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!
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.
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.
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!
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…
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. 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.
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. That being said, this 1967 Apollo Deluxe was kind of the exception that proved the rule, in that it followed a reverse pattern, sort of backing into discovery.
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 […]
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!
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.
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