Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Mosrite Strawberry Alarm Clock Guitars

Some guitars are unique and others are just plain bizarre. We will focus on the bizarre today.

Semie Moseley and his brother Andy Moseley were Christians. As a young man Semie traveled around California with his friend Reverend Ray Boatwright. Semie would play guitar for revivals and tent meetings for the Reverend.

Boatwright eventually recognized that Moseley had a real talent in woodworking. He bought Semie his first band saw in the early 1950's

In 1952 the Mosrite Guitar Company was started. The company name, Mosrite, paid honor to their benefactor and the brother's sir name. Semie and Brother Andy custom built electric guitars. These were not just any guitars however. They had shapes unlike anything else on the market. When he was only 19 years old, Semie had put together his first triple-neck guitar and was repairing guitars for Merle Travis.





He built a custom double-neck instrument for TV artist Joe Maphis, who was billed as the King of Strings. Maphis had a young guitar phenom on the show Town Hall Party called Larry Collins.
Collins and his sister were known as The Collins Kids. Larry Collins was provided with a Mosley double-neck that was the almost the twin of the Maphis' instrument.

The Moseley’s continued to struggle to make ends meet. They were building all the guitars by hand by themselves. Word of these wonderful instrument reached session players. They even sold some guitars to Grand Ol’ Opry performers.
Gene Moles with his Mosrite
One session player, Gene Moles, was displaying his Mosrite guitar to Nokie Edwards of The Ventures. Edwards feel in love with that guitar. He asked Moles to take him out to visit that guy that builds these wonderful guitars.
Edwards went off with one of his own and The Ventures hooked up with Moseley to build custom made Ventures guitars and basses. Moseley’s fortune came and went and came back and went again.
Moseley guitars that sold for up to $300 in the 1960’s are now being sought after by collectors and bring in tens of thousands of dollars. There are over 30 companies making copies of Mosrite style guitars.


Which brings us to discuss a group called The Strawberry Alarm Clock. In the late 1960’s,  we encountered a period of time that came to be known as The Psychedelic Era.

This was characterized by guys usually dressed in clothing they bought from women’s clothing stores (that’s where Hendrix got his attire...you don't believe me? Check it out!), who played guitar through powerful Frigidaire sized amplifiers and sang nonsense lyrics.



The Strawberry Alarm Clock was one group that actually showed some skill and put together some tunes that people enjoyed. So the music powers that be got them a lot of air time on the radio and a lot of face time in concerts.

I won’t go into all the Alarm Clock’s history. Suffice to say, “Incense and Peppermints” is still one of those classic songs no matter how hard you try, you can’t get out of your head because you've heard it since 1967 due to 54 years of radio play.

Somehow Moseley hooked up with the Alarm Clock and was commissioned to design as set of two guitars and a bass for the group. These guitars all had Mosrite style parts, pickups, vibrato and bridges, but also had the bizarre feature of being surrounded by a wooden frame.
After finishing the bodies, Moseley shipped them to famed California artist Von Dutch. He was known for unusual auto pin striping and painted body designs as well as painting designs on surfboards.
Due to his involvement the guitar became known also as The Surfboard Guitars aka the Strawberry Alarm Clock Guitars.

The guitar housed in the Lemelson Center
One of these is housed at the Lemelson Center of American History in the Smithsonian Museum.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)



 


7 comments:

Steve Hale said...

My Uncle, Al Hartel made the "Surf Guitars" in his garage in Downey California. Al worked as a pattern maker for Garrett Air Research in Torrance Ca. He made Guitars, Boats and sculptures in his spare time.

Anonymous said...

Your blog would be so much better if you talked more about the guitars, and less about your disdain for folk and psychedelia. It makes you sound less like a guitar expert and more like a bitter, sour asshat.

Anonymous said...

....who played guitar through powerful Frigidaire sized amplifiers and sang nonsense lyrics. ?? LOL! Have a little 'sense of humour' dear Mr.anonymous.Your anonymous comment makes you sound like a bitter, sour asshat.

Dear Mr.Ohara, I am enjoying every bit of your blog,thanks!

Nafi Bensusan

Anonymous said...

Way, way, way back, in the dawn of time, I went to school with Mark Mosley, and took guitar lessons at the Mosrite Studio, in Bakersfield. Man, I'm not even going to tell you the names of the people that dropped in there to jam on the new guitars. It was THE PLACE TO BE...some days! Bakersfield was the place to be in those days!

Anonymous said...

BTW, I dig your site. Thank you.

EmmyStens said...

Hi Cousin Steve. It's Emily, Donna's daughter. Grandpa made those in their garage in Lakewood, Ca. Mom still remembers watching him make them. I always love looking at the articles on these guitars.

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