Monday, July 27, 2015

Kay Guitars

The Kay Musical Instrument Company was one of many early musical instrument manufacturers in the United States. The Kay company was officially established in 1931 at Chicago, Illinois by Henry Kay Kuhrmeyer.

Groeschel Mandolins
Kuhrmeyer had worked his way up the ranks of a very old musical instrument company called Stromberg-Voisinet, not to be confused with Stromberg Guitars. Kuhrmeyer eventually became president of this firm.  The company had its roots as the Groeschel Mandolin Company which was founded in 1890.

There is some argument as to who was the first manufacturer to introduce the electric guitar. Everyone agrees that Electro/Rickenbacker was the first to come up with The Frying Pan, electric lap steel guitar in 1931.

Gibson claims to have introduced the first "Spanish" electric guitar, the ES-150 in 1936.

Ironically this was the same year that .Kay offered their first electric guitar. And though it is difficult to say who was first, but that does not take away from the fact that Kay is considered a pioneer in the field of the electric guitar.

In fact Stromberg-Voisinet was a part of what became Stromberg-Electro, and produced the first commercial electric guitar, the Stromberg Electro back in 1928.

Pickup unit inside resonator
Although the electronics within the body of this guitar were nothing like the guitar electronics we know today. Their ideas were based on the electronics found in phonographs of the day. 

With the help of an investor, Kuhrmeyer secured and purchased the Stromberg-Voisinet company in 1928 the same year the company became interested in electrifying the guitar. The Kay Musical Instrument Company (using Mr. Kuhrmeyer’s middle name) was officially established in 1931.

Kay Kraft
Although I must mention that prior to the acquisition, Stromberg-Voisinet had a line of guitars and mandolins under the Kay Kraft brandname.

From 1937 Speigle Catalog - Kay using the Old Kraftsmen logo
Aside from experimenting with electric guitars, Kay manufactured stringed folk instruments such as guitars, violins, cellos, banjos and upright basses. These guitars offered ran the gamut of classical, lap steel guitars, acoustic guitars, semi-acoustic electric guitars and solid body electric guitars.

Kay produced many of its instruments for resell by retail stores and catalog companies to sell as house brands This means Kay instruments can be found under a variety of names.

1940's Truetone
Airline and Sherwood Deluxe were distributed by Montogery Wards. Barclay was produced for Unity Buying Services. Beltone was distributed by the Monroe Company or P&H. Custom Kraft was the brand name for St. Louis Music.

1965 Penncrest
Holiday was the logo on Alden’s musical instruments. Old Kraftsmen was sold through the Spiegel catalog. Orpheum was distributed through the Wards catalog. Penncrest was the brand sold by J.C. Penny. Silvertone and Supertone were brandnames for Sears musical instruments. Suprema was distributed in Canada by Eatons and Truetone was sold through Western Auto Stores. From the 1930's to the 1950's Kay had a line of archtop acoustic and archtop acoustic electric guitars marketed under the Kamico logo. Some of Kay’s lower grade instruments were sold under the Knox and Kent brand names.

Kay Barney Kessel Pro

Kay electric guitars were said to have a Kelvinator headstock and Kleenex box pickups.

Kay 503A amplifier (Valco)
Though Kay may have initially made amplifiers early on, when the company was established it subcontracted its amplifier production to Valco. This is interesting because Valco/National was their rival in the 1950’s.

1964 Catalog "Elk Grove"
Mr. Kuhrmeyer officially retired in 1955 and the company was taken over by Sidney M. Katz. Katz saw the future and it was electric guitars. Katz had been long associated with rival Harmony guitars.

By 1964 the company moved from Chicago to new quarters in Elk Grove Illinois and continued the tradition of selling Kay guitars and musical instrument as well as house-brand instruments, but the demand for electric guitars was very heavy at this time in history.

Just a year later, in 1965. Katz sold Kay to the Jukebox manufacturer Seeburg Corporation with Katz becoming head of Seeburg's musical instrument division. Two years later Kay was resold and merged with Valco. However by now the guitar boom was fizzling out. The company was dissolved by 1968 and the assets of both Kay and Valco were auctioned off in 1969.

The upright bass and cello lines were sold to a company formed by a ranking Valco employee and was called.Engelhardt-Link. The Kay name (and some of its trademarks, such as Knox were acquired by Teisco importer, Weiss Musical Instruments aka W.M.I. which was owned by Sol Weindling and Barry Hornstein. These men put the Kay logo on imported Japanese guitars that were manufactured by Teisco.

In 1980, A.R. Enterprises (Tony Blair) purchased the Kay trademark. As of this date, Blair is still listed as CEO of Kay Guitars and also of Kustom Musical Instruments which was formerly owned by Hanser Music.

1956 Jimmy Reed Thin Twin
In my opinion Kay was producing its best guitars in the 1950 through the early 1960's, During these years Kay produced some remarkable guitars, such as the Thin Twin (1954), the Speed Demon (1956), the Barney Kessel and Barney Kessel Pro and the Swing Master (1959).

1956 Barney Kessel

1954 K-162
In 1954 the company offered its first bass guitar called The model K-162 Electronic Bass. This remained in the catalog for many years.

By 1960 the Barney Kessel models were renamed

Kay Gold Pro
The Gold K line, which included the Gold K, the Gold K Pro (hollow body, but no f-holes) and the Gold K Upbeat, which could be ordered with two or three pickups.

This same year Kay introduced their Thin Line electric models which became a staple with student guitarists, as did the Kay Pro which had more of a Les Paul vibe.

Solo King
One of the more unusual guitars Kay offered in 1960 was the Solo King, The upper part of the body was not carved, except for the upper cutaway. The lower part had a carve to rest the instrument on the players leg and a cutaway. It was available with one or two pickups. Eastwood Guitars briefly revived this instrument.

1961 Jazz Guitar
In 1961 Kay offered the twin pickup Kay Jazz guitar that featured and arched top, double cutaways, two Kay single coil pickups and a Bigsby tailpiece. The Thin Line electrics were modified and included the single pickup Galaxie model.

The Swing Master guitars were now Thin line models with two or thtee pickups. The three pickup model was fancier and had a bound neck. The Kay Speed Demons were also updated. They now had thin line bodies, f-holes and two or three pickups.

The Kay Vanguard Contour model was introduced this year. It was a solid body guitar that came with one or two pickups.

Jazz Special Bass

Kay offered three models of electric bass this year. All came with one pickup. The Jazz Special came with double cutaways and was offered in black or blond and had a large pickguard.

1959 Pro Model

The Pro Model was Kay's traditional bass. It had a small plastic cover surrounding its single pickup and was only available in brown sunburst.

The Value Leader Bass was a short scale model offered for $79.95 USD retail and could be ordered as a traditional 4 string bass or a 6 string bass.

Two new Kay models were available in 1962. One was the Kay Double Cutaway Solid Guitar, K300. It featured two pickups on a curly maple body and what Kay called its Thin Lite neck. The Kay Double Cutaway model K592 was perhaps the precursor to Gibson's Johnny A model. This excellent guitar featured twin Florentine cutaways and a Bigsby vibrato.

Model 504
We haven't said much about Kay amplifiers, but this was the year they came out with their recognizable transistorized amps.

Their top-of-the-line Transistorized Galaxy Two 35 watt model came with four removable legs that looked like they were right off of your Granny's console TV.

The difference in Kay guitars was quite obvious by 1966. This was the W.M.I. era and the guitars were made by Teisco. The prices had dropped during this period. Most of the guitars offered bore 6-on-a-side headstocks with a Kay emblem glued on them. The pickups changed on most of the models. They were still single coil pickups, but much different than those that adorned Kay guitars and basses in prior years.

By the 1970's Kay's line-up had dwindled to but a few electric models. Most of the offerings were not very good student grade models. All were made in the Far East. By the end of this era Kay offered some better copies of Gibson acoustic guitars, although I doubt the materials used in these student grade instruments could hold a candle to the real thing.

1979 Kay "Famous Copies"
They also offered a line of "Famous Copies". I think I mentioned in a prior article that Japanese companies saw nothing wrong in making copies of Gibson or Fender instruments, until Gibson's attorneys filed a patent infringement lawsuit.

The 1980's offerings included more copies of Fender and Gibson guitars including Stratocasters, Jazz Basses, Gibson Les Pauls, Flying V's and Explorers.

1987 was the final year for Kay guitars. The quality of the instruments appear to have improved, but sadly they are all once again copies of Gibson or Fender models. Ironically, the instruments came with an 18 month guarantee, but the company was dissolved the following year.

During the best years for Kay, the company was overshadowed by other USA brands, such as Gibson, Fender, Guild, Gretsch and Martin, who were building superior products. However some of the Kay models, both electric and the acoustic archtops were excellent guitars and are now commanding high prices in the vintage market. They were just under appreciated back in the day.

In recent years the brand Kay has emerged and is being applied to some student grade instruments made in the Far East and Pacific Rim countries. In checking Linkedin, Tony Blair is still the man in charge of Kay.

Roger Fritz Kay Thin Twin
But this same company offers Kay Vintage Reissue guitars. These instruments are made in the Far East, but are well made replicas of the famous Kay Thin Twin Guitar and what is called the Kay Jazz guitar, which is a semi-hollow body double cutaway instrument.

These names are also applied to the Kay Jazz Electric Bass and the Kay Pro Electric Bass.

Roger Fritz was hired by Tony Blair in 2010 to develop the Vintage Reissue line of Kay guitars and bass.

Friday, July 17, 2015

1965 - A Look At The Guitar Market Fifty Years Ago

Fuji Gen Gakki Factory
These days there are a myriad of guitars and amplifiers made in the Far East or in Pacific Rim countries that are not just wonderful beginner instruments, but great professional guitars and basses as well. Of course the United States and Europe are turning out amazing guitars and basses that are more technologically advanced than ever before.

Musical instruments are now made with computer aided design and CNC tools that give them excellent tonality.50 years ago there were no computerized tools. Although computers were available they were large enough to fill a room and did not have much memory. Research, development and upgrades in amplifier modeling have given even a small practice amp some very usable tones that would make a kid from 1965 envious.

Ampeg B15-N
Ironically in 1965 most of the amplifiers available were tube amps. For many years since '65, guitarists have sought that warm tube tone and breakup, but in 1965 when a clean sound with lots of headroom was desirable, most low wattage tube amps distorted like crazy. In all honesty some of the tube amps featured in those days were not all that great. The tubes got hot and frequently burnt out. Aside from that, the quality of 1965's budget guitars was "iffy." Some guitars and basses made fifty years ago were downright unplayable.

1940's Harmony Patrician
I was 12 years old in 1964 when my Dad took me to Will’s Pawn Shop in downtown Cincinnati Ohio to pick out a guitar.

The guy at the pawn shop took down a late 1940’s model Harmony Patrician and said, “Now here is a great guitar. Your kid will need a set of strings and a pitch pipe to tune it. That will be Twenty dollars.” I took it home on the bus.

The strings were probably a half an inch off the neck at the 12th fret. Those strings were made by the Black Diamond String Company. I’m surprised Black Diamond Strings are still in the business of selling strings, because back in those days the strings came in only one size; Extra heavy. They made my fingers sore and stressed the guitars neck. But I persevered and learned to play basic chords at a local YMCA class.

1965 Sears Catalog
By 1965 I was ready for an electric guitar. I acquired as many catalogs as I could find. There was no internet or Musician’s Friend. In those days all we had was Sears and Roebuck, Montgomery Wards, JC Penny’s, Western Auto and Spiegel’s. I had no idea that most of the guitars and amplifiers were made by the same companies’ which were either Chicago Musical Instruments, National-Valco, Kay, Danelectro and a few others. And at the time imported guitars from Japan were flooding the market too.

So I was looking and hoping to get a guitar from one of these catalogs. I had my sights set on this double cutaway solid body Harmony guitar. Imagine my surprise when Dad took me to a local music store. The dealer pulled out three cases that contained three very used Fender Stratocasters.

My Band and my '57 Stratocaster - 1966
One was black, one was white (at one time, but yellowed by cigarette smoke) and if I remember correctly the other was almost purple. I chose the black one. It had a maple neck with a 7.5” radius. (I didn’t know that at the time until I tried putting a Hamilton capo on the neck which didn't flatten all the strings.)

The Strat also came with an original tweed case. As I recall it cost $150. I had no clue at the time it was a 1958 model.

I had my electric guitar, but needed an amplifier. We drove off to the local Western Auto store and purchased a Kay Model 703 amplifier. It had 3 odd tubes, a 35Z5 rectifier tube; a 50L6 model output tube, a 12AU6 preamp tube, 3 instrument inputs and a volume/on/off control and a tone control. I believe it had a 6” speaker with a transformer attached to the basket.

Kay 703
I still have this amplifier. The speaker was replaced many years ago. From recent specs I find it put out slightly less than 4 watts. One of my friends rigged it up to change one of the guitar inputs to an external speaker input. I think Dad paid about $25 for this little amp. I see them selling on eBay now for $400 and up.

'65 Fender Deluxe Reverb
Of course this amp could not be heard over drums, so I saved up money and within a year bought a 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb for $200.

I took music lessons at a music store and at every chance I got went to other music stores and bugged the clerks to tell me about this guitar or that guitar. Along the way, I gained a little knowledge.

So let me describe to you what musical equipment was new and available 1965 and tell a little  about the guitars and amps that were new then and have become vintage now.

If you could afford it, Fender was offering some fine new guitars and amplifiers. You may recall 1965 was the year that CBS purchased the Fender Company and its assets. However there was still plenty of new old stock being sold in 1965. The big CBS changes would not take place for a few years.

As far as guitars, in 1965 Fender was selling everything from the student models the Music Master and the Duo-Sonic to the Jaguar and Jazzmaster. This was the year that Fender introduced the Mustang.

Fender also came out with a  Fender thin-line Electric guitar that was originally known as the known as Acoustic Electric and was later dubbed The Coronado.

In 1965 Fender also came out with several models of acoustic guitars including The Kingman, The Concert, The Newporter and The Shenandoah.

Fender was offering its usual selection of bass guitars; The Precision and The Jazz Bass.

1965 Mustang Bass

However 1965 was also the first year for the short scale Fender Mustang bass.

Fender Bass V
Fender also came out with the Bass V this year, which was sort of an anomaly, Instead of having a low A 5th string, it had a high 1st string tuned to B.

'65 Fender XII
One of my favorite guitars of 1965 was the Fender XII. This was Fender's answer to the Rickenbacker 12 string electric. One of the features that made this guitar popular especially with the pros was its adjustable bridge which kept the guitar in perfect tune.

It also had a very interesting pickup switching electronics.

All Fender amplifiers, by this year, had the control panel in the front on a black face panel and amp choices ranged from the Champ to the Dual Showman.

Fender's biggest rival in the electric guitar market was Gibson. Gibson offered quite a range of products. Many of my friends owned a Gibson Melody Maker.

In 1965 the Melody Maker came with the double cutaways. The pickups and electronics were all mounted on the black plastic pick guard. The one pickup models came with a bridge mounted single coil pickup, while the twin pickup also had a neck pickup.

Most folks I knew owned a brown sunburst model, but in 1965 was the first year that the Melody Maker was offered in cherry red.

The most likely Gibson to be seen on TV was the ES-335 or ES-345. It would be a few years before the Gibson Les Paul regained it's popularity.

In 1965 Gibson was also offering its unusual Firebird electric guitar and Thunderbird bass.

This same year Gibson offered The Non-Reverse Firebird, which more or less resembled a Fender Jaguar/Jazzmaster.

SG Standard
The Gibson SG was offered in several differing formats, from the SG Jr and the SG Standard, which was an awesome guitar.

1965 Trini Lopez Standard
In 1965 Gibson also came out with the Trini Lopez Deluxe and the Trini Lopez Standard guitar. Dave Grohl played the Trini Lopez Standard before he got his own model.

'65 Gibson Hawk
Gibson had two amplifier styles available this year. The Hawk, The Falcon and The Scout all had control panels mounted on the top of the chassis.

Gibson Minute Man
The Skylark, The Minuteman, The Explorer and others were more Fender-like with the control panel facing forward. Although these were great amps, due to the electronic design, they never seemed to have the power and tone of Fender amps and subsequently were not as popular.

'65 Guild Starfire III
Guild guitars were fairly popular too. Guild offered some traditional looking hollow body and semi-hollow body models such as the T-100, the Starfire, the Capri and the DE-400 model.

DE stood for Duane Eddy, who was using this guitar at the time. Guild also offered a Starfire Bass Guitar. I've seen this guitar offered with only a single pickup, that was usually mounted by the bridge although some came with a pickup in the neck position.

'65 Guild Thunderbird
In 1965 Guild came out with some strange looking electric guitars. The Guild Thunderbird was a real anomaly. Its body sort of resembled the clay cartoon figure Gumby. Perhaps it was Guilds answer to the Fender Jazzmaster. The Thunderbird came with some unusual electronics, a vibrato bar and a spring loaded metal bar that was built into the guitars back.

This feature and the two corners on the bottom of the body allowed the guitar to have a built in stand. Zal Yanovsky of the Lovin' Spoonful played a Guild Thunderbird.

Guild also offered a budget version of this guitar with a slightly different shape called The Jetstar.

Guild was never big in the amplifier department, but the did come out with the Guild Thunder amplifier with numeral designations based on the amps power. Guild's amplifiers were actually made by Valco.

Ironically the name Guild was originally attached to a little known amplifier company that was going out of business. Alfred Dronge and George Mann bought the company and also employed former Epiphone workers that had lost their employment when Gibson purchased Epiphone.

Guild electric guitars from 1965 are excellent guitars, even the Gumby guitar is a great player. I've never used a Guld amplifier or run across one.

'65 Gretsch Tennessean
In 1965 Gretsch Guitars were also popular and at the time were made in the USA.

George Harrison played several models of Gretsch, his first was a Duo-Jet.. He later purchase a double cutaway Country Gentleman. His first was destroyed in an automobile accident in 1965 when it fell off a lorrie.

Other British Invasion groups seemed to gravitate to Gretsch guitars. Compared to some other brands, Gretsch guitars were more expensive, therefore not as popular with struggling garage bands of the day. I did know a few guys that owned Gretsch Tennesseans.

Gretsch guitars were made in their Brooklyn New York factory until the brand was purchased by the Baldwin piano company which unfortunately did not do a very good job of maintaining this well-known old company.

Although Gretsch did offer amplifiers these amplifiers, they were actually made by the Valco Company.

Baldwin Exterminator
One thing that the Baldwin did when they purchased Gretsch, was to  redesign and come up with a new guitar amplifier.  Baldwins' forte was pianos and organs. Therefore they used their organ technology to come up with a line of guitar solid-state guitar and bass amplifiers under the Baldwin logo.

Willie Nelson has been relying on his old Baldwin amp for years. Probably he most well known Baldwin amplifier was called The Exterminator. This was a huge beast with two 8-inch speakers, two 15-inch speakers, and two 12-inch speakers with 100 watts RMS.

You needed a couple of "roadies" and a large van to tote this amplifer to your gigs. Baldwin offered several other versions of solid-state amps; most were in the range of 40-45 watts RMS. Despite being well made they just did not sell in a market where Fender was king.

1965 was the year that Vox was introduced to the United States. Vox had been been popular in the U.K. since the late 1950's. It was the choice of amplification for the Beatles and many of the other British invasion bands.

They were offering guitars too; and combo organs.. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones was playing a lute-shaped Vox guitar.

Several prominent music stores were now selling Vox amplifiers and guitars.

The Thomas Organ company was starting to manufacture US made solid-state Vox amplifiers.

1965 Kent Guitars

But what about us guys, with meager income, that spent the weekends in someone's basement or garage, hoping to be the next big thing or at least impress the ladies? There were plenty of guitars, basses and amplifiers available at bargain prices. And some were very good, and sought after in today's vintage market.

1965 Sears Catalog
In 1965 you could get out the Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog and have a Danelectro, Kay or Harmony guitar or bass delivered right to your front door. These instruments were for the most part made in the USA and well constructed.

We all know about their construction of Danelectro guitars which used Masonite tops mounted on a poplar wood frame with the pickup casings made of lipstick tubes.

Dano' lipstick pickup

The pickups inside the lipstick containers were made with alnico magnets. Most Danelectros were made in New Jersey and most were sold through Sears under the Silvertone logo. I knew so many young guys in 1965 that owned and learned on Danelectro/Silvertone guitars and basses.

Silvertone Twin 12 - Model 1484
Danelectro also made some nice amplifiers back in 1965. Most were sold through Sears as Silvertone amplifiers. The Dano-made Silvertone Twin Twelve 1484 is a classic. Electronically and from a sound standpoint, I give it high marks. But in regards to construction, it was done on the cheap.

The chassis was made of particle board, the speaker baffle was constructed of quarter inch masonite board and the amp was covered with a thin gray and black fabric.

Valco also produced amplifiers for Silvertone/Sears. Valco also sold them under a myriad of names including Airline, Supro, Gretsch, Guild, and Oahu. They were possibly the first company to offer the "amp-in-a -case."

The Airline brand of guitars were sold by Montgomery Wards. Many of these guitars were made by Valco (with encompassed National and Supro). These guitars and basses had modernistic Res-o-Glass bodies (fiberglass) and unique pickup arrangements. Some even came with a piezo element mounted in the guitars bridge.

Most amplifiers sold under the Airline brand were manufactured by Valco. This included a wonderful amp called the Supro Thunderbolt. I've profiled this amp before. It was marketed as a bass amp, but was better suited as a guitar amp.

All the catalog companies sold a fair share of Harmony and Kay guitars. Although they were marketed as Silvertone or Airline or even True-Tone. The quality might not have been as good as Fender or Gibson, but they were respectable players and great starter instruments. Kay guitars, at the time, were made in Chicago.

The Harmony Guitars brand was actually purchased by Sears and the guitars and basses were manufactured by The Chicago Musical Instrument Company.

Everett Hull on upright bass
There was one other respectable amplifier company that I need to mention. Ampeg was founded in New York by Everett Hull. He had invented a microphonic device to place in the peg hole of an upright bass, to amplify its sound with almost no distortion. Hence the name Amp-Peg.

Jesse Oliver with a B-15N portoflex
The company came up with some very well designed amplifiers that were used mostly by East Coast musicians. The B15-N Portaflex bass amp is a classic with its "flip-top" design. This amp was used on hundreds of recordings.

'65 Ampeg Reverb Rocket
Their Reverb Rocket was an excellent guitar amp. In fact it was the first amp made with built in reverb. Several prominent amp and guitar designers worked at Ampeg, notably Jess Oliver, Bill Hughes, Roger Cox, Dan Armstrong and Dennis Kager.

In 1965 Hagstrom guitars were made in Alvdalen Dalecarlia Sweden and distributed in the USA by the Hershman Musical Company, which at the time also distributed Swedish made Levin acoustic guitars. Some Hagstrom guitars resembled Fender instruments. In the U.K. they were sold under the Kent brand.

Hagstrom F-300
Hagstrom's  neck design was spot-on Fender style, except they were skinnier that Fender necks. In fact one of Hagstrom's advertising points was "the Fastest Neck in the World."

They called it "The King Neck". It had a unique I-Beam truss rod system.

The scale of most early models was somewhat shorter than Fender's 25.5" scale. The 24" scale was more suited to students.

'65 Hagstrom F-400
The Hagstrom bass neck on their F-400 model was not any wider than a guitar neck at the nut. It was great for guitarists that doubled on bass. The headstock was very similar to a Fender 6-on-a-side design, perhaps it was a little more bulbous. Hagstrom pickups were great. The quality of these guitars has held up for years. The bodies were thinner than most USA made guitars.

One popular version known as the Model 1 came with a lucite pickguard that was molded with a center section between the pickups. This housed a glued-in plastic rectangle that was covered with gold colored diamond shaped patterns.

Supposedly this feature allowed the guitar to have an acoustic tone when played without an amp. It did not. As you can see from the models in the picture, the glue would someimes dissipate and the plastic section would fall off of the instrument.

The back was covered in some sort of fabric. The necks on this model guitar and bass were generally painted black, while more expensive Hagstrom guitars came with natural wood necks.

Carvin Guitars, was founded by Lowell Keisel and only sold guitars by mail through their catalog. They continue this practice today.. Though this comany has made great advancements on in house manufacturing, in 1965 these California assembled guitars were fairly basic.

The body was shaped, routed, sanded and painted at the factory while the necks and pickups were actually made by the Hofner company. During this year, many of their offerings resembled Fender guitar, although some had a rather odd design. In 1965 Carvin was a great alternative to imported guitars.

Teisco Del Ray guitars were built by Kawai Musical Instruments of Japan. The name was an acronym for Tokyo Electric Instrument and Sound Company. In 1965 the market was literally flooded with thousands of imports from Teisco, Guyatone, which built Kent guitars, Ibanez and dozens of nameless brands that jobbers would sell to retail stores.

Most of these guitars were cheaply made, using low cost wood, inexpensive single coil pickups and low cost materials. Many of these instruments were sold through pawn shops or music stores that could not obtain a franchise to sell Gibson, Fender or other quality brands, and wanted to cash in on the guitar craze.

Teisco May Queen
Some of these guitars were sold through other retailers such as Sears, Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penny and Western Auto as low priced beginner instruments.

1965 Univox
These same Asian companies also made and marketed low watt amplifiers.

Like I said in the beginning, there were no computer-aided-design or cutting machines in 1965. Japanese transistor radios were just hitting the market and still expensive. Transistor electronics would be the first step in replacing vacuum tubes, but this was fairly new technology in 1965.  In a few years Fender/CBS would try it's hand at a solid state amp, but it would be a dismal failure.

However there was one exception available in 1965, this was the tuck-and-roll Kustom Amplifier. These were transistorized amplifiers that were designed and manufactured by Bud Ross of Chanute, Kansas.

They were virtually indestructible and many of them had a separate 100 to 500 watt amplifier head with a huge speaker cabinet that contained two or more 12 to 15 inch Jensen heavy duty speakers and all of them were eye-catching, especially with their blue and silver sparkle tuck and roll Naugahyde coverings.

One other option for young guitarists in 1965 was Kapa guitars. These instruments were made by the Venneman Music Emporium in Hyattsville Maryland. The bodies were somewhat Fender-like as were the necks.

The necks and pickups were made by the Hofner Company of Germany. Compare them to the early Carvin necks. These guitars sold at half the price one would pay for a Fender guitar and Kapa guitars were great instruments. Kapa came out with an excellent 12 string model.

These guitars are treasures. If you have one, hang on to it.

1965 was a banner year to start playing guitar and a great year for guitars and amplifiers considering the electric guitar and guitar amplifier were only invented around 35 years earlier.

In review 2015 offers a greatly improved selection of electric and acoustic guitars and basses due to advancements in manufacturing and better quality or parts, In my opinion this will lead to better instruments for young and seasoned players alike.

Street price $1099,00 USD
And though you may no longer to be able to buy a Fender Deluxe Reverb for $200, consider the median income for a family in 1965 was less than $5000.00 USD a year.

Enjoy what you have and by all means play your guitar!

©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)