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.
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.
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.
I have a friend with a cool little music store here in St. Louis. I pop in from time to time since he always has a great selection of vintage lap steels, as well as an ever-changing assortment of oddball pieces to check out. As I was on my way out the door after one of my most recent visits, I spotted an early 80s Harmony “Flying V,” and immediately stopped in my tracks.
Scott Baxendale has been building custom hand made guitars since 1974. Recently he settled in Athens Georgia where he is currently building custom guitars, restoring vintage guitars and teaching the art of lutherie to aspiring craftsman. Scott Baxendale’s legacy of building custom instruments began in 1974, when he arrived in Winfield, Kansas to work for […]
What is it about the Japanese and the Ventures? I mean, I cut my teeth with the Ventures. They were the perfect band to learn guitar from. The Ventures took songs with often complex harmonic structures—like the wonderful Johnny Smith classic—and stripped them down to their basic melodies, gave them a simple rock groove, and played them clean. I had the sheet music to Smith’s song, but there was no way in you know where I was gong to play off that. But follow along with the Ventures’ single? You bet!
Check out, for instance, this rare bird. A 1966 Wurlitzer Gemini, made at the Hollman-Woodell guitar factory in Neodesha, Kansas. Part of Wurlitzer’s THE WILD ONES series (which included the more pedestrian-looking, but still pretty rad Cougar and Wildcat models), these were made to compete with the best of the domestic market. High end tuners (Klutsons), a wonderful chunky bound neck (like a Fender V shape, but a bit thicker), and a great look highlight the Gemini.
Judging by many of my last few years guitar purchases (on Ebay and elsewhere), I’m the kind of a person who seems to think he’s the kind of a person who likes guitars with a lot of knobs and switches. I’ve bought several multi-pickup guitars. Old ones, new ones, new ones made to look like old ones (not those stupid “relic-ed” ones, though…I’m an idiot, but I’m not stupid). Yet, as I look at the keepers in my collection, I’ve only kept one guitar with more than four knobs, and none with more than two pickups. Odd.
How would you feel if you got a gig playing on your local television station and your gear didn’t work? Well, in a way, that’s what happened to me and this 1965 Teisco TRG-2L guitar! Sort of.
I don’t remember exactly when I’d heard about Messenger guitars. But many years later, having a nice collection of guitars with aluminum necks seemed like just what I needed! I needed a Messenger.
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