Airline guitars have come a long way since their late-Fifties early days. But, how do the new ones, made by Eastwood Guitars, compare to the originals? Res-O-Glass vs. Mahogany, Old vs. New. Who wins?
The original Airline guitars were cheap, plastic (or rather, “Res-O-Glass”) models made between 1958-1968 and sold by Montgomery Ward via shops and catalogues. They were never intended to be great-quality instruments – but cheap alternatives for beginners who couldn’t afford bigger brands such as Fender, Gibson or Gretsch.
Most Airlines were made of Res-O-Glass simply because it made them cheaper and quicker to be put together – with no particular regard for quality or tone.
However, this characteristic made those guitars quite unique, and eventually a few professional players started to appreciate the qualities of the Res-O-Glass tone as “a thing”.
One of the first performers to be closely linked to the instrument was bluesman J. B. Hutto, whose red Airline must’ve been one of the inspirations for Jack White playing one, decades later:
Ah yes… Jack White. Despite the fact other musicians over the years have opted for vintage Airline Guitars (PJ Harvey, Calexico, Black Keys, Brian Jonestown Massacre) it was Jack White who most certainly brought the brand (especially the now-iconic JB-Hutto guitar shape) to the attention of a wider audience.
Vintage Airline Guitars vs. Eastwood Airline Guitars: What’s Different?
When considering which one to buy, it’s important to remember a few things.
1) The first is this: Jack White didn’t really like his Airline guitar.
Yes. True. He, basically, thought they were terrible. Not long ago, White described his experience playing them:
“If people only knew how hard it was on these shitty guitars … because I didn’t know!”
But, of course, there are other, less obvious but very important changes – or, as should we call them, upgrades: the tone-chambered mahogany body, Airline vintage voiced Single coils (Humbucker-sized), tune-o-matic bridge and bolt-on maple neck. The new Airlines sound great, rich, and are more comfortable and familiar to play than vintage ones.
The vintage Airline Res-O-Glass guitars are undoubtedly cool, and any guitarist will get extra kudos for owning one. If you got one dirty cheap in the 90’s, that would’ve been definitely 100% worth it, even if no one wanted to buy one anymore, today. But now… are they really worth the price tag they go for today, after the Jack White hype? Mmmm…
So, the big question, then: are the new Airline guitars by Eastwood better than the originals? We would say so – just as many professional musicians playing one, worldwide also would. Let’s face it, a tone-chambered mahogany body beats plastic any day. There’s a reason why most guitars by most brands are made of wood, after all.
But we’ll leave the final answer to you – after all, in everything in life, and certainly when it comes to guitars, your own taste is what matters, and it’ll change from player to player. If you ever come across a Res-O-Glass guitar, by all means have a go – you might even love it. But will it be worth the investment, especially if you’re a gigging musician? Perhaps… perhaps not.
Watch: Vintage Airline Guitar vs. New Airline Guitar by Eastwood
Vintage Airline guitar demo:
New Airline guitar demo: