|Guild Electric Guitars|
|1976 Guild S100 Carved|
Guild acoustic guitars seemed to enjoy better name recognition than the companies electric brands. However in my opinion, Guild electric guitars were every bit as good and in some cases superior to the products being put out by their competition.
|Al Dronge on the right|
Dronge immigrated with his family to the United States in 1916 and grew up in Manhattan, near the Music Row district, around West 48th street.
He was an accomplished banjo player and guitarist. He eventually opened a music store in the same part of town back he grew up in. This was in the mid-1930’s and Dronge successfully ran it until 1948. He then amassed a fortune by importing accordions and distributing them in the early 1950’s when the accordion was a very popular musical instrument.
|Al Dronge - George Mann|
Another friend of both men, Gene Detgen, suggested the name “Guild”. So in 1952 the company was founded with Mann as president and Dronge as vice-president and former Epiphone employees were hired. A year after forming the company Mann departed leaving Al Dronge in charge.
|Guild Guitar Factory Manhattan|
|Carl Kress & George Barnes|
|'58 Johnny Smith Award|
In fact Johnny Smith worked with the factory to develop a signature guitar which became the Artist Award. Another jazz giant, George Barnes, helped develop another signature guitar. Both of these models were in high demand among studio performers. A signature hollow-body guitar designed for Duane Eddy became a rockabilly classic.
|1962 Guild X-175|
It was during this era that Guild created some of their classic electric models such as the X-175 and the M-75 Aristocrat.
|1957 M-75 Aristocrat|
|'58 Guild Aristocrat|
The pickups on this guitar looked like P-90 soap bar models, but were made by the Franz company of Astoria New York and were of a lower output. It looked like a slightly smaller version of the George Barnes model.
|1967 Guild BluesBird|
|'70 Guld M-75|
By 1970 the designation changed to the M-75 and hardward was downgraded from gold-plated to chrome plated. The body on this guitar was solid beginning around 1971.
|Guild S-200 “Thunderbird”, S-100 “Polara”, S-50 “Jet Star”|
It was during the 1960’s that Guild produced their finest electric guitars.
These included the Thunderbird series, the S-100 Polara, and the Starfire series.
|Jerry Garcia with Guild Starfire III|
Guitarists Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia and bassist Phil Lesh, all of the Grateful Dead had their Guild Starfire guitars and basses modified by the Alembic company as did bass player Jack Cassady of Jefferson Airplane.
The Gibson company had first offered the ES-225 guitar in 1955. The Guild Starfire II and Starfire III bore a similar body shape to this instrument with its thin body, single Florentine cutaway, and twin pickups.
|Guild Starfire II|
|Starfire II with DeArmond pickups|
|The Kingsmen "Louie, Louie"|
One little known fact is that Mike Mitchell, the guitarist for The Kingsmen, used a Guild Starfire II to record the solo on the groups one big hit, Louie, Louie.
|1965 Guild Starfire III|
|'64 Starfire III w DeArmonds|
Later sunburst was added and available until 1967. In 1962 Guild added Ebony Grain, Emerald Green, Black, White and Amber custom finishes. The original models were offered through 1973.
|1968 Guild Starfire IV|
|1961 Starfire IV with Natural finish|
Once again the Starfire IV had individual controls for tone and volume for each pickup. The selector switch was mounted on the guitars lower cutaway. The set-in neck was bound and topped with a rosewood fretboard with 22 frets and dot position markers. The body joined at the 16th fret, then after 1967 this was changed to the 18th fret, Once again the distinctive Guild logo was inlaid on the black headstock veneer, and below it was the Guild Chesterfield crest. The tuners were either Grover Sta-tites or Rotomatics. Interestingly it was available with stereo wiring as an option.
Originally this guitar was offered in cherry and sunburst. Later custom colours were added including white, black, blonde, brown and natural finish. The strings passed over a tuneable saddles mounted on a rosewood bridge and were secured to a Guild harp tailpiece.
|'63 Starfire V|
|'67 Starfire V|
|1967 Starfire VI|
Instead of a rosewood fretboard, the Starfire VI came with an ebony fretboard and inlaid block markers. The headstock veneer had the Guild name inlaid, and inlaid under it was a Guild “G” logo.
|'67 Starfire XII|
|'65 Starfire bass|
The Guild Starfire bass was most interesting. Player such as Jack Cassidy and Phil Lesh played this instrument (albeit that their instruments were modified by Alembic). This was a double cutaway hollow body bass, somewhat similar in shape to the 1958 version of Gibson’s EB-2 bass. However the Starfire bass was a hollow instrument that hit the scene in 1965.
|1966 Starfire bass|
The headstock, like other Starfire models, had the Guild logo inlaid on the veneer and the Chesterfield crest. The earliest models came with only a volume and tone control, but by 1968 a push-button bass boost switch was added.
|1967 Starfire II bass|
|'67 Starfire II bass in emerald green|
This bass included the same Hagstrom bridge/saddle unit, but no bass boost button. In fact, by 1970 this was replaced with a tone control on the single pickup model. The Starfire and Starfire II basses were available with stereo wiring or with a fretless neck. The model was discontinued by 1977.
|Zal Yanovsky with Guild S-200|
Guitarist Zal Yanovsky of The Lovin’ Spoonful and Bluesman Muddy Waters used Guild Thunderbird S-200 guitars.
|'63 S-200 Thunderbird|
This guitar was equipped with twin humbucking pickups, each with separate volume controls and tone controls. It also had a faceplate on the lower side of the upper bout that housed 3 slider switches in a similar manner to the Fender Jaguar.
The 2 lower switches were on/off controls for each pickup. The upper switch was an on/off mode switch. Housed between the switching faceplate and the volume potentiometers was another mode switch. Switched upward it effected only the neck pickup and downward effected both pickups. When the mode switch was on it activated capacitors that produced a single coil type of tone, while maintaining the humbucking capability of the pickups giving the guitar a sparkling clean sound.
The strings attached to a tremolo unit that was made by the Hagstrom Guitar company. The guitars neck was bound and had mother-of-pearl block inlays. The headstock was made with a very unique carve on it's top and the Guild logo was inlaid above a "thunderbird" inlay.
|S-200 Built-in stand|
Due to the inward carve on the bottom of this guitar, some ingenious designer at Guild decided the finishing touch would be to add a metal bar to the back of the guitar that acted like a built-in guitar stand.
|S-100 and S-200|
The S-200 Thunderbird guitar was also produced with twin single coil pickups. The S-100 was another guitar in the series that had less switching features and a less fancy headstock but retained the built-in guitar stand.
In 1966, the Guild Musical Instruments Corporation, as it was now known, was bought out by electronics giant Avnet Inc. This was right at the end of the guitar boom, but corporations were still hoping to profit from the popularity of the guitar.
|Guild's Westerly, Rhode Island factory|
Sadly he was piloting a small aircraft and commuting to Westerly when his plane crashed in May of 1972. He was a popular and respected man and his employees, and the industry felt his loss.
|'79 Guild D-40C|
In 1972, under Guild's new president Leon Tell, noteworthy guitarist/designer Richard "Rick" Excellente conceptualized and initiated the first dreadnought guitar with a "cut-away" with the Guild D40-C. By the 1970’s and 80’s, the Folk Era, and the Guitar Boom were history.
|'84 X-79, '87 Detonator, '88 Liberator|
These guitars were the first Guild instruments to bear slim pointed headstocks.
|Guitars drying at Westerly plant|
But Fender had plans to move production to their facility in Corona, California.
The last job the good folks in Westerly did for Guild was to put together archtop and acoustic guitar “kits” that were to be shipped to California where they would be finished and assembled. Although Corona does have a wonderful plant, production of Guild guitars was not to be continued there. Later on there were rumors that FMIC may move production back to Westerly, but nothing ever happened.
|The Tacoma Guitar Factory|
Sadly Tacoma Guitars, which were unique and excellent instruments, were never built again. Guild guitars were built in Tacoma for only a few years.
|Kaman Music Corp, New Hartford|
By then FMIC was also outsourcing production. To be fair, as far back as when Guild was in Westerly, Rhode Island, the company had outsourced some of its products, but not under the Guild brand name.
|1979 Madeira Guitar Ad|
In the early 1970’s Guild was importing Madeira acoustic and electric guitars from Japan. Later on these were made in Korea. The pickguard shapes and headstock shapes on these instruments are different than USA made Guild guitars.
|DeArmond Rhythm Chief pickup|
In the late 1990’s Fender made some reissues of Guild electric guitars that were manufactured in Korea and in Indonesia and marketed under the brandname DeArmond. These guitars and basses were variations on the Gulld Starfire, the X-155, the T400, the M-75 Bluesbird, and the pilot series bass. The headstock bore the DeArmond logo and some included a modified version of Guild’s Chesterfield inlay. Some even had the word Guild etched into the truss rod cover.
|DeArmond Starfire IV|
The best models came from Korea, while the less fancy guitars and bass examples were made in Indonesia. The DeArmond brand was first offered in Europe and then in the United States and was discontinued in the early 2000’s.
|New Hartford F-412|
|Guild F-30 GSR|
These models featured unique takes on classic Guild Traditional Series models.
|2012 Starfire VI|
In the summer of 2014 Fender sold off the Guild brand to Cordoba guitars. Most Ovation production had already been moved to Asia and the Kaman Corporation was entirely out of the music manufacturing business.
|Oxnard, CA Guild plant|
|Guild GAD series|
In 2015 the GAD (Guild Acoustic Design Series) was replaced by the Westerly Collection, which included the models such as the T-50 Slim, the Starfire IV, and the Chris Hillman Bass.
Later that year the first M-20 and D-20 guitars were built in the Oxnard factory and in the spring of 2016 shipped to the Chicago Music Exchange.
|A Few New Guild Electric Guitar Models|