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Category Archive1960’s Vintage Guitars

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

All Amped Up (Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar)

Back in the late 1960s, amplifiers were big. No, I don’t mean as in “popular.” I mean as in big! I had a giant 350-watt solid-state Mosrite that ran a whole band. It was so big, I had to buy a VW Bus to schlep it around. Back then, probably no big amp brand was bigger—as in more popular—than Standel out of California. Those were the amps to have (I suspect my Mosrite was really made by them). Standel got so big, the company introduced its own guitar lines. And, just as Mosrite probably didn’t make any amps, Standel didn’t make any of its guitars.

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

Standel was originally founded by Bob Crooks of Temple City, CA (a northern suburb of L.A.), in 1953 to make high-end tube amplifiers. The company describes itself as a “boutique” manufacturer, meaning it was basically a custom shop. Transistors—which can amplify an electrical signal in a way that’s analogous (!) to tubes—were invented around the same time, but it took some time for them to be applied to musical instrument amplification. I’m no amp expert, but the earliest application of transistors to guitar amps I’ve encountered was by Kay and its Vanguard series that debuted in 1963. Bud Ross, in Chanute, KS, built a reputation for hot-rodding amps by putting tuck-and-roll vinyl on them, and, in 1965, produced a transistorized amplifier that he took to NAMM and Kustom amplifiers—also “big” in both senses of the word—were off and running. I don’t know when Standel embraced the new solid-state technology, but it wasn’t long thereafter.

Kustom, like Standel, would go on to produce—or really commission—its own line of guitars. Exactly when Standel introduced its first guitars is a mystery remaining to be solved. Likewise, who made most of Standel’s guitars also remains to be elucidated. By 1969, at least, Standel was sourcing its guitars from legendary luthier Sam Koontz in New Jersey. This Standel Custom guitar is from before that arrangement.

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

Pretty much inspired by the Country-Western bands that congregated in and around Bakersfield, CA, a whole bunch of guitarmakers sprang up in Southern California, including Semie Moseley and others. Standel did sell some solidbody guitars with a tell-tale German carve around the top that I suspect might have been built for them by Semie. But Crooks apparently preferred hollowbodies, since most Standels are made that way.

Looking at the Southern California guitarmaker landscape at the time—excluding Fender and Rickenbacker, of course—the most likely source for this guitar is Murph. This looks for all the world like a Murph Gemini. Murph guitars were made in another northern L.A. suburb of San Fernando, CA, by Thomas Patrick Murphy from 1965-67, mainly as a vehicle to help promote the pop music act put together by his children. The best known models were the Squier and a heart-shaped Satellite that Dan Forte (aka Teisco del Rey) loves to feature. The Gemini was a thinline hollowbody with a pair of f-holes. The Murph Satellite had a headstock with a little Woody Woodpecker peak at the tip. Visit www.murphguitars.com for more information on Murph guitars.

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

You can’t just look at a Murph and this Standel and say “Aha.” There are both similarities and differences. In addition to the similar body shape, the Standel head shows its own resemblance to Mr. Woodpecker. Murphs had more than 10 coats of paint; this appears to be plastic-covered, but could be really just very thickly painted. Both lines had 3-bolt necks. The Gemini had a similarly shaped pickguard with extensions up under the pickups, although these pickup covers are unlike any Murphs. The bridge and vibrato are also different. The Murph Gemini used a threeway toggle, but the Squier used a sliding switch, as here. The two biggest differences are the presence of an elevated “belly on the top,” yielding a mild German carve, sort of. Murphs had flat tops. Lastly, Murphs did not have zero frets. Of course, Standel could have deliberately sourced hardware from a different supplier just to make their guitars different.

So, like those annoying History Channel shows where you sit through an hour to find out that they can’t really prove that the wreck they’re exploring really is the Santa Maria or not, we can’t say for sure that Murph made this Standel. If they did, that would place it somewhere between 1965 and 1967, probably closer to the latter. If Murph did supply Standel’s guitars, then Murph’s demise in 1967 might explain why Standel switched to Sam Koontz a year or two later.

All Standel guitars appear to be quite rare. Until we find an example from another known maker that’s identical, origins will never be conclusive. Who knows? We could even find out that, for awhile, at least, Standel did, in fact, actually build its own guitars! And, for the record, give me a small amp any day!

1960's Contessa Guitar (Green)

Back Catalog Memories: 1960’s Contessa Guitar & Bass

 

1960's Contessa Guitar (Green)

1960’s Contessa Guitar (Green)

Castelfidardo is a town in the province of Ancona, in the Marche region of central-eastern Italy. During the early 1960’s this area was a hot bed for small but talented guitar builders, but also had links back to USA. From this area in Italy builders like Zerosette were branded with names like JG, Goya, Contessa, Atlas and Sano. Sano? Weren’t they an AMP builder in USA? That’s the connection! In the 1940’s a music school called Major Music – founded by Joe Zonfrilla, Sr – was teaching us all how to play accordion. In the mid 50’s, accordion player Nicholas Sano wanted a pickup for his accordion and Joe came to the rescue with a patented pickup design which led to the design of the Sano amplifiers. Shortly after that the Sano company began to import guitars from Italy (Zerosette) under the brand name of Contessa.

Here are two fine examples, a 6-string guitar and a bass. Both simple designs with two pickups, 3-way switch volume and tone. The remarkable “hidden gem” of these guitars were the necks. They are as close to early Fender profile and radius as I have found. In fact, many of the guitars from this area of Italy have the most underrated necks. The weakness was always in the electronics – typically rather thin and weak tone, and they are quite rare in North America, so the brands never really caught any traction in the collector world.

Back Catalog Memories: 1960’s Coral Hornet Guitar

Vintage 1960's Coral Hornet Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960’s Coral Hornet Electric Guitar (Red)

There is not much information available out there on these fabulous late 60’s guitars. The Coral Hornet is certainly in my top ten all time favorite guitars. Why? The body was ultra thin. So thin in fact that the control cavity was mounted on a raised metal enclosure because the body was too thin to hold the pots and switches. The pickguard was completely unique, I’ll try to explain…

Pete Townshend with a Coral Hornet guitar

Pete Townshend with a Coral Hornet guitar

It was two piece – a Plexiglas top with some sort of invisible etching on the bottom, then a weird swirl underlay (like mother of pearl drum skins?) in a thinner layer was mounted underneath, the the Plexiglas was screwed on top. So, when you moved the guitar around the swirl looked 3-D due to the plexi etching.

They were branded with a “Vincent Bell Signature Design”. Vinny invented a number of electric guitar models for Danelectro and Coral. He designed perhaps the first electric 12-string guitar, and invented the electric sitar in 1967, using it on such hits as “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers, “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne, and “Heartbreaker” by Gene Pitney. This past Friday night I was lucky enough to get some passes to “The Who – Quadrophenia” at the ACC in Toronto. A fabulous show from a fabulous band, here is a early photo of the great Pete Townsend with a Coral Hornet.

I suspect very few were made as they are quite rare. Danelectro reissued them in 2009 as a “dead-on” model but in my opinion, not so dead on.

Here are some photos of an original Coral Hornet 2-pickup model in black and an original Coral Hornet 3-pickup model in red.

Back Catalog Memories: Airline 3P Res-O-Glas Guitar (White Finish)

Originally, Airline branded electric and acoustic guitars were made in the United States from 1958-68 by the VALCO Manufacturing Company, and sold through Montgomery Ward catalogs. VALCO also used the brand names of National and Supro. Back in the day, many products were marketed under different brand names in three levels:

  • “Good” (Airline)
  • “Better” (Supro)
  • “Best” (National)

This way they could cover a wider price point by offering different hardware, etc to drive the price up.

Vintage Airline Res-O-Glas Electric Guitar (White)

Vintage Airline Res-O-Glas Electric Guitar (White)

Today, old Valco guitars are played by a wide array of bands and artists including David Bowie (Supro Dual Tone), The Cure (National MAP), Jack White (Airline 2P), Calexico and P.J. Harvey using this original Airline 3P Res-O-Glas, the top-of-the-line for Airline at the time. The original Res-O-Glas models were made with fiberglass bodies in two pieces, held together with screws and a rubber grommet. Unfortunately, these guitars did not have a truss rod. Instead, they had a wooden block sandwiched in the middle of the body, where the neck would mount. It had two pivot pins to raise or lower the action. The 2P model played by Jack White was known as the “Jetsons” or the JB Hutto” model, as was this beautiful 3P. The “JB Hutto” reference is a tip of the hat to the great bluesman and slide guitarist. Hutto was the first most visible guitarist to regularly use these resoglas guitars in live performances and recordings.

Here is a fine example of the original with three pickups – they were actually single coil although they look like humbuckers – a master volume and individual volume and tone for each pickup. These guitars are getting VERY hard to find and the vintage market now prices them well over $3,000. Unfortunately with the lack of a truss rod, most of the original res-o-glas guitars do not stand the test of time and typically have humped necks, poor binding and bad fretwork. That is why people like Hutto relegated them to slide use. Eastwood Guitars currently makes an excellent mahogany tone-chambered version for closer to $1,000 with modern, professional playability. Here is a link.

Vintage 1967 Apollo Deluxe Electric Guitar

Nectar of the Gods (Vintage 1967 Apollo Deluxe 2235 Electric Guitar)

One cool thing about liking oddball old guitars is they always contain hope…and a challenge. By which I mean, no matter how obscure or exotic, you always live with hope that you’ll someday figure out what the heck they are and thrive on the challenge of trying to do so. At least that’s been my repeated experience over the last quarter century or so of playing guitar detective.

Vintage 1967 Apollo Deluxe Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 Apollo Deluxe Electric Guitar

That being said, this Apollo Deluxe was kind of the exception that proved the rule, in that it followed a reverse pattern, sort of backing into discovery. While I didn’t really know what it was when I found it, I did have some idea of what it might be, or at least ought to be! I knew that the Grecian-god-themed Apollo brand was a part of the St. Louis Music (SLM) family of instruments, so all I had to do was locate it within the pantheon (SLM’s better-known brand was Electra, another Greek god).

St. Louis Music reflects one of those hazy back-stories in American (and actually international) guitar history that involve the murky world of distributors, which few people really understand. Distributors—or “jobbers”—were part of the middleman structure in the music business that bought instruments from the manufacturers (usually what we call “mass manufacturers,” like Kay or Harmony), marked them up, and got them to the music stores,department stores, and studios where they would be retailed to you and me. They’re the wringers because the guitars they bought might say Kay, but they might just as well say Cromwell or Custom Kraft. This latter was the brand used by SLM on guitars produced for them by Kay during the 1950s and ‘60s.

Vintage 1967 Apollo Deluxe Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 Apollo Deluxe Electric Guitar

A roughly equivalent—though somewhat more Byzantine—business model developed in Japan following World War II. How much that was a result of American governorship would be an interesting subject to study. Guitar manufacturers—some of whom had been active before the War—sprang up, similar to a Kay or Harmony. They sold their products to “trading companies,” whose job was to distribute domestically and to interface with foreign importers, who would then either be a distributor in its own country, or sell to other distributors, or both. (To make things worse, the trading companies may or may not have owned an interest in the manufacturing companies; can you say CMI and Gibson?) You can see why sorting this all out is not always easy!

Japanese guitars made significant inroads into the American market as the 1960s progressed. And not coincidentally, American mass manufacturing declined accordingly, although I think this was more a combination of management stagnation and cultural chauvinism than anything else. The global economy was still emerging and Depression-era-trained managers didn’t get it. There’s very little difference (read “improvement”) between a 1962 and a 1967 Kay, Harmony, or Valco guitar.

Vintage 1967 Apollo Deluxe Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 Apollo Deluxe Electric Guitar

SLM had sourced guitars from Kay for a long time but it, too, was drawn to the Japanese makers. SLM was big enough to be important players in the music industry, big enough to see the writing on the wall. They may even have had inside information that all was not rosy at Kay, which was purchased by Seeburg in 1965 and then Valco in 1967. By 1968 both Valco and Kay had gone belly-up.

Anyhow, this model shows up in an undated SLM catalog probably from around 1967. Or at least a two-pickup version does, called the Deluxe 2235. Clearly this was inspired by—or actually meant to compete with—a Burns Bison. At that time the Japanese were copying the European guitars that had been the “budget” alternatives earlier in the ‘60s. Thus, this is an early “copy” guitar. If you’ve overcome the usual prejudices of many older guitar enthusiasts, you know that this is a pretty decent guitar, once it’s properly set up. Poor set-up was the common problem of the time for these guitars. Look, these pickups ain’t DiMarzios, the switching is kind of sucky, and Japanese wiring was really small gauge, so it may not survive well, but these have their own sound and are great fun.

Even though Kay went out of business in ’68, SLM continued to offer Custom Krafts until 1970. Whether or not those were left-over stock or assembled by SLM from parts is unknown. By 1968 they were already pretty dated designs in any case, so probably not selling well. The SLM Apollos were probably not imported in large quantities, based upon how many you see: not many!

SLM, of course, would go on to introduce The Electra guitar, a copy of the Ampeg Dan Armstrong Plexiglas guitar in 1970, and Electra would be their primary brand for electrics (Alvarez for acoustics) until 1984, and they would be a major force in the importation and distribution of guitars from Asia. This Apollo represents a fascinating clue in deciphering that process!

Vintage 1960's Bartolini Avanti Electric Guitar - white

Back Catalog Memories: Bartolini Avanti Electric Guitar

In the 1950’s Italian manufacturers were cranking out accordions by the thousands. When Rock ‘n Roll came on the scene, many of these builders switched from accordions to electric guitars. Bartolini was one of them. When the electric guitar boom took off in USA in the early 60’s, Italy became a source to fill the appetite. Accordions were plastic covered, so many of these early Italian guitar were too, some with plastic bodies like this Avanti model.

Vintage 1960's Bartolini Avanti Electric Guitar - white

Vintage 1960’s Bartolini Avanti Electric Guitar – white

Not much is known about them, but here is an excerpt from a Michael Wright article:

Avanti guitars were probably made by the Polverini Brothers of Castelfidardo for European Crafts of Los Angeles beginning in late 1964. Most early Italian guitars had either push-button or rocker controls adapted from accordions, but this is unusual with a fourway rotary select that let you choose each pickup individually or all at once. All in all a sensible arrangement. Whether the pickups are really humbuckers or single-coil is unknown, but they have that bright ’60s sound.

The Italian guitar boom did not last too long, as Japanese manufacturing took over the low end guitar boom in the late 1960’s and soon all the cool European guitars disappeared from North America.

Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional 5002 Electric Guitar - Black

Within the TeleStar Orbit (Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional Electric Guitar)

I think there’s an illusion among many vintage guitar enthusiasts that the 1960s were some sort of candy store filled with glittering guitars at every turn. Certainly the remarkable variety of brands and designs that were produced and have survived help foster this illusion of abundance. But the reality on the ground back then was quite different for most of us. Few of us ever encountered a guitar like this 1967 TeleStar until well after the fact!

Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional 5002 Electric Guitar - Black

Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional 5002 Electric Guitar – Black

When Telestar—the first communications satellite and this guitar’s namesake—was launched in 1962, I was living in a small-to-medium sized city in Michigan about a 100 miles north of Detroit. I knew about Gibson guitars, of course, and Kay and Harmony (mainly through the Sears and Wards catalogs). Even though my heroes, The Ventures, played them, I’d never heard of Fenders, much less Rickenbackers, or EKOS or Teiscos, for that matter. Inevitably, my horizons expanded to include more than Midwestern guitars, but that MicroFrets or TeleStars ever existed at all came as a revelation only years later when I became something of a guitar archaeologist. I don’t think my experience was atypical.

One corollary of the illusion about the abundance of ‘60s guitars goes beyond awareness. It’s that they were so abundant. That is, that millions and millions were produced and sold. This is just not the case. The only documentation available is from reports in The Music Trades of the time, for Japanese electric guitars. The peak year was 1966, when 618,000 were imported. By 1968 the number was down to 385,000. By 1969 it was 150,000. American or European numbers aren’t available. In any case, when you spread those numbers over the plethora of brands that created the illusion in the first place, you begin to see that the quantities of many of these guitars was relatively small.

I became aware of TeleStar guitars (sometimes it was Tele-Star) when I started buying obscure paper. Somewhere along the line I obtained a brochure with a business card for one Maurice Laboz, 1129 Broadway, New York City, stapled to it. And even then, I really only began to get a clue when I met Chip Coleman, who had a vintage guitar shop in China Grove, NC, and had a large personal collection of TeleStar guitars and basses. At the time, I was working on the Kramer history and my collaborator lived in South Carolina. He had a large personal collection of Kramers. So, I put my young son and my photo gear in the car drove southward while my Kramer buddy loaded his daughter and his Kramer guitars into his car and headed northward. We rendezvoused at Chip’s place and I got all these great photos of Kramer and TeleStar guitars.

That great experience put me onto the scent, and before long I had a couple TeleStars of my own and had documented the line as far as was possible.

TeleStar guitars were being sold by 1965. While it’s not certain, many features of these guitars suggest that most, if not all, were built by Kawai. In the past I’ve speculated that there might even have been some greater business connection between Laboz, TeleStar and Kawai, similar to that of, for example, Hoshino (Ibanez) and Elger, but probably there’s a simpler answer that Laboz just got his guitars from Kawai, or whatever the trading company representing them was. A rather remarkable number of models were offered in the catalogs over the next few years, helping to reinforce the illusion of plenty. It’s unlikely that large numbers of each of these models were actually produced

In 1967, following the corporate gobbling frenzy of the times, TeleStar became a part of the Music-Craft Electronic Corporation and moved to 651 Broadway. It was from this era that the TeleStar Professional Solid Body Sparkle Electric 5002 seen here comes. Sort of inspired by a Burns Bison, this is a Kawai product. Like many ‘60s Japanese guitars, a light weight, delicate wiring, and slightly awkward sliding controls tend to cause folks to look down on these guitars, but they really can be set up to play and sound satisfactorily. However, let’s face it, the reason you really want one of this is for the sparkle finish, little silver specks that would make this guitar twinkle in the spotlights!

TeleStar guitars, including the sparkles, lasted into 1969, around which time the warehouse burned down, and the company moved to Secaucus, NJ, and became a distributor of music accessories.

Guitars like this sparkling TeleStar are certainly eye-candy. They’re just not as common as many once thought, probably only distributed on the East Coast. Still, if not common, no illusion either!

Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional Sparkle 5002 Electric Guitar

Coincidences & Satellites (Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional Sparkle 5002 Electric Guitar)

Over many years of writing about and photographing guitars, I’ve had numerous occasion to take pictures of guitars “on location.” That means packing up rather bulky photographic gear—cameras, tripods, lights, backdrops—and voyaging near and far. Sometimes this took place at a vintage guitar shop, sometimes at a collector’s place. When it came to the subject of TeleStar guitars, I got to combine both.

Actually, the coincidence of dealer and enthusiast coincided with working two rather disparate brands at the same time, TeleStar and Kramer. At the time I was working on the Kramer history with Terry Boling, who lived in South Carolina at the time and had a nice Kramer collection. I was also working on TeleStar and was in touch with Chip Coleman, who has a music store in North Carolina and a nice TeleStar collection. Into this mix was the fact that I lived in Pennsylvania and had more vacation days than my wife and I used some of it to take road trips during the summer. So, I combined all these and my son and I headed for Coleman Music, while Terry packed up his truck and drove north for the rendezvous. We set up a makeshift studio and I took pictures of both collections. We can talk Kramer later.

Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional Sparkle 5002 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional Sparkle 5002 Electric Guitar

TeleStar guitars, basses and amps were sold by the Tele-Star Trading Corporation (Importers and Exporters), 1129 Broadway, New York, headed by Maurice Laboz, about whom we know very little. There’s a possibility that Tele-Star had some sort of direct relationship with the Japanese manufacturer Kawai, since many features on TeleStars smack of Kawai and many were definitely built by Kawai, but any formal connection other than as a supplier is only speculative. The first TeleStar guitars appeared in 1965 and were pretty primitive short-scale beginner models, except for an amp-in-guitar made by Teisco, a version of the Teisco TRG-1.

Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional Sparkle 5002 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional Sparkle 5002 Electric Guitar

Early TeleStars tended to stay among the offerings, sometimes with slight modifications, with new, better models added. However, the cool thing was the addition of a new Professional Solid Body Speckled Electrics line in 1966. Speckled by any other name means “sparkle” finishes. I’ve not seen any ’66 catalogs, but these were probably similar to what we have here, possibly with narrow oval pickups.

In 1967 the name of the line changed to Sparkle Solid Body Electric Guitars, and included the 5002 (two pickups with vibrato), 5003 (three pickups with vibrato) and 5004 (four pickups with vibrato). Sparkles came in gold, silver, blue and green flecked finishes. These are what are mentioned in the catalogs, however, I own this black 5002 with silver flecks plus a cream-finished one with multi-color flecks, so obviously those were offered as well. (It’s possible that these finishes signify that these are later than 1967.) You can see why Chip was into them. Who wouldn’t be?

Seen here is a c. 1967 TeleStar Professional Solid Body Sparkle Electric Guitar 5002 built by Kawai. As you can see, it’s kind of modeled after a Burns Bison. The sliders are on/off switches, with a volume and tone control. Basic but good enough to do Pipeline.

Look, you’d never confuse this with a Fender (or probably even a Burns Bison), but it sure has style, and, like most Japanese guitars of this period, actually plays very nicely once it gets the benefit of a good set-up, which most didn’t. Pickups from this era are hit or miss. If you’re lucky, they have a crisp, clean single-coil sound, with a tendency toward being microphonic, which is good or bad, depending on your point of view. Usually the weakest links are use of teeny wires for the harness and crummy tone caps, which this guitar shares.

Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional Sparkle 5002 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 TeleStar Professional Sparkle 5002 Electric Guitar

In 1967 the company changed names to become the Tele-Star Musical Instrument Company, now a subsidiary of the Music-Craft Electronic Corporation now at 651 Broadway. That probably indicates that they were purchased by Music-Craft, or whomever owned/set up the company. At the same time violin- and teardrop-shaped guitars joined the line.

The sparkle solidbodies continued into 1969 pretty much unchanged, but by then kids were high listening to Hendrix, Clapton and the Doors. It’s hard to imagine Hendrix playing a sparkle TeleStar! TeleStar begins to fade after this. At some point their New York City warehouse burned down and they relocated to Secaucus, NJ. With the move guitars were gone for good, and Tele-Star distributed accessories. In around 1982 Laboz, who was still in charge, sold the company to Fred Gretsch, Jr., and it effectively disappeared.
Fortunately, Chip Coleman had more than just the sparkle TeleStars for me to photograph, but it’s really the Sparkle TeleStars we remember with fondness.

Michael Wright, The Different Strummer, is a collector and historian whose work is featured in Vintage Guitar Magazine.

Vintage 1967 Gretsch Corvette 6135 Electric Guitar

I Get Around (Vintage 1967 Gretsch Corvette 6135 Electric Guitar)

Get around round round I get around/I’m a real cool head/Get around round round I get around/I’m makin’ real good bread. Back in the day, The Beach Boys were often pictured with what was sort of their “band car,” a Chevy Corvette Stingray. There was some spiritual force that inextricably linked hot rods and guitars back in the early to mid-1960s. Rock and roll and Big Daddy Roth kind of went together. Just ask Billy Gibbons. Or just consider this 1967 Gretsch Corvette 6135.

Vintage 1967 Gretsch Corvette 6135 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 Gretsch Corvette 6135 Electric Guitar

While it’s blasphemy to many hardcore vintage guitar guys, I never really found myself attracted to Gretsch guitars. I grew up (a long time ago) in northern Indiana, northern Ohio, and northern Michigan. No one played Gretsches. No one played Fenders. A cheap guitar was a Harmony or Kay (or some no-name abomination) either from a teaching studio or, more likely, out of the Sears or Ward’s catalog. A good guitar was a Gibson from Kalamazoo. That’s what you aspired to.

It was, no doubt a function of geography and distribution (and not living in a big city). Plus, of course, Kalamazoo was “local” to all those places I lived. It was only later that I became aware that there was a much wider world of guitar options, well after this guitar was made!

Gibson, of course, was competitive in the lower end of the solidbody electric market, with its Les Paul Jr. And, of course, it had wreaked its wrath on its long-time competitor Epiphone when, after purchasing the company in 1957, it turned the brand into its budget alternative. Then also there were those semi-dreadful Kalamazoo models.

Vintage 1967 Gretsch Corvette 6135 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 Gretsch Corvette 6135 Electric Guitar

Another Gibson competitor, Gretsch stuck with electric hollowbodies until Gibson’s plunge into solids with the Les Paul in 1952. Gretsch responded with its similarly styled Duo Jet models the following year. Then the Baby Boom market (me) hit the radar. To offer a more affordable entry-level alternative for young players about to start jamming to the Beach Boys or the Ventures, Gretsch introduced its downscale Corvette in 1961, a slab-bodied version of this guitar, outfitted with a trapeze tail and one Hi-Lo Tron single-coil pickup. This beveled body style debuted in 1963, outfitted with a Burns vibrato, with one or two Hi-Lo Trons (6132 and 6135). This reverse head appeared in 1964. The guitar seen here (#97363—September 1967) was built right around the time of the Baldwin takeover of Gretsch, though it’s still a Gretsch Gretsch, not really a Baldwin Gretsch.

I picked this up years ago at a vintage guitar show in Philly at a bargain because it wasn’t Kosher. While Corvettes did come with Super-Tron pickups beginning in 1970, this had its pickups changed for Super-Trons (OK but amateur job) probably early on in its existence. Of course, the irony is that it was actually an “upgrade!” Still, this has a great vintage Gretsch sound with glued-in neck and a real Bixby. Knobs are volume and two tones, the threeways a select and a treble boost. If you’re getting on like me, one thing you appreciate in a light-weight guitar like this is you can play it as long as you like with no implications for your back!

The Gretsch Corvette had a pretty good run actually. Debuting in 1961, it remained in the Gretsch line until it was discontinued in favor of those somewhat goofy models like the TK-300 and the Beasts in 1978, nice enough in their own way, but pale reflections of the classic Gretsch era.

Unless you’re really, really old (and probably not reading this), it’s pretty likely that seeing either a chopped and channeled ’32 Ford Roadster or a cool if modified Gretsch Corvette like this will bring a similar kind of ear-to-ear grin to your face! You could get around with this Corvette. Play in the right band and you might even make real good bread!

Vintage 1967 Gretsch Corvette 6135 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 Gretsch Corvette 6135 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Back Catalog Memories: 1960’s EKO Cobra Guitars

EKO was an Italian manufacturer located in Recanati, Italy. Their products include classical guitars, 12-string guitars, arch top guitars, electric guitars and acoustic bass guitars. EKO guitars gained high popularity during the rock’n’roll craze of 1960s, becoming the largest guitar exporter in Europe. Their electric models were often highly ornamented with pearl, featured 3 or 4 pickups and recognizable “rocker” switches for pickup selection. The acoustic models were popular in country and folk rock bands of the late ’60s.

These guitars were imported into the United States during the 1960’s by Milwaukee import company, Deluca Brothers Music. This particular model – The Cobra Series – was a “student” entry level guitar. They were available in single and double pickup 6 string version, mainly in Black, Sunburst or Red. Also in a 12 string version in Sunburst or Red and a 30″ scale Bass in Sunburst. Surprisingly nice necks on these guitars even 50 years later, the body material is extremely lightweight and the guitars are fun to play.

EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 6-String Electric Guitar (Red)

EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960's EKO Cobra 12-String Electric Guitar (Sunburst)