Now that we’ve grabbed your attention, you may be surprised to find that it’s not that easy to write responsibly about a guitar with a shapely woman’s derriere replacing quilted maple on the top, but we’ll give it the old college try.
Growing up outside Toronto in the early 1970’s, El Degas was a very popular brand in most guitar shops. Made in Japan, the quality was great, the price was right, but that is about all we know about them. The internet is surprisingly thin on threads to the origins of El Degas. I’ll take some educated guesses from owning a few.
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.
There was a period in time about 12 months before the official birth of Eastwood Guitars, where www.myrareguitars.com was selling more NEW guitars than Vintage Guitars. From 1999-2002, MRG was a dealer for Dipinto Guitars, Burns UK, EKO, Italia, Tokai and many others. One of the brands at that time was STARS. STARS? I know, never heard of it. Maybe it lasted for only 18 months at best, but they put out a Brian May copy that was WAY better than most people expected, at a price that was unbeatable, around $599.
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!
The inspiration for the Astrojet v2.0 was the 1964 Astro-Jet from Gretsch(R). Eastwood Guitars has made a few improvements over the original design – added a tun-o-matic style adjustable bridge (original could not adjust intonatoin) – upgraded to a Bigsby B-50 tremolo (optional) rather than the old 60’s Burns model – changed the middle switch […]
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.
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.
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!