By Michael Wright The Different Strummer I’ve always been a sucker for oddball guitars. A LaBaye 2×4? You bet! A Bunker Astral Series Sunstar? Yup! A Jay Turser Shark? O’Hagan Shark? Of course. So, when a chance to get a moon-shaped guitars beckoned, the call was irresistible. Now, despite its hallowed place in the […]
In the good old days, guitar cognoscenti used to snicker at ‘60s Japanese guitar styles because they looked as if they just couldn’t get it right. As in make a guitar as clean and cool as a Fender Strat or Jazzmaster. The joke was on the experts. If the Japanese guitar designers did anything, they got […]
For this last musing on ugly duckling guitars, let us turn our attention to this example from Japan, this Guyatone LG-160T. The Fenton-Weill Tux-master we contemplated was pretty much unrelentingly ugly, only redeemable if you fondly remember it from your youth. The Burns UK Flyte was more of a space oddity than especially ugly, but it sure didn’t grow on me, at least. However, some unusual guitars do eventually win your heart over the more you stare at them. I think that this is the case here.
If you’ve read even a little of my writing about guitars over the years, you know I’m fatally attracted to unusual guitars. There’s a reason I’m “The Different Strummer.” But even I have to admit some guitars are just plain ugly. A case in point: the Fenton-Weill Tux-master from England, a country (sorry, friends) that has more than its share of these birds.
Go ahead, admit it. If someone told you there was a cool Sixties guitar with a factory setting called “Wild Dog” (or maybe even one called “Split-Sound”), you’d want one, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. That’s why, once I found out about the Burns Jazz Split-Sound, it went straight to the top of my wish list. But sometimes when you get what you wish for it doesn’t live up to the hype!
Jeopardy Quiz: When do you think this Bunker guitar was made? When I first laid eyes on it, I was pretty sure it was from the late 1970s. It just has that ‘70s “natural” kind of vibe. Well, the correct response would be, “What is 1968?” I was shocked. This matched none of my presuppositions about guitars from the Sixties. But then, Dave Bunker has made a career out of being ahead of his time with the unexpected.
I love playing the “what if?” game. You know, like “What if farmers had rotated crops instead of planting the same darned thing every year back in the 1930s?” Crop patterns and guitars? Yeah, because it was the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression, caused in part by poor farming practices meeting drought, that sent legions of Okies and Texans west into California. That led to a rage for Western Swing and then the Bakersfield Sound. And without the products of that cultural collision we might not have had Fenders or… wait for it… Carvins.
Ever since electric guitars and amplifiers were invented in the 1930s, certain folks have been interested in cutting down the amount of gear you have to schlepp to a gig. You gotta have a guitar. It’s gotta have a case to carry it in. And the amp electronics have to be housed in some sort of a cabinet. I know! Let’s combine the case and the amp electronics: Amp-in-case guitars. The primary “certain folk” was the brains behind probably the first amp-in-case guitar and the iconic version seen here, Mr. Nate (or “Nat”) Daniel, namesake of the Danelectro company.
Guitar history has yielded some very odd marriages, from a business perspective, at least. While these can be found at almost any time, perhaps the glory days of unusual conjunctions was the 1960s, when cascading demand for electric guitars among maturing Baby Boomers caused corporations, both with and without music industry experience, to realize that thar’s gold in them thar hills. Among the odder of these unions was that between Chicago’s Heads & Threads company and Norma, Noble, and even National guitars.
This Imperial came out of a little piece of Dickens in Philadelphia called Torresdale Music in the neighborhood with that name, in the “near northeast” as we call it, near the Burlington-Bristol Bridge (cheapest toll bridge over the Delaware River to New Jersey and back). Torresdale was a tiny, ancient corner shop just up the street from Chink’s Steaks, a legendary cheesesteak sandwich purveyor, the name of whose establishment has been the source of some local ethnic controversy. (Really good cheesesteaks consumed while sitting in 1940s-vintage wooden booths, highly recommended.)
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