me, at least. However, some unusual guitars do eventually win your heart over the more you stare at them. I think that this is the case here.

Vintage 1967 Guyatone LG-160T Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 Guyatone LG-160T Electric Guitar

Japanese guitar makers made their names by emulating their competition largely for the American market. That strategy ultimately led to copy guitars, of which this is vaguely an example, although reflective of the peculiarities of Japanese aesthetics.

“Lutes,” in which family guitars reside, made their way pretty much everywhere in antiquity, including Japan, which favors the samisen. The first Europeans to “discover” Japan were the Portuguese, who were granted favored trading status by the Emperor. With the caveat that they couldn’t enter Japan proper, lest they pollute the sacred culture. They had to do their business from Okinawa.

Whether the Portuguese ever brought guitars with them is unknown, but Commodore Perry and the Americans certainly did when they arrived in 1853 on a mission to horn in on the Portuguese monopoly. Perry plied the Japanese ministers with tons of champagne and put on several blackface minstrel shows that featured both guitars and banjos. Perhaps it was the affinity between whiteface kabuki theater and the sailors’ burnt cork (more likely it was the huge stores of bubbly), but in any case Perry returned in 1854 with an open trade agreement with Japan.

Vintage 1967 Guyatone LG-160T Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 Guyatone LG-160T Electric Guitar

No, the Japanese didn’t convert to playing guitars (or banjos) on the spot. In fact, Westernization didn’t really begin until the 1920s. One of the main vectors was Hawaiian music. This was big in the U.S. from the early 20th Century on, but it really wasn’t coming to Japan from the Continental U.S. There was a huge Japanese population living in Hawaii and the taste for Hawaiian music—admittedly informed by American (and, ironically, Portuguese!!) influences—came from the original source in Hawaii. It was also in the 1920s that Andres Segovia toured Japan, igniting a passionate embrace of classical guitar playing. And, the 1920s saw the triumph of radio, so all sorts of Western music became available.

The problem was that Japanese music had not yet adopted the “tempered” scale that Western music has used since the 18th Century. That style makes minor compromises in the mathematical intervals of the modes codified by Pythagoras. In the old system you could play in maybe 1 or 2 modes during a piece, but any further modulation sounded out of tune, because it was. By “tempering” those scales, you can essentially switch from any key to another at any time. Anyhow, this process of adopting the tempered scale began in the 1920s, with a lot of interesting hybrid music being created. And making it possible to adopt Western instruments, such as the guitar and Hawaiian guitar…especially once it was electrified in the early 1930s.

Vintage 1967 Guyatone LG-160T Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 Guyatone LG-160T Electric Guitar

Guyatone was one of the earliest guitar manufacturers in Japan, having begun making electric Hawaiian lap steels in 1933. It was founded by Mitsuo Matsuki and Atsuo Kaneko (who would later found Teisco after the War).

Once Japanese guitar-makers entered the American market, they kind of gravitated naturally toward the copy strategy. First they produced guitars vaguely based on Fender’s Jazzmaster/Jaguar. Soon in the trenches with European makers, they began to emulate them (think Burns Bison). Then, The Ventures, having grown a bit stale in the U.S., began to tour Japan. The went over extremely well and acquired a legion of lifetime fans. By around the time this guitar was made, various Japanese makers were producing loose Mosrite inspirations. Or “copies,” if you like.

Vintage 1967 Guyatone LG-160T Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 Guyatone LG-160T Electric Guitar

This 1967 Guyatone LG-160T is actually pretty sophisticated. The body is mahogany, and features a German carve relief, like a Mosrite. Pairing two single-coil pickups back at the bridge, like a humbucker, emulates Guyatone’s domestic competition Yamaha. These two pickups can function as a humbucker or, using the sliding switch, one single-coil. Ain’t no DiMarzio but pretty clever. This bridge actually has roller saddles to make the vibrato very effective.

By 1969 the true “copy era” had been launched with the first Les Paul and Tele copies, however crude at first.

When you first glimpse this guitar, it looks like a somewhat awkward Mosrite copy. Gaze a bit longer and it almost takes on the look of a Japanese orthographic character. Elegant, not so ugly. Consider it more and your heart begins to warm toward it’s symmetrical asymmetry for sure! Beautiful!

The copy strategy was good marketing (and helped learning to come more quickly), but it tended to obscure how much Japanese culture—how much whiteface kabuki—really contributed to the guitar equation.

Vintage 1961 Fenton-Weill Tux-Master Electric Guitar

Ugly Mugs No. 1 (Vintage 1961 Fenton-Weill Tux-Master Electric Guitar)

If you’ve read even a little of my writing about guitars over the years, you know I’m fatally attracted to unusual guitars. There’s a reason I’m “The Different Strummer.” But even I have to admit some guitars are just plain ugly. A case in point: the Fenton-Weill Tux-master from England, a country (sorry, friends) that has more than its share of these birds.

Vintage 1961 Fenton-Weill Tux-Master Electric Guitar

Vintage 1961 Fenton-Weill Tux-Master Electric Guitar

This Tux-master actually comes with a pretty impressive pedigree. In 1959 the legendary guitar-designer (and notoriously bad businessman) Jim Burns hooked up with a German chap named Henry Weill to build a line of Burns-Weill electric solidbody guitars built in London. Weills was reportedly the electronics expert. This partnership lasted less than a year and it’s pretty hard to find examples. However, it’s pretty reasonable to speculate that Burns and Weill met more than once over many more than one pint! Then they retired to a band saw to reshape some firewood. These were truly Bizarro guitars, squarish angular monsters all off-balance!

According to online sources (meaning cross your fingers and hope), one of their models was called the Fenton, and that became the source of name of the new company re-formed by Weill in 1960, Fenton-Weill. Whether or not there was a person named Fenton remains one of guitardom’s unsolved mysteries.

Vintage 1961 Fenton-Weill Tux-Master Electric Guitar

Vintage 1961 Fenton-Weill Tux-Master Electric Guitar

Regarding this Fenton-Weill guitar I have in my notes that it was a re-design of the Burns-Weill RP2G guitar model but I have no idea how I arrived at such a conclusion. I don’t need to point out this guitar’s ungainly aspects! That anteater snout headstock, the small, asymmetrical body.

To be fair, this guitar actually has some innovative features. For one thing, the neck is glued in and has a heelless design to improve access up the neck. This is at least a decade in advance of the appearance of that design feature in the U.S. Also, the weird paint job, with the shaded black-burst, was at least 25 years ahead of its time, such aesthetics not appearing until the mid-1980s.

Vintage 1961 Fenton-Weill Tux-Master Electric Guitar

Vintage 1961 Fenton-Weill Tux-Master Electric Guitar

Actually, this guitar isn’t entirely “stock.” The bridge is a Gotoh replacement and the 3-way switch and jack are not original. However, this kind of fits with the gestalt of Fenton-Weills. That’s because Henry Weill was also an early pioneer in sourcing parts from Japan, as it turns out (if online sources are to be believed). Apparently Weill bought pre-assembled pickguards, with pickups and wiring, from Guyatone. Reportedly, Henry “tweaked” them, but the electronics are Japanese. Online rumors suggest that Weill didn’t do the wood-work either. Necks are supposed to have come from Germany. Thus, the presence of a Gotoh bridge doesn’t violate the spirit of the law.

Like most ugly-duckling guitars, this actually plays and sounds pretty well. The original Featherlite vibrato is great for your rendition of Apache or Walk, Don’t Run. I suspect you wouldn’t want to be seen strapping this on for a heavy metal gig, but it does have a cool surf vibe.

When Burns and Weill split in 1959, Weill continued to make guitars badged Weill-London. These seem to be even rarer than Burns-Weill guitars. I couldn’t find a single online image of one, but they no doubt continued the same aesthetic. The Fenton-Weill brand was in play at least by 1963. Weill had his own factory by this time and was also producing amplifiers, plus reportedly producing guitars for Hohner and Selmer.

Vintage 1961 Fenton-Weill Tux-Master Electric Guitar

Vintage 1961 Fenton-Weill Tux-Master Electric Guitar

If you Google-Image Fenton-Weill guitars you’ll get a range of designs that include the square Bizarros some vaguely Supro-ish LPs, a kind of Alamo Jazzmaster thing, and these skinny anteater whatever-they-ares. Some have bolt-on necks, many are set-necks like this. Guitars and basses. The black-bursty finish touches are fairly tyoical.

Fenton-Weills seem to have come in a plethora of model names, “-master” being favored, including Dualmaster and Twinmaster. Minor details differ between models. Consistency was no hobgoblin for Fenton-Weill!

Alas, Henry Weill doesn’t appear to have been much better at business than Jim Burns and in 1965 the Fenton-Weill company was history, imploding in bankruptcy.

I can’t be certain when this guitar was made, but the window is pretty tight: the widest being 1960-65, with 1962-65 being more likely.

Today, sourcing parts from foreign lands is common practice. It was novel when this guitar was made, as were many of the other features. The awkward design, however, is completely original and completely…ugly! So ugly you gotta love it! I know I do…

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

The Lure of the Wild Dog (Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar)

Go ahead, admit it. If someone told you there was a cool Sixties guitar with a factory setting called “Wild Dog” (or maybe even one called “Split-Sound”), you’d want one, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. That’s why, once I found out about the Burns Jazz Split-Sound, it went straight to the top of my wish list. But sometimes when you get what you wish for it doesn’t live up to the hype!

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

I finally found my Wild Dog on, of all things, the inventory list of George Gruhn, the eminent Nashville vintage guitar dealer. Now, that may not seem odd to you, but this was a long time ago. Back then finding guitars was done by eagerly getting the first printing of the Trading Times, a weekly newsprint want-ad rag that was published all over the country in localized versions. If you’re one of those young-uns who walks around with your nose in a smart-phone, “want-ads” were notices you paid to put in the paper if you had something to sell. EBay didn’t exist. Only Al Gore used the Internet. George’s list wasn’t in the Trading Times, but in Vintage Guitar Magazine, which was the Trading Times for old guitar junkies.

Anyhow, I got this 1965 Baldwin-Burns Jazz Split-Sound from George Gruhn for what I thought was a high price at the time, but it was a relative bargain at Gruhn’s because this was the time when everyone was still looking for vintage Strats and Les Pauls (before they cost 5 to 6 figures), not Baldwin-Burns guitars. So, this wasn’t on the radar at the time. Except for someone like me. There’s a reason I’m billed as “The Different Strummer.”

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

Baldwin-Burns guitars are part of the madness that was the 1960s guitar industry. Baby Boomers like me liked guitars and corporations with money started buying up guitar manufacturers. CBS and Fender, Norlin and Gibson, etc., etc. Among the early suitors for Fender was the Baldwin Piano and Organ company of Cincinnati. When Fender went on the block in 1965 due to Leo’s health problems, Baldwin tried to buy the company. CBS outbid them and that was that. At the same time, Burns of London, owned by Jim Burns, was having financial difficulties. Burns was more guitar “genius” than business wizard. The plan was to import Burns-designed and produced guitars carrying the Baldwin name. The first units began to arrive in late 1965 and this was a very early arrival of the Jazz Split-Sound model.

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

Actually, this is pretty interesting in a number of dimensions. First of all, it’s a “Strat” configuration, although pretty liberally interpreted, with “notes” of the Burns Bison. Back in the mid-‘60s Fender’s top guitars were the Jazzmaster and Jaguar, which were most copied by both European and Japanese manufacturers. It’s early because of the head, which became a scroll design in mid-1966. Like I said, Jim Burns was a pretty good guitar designer and this has one of his Series 2 adjustable vibratos. The pickups are a pretty interesting take on a humbucker, really kind of a hybrid, with offset coils and poles. This is, no doubt, the origin of the “Split-Sound” nomination. These are pretty cool, because the “Split-Sound” meant that the neck coils captured the bass strings and the bridge coils got the trebles. I’m not really sure you can hear the subtleties, but it’s dang cool none-the-less.

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

The “Wild Dog” setting is, well, underwhelming. It’s basically an out-of-phase sound like you get in the in-between positions on a Strat, but the pickups aren’t really as hot as a Strat’s, so, while it’s cool—and pretty innovative—in a ’60s guitar, it’s really no big whoop. But good marketing!

This is, for the times, a professional grade instrument, on a par with Fender or Gibson, with an entirely unique feel, of course. Burns doesn’t get the respect he deserves in the American market, and the Baldwin—and later Ampeg—monikers didn’t help with credibility, given the consumer illusion that a brand name had to equate with the manufacturer. Which it almost never has.

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Baldwin Burns Jazz Split-Sound Electric Guitar

Despite all the technical features that make this guitar desirable, there really isn’t any “Wild Dog” there. Maybe compared to a Kay or a Harmony electric. And to get Wild Dog out of a Strat, you needed toothpicks. Nada on Gibsons.

That the “Wild Dog” setting was kind of disappointing doesn’t diminish the coolness of this guitar, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected. More like “Big Whoop.” But pretty good marketing!