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Category Archive1960’s Vintage Guitars

Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar

Back Catalog Memories: Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar

In the 1960′s Maurice Lipsky Music Co., a prominent importer and distributor in New York City, developed the Domino brand of guitars. In 1967 Lipsky introduced a line proto-copies carrying the Domino brand name. Most were inspired by European models such as the EKO Violin guitar. Here is the original flyer announcing the lineup from 1967, claiming “DOMINO IMAGINATION LEADS THE ROCK GENERATION!”. The California Rebel, recently reissued by Eastwood Guitars, is front and center here in 1967.

Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar

Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar

Who actually built these guitars in Japan is unknown, but these pickups appear to be associated with Kawai guitars, and that’s probably a good guess.

Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar (Ad)

Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar (Ad)

Here is an example of a dual pickup Domino Spartan in Sunburst. It was available in 2 or 3 pickup configuration, and in many different colors. Over the years I have seen olympic white, sunburst, seafoam green, orange and red. This 2P model has volume and tone controls, a 3-way selector switch and a rhythm/solo switch. The quality was pretty solid across the entire Domino line, compared to some of the stuff that was coming out of Japan at the time.

Vintage EKO 12-String DLX Electric Guitar

Back Catalog Memories: Vintage EKO 12-String DLX Electric Guitar

EKO was an Italian musical manufacturer, prominent in Europe from the late 50’s to the 1980’s. The brand lives on today, but the instruments are no longer produced in Italy. To the best of my knowledge, they evolved from being an accordion manufacturer in the late 50’s, to creating some of the coolest electric guitars in the early sixties. They were known for their crazy pearloid and faux woodgrain finishes, accordion switches and funky body shapes. Later in the early 1970’s, they also took over production for VOX guitars, and were distributed in USA by the LoDuco Brothers in Milwaukee. That is likely where this guitar came from.

Vintage EKO 12-String DLX Electric Guitar

Vintage EKO 12-String DLX Electric Guitar

Here is an unusual 12 string model, likely dating from the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. Obviously inspired by the Hofner “Beatles” shaped guitars, it is a surprisingly good player. I’ll let the pictures to the talking from here on in…

MRG Solo King Guitar

OMG!! It’s Back!! MRG 1960 SOLO KING Replica

On special instructions from your friend and ours – Mr. Billy Gibbons – we have just finished another small run of the MRG Solo King. They will start shipping on December 9th, getting in your hands before Christmas!

First come, first served. Order yours today!

Here is the back-story…

Since 1998 myrareguitars.com has been sharing its knowledge  and history of the bizarre guitars from the late 50’s and early 60’s. As we approach our 15th anniversary, we’ve been looking for something unique to mark the “brand” and create some historical goodies for all those passionate about weird guitars. We’ve decided to issue one or two new models each year – focusing on the real “fringe” bizarre – branded with the MyRareGuitars label. These oddball collectables will feature top quality, professional materials and construction, but will keep the prices at a fun and friendly level – a thank you to all who have supported us over the years. We especially look forward to your suggestions for future models! Our initial release – the Solo King.

MRG Solo King

MRG Solo King

Only $479. FREE Shipping North America ONLY.




Details & Specifications:

  • Colours: Black
  • Body: Basswood
  • Neck: Bolt-on Maple
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood, Dot markers
  • Scale Length: 24 3/4″
  • Width at Nut: 1 5/8″
  • Pickups: Dual Mini Humbuckers
  • Switching: 3-Way
  • Controls: 2 Volume, 2 Tone
  • Bridge: Fixed Tun-O-Matic Bridge
  • Hardware: Gotoh style Nickel/Chrome
  • Strings: #9-#46
  • Case: optional hardshell case $99 extra.

Additional photos:












 

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

Peachy Keen (Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar)

Even though I don’t frequent them often, I love classic car shows. The sight of those two-tone jobs—often done up in exotic colors like pastels or turquoise—always raises a smile of nostalgia, a glimmer of my youth when they were new and I had dreams of being able to hit the road. Kind of like how I feel when I look at this very nifty EKO Condor.

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

The first time I laid eyes on this guitar was in the showroom of LoDuca Brothers warehouse in Milwaukee, which was another of those “Temples of Doom” you hear me talk about periodically. LoDuca Brothers were (or was if you consider it a company, not siblings) the American importers and distributors of EKO guitars (actually Rickenbacker handled the West Coast). LoDuca Brothers had its roots in a late 1930s, early ‘40s accordion duo Vaudeville act featuring Thomas and Gaetano (Guy) LoDuca. According to their son, Mickey, as good Italian sons, the brothers handed their earnings over to their father, who paid them an allowance and put some in savings. When they’d amassed a couple grand, they opened the first of what would become a chain of music studios around Milwaukee. As they thrived, they began to import and sell LoDuca brand accordions sourced from Oliviero Pigini of Recanati, Italy, just north of Castelfidardo, a town that is still the hub of accordion manufacturing in Italy.

As we’ve talked about before, accordions were a big fad among young Baby Boomers in the early to mid-1950s. This was good for the LoDucas business. But when the wind was squeezed out of the demand for accordions, it kind of left the LoDucas with empty hands. They played around with importing keyboards—including the actual black and white key assemblies—until, fortuitously, folk music happened and demand for guitars began to pick up toward the end of the 1950s.

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

Pigini knew only too well about the drop in sales of accordions in the US, of course. So the company decided to expand into guitar manufacturing. LoDuca Brothers had an accordion distribution network with around 600 outlets and was doing business with Pigini, so they were a natural partner to handle the expansion into guitars.

As far as I know, EKO was the brand name chosen for Pigini’s guitars and didn’t come off another existing line of instruments. I don’t think it was ever used on accordions (though it eventually did get put on some electronic keyboards and drums). Just as with accordions, Pigini would gladly put the brand name of your choice on a batch of guitars, but EKO was their main string moniker. EKO guitars debuted in 1961.

The first EKO guitars were acoustics and among the first customers was Sears. LoDuca had imported a little chord organ for Sears beginning in 1959, so they had an established relationship. The first EKO electric guitars were a pair of plastic-covered solidbodies, the Models 500 and 700, covered in sparkle plastic, plus a range of archtops, introduced in 1962.

From the get-go Pigini relied on input from LoDuca Brothers to develop guitars that would sell in the American market. In this regard LoDuca enlisted a number of professional guitarists from the Milwaukee area, who endorsed EKOs.

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

LoDuca and EKO hit the market at a good time. EKO’s biggest year was probably 1967, when this Condor was made. It’s the huge ’67 catalog that most frequently circulates in the paper trade. I fell in love with this the moment I laid eyes on it. I mean, it’s so T-Bird (as in Ford with a porthole) or Edsel (yeah, I loved those, too). That pale pink with the black neck. And four—count ‘em—four pickups. It pretty much screams out for a matching tuxedo. Besides being a looker, this guitar actually plays pretty well, too. It’s light-weight and comfortable. The single-coil pickups aren’t screamers, but they’re beefy enough. You get a nice variety of tones, though not those swell glassy out-of-phase sounds like on a jimmied Strat. Having four on-off switches is darned awkward, but otherwise this is a sweetheart.

So, why was the warehouse this came out of another Temple of Doom? Mainly because of a confluence of events. Demand for guitars in the US began to drop in 1968. Tastes changed. Hendrix, Clapton and Bloomfield were whetting appetites for axes capable of chopping, not matching tuxedos. Then, at some time probably around 1968 or ’69, Oliviero Pigini, who loved fast sports cars, died in a car crash. Anecdotal evidence suggests that EKO’s seasoned wood supply burned up in 1970, but I can’t confirm that. In any case, quality supposedly declined.

In any case, business waned and LoDuca Brothers found itself sitting on a warehouse full of unsold EKO guitars. And there they sat for years. Fast forward and in the 1980s vintage guitar collecting became all the rage. Collectors and dealers got the word and began to mine the trove at bargain prices. Temple of Doom indeed! When I strode in, the pickings were comparatively slim, but there was still plenty of guitar eye candy left, including this two-tone beauty, as fine a sight as any gleaming T-Bird, or maybe a pink Cadillac!

Vintage 1968 Roy Smeck Lap Steel Guitar

Wizard of the Strings (Vintage 1968 Harmony Roy Smeck Lap Steel Guitar)

I’ve seen—on the news, because I certainly wouldn’t know from experience—that Polynesian Tiki bars are becoming “hip” again in places where hip people congregate. “Again” because they used to be popular in the 1950s, well before I would have been able to go into one. Dried grass above the bar. Fruity drinks in fancy glasses with little umbrellas stuck into them. And, of course, Hawaiian music, preferably with a little combo, but at least on the jukebox, played on a lap steel guitar like this Harmony Roy Smeck.

Vintage 1968 Roy Smeck Lap Steel Guitar

Vintage 1968 Roy Smeck Lap Steel Guitar

Hawaiian music actually had an extraordinary run of popularity in America that predates even me. Hawaii has been important for the U.S. since the mid-19th Century. Situated halfway between the Americas and Asia, it was a natural stopping point for sailing ships. Guitars and banjos were common possessions of sailors, so some of each ended up on the Islands. (Any musician in the crew of a ship captured by pirates was automatically spared and recruited into the pirate crew.) Both guitars and banjos figured in Commodore Perry’s opening up of trade with Japan in 1854, when sealing the deal included several blackface minstrel shows…and lots of champagne. Minstrelsy and Kabuki theater have more than a little in common, after all! Hawaiians quickly developed open tunings (“slack key”) and playing with a slide, probably by around 1880, give or take.

Vintage 1968 Roy Smeck Lap Steel Guitar

Vintage 1968 Roy Smeck Lap Steel Guitar

Hawaiian musicians had come to the U.S. mainland by late in the 19th century and figured prominently in a number of World’s Fairs, where Americans were often regaled by various “ethnic” exhibits on the surrounding midways. There was a Hawaiian show at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. By around 1910 Hawaiian music was big on Broadway and with college students (Boola-Boola was originally the Hoola Boola). It was probably—at least in part—the rage for Hawaiian music following the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco that inspired Sears to purchase the Harmony Company in 1916 and introduce a number of Harmony-made Hawaiian instruments the following year. And, don’t forget, it was Hawaiian music that led directly to the first successful electric guitars in 1931-32.

Among the popular performers of Hawaiian (and most other types of) music on the Vaudeville music hall circuit was Roy Smeck (1900-1994). Smeck was a talented instrumentalist who played guitar, banjo, ukulele, and lap steel guitar, earning the sobriquet “Wizard of the Strings.” Smeck made quite a few recordings and starred in part of the first “sound on disk” movie that was released in 1926. Like many other performers, Smeck endorsed a number of instruments by various manufacturers over the years, but is probably best known for the line of Harmonies introduced in 1927 with the pear-shaped Vita-Uke. Smeck’s name would be associated with Harmony instruments until near the end of the company’s run in 1973.

Vintage 1968 Roy Smeck Lap Steel Guitar

Vintage 1968 Roy Smeck Lap Steel Guitar

Including association with this late example Harmony Roy Smeck H7 Lap Steel that dates to about 1968. This modern take on the lap steel was originally introduced in 1955 and sported Roy Smeck’s name on the handrest. In around 1958 these came with optional legs, which this example has. At some point in the 1960s Smeck was still the endorser in the catalog, but his name had been removed from the guitar. Like many lap steels, this is pretty basic, with one single-coil pickup and volume (black) and tone (white) controls. Still, it’s quite serviceable for playing Yellow Bird or Aloha-Oe on your next gig at the neighborhood Tiki bar and I’ve always preferred legs to holding a guitar in my lap.

There can’t have been many of these Smeck lap steels made in 1968. Hawaiian music had become mighty passé in the face of the onslaught of The White Album and Jimi Hendrix, although nascent Country Rock was just beginning to emerge, but with pedal rather than Hawaiian lap steels! (I recall there was a Tiki bar in Toledo into the 1970s, but it was something of a dive by then and you were more likely to hear Dolly Parton than Jerry Byrd on the juke.) The H7 became the H607 in 1972 in the catalog, but Harmony’s lap steels would bite the dust the following year.

Vintage 1968 Roy Smeck Lap Steel Guitar

Vintage 1968 Roy Smeck Lap Steel Guitar

There remains a small group of devotees of the Hawaiian lap steel. Since I’ve never been accused of being hip (the only hip I know about is the new one I recently got!), I haven’t much followed the Tiki bar revival. (Don’t care much for fruity drinks with umbrellas either.) There may be a concomitant resurgence of Hawaiian music and the lap steel, for all I know. But I doubt it. Still, the ukulele hasn’t done badly over the last few years, so maybe it’s time has come!

Vintage 1960's Conrad 12-String Electric Guitar

Back Catalog Memories: Vintage 1960’s Conrad Guitars

Vintage 1960's Conrad 12-String Electric Guitar

Vintage 1960’s Conrad 12-String Electric Guitar

As much as I would like to, I can’t really shed a lot of light on this brand. What we do know, is they were from Japan, mid 60’s to early 70’s. All the typical copy-era models that you would see from Teisco and a handful of other brands. Slightly better than average quality, similar to the Domino guitars. So, likely an American importer that found a niche and filled it for as long as he/she could. Rather than ramble on about it, I’ll simply offer up a bunch of photos so you can let your imagination run wild!

Vintage 1960's Domino California Rebel CE82 Electric Guitar

Back Catalog Memories: Vintage 1960’s Domino California Rebel CE82 Electric Guitar

In the 1960’s Maurice Lipsky Music Co., a prominent importer and distributor in New York City, developed the Domino brand of guitars. One of my favorites from them was the Californian Rebel. Lipsky was also the company that offered the Orpheum brand of guitars from the 1950s on. Many Orpheum’s were made by United Guitars of Jersey City, NJ, the successor to the Oscar Schmidt Company. There is some evidence that Lipsky’s Orpheum name was used on some Italian Wandré guitars, as well.

Vintage 1960's Domino California Rebel CE82 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1960’s Domino California Rebel CE82 Electric Guitar

In 1967 Lipsky introduced a line proto-copies carrying the Domino brand name. Most were inspired by European models such as the EKO Violin guitar. Among the offerings were two models sporting a California cache, the #502 Californian, an asymmetrical copy of a Vox Phantom, and this #CE82 Californian Rebel. It was a semi-solid, since most of it is solid, but built in halves with a sound cavity routed out under the one sound hole. The top has a nice German carve relief, the slotted head adds a kind of retro vibe and cool dots along the top side of the bound fingerboard. What looks like a rosewood pickguard is wood grained plastic. Featuring high output for a single-coil pickups, two sliding switches for on/off control and a tremolo.

Who actually built this guitar is unknown, but these pickups appear to be associated with Kawai guitars, and that’s probably a good guess. Rumor is www.eastwoodguitars.com is planning a reissue of this guitar before the year is out.

Vintage 1960's Airline Jetsons Red Res-O-Glas Electric Guitar

Back Catalog Memories: 1960’s Airline “Jetsons” 2P Red Res-O-Glas Guitar

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 – most in those early days were solid wood designs like the Town and Country, but the more valuable vintage models were made of res-o-glas. This model is often referred to as the Jetsons model.

Vintage 1960's Airline Jetsons Red Res-O-Glas Electric Guitar

Vintage 1960’s Airline Jetsons Red Res-O-Glas Electric Guitar

Res-O-Glas was Valco’s term for fiberglass. These guitars we made with two clamshell pieces (top and bottom of the body) that were aligned and held together with a slotted rubber grommet strip, then long machine screws through the back and into the front. There was a maple block inside the hollow body which served the purpose of mounting the neck. The necks did not have a truss rod – a major setback to these old guitars, especially 50 years later – but had a 3 screw pivot system to tilt the neck angle back and forth to adjust the action. These were covered but chrome plastic covers on the back of the body. One giveaway that a vintage version has a bad humped neck? Those covers are always missing, as someone over the past 50 years tried and tried to adjust the neck and eventually lost the covers.

Although they appear to be humbuckers, these guitars had single coil pickups with a unique tone that became popular with the blues players (not just for their tone, but more likely for their affordability vs. a new Fender Strat). That is what modern players are seeking out these old guitars, like Jack White, for the growly single coil tone. This sample had two pickups, each with its own volume and tone controls, and a unique 3-way switch labeled “Tone Switch”.

Vintage 1965 Silvertone Teisco 1437 Electric Guitar

Catalog of Dreams (Vintage 1965 Silvertone Teisco 1437 Electric Guitar)

One of the highlights of life back when I was a youngster was the arrival of the latest Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog. Anything you desired could be delivered right to your door. A lot of my early knowledge about guitars (and lingerie) came out of those “wish books.” One piece of that knowledge, however, wasn’t about this Sears Silvertone because when it was made in 1965, Sears only sold Japanese-made guitars through its retail store outlets, not through its catalogs!

Vintage 1965 Silvertone Teisco 1437 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Silvertone Teisco 1437 Electric Guitar

Ward’s was probably the first to sell guitars through its catalogs. Aaron Montgomery Ward started his company in 1872 as a solution to the problem of farmers obtaining the items they needed to make life more palatable out on the Great Plains. At the time, the farmer’s only source for household goods was the general store. And their only source of merchandise was the railroads, who charged an arm and a leg. To combat the high prices, the farmers joined to form buying clubs and put together lists. A representative would take it to the big city to buy the stuff and ship it back in one big container. Lot’s cheaper. Ward’s idea was to return to Chicago and put the lists together for them by assembling a catalog and sending it to the farmers direct.

Ward’s concept was so successful that Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck decided to compete head-to-head with them, starting Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 1893. Sometime between Ward’s founding and Sears’ first catalog in 1894 Ward’s began selling guitars. There’s a guitar offered in Ward’s 1894 catalog with a woodcut and some copy. That very SAME woodcut and copy appears in the first Sears catalog!

Vintage 1965 Silvertone Teisco 1437 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Silvertone Teisco 1437 Electric Guitar

Sears sold increasing numbers of guitars as the years progressed, obtained from various sources, including Lyon & Healy, Oscar Schmidt, and the Harmony Company. In 1916 Sears purchased Harmony to supply the majority of its stringed instruments, which began appearing carrying the Supertone brand name in 1917. While it was a subsidiary of Sears, Harmony was still free to sell its own brand independently and to make guitars for other companies. Sears, for its part, mainly relied on Harmony for its guitars, except occasionally when a specialty model was sourced from someone else. In 1940 Sears sold Harmony to its president Jay Kraus, after which it operated pretty much as before, with Sears as its main customer, with the Sears brand name changed to Silvertone.

Sears had branched out into retail stores in 1925. By the 1960s, when this guitar was made, Sears was the largest retailer in the U.S. Throughout the 1960s the guitars featured in the Sears catalog were exclusively American-made, mostly by Harmony. However, obviously, as evidenced by the very existence of this guitar, they also sold guitars made in Japan, only just through their retail store outlets.

Vintage 1965 Silvertone Teisco 1437 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Silvertone Teisco 1437 Electric Guitar

This Silvertone is a Model 1437, otherwise known as a Teisco WG-4L. Except for the logo, it’s a completely stock Teisco. The Teisco company was founded in Japan in 1946 by Atswo Kaneko and Doryu Matsuda. Teiscos were distributed within Japan and probably regionally until the end of the 1950s, when exporting to the U.S. commensed. The first known American importer was the late Jack Westheimer whose Westheimer Sales Corp. began importing Kingston acoustic guitars from Japan in 1959, followed either later that year or early in 1960 by Teisco electric guitars. Jack added the “del Rey” most often seen on these guitars.

In around 1964, Sil Weindling, Barry Hornstein, and Sid Weiss formed Weiss Musical Instruments (W.M.I.) and began importing Teisco Weiss guitars. Westheimer’s focus had shifted toward his Kingston brand, so W.M.I. sort of took over the Teisco franchise. The WG line debuted in 1964 with a plain pickguard, changing over to the very groovy striped metal ‘guard in 1965. W.M.I. undoubtedly provided this guitar to Sears.

Vintage 1965 Silvertone Teisco 1437 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Silvertone Teisco 1437 Electric Guitar

There’s nothing not to like about this guitar! I mean, how could you resist the look of that pickguard?! And metallic blue paint! Plus four—count ‘em—four chunky single-coil pickups. And I love those typically Teisco rectangular adaptations of Gretsch’s thumbprint inlays. As with almost all better Japanese solidbodies from the 1960s, with just a little attention this can be set up to play quite nicely. The neck is a little hefty for a modern taste, but then so were many others back then. To be honest, you don’t really get that much tonal variety out of four pickups, but it’s still way, way cool. Perfect for a chorus or two of Walk, Don’t Run or Apache!

By the 1970s, Sears was finally featuring Japanese-made guitars in its catalog, but the Sears hegemony was waning, replaced by emerging “big box” retailers such as Kmart. The catalog soldiered on into the 1990s, but its value as a source for interesting guitar—or lingerie—information was long past.

Vintage 1960's Airline Barney Kessel Model Swingmaster Electric Guitar (Deluxe)

Back Catalog Memories: 1960’s Airline Barney Kessel Swingmaster Guitar

Here are a pair of Airline Barney Kessel models from the 1960’s. It was also known as the Swingmaster, and could be found under the Kay brand and the Old Kraftsmen brand.

Vintage 1960's Airline Barney Kessel Model Swingmaster Electric Guitar (Deluxe)

Vintage 1960’s Airline Barney Kessel Model Swingmaster Electric Guitar (Deluxe)

The natural color was unique to the Airline brand. All were outfitted with the “Kleenex Box” pickups. It was available in 2 or 3 pickups models, with or without the Bigsby style tremolo and a wooden, floating bridge. Bolt-on neck with a flamed maple bound body on top and bottom. Each pickup had its own volume and tone controls and there was a flipper switch for pickup selection.

Will Eastwood make a replica of this for its Airline line of guitars in the future? Pretty sure the answer is yes!