Saturday, January 9, 2021

Tony Rice June 8th 1951 to December 25th 2020 - A Guitar Legend.


Tony Rice 1951 - 2020
Tony Rice passed away suddenly on Christmas morning this year at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina. He was pouring a cup of coffee, and then in the blink of an eye he was gone. In my opinion Tony Rice was indeed the most significant guitarist and flat-picker to come out of Bluegrass music. 

I cannot say enough regarding his influence on not just Bluegrass guitar players, but on Jazz guitar  players, acoustic guitar players, and all flat-picking guitarists. 

Tony and Larry Rice 
 Town Hall Party
Tony Rice was born in Virginia, but at an early age his family moved to Los Angeles. It was there that his father introduced Tony and his three brothers to Bluegrass Music. By age nine Tony was playing guitar and singing. When Tony was a child there was a popular radio show in Southern California called "Town Hall Party."  

His father got in touch with the show’s producer and asked if his son could come on the show and sing a song. The answer was "Yes." Before the show, the acts were behind the building rehearsing. That was where young Tony met “The Country Boys”; a group that included Clarence and Roland White. 

Clarence was 16 at the time the boys met and he was playing an old Martin. Rice didn’t know much about guitars and asked if that guitar was a D-18. Clarence told him it was a Martin D-28. Rice was fascinated with the guitar and the sound it emitted. 

During that era there were only two Bluegrass bands in the Los Angeles area, The Country Boys, and a band Rice’s father put together called The Golden State Boys. At this time there was also a revival of Folk music. Folk music also impacted the young Tony Rice. 

The Country Boys went on to become a more well know band called the Kentucky Colonels.  Eventually Clarence White then got more involved with the electric guitar and joined Roger McGuinn in a renewed version of The Byrds. Tony Rice maintained his interest in Bluegrass music and he became a well known artist in his own right.

By 1970 Rice moved to Louisville, Kentucky to join J.D. Crowe And The New South, a group that was known as being one of the best and most progressive Bluegrass bands. By 1974 Ricky Scaggs had joined the band as the mandolin player. 

David Grissman Quintet
Rice then met up eclectic mandolin player David Grisman who was working on some original material that blended Jazz, Bluegrass, and Classical styles. Being interested in expanding his style, Rice left the New South to join The David Grisman Quintet. 

In order to broaden his expertise Rice began studying chord theory, learned to read music, and studied Jazz guitar with Jazz guitarist John Carlini. 

The Bluegrass Album Band

In 1980 Rice, J.D.Crowe, Bobby Hicks, Doyle Lawson, and Todd Phillips started a group called The Bluegrass Album Band, which recorded from 1980 through 1996. 

The Tony Rice Unit

It was during this period Rice started The Tony Rice Unit, which included mandolin player Jimmy Gaurdreau, Tony’s brother Wyatt on guitar, Ronnie Simpkins on bass and his brother Rickie Simpkins on fiddle. Alison Krauss played fiddle in the group for a brief period, as did Alison Brown. 

Rice also had joined another group with mandolin player David (Dawg) Grisman. But by 1979 Rice left Grisman's group to record Acoustics, a jazz-inspired album, and then another album called Manzanita which was a bluegrass and folk album. 

A similar combination was evident on Cold on the Shoulder, Native American, and Me & My Guitar, albums which combined bluegrass, jazzy guitar work, and the songwriting of Ian Tyson, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan, and Gordon Lightfoot. 

Scaggs and Rice

Around 1980 Tony Rice recorded an album of Bluegrass duets with Ricky Scaggs (Skaggs & Rice). At the time he also recorded with guitarist Norman Blake in a group that included Tony’s brothers Larry, Wyatt, and Ronnie. 

By 1984 Tony Rice recorded four albums with banjo player Béla Fleck as well as touring with him. 

The Pizza Tapes

By 1993 Rice joined David Grisman and Jerry Garcia to record The Pizza Tapes, a unique recording that feature historical vintage mandolins and guitars on each track. 

The following year he recorded “Clawgrass Mark Johnson and The Rice Brothers.” 

In 1995 he recorded a duet album with guitarist John Carlini. By 1997 Rice and his brother Larry founded what was called “The Anti-Supergroup” with mandolin player Chris Hillman, and banjo player Herb Pedersen. 

Tony Rice with Peter Rowan
and Billy Bright

Around 2000 Tony Rice formed a group with guitarist/songwriter Peter Rowan and mandolin player Billy Bright.  

Tony Rice had a distinctive baritone singing voice. In 1994 he was diagnosed with a disorder known as muscle tension dysphonia and as a result was forced to stop singing in live performance. 

A 2014 diagnosis of lateral epicondylitis ("tennis elbow") made guitar playing painful and Rice's last performance playing guitar live was his induction into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013. 

Tony Rice - 2013
In 2015, Rice was quoted as saying "I am not going to go back out into the public eye until I can be the musician that I was, where I left off or better. I have been blessed with a very devout audience all these years, and I am certainly not going to let anybody down."

"I am not going to risk going out there and performing in front of people again until I can entertain them in a way that takes away from them the rigors and the dust, the bumps in the road of everyday life." 

There has been a lot written about Tony Rice's 1935 Martin D-28, but allow me to mention a little about this incredible instrument. 

Tony Rice - Martin D-28

Serial # 58957 was built on January 3rd of 1935, one of the snowiest days of that year. Due to orders for new rosewood bodied guitars workmen were called into the Nazareth Pennsylvania plant on that day. This guitar was built that day. 

The neck was penciled with the serial number, and the neck block with stamped with D-28 and the serial number 58957. 

From there no one is sure what happened until 1959 when it was purchased by Roland and Clarence White. The young boys and their father, Eric, routinely shopped Los Angeles music stores and pawn shops looking for pre-war Martin herringbone guitars which were available at the time for $70 and less. Their objective was to fix them up and sell them at a modest profit. They purchased  #58957 for a mere $25. The guitar had seen better days. 

Martin #58957
The White brothers took the unstrung guitar home, hoping their father could bring it back to life, but the minute he cast an eye on the ratty-looking D-28, the elder White declared it a hopeless cause. The previous owner had used a knife and carved sound hole away to the centermost rosette rings, leaving an opening almost 4 5/8” in diameter. (At the time this was considered tragic, but ultimately it lead to the guitars unique and loud sound. Eventually Martin offered this option.) 

Clarence White with #58957
The original fingerboard was missing entirely, temporarily replaced with an ebony board that was held to the neck with tape. The pickguard was peeling away from the top. 

After their father declared that he could not repair the guitar,  the Whites brought it to luthier Milt Owen, who would eventually gain fame as Hollywood’s “guru of guitar repair” for his work at Barney Kessel’s shop. 

Owen’s prognosis was more encouraging than that of the boys’ father. 

Nothing could be done about the sound hole, of course, but he rooted through his parts bin and came up with a fingerboard that fit well enough: a white, plastic-bound Gretsch blank with 22 frets, the spacing of which was based on a scale almost the same as that of a Martin dreadnought. The boys were dismayed to hear that the repair would cost as much as they’d paid for the guitar; $25.00.

A week later, they retrieved their D-28, which was now sporting a set of light-gauge strings and sounding very much as it should. Before they left, Owen cautioned the young pickers against using heavy-gauge strings, lest they “belly it up” and render the guitar unplayable–which is what they did anyway, of course. 

Clarence White with Martin D-18 
There were other guitars in the White family’s arsenal of instruments, such as the 1952 Martin D-18 that dad bought new from a Los Angeles piano store.  But in spite of its motley appearance and the steadily rising string height, the D-28 herringbone became Clarence’s and, became his iconic instrument for many years.

Then in 1960, 9 year old Tony Rice spotted that guitar backstage at The Town Hall Party radio show, where he had been invited to perform. 

Clarence White with 58957
Replaced Neck
He recalls “I saw that old D-28, and it didn’t have a name on the headstock, so I asked, ‘What kind of a guitar is that?’ and Clarence said, ‘It’s a Martin.’ I’d never seen one like that. I thought all dreadnoughts were D-18s! So I asked, ‘Is that a D-18?’ He said, ‘No, that’s a D-28.’ I’d never heard of a D-28. The only thing I knew was that it looked like hell but it sounded like a million bucks to a 9-year-old kid!” 

Clarence White let the Tony play the herringbone for as long as he wished. “The action was so high it was almost impossible,” Rice said.  

Ironically, as Clarence White’s reputation grew, but he used the D-28 less and less often because of his growing frustration with its declining playability. The D-28’s sad condition may have led to the dumbest of all dumb-kid stunts: the day Clarence leaned the guitar against a tree outside his home and shot it with a pellet gun. The guitar bears the scar to this day. 

In fact, the herringbone was rarely out of danger. After a Kentucky Colonels gig in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Clarence accidentally ran over both of his Martins while at the wheel of the group’s van. The D-18 was much worse off than the D-28 – which suffered only a side crack or two–and since the Colonels were on their way to Ann Arbor, Michigan, they brought both guitars to repairman extraordinaire Herb David, who worked day and night to put them back into service. According to Roland White, Clarence liked the sound of the D-18 better after the mishap: “He said it had more sustain!”

Then in 1965, Clarence White and the D-28 parted company. At the time. here weren’t enough paying gigs for bluegrass bands in Southern California.  Clarence didn’t want to move, partly because he’d just gotten married. 

There was also new opportunities for session players–at least session players who had electric guitars. In order to raise enough cash to purchase a Fender Telecaster he purchased from Don Rich, and  pay for a honeymoon,  Clarence used the herringbone as collateral for a loan from an acquaintance named Joe Miller. That loan was never repaid.

Tony Rice with Martin D-28

One day in 1975, Rice and his bass player Bobby Slone got to talking about Clarence White. “Bobby told me the story of why Clarence had given the herringbone up to Joe Miller,” Rice remembers.

 “And he started telling me more and more about Joe Miller and who he was. He used to play football for UCLA. His family owned a chain of liquor stores in Pasadena…. “And I began to think: I’d never met the guy, but Joe Miller just might be willing to let this thing go. Here’s where it gets really, really weird: I’m living in Kentucky at the time and I get on the phone and I call information for Pasadena, California, for a listing for Miller’s Liquor. And they go, ‘Yeah, we got about 20 of ‘em. Which one you want?’” Rice rolls his eyes and laughs ruefully at the memory. “I said, ‘Give me the first one on there.’ So I called that first number and I said, ‘I’m looking for Joe Miller.’ The guy said, ‘No, Joe ain’t here now–but he’ll be back in about two hours.’ I called back and I talked to him. I said, ‘Joe, this is Tony Rice… Do you know who I am?’ He said that he did. I asked him if he had Clarence’s guitar, and he said, ‘Yes, I sure do. It’s been under my bed for nine years. Hasn’t been touched.’ I said, ‘Would you consider getting rid of it?’ He said, ‘Yeah – to you, I would.’ “This was in ’75,” Rice continues. “So here I’m thinking, Joe Miller knows what he’s got. I’m going to have to go down to a bank and talk a banker into loaning me some enormous amount of money, thousands and thousands, to get this guitar.” 

Sure enough, its owner insisted on having the Martin appraised by a professional before he’d name his price. Rice agreed to the plan, and the two men arranged to speak on the phone the next day. 

That afternoon, Miller brought the Martin to a nearby violin shop, which, as it turned out, was also the last place Clarence had it worked on. The man at the violin shop suggested that it was worth less than one might have expected, given its present state. 

According to Rice, “Joe Miller called back and said, ‘I’ll take five or six hundred bucks for it.’ I said, ‘Tell you what: I’ll split the difference. I’ll give you 550.’ He said, ‘You’ve got it.’ 

"The next day I was on a plane bound for L.A.” A luthier friend let Rice borrow his new Mark Leaf case to carry the guitar back, and the transaction took place at LAX airport. “I kept waiting to wake up,” Rice says with a smile. “For days I was thinking, ‘It couldn’t possibly have been this easy.’” 

Buying the legendary herringbone proved easier than playing it, at least at first. “It had action like a Dobro,” Rice laughs. “Although, I did a session the day I got it. It was just a coincidence. 

Grisman and Rice
 (Note old pickguard
David Grisman was in L.A. doing a session, playing on James Taylor’s Gorilla album, on the day when I got the guitar. So Grisman came to the airport and got me and took me over to the studio. I had just picked the guitar up an hour ago!

 “I opened the case and started fooling around with it, even though the action was like that.” 

Rice says, spreading his thumb and forefinger a half an inch apart.

“And Kate and Anna McGarrigle were there, doing this album for Warner Bros. I was out in the hall of the studio, tinkering around, just diggin’ on the tone. But Grisman and the producer came out to hear me tinkerin’ around with it, and said, ‘Hey, man, we’ve got to have you on this stuff! We’ve got to have you play on a couple of these tracks!’ And I thought, ‘Well, OK, but this is the only instrument I’ve got.’ Then Grisman chimed in, ‘Hey, man, it worked for Clarence. Get in there and do it!’” 

As far as anyone knows, 58957’s neck has been removed only once: by luthier Randy Wood, who did a reset soon after Tony Rice bought the guitar. As sometimes happens, the action began to creep back up within a year or two of the reset–by which time Rice was living in California and working with David Grisman. 

Martin #58957
Another member of the Quintet, violinist Darol Anger, introduced Rice to Richard Hoover, Anger’s erstwhile partner (along with David Morse) in a mandolin-building venture. When he was still working as a luthier, Anger had reinforced the worn-out maple bridge plate on Rice’s herringbone with a thin ebony overlay that remains in place to this day.

Among other things, Hoover performed what Rice refers to as a “tweak reset.” 

“Today, I wouldn’t dream of doing that without removing the neck,” Hoover says. “But at the time I did it, the body of knowledge was much more limited. In fact, at that time, there were very few people who even understood the problem, let alone how to fix it. 

Back then, Martin was still taking the frets out, planing the fingerboard, shaving the bridge… trying to create the geometry to get proper playability. And what I did was something I learned from violin building. The technique was called slipping the back, wherein the binding was pulled back a bit, the back was separated from the neck block and then, with a harness, you pulled the neck into the proper angle–then reglued the back onto the block, trimmed the excess and put the binding back on. 

“It’s horrifying to think about this now, on such a priceless guitar,” Hoover adds with a laugh. “But at the time, it wasn’t a priceless guitar: It was a really stinky, modified old Martin! It hadn’t gained its fame-osity yet!” 

Santa Cruz replica
In 1976, Richard Hoover co-founded the Santa Cruz Guitar Company and went on to create various incarnations of Tony Rice’s other famous guitar. (A brand new custom dreadnought is in the works, using wood from the same reserve that was tapped for the SCGC guitar Rice has used for the past seven years.) Prior to that, 
Hoover performed a few other repairs on 58957. 

Crack on lower bout 
“We replaced the nut, which I think is still there,” he recalls, “and there was a crack in the lower bout, on the right-hand side as you face the guitar, that I fixed for him. And we did a partial refret–which also is rarely done nowadays–and refretted, probably, the first five to seven frets.” Hoover adds that they installed the frets using the traditional hammer-in method. 

“A lot of my approach to repair work, even at that time, came from my training in art and museum restoration: Don’t do anything that can’t be redone later with better technology. So it’s unlikely that we would use any glue.” 

In all, some of the best names in lutherie and acoustic music have been associated with the famous D-28. The bridge pins, modeled after Clarence White’s own, were made by builder Ervin Somogyi. 

When a new bridge was needed, the late Mike Longworth of C.F. Martin hand-selected a new old-stock blank, and the famed luthier and author Hideo Kamimoto installed it–and did a literally seamless job of filling the existing saddle slot with ebony, then cutting a new one that allowed more precise intonation. 

Tony Rice #58957
Friend and fellow musician Todd Phillips added black position markers to the white binding on the bass side of the fretboard. (Interestingly, he followed the old-time convention of putting a dot at the 10th fret, rather than the ninth.) 

Harry Sparks of Cincinnati (who worked on my own 1890's Harwood guitar) made one of the most important contributions of all, howsoever quietly. In March of 1993, Tony and his wife Pam Rice were living in Crystal River, Florida, not just near the water but right at the water’s edge, when a tropical storm slammed into the Gulf Coast. 

They were awakened in the middle of the night by emergency personnel who insisted they evacuate immediately, without so much as a moment to gather up personal belongings. 

When the sun rose a few hours later, Rice begged a neighbor to retrieve the Martin from his flooded home. That memory is enough to change the tone of the conversation: 

“Yeah. Crystal River, Florida. It was under water for at least an hour and a half, totally submerged. More like two hours. In the case. But the case wasn’t waterproof. So it was totally saturated. And it was really messed up. And it didn’t sound like itself for five years, at least.

 “Harry Sparks came down from Cincinnati and took it under his wing. Slowly dried it out. You couldn’t just, like, stick it in an oven; you had to slowly dry it out or you’d run the risk of cracks–which did happen anyway. It cracked in several places on the back. Most of the bracing in it came loose–the back bracing.” 

Snuffy Smith
Rice’s mood brightens, however, when he recalls the services of luthier and friend Snuffy Smith, who lives about 45 minutes away from him in King, North Carolina. “I knew there wasn’t a damn thing that was happening to the D-28 that couldn’t be fixed,” Rice says. 

“And then, a few years ago, Snuffy reglued all the internal back bracing and a couple of top braces.” Snuffy Smith, for his part, remembers how grateful Rice was to have the herringbone restored to its former glory. “He called me up after the fact,” Smith says, “and said he couldn’t play it in the basement any more: He was afraid it would crack the foundation down there! Regluing the braces really helped the volume of it.” 

Rice himself enjoys pointing out another of Snuffy Smith’s recent triumphs. 

"If you look carefully, the tuning machine for the sixth string looks different from the others, suggesting that it was replaced at one point. Also, the finish surrounding the third string tuner indicates that it was replaced as well." 

Tony Rice #58957
“The oddball one, Snuffy and I put together as a quick fix, about four or five months ago,” Rice says. “The story with the machines is that they’re original, except for one that was on there when Clarence had it, which was a Kluson–he had a closed-back Kluson as the third string gear. “After I got the guitar, it was still on there, and Frank Ford, out in Palo Alto, provided me a third string tuner he found as a replacement that was identical to the original. So Frank Ford put the third on." 

"Then, about four or five months ago, the sixth string tuner–the low E–finally gave out. The worm gear and the pinion were just stripped out. Snuffy found an old Grover handle and worm gear assembly, so he constructed a new tuning gear out of parts. It kinda works!” 

For his part, Snuffy Smith says that the work is never really done on a guitar such as this one: “We’re eternally doing something; it’s almost a never-ending thing…. Fortunately, Tony has had some good people work on it. That makes it a lot easier for me.” 

#58957 With Tortoise
Shell Pickguard
The next project? Rice points to the tortoiseshell-colored pickguard that a fan gave him during a 1985 tour of Japan. It’s remarkably beautiful; its lines suggest movement, even when the guitar is perfectly still. “I’m going to have it taken off and re-put on,” he says. “The guy that put it on used to work for Martin. 

I was living in Florida at the time. He did a fairly good job, but it could be better. That pickguard needs to be taken off, thinned down and put back on.” 

The guitar is now kept in a carbon fiber case with its plain leather strap laid over the fretboard.  

Tony Rice leaves behind his wife Pam, and his daughter India, and lots of memories from his many fans, and those of us that learned so much by listening to him and studying his technique.

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications 2021 (text only)

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The 1960's Christmas Wish Book


The Beatles on Ed Sullivan 1964
The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964. Although I was just a kid, I’d been listening to rock music for several years before on the local AM radio stations. Most of the artists I liked played guitar. When The Beatles showed up, and when I watched that show, that just did it for me. I just had to have a guitar.

1960 Wish Book
And every Christmas the Wish Book aka THE CATALOG showed up in our mail. We received three or four of these from different stores. I would turn right to the guitar section and carefully read each description with fascination. Those were those "olden days", long before Amazon, Musicians Friend, or the myriad other web sites which much later  came into being.  During this time I would beg my parents for a guitar or amplifier.

1960's Harmony Guitar catalog

Wow that Harmony flat top was made of seasoned wood! So it had to be great! (I had no clue at the time what seasoned wood was.)

1963-64 Fender Catalog

Later on, I was able to send away to different companies for their guitar  catalogs. I wish I had kept them.

So let’s go back to those days and review some of those guitars, and amplifiers available years ago. And check out the prices too!

Silvertone guitars sold by Sears
Straight out of the Sears catalog were all of these "Silvertone" instruments. The two hollow bodies on the left and the two solidbody guitars on the lower right were made by the Harmony Guitar Company. The two teal solidbody guitars on the upper right were made by the Kay Guitar Company.  Silvertone was the brand name that Sears had put on their radios, and televisions.

Sears Silvertone guitars and amplifiers
The company applied that name to their musical instruments. In fact Sears contracted with several different manufacturers to produce guitars, and amplifiers, and then badged them with that brand name. All of these guitars pictured here were made by Kay, with the exception of the second one on the top row, which is a Danelectro guitar. 

The amplifiers on the page were made by National.

Silvertone Danelectro
Guitar/amp in case

It is a fact that the Danelectro Company sold most of their guitars and amplifiers through mail order retail companies such as Sears.

Sears Danelectro bass

This Silvertone, model 57 1444L bass guitar caught the attention of my best friend, and he purchased it for $99.00 in 1965.

I recently saw this same bass at a local music store with the price tag of $800.00.

Danelectro Silvertone Bass amplifier

About six month later my friend had saved up enough money to purchase the matching Danelectro-made Silvertone model 1483 bass amp. This amp pumped 23 watts into a single 12" Jensen speaker. 

Silvertone Twin Twelve amplifier
One of the most popular Sears Silvertone amplifiers was what most of us referred to as the "Twin Twelver", although it's actual designation was Model 1484. It was made by the Danelectro Company of Neptune, New Jersey.

Silvertones were less expensive than a comparable Fender amplifier. The Danelectro speaker cabinets were made with a compartment in the bottom to store the amplifier unit or head for transportation. 

While Fender and Gibson made their amplifier cabinets out of solid pine wood, Danelectro used much cheaper particle board for construction.

Silvertone model 1472

For those on a budget, Silvertone offered the model 1472, also made by Danelectro. This pumped 10 watts into a 12" Jensen speaker. All for less than $70.00 USD.

The Montgomery Ward Company used the brand name Airline for its electronic and music products. They used a number of "jobbers" or companies to procure their guitars and amplifiers, such as National, Valco, Supro, Harmony, Kay,  All of these guitars were sold by Wards under the Airline brand name.

Two Valco made Airline guitars.
The one circled is
Jack White's 1964 Hutto Airline model
Perhaps the most interesting guitar out of their catalog was the Valco made fiberglass models, which they referred to as "Res-o-glass" for its supposed resonance. There is an interesting history of  National, Valco, and Supro. This was a company started by the Dopyera brothers of Dobro fame. Jack White played the JB Hutto model that was first manufactured in 1959.

1954 Montgomery Ward catalog

Another one of the more unusual guitars that Montgomery Wards offered under the Airline brand was the Kay Thin Twin.

Jimmy Reed with Kay Thin Twin

The Kay Thin Twin was the model played by guitarist Jimmy Reed. You can see it in this 1954 company catalog. Most of the other guitars and amps on this page were made by National.

Western Auto catalog
A company that has probably been long forgotten was Western Auto. They were very popular in the 1950's and 1960's, and sold guitars and amplifiers under the Truetone brand. The guitars and amplifiers were made by the Kay Company of Chicago.

Western Auto Speed Demon

One of my favorite Kay-made guitars sold by Western Auto was the three pickup Jazz King aka the Speed Demon. It came with distinctive Kay single coil pickups. Each pickup had its own volume and tone control. Some models came with the Truetone decal, while others came with the Western Auto "W" logo.

1962 Kay guitar catalog

One of the more popular guitars in the 1960's was the Kay Vanguard, you can view it in the lower left corner.

Kay Vanguard - two versions
 under the Truetone brand

This guitar came with one or two pickups, and a fixed bridge with an aluminum bridge cover. The price for the one pickup model was only $44.95, which was a big factor in the instruments popularity. These were sold by Western Auto, Sears, and under the Old Kraftsman brand for Spiegel, another catalog company.

Kay Value Leader

One more popular model made by Kay was called The Value Leader. It was sold through several different catalog companies under different brand names, as well as under the Kay brand.

Kay Value Leader guitars

This hollow body Les Paul shaped guitar came with a fixed wooden bridge, a rectangular aluminum pickguard, a trapeze bridge, and one, two, or three pickups. The single pickup model sold for $69.95, the two pickup model sold for $87.95, while the three pickup version was $99.95. The pickups were low output to decrease feed back.

1965-66 Fender Catalog

Although Fender guitars were only sold through authorized dealers, you could obtain a Fender catalog from a dealer or directly from the company. For a guitar obsessed kid, these were like finding gold. We could look at these guitars and dream.

1966 Baldwin Advertisement

The new kid on the scene in 1966 was Baldwin guitars and amplifiers. Baldwin had recently acquired Burns of London guitars, and the rights to Kustom amplifiers. Some of the original Baldwin guitars were still labeled as "Burns", so Baldwin put their logo on top of the Burns logo. The Baldwin amplifiers were based on Kustom amplifier circuitry.

1966 Spiegle catalog

The Joseph Speigel Company was a Chicago based business specializing in direct mail order sales. They sold guitars that were made by Kay Guitars of Chicago under the Old Kraftman brand.

1966 Carvin Catalog
One of the most interesting companies that origisnally sold guitars and instruments made by other companies, but within a few years manufactured their own guitars in the mid 1960's was The Carvin Company of California. I recall sending for this catalog. It may have cost me 50 cents. It contained very interesting guitars and amplifiers, and it came with a separate price list written on a typewriter. 

The Carvin Company was a family business, and remains so today under the Keisel name.

Years later I learned that the bodies of those early Carvin guitars were made by the California based company, but the necks, pickups, and electronics were made by Hofner of Germany., though some of the pickups were wound in house. Later on Carvin manufactured their own brand of pickups 

Emenee Toy Commercial

In addition to the wish books there were a few television commercials in the mid-1960's from a toy company called Emenee. This New York based toy manufacture created several guitars that were made out of plastic. 

They also produced the "polychord electric-piano organ" aka The Audition Organ, and the "Big Bash Drum" snare drum.  Well a kid could start their own band with all those seemingly marvelous instruments. 

Emenee Tiger Guitar
 with amp

The Emenee Tiger guitar was a hollow body archtop instrument made entirely of plastic. It had a cutaway, an archtop bridge and came with a detachable contact microphone which was probably made by the DeArmond Company.

Emenee Swinging Cat Guitar

The Swinging Cat guitar has been described in internet posts as perhaps the worst toy ever made. It was a solid body style all plastic guitar with a faux pickup section molded on top of the body. It came with  a contact microphone that was permanently attached to the amplifier. The child could place the microphone contraption under the strings. 

Both instruments featured low watt battery powered amps housed in a plastic cabinet.

So sit back and check out these old catalogs. Dog-ear the pages for your selections, and make a wish. I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar publicationa 2020 (text only)