Knowledge can be a terrible thing, especially if you’re a collector like me. Once I learn about a subject—say, an obscure guitar maker with connections to bigger things that almost no one knows about—I want one, or two. Never fails. That’s how I ended up with this 1981 Renaissance bass.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
As a rule, I’ve never been too enamored of “pop” music, if you define pop as largely vocal-oriented music with catchy melodies and easy-to-remember lyrics, almost always love-themed. So, ordinarily, a pop band like The Police would be off my radar. Still, Andy Summers was able to weave some pretty interesting guitar textures—without traditional flash solos—behind Sting’s singing, so I paid attention. Besides, it was Andy Summers who almost single-handedly created a market for minimalist guitars like this c. 1985 Austin Hatchet.
It has always amused me that one of the great tempests in the teapot of guitardom has been the legendary “lawsuit” of the 1970s. You know, when Norlin (aka Gibson) sued Elger (aka Hoshino, aka Ibanez) in 1977 over trademark infringement based upon “copying” Gibson’s headstock design. There are tons of ironies in this story, but one of the most amusing aspects is that companies such as Gibson have been one of the most egregious copyists of its own guitars over the years. Witness the Korean-made Epiphone Firebird 500 seen here.
Sex always sells…or so they say. And certainly when you’re marketing an electric solidbody guitar to testosterone-heavy adolescent and young adult males, showing a bit of female flesh is sure to get attention, whether or not it will move product. Few guitar ad campaigns have pursued this strategy with more verve than the one for […]
One of the privileges of writing about guitars for as long as I have is that guitar people will talk with you. I’ve had many memorable conversations with people who’ve helped shape—often literally—the guitars we all know and love. Perhaps no conversation was more memorable than a long, detailed talk I had with Dave Wintz, […]