Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Gumby Guitar by Guild

Here is a little history lesson about Guild Guitars, the manufacturer of the Guild S-200 Thunderbird, which sort of resembles the little claymation guy, Gumby.

In 1873 Anastasios Stathopoulos made his own fiddles and Turkish lutes (oud, laouto). He was living in Smyrna, which is now Izmir, Turkey.  Stathopoulos moved to the United States of America in 1903, and continued to make his original instruments, as well as mandolins, from Long Island City in Queens, New York.

When Anastasios died in 1915, and his son, Epaminondas, nicknamed Epi, took over. After two years, the company was known as The House Of Stathopoulous. In addition to the instruments that had been their mainstay, the company began manufacturing banjos under the Recording brandname.
It was in 1928 when the company produced their first guitars under the brandname Epiphone. 

Epi passed away in 1943 and his two brothers, Orphie and Frixo, were left running the business. The partnership lasted only five years when Frixo sold his share of the company to his brother. Orphie continued to run the company. 


He moved it out of New York to Philadelphia when he workers threatened to strike. Finally in 1957 when he had enough and sold out to Gibson Guitar's owner Chicago Musical Instruments.

The craftsmen that worked for Epiphone were left without work when Gibson/CMI moved production to their headquarters in Kalamazoo Michigan.

Former Epiphone executive Alfred Dronge and a music retailer George Mann banded together in 1952 to found Guild Guitars in Manhattan, New York. They purchased a building close to where the old Epiphone factory had been located. Not too far away was the factory where Gretsch guitars were being built. 

Dronge and Mann were able to hire some of the craftsmen that had been working for Epiphone and lured a few away from Gretsch.

In the mid 1960's Guild were not only producing fine acoustic guitars, but also were building outstanding electric guitars and basses.

But the one that stands out in my mind is the Guild S-200 Thunderbird aka The Gumby Guitar as it sort of resembles the little clay guy when you stand it up.

And by the way, you don't need a guitar stand for the Guild S-200. In the back of the body tucked away in a routed out cavity was a spring-loaded, hinged, nine inch flat chrome bar to allow you to prop the guitar up vertically.

This Guitar was equipped with two pickups, 2 tone circuits for each pickup on/off switches and phase switch. The body shape with the three slider switches looked somewhat like a Fender Jaguar.

The lead pickup knobs go to up to nine. The Guild S-200 came equipped with a Hagstrom tremolo unit. Later production models switched from the Humbucking pickups to DeArmond single coil pickups. As far as I can discern the guitar was produced from around 1963 to 1968.

I call your attention to the asymmetrical headstock shape, the carved and contoured body and the inlay on the bound neck. The neck on the Guild S-200 was a set neck. In essence it was a quality instrument.

All of us who are old enough to remember Shindig, Hullabaloo, Where The Action Is, Ready Steady Go and other TV rock shows of that era may recall Zal Yanovsky, lead player of the Lovin' Spoonful rocking out on his Guild S-200 Thunderbird.










2 comments:

phfobric said...

Rehabbing a DeArmond/Guild Sevenstar. Bought for 207usd. Have NO IDEA why they sell so low. Quarter-sewn neck, DeArmond pups (which one's, I have no idea, but would like to know; black, S/duncan looking), Firebird-sy feel. Adding Hag trem, red switches on the lower bout for coil-tapping; red slider for in-out phase. Should make his Daddy proud; the venerable S200 Thunderbird...

phfobric said...

Yes, I have a machinist/welder who will fab a 7-string claw for the Tremar. He wants to know if there would be a market for them. I said, "I don't know".