Saturday, May 30, 2020

Winston Guitars

Marlboro Cigarette advertisement

When I was a kid the most prevalent advertisement on television was for cigarettes. These were the equivalent of today’s advertisements for the expensive prescription medications that you need to “talk to your doctor about”.  

1950's Dancing Cigarettes


In the 1940's through the '60's we were treated to celebrities promoting the virtues of smoking cigarettes. We also saw dancing cigarettes, and cartoon character hawking their favorite brands.



Winston Ad with the Flintstones
I grew up with cigarette ads that burned a hole in my subconscious, providing us with phrases like “Come on up to Marlboro Courtry” and “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby”, “Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco”, and of course “Winston Tastes Good Like A Cigarette Should”. 

Back in 1966, someone at the Buegeleisen and Jacobson. Company, who was in charge of branding imported guitars must have been puffing on his or her Winston, when they made a decision that would be a great name for a line of guitars.

Buegeleisen and Jacobson
Winston guitars were imported by Buegeleisen and Jacobson.  This company was a very old wholesaler which offered a line of musical instruments for retail music stores. The company began it's business in New York City in 1897.


Throughout the years they were the wholesale distribution company for Kay De Lux guitars, Seranader guitars, banjos, madolins, S.S. Stewart guitars, National guitars, Abbott trumpets, clarinets, and trombones, Salvador De Durro voilins and bowed instruments, and Martin Freres (Brothers) wind instruments, which included flutes, oboes, clarinets, and saxophones.

Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show
Around 1964, after the popularity of Beatles and other British groups, a boom in the sales of guitars hit not just the United States, but U.K., and Europe. This lead to an onslaught of inexpensive guitars that were imported to the United States mainly from Japan.

In this era, importer Buegeleisen and Jacobson was importing mostly guitars from Japan and re-branding them under the name "Kent" (Come to think of it, that is another cigarette brand).

Winston Guitars

All sources point to Kawai guitars as being the manufacturer of Winston guitars. Kawai was founded in 1927 by Koichi Kawai in Hamamatsu, Japan. Kawai, at the time, was a manufacture of pianos. Which they still manufacture.

Mr. Kawai’s vision was to create top-quality pianos, a quest in which he certainly succeeded! Kawai added guitars to its repertoire in 1954.


Domino Guitars by Kawai

The best known brands of the mid 1960’s that were manufactured by Kawai were sold under the TeleStar, and Domino brand names.




1964 Winston model 449
By 1967 Kawai purchased the Teisco guitar company of Japan. Both companies maintained their own designs, but had different pickups. All Winston Guitars, both electric and acoustic appear to be manufactured by Kawai.

In 1968 I was 16 years old, and headed for summer camp. I wanted a cheap acoustic guitar to take along to camp, so I went to the 3 or 4 major music stores in downtown Cincinnati to see what twenty dollars would buy.

1966 Wurlitzer Guitar
The Wurlitzer Piano and Organ Company had just come out with their own brand of electric guitars. So they sold guitars, and had some nice ones too. The salesman tried to direct me to a very nice Guild six string, but I declined. I finally got through to him that all I wanted was an inexpensive instrument to take on a camping trip. He then said, "Oh, you want a beater. Why didn't you say so". So I came home with a $20 Winston acoustic guitar, which was a Japanese copy of a Stella.


1960's Winston Stella Copy

Like the Stella, the body was birch, and was solid, with a brown-burst finish with a faux flame, and ladder style bracing. The neck was made of mahogany. The fretboard was probably birch that was painted black, with painted fret markers. The tuners were cheap open back models with plastic buttons.

The bridge and nut were plastic, and the strings were secured with a cheap metal trapeze piece. On the headstock was a sticker assuring me, "Steel Reinforced Neck". It would not warp, but it was not adjustable. It played pretty much like you would expect a twenty dollar guitar to play. The action was a little high to say the least. To purchase one today, it would set you back about $300.

Winston Acoustic Guitars


Kawai/Winston made a variety of acoustic guitars. Some were copies of U.S. made instruments, others were classical style guitars.




1960 Winston Guitar




They also made a variety of electric guitars, with one or two pickups that had an unusually high output.





1965 Winston



Most pickups read in the 2k range. Kawai pickups were in the 2.79k range.






1970 Winston Electric Guitars



Winston continued to offer electric and acoustic instruments through 1970.

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





Saturday, May 16, 2020

Guitarists That Played Weird Signature Guitars

Glen Campbell on Shindig!
April 22nd would have been Glen Campbell's 84th birthday. Glen was an amazing guitarist, a member of the Wrecking Crew, and went on to become one of the biggest musical stars of our time. The first time I saw him was on a television show called Shindig! (The title had an explanation mark in it.)

Early in his career Glen was playing an unusual guitar, and what stood out was the elliptical hole in that guitars body and headstock.

Glen Campbell on Shindig!



I was only 13 and not aware of the myriad of guitars available, but this one didn’t seem quite right. It turns out Campbell was playing a Teisco Model T-60 that was made in Japan.





Teisco T-60
I never knew why he chose that instrument or where he purchased that guitar. I do know that most members of The Wrecking Crew were playing Fender or Gibson instruments,

Glen used his 3 pickup Teisco guitar on many hit recordings.

Campbell in The Champs

Prior to becoming a session musician, Campbell played a Fender Telecaster and a Jazzmaster in some Country bands.


Thinking about this lead me to wondering about other guitarists that chose unusual guitars as their signature instruments.

I can only imagine that a lack of money is the reason that most of these players chose their instruments. Although there are some notable exceptions.

Campbell started his own career as a singer, began with his recording of the John Hartford song, “Gentle On My Mind”. By 1968 Campbell hosted The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, a weekly television variety show.

Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour
Around this time he was approached by Charles Kaman who had created The Ovation Guitar company, and offered him an instrument. Campbell loved this guitars ease of playing, its light weight, and the built-in piezo pickup system. Kaman supplied him with guitars, and Ovations were in use for other musicians during the shows segment called “the picking pit”, which featured Glen performing songs with other artists. Ovation eventualy created a Glen Campbell model for the star.

Campbell with Ovation 1233-4
Thunderhead Guitar



Glen also played a hollow body electric guitar made by Ovation that resembled a Gibson ES-335. The body, single coil pickups, and parts were made by Framus. The neck and tuning machines were made by Ovation.




Hound Dog Taylor Kawai guitar


Some Blues guitars played unusual guitars. Such is the case with Hound Dog Taylor. He first played piano, but when he was in his 20's he purchased a cheap Kawai S180 four pickup guitar that he purchased through a Sears catalog.




Kawai S180



Interestingly, the Kawai company purchased Teisco in 1967. 






Taylor with a Kingston SD-40



Taylor also played a Kingston SD-40, which was another four pickup Teisco guitar that had a slightly different shape. 






Taylor with Teisco Spectrum 5

Later in his career Hound Dog Taylor played Teisco's best model; the Teisco Spectrum 5, which had three split "z" coil pickups, 5 two way switches, and a vibrato bar. This was a stereo guitar that could be played through two separate amplifiers.

Albert KIng with 1958 Flying Vee



Left handed bluesman Albert King started out playing a 1958 Flying Vee. Somehow it was lost or stolen. The Gibson Company replaced it for him with a 1966 model.





King with Dan Erliwin Vee


In 1972 luthier Dan Erliwine built a left handed model out of a 125 year old piece of Walnut. The headstock on this guitar was shaped like a Les Paul.





King's Prokopow Vee


He had one more guitar built in 1980 by luthier Radley Prokopow. He used both of these instruments for the remainder of his career. He named all of his guitars Lucy.






Bo Diddley

Another Blues/Rock player, and interesting character, that played an unique guitar was Elias McDaniel Bates, known to the world as Bo Diddley.



Diddley Bow

As a young boy he built a one sting instrument out of a cigar box and a broom handle called a diddley bow. He named himself after that instrument.




Bo Diddley with a 1956
Gretsch Jet Firebird Guitar


During his rise to fame, Diddley played a number of guitars including a Gibson L-5. But his raucous stage behavior required a smaller, more durable instrument. Bates/Diddley began playing Gretsch guitars and developed a relationship with the company.



Bo Diddley with
The Twang Machine

In 1958 he convinced a company designer to create the Gretsch G6138 which had a rectangular body, two high sensitivity Filtertron pickups. He named this guitar The Twang Machine. Diddley used this guitar throughout his life time, but had some similar instruments that he made, or had someone build for him.




Jack White with his Airline Guitar
Jack White, of The White Stripes, is famous for playing a 1964 Montgomery Ward JB Hutto Airline Guitar. The guitar was originally manufactured by the Valco Guitar and Amplifier Company and its body is made of two pieces of fiberglass that was baked in an oven. Valco referred to this material as Res-O-Glas.

Airline 59 2P 


This twin single coil pickup red guitar had a white pickguard and a white gasket around the joint in the body. The JB Hutto nickname was given to the instrument because Bluesman J.B. Hutto played the same guitar in the 1960's. 






Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show
Hofner guitars of Germany still produces some fabulous instruments, but their reputation was sealed when Beatle Paul McCartney appeared on stage on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 playing his left handed Hofner 500/1 bass guitar.

McCartney with original Hofner bass
His original bass was purchased in Germany in 1961. It had a neck pickup, and a pickup in the center position. He received another Hofner 500/1 in 1964, which is the one he used on the Ed Sullivan show.  That bass had a neck and a bridge pickup. Both Hofner basses were short scale instruments.

Wyman with Framus Bass

I can remember when The Rolling Stones first appeared on the scene, singing their updated version of the Buddy Holiday song Not Fade Away. On Shindig!, and The Ed Sullivan Show, bassist Bill Wyman can be seen playing a 1964 hollow body 51/50 Framus Star bass, which was made by another German company.




Framus 51/50 Star Bass Deluxe
Sometimes Wyman played this bass in the style of an upright bass player, holding its neck up to his neck. This bass had two single coil pickups in the neck and bridge position, and a single Florentine cutaway. The laminated top on the instruments body had a flame to it. Wyman said that it resembled humbug, a British candy, so he named the bass Humbug.

Wyman 1964 Framus Star Bass

He also owned another sunburst Framus Star bass with a single pickup in the neck position. He auctioned that off years ago and donated the proceeds to the MS Foundation.

One thing I recall about those old Framus basses is their skinny neck. It was only 1 and 3/8" wide.

Stookey playing 'Sebastian'
Noel "Paul" Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary plays an unusual 12 string instrument that was built for him by luthier Nick Apollonio of Maine. Back around 1970 Noel and Nick happened to be at a folk music get together and were listening to Gordon Bok perform one of his songs on a 12 string.

Noel commented to the guy seated next to him ow great that guitar sounded, and Nick replied, "I built that for Gordon". Stookey asked Nick if he would build him a similar instrument.

Luthier Nick Apollonio
with Cittern body

Stookey's instrument was built in 1971 and shipped to his home. Nick named it Sebastian, and attached a note between the strings. Stookey wrote a song about the guitar and included it on his LP called Paul and...


He also played this same instrument on the iconic 'Wedding Song' which was written for band mate Peter Yarrow's wedding, but has since become a song played at countless weddings.

Apollonio Bell Cittern
This 'guitar' is actually a cittern and has a bell shape for the deep body. Apollonio builds fantastic five course citterns in this style, but modified it for the 12 strings six courses. It is a beautiful instrument, especially when tuned down one or two steps. BTW, if you would like Apollonio to build you one, email me.

Jimmy Page with a Giannini Craviola


Jimmy Page is mainly know for using his 1959 Gibson Les Paul and the Gibson double neck EDS-1275. But on the Led Zeppelin acoustic song, Tangerine, he played a 12 string Giannini Craviola.



1970 Giannini Craviola

This guitar was built in Sao Paulo, Brazil by the country's largest stringed instrument manufacturer. This unique instruments body shape is best described as a lima bean. Page's instrument was made in 1970.

The groups most famous song, Stairway to Heaven, was recorded on a Fender XII electric 12 string guitar.



Ian Hunter with Harvey Thomas guitar

In 1966 a group of British Rocker started a band that eventually was called Mott The Hoople. The band's lead singer was Ian Hunter, and their most popular song was called, "All The Young Dudes".



Harvey Thomas Maltese Cross Guitar


Hunter played a very unique guitar, that was built by one of the 1960's most eccentric builders; Harvey Thomas of Kent, Washington.



Pages from the 1967 Thomas catalog
Though he never gained the fame he deserved, for a few brief years Harvey Thomas built some very unique instruments from his home in Kent, Washington. 

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






Sunday, April 26, 2020

Fano Guitars and Novo Guitars

When most of us think of guitar manufacturers in Pennsylvania, there is but one establishment that comes to mind: Martin Guitars of Nazareth.

Fleetwood Pennsylvania
However a few years ago, if you were travel 41 miles southwest of Nazareth you may come to the quaint town of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, which was once known as Schlegelschteddel by the Pennsylvania Deutch settlers. We are going to refer to it as Fleetwood, since my knowledge of German is quite limited.

Dennis Fano

This town was the home of luthier Dennis Fano, who built some exquisite and original guitars there under the brand name Fano Guitars, and then under another brand name Novo Guitars.


He sold Fano guitars to a company called Premier Builder Guitars, which eventually was acquired by Desert Son Musical Instruments. This company currently builds Fano Guitars in the much warmer climate of Scottsdale, Arizona. The story of how Desert Son Musical Instruments is somewhat convoluted, as I will explain.

Walter Becker's
Fano Alt de Facto GF6


I first ran across the Fano brand when researching an article about the passing of Walter Becker, and the unique guitars that he used. One of the guitars he owned was a Fano Alt de Facto which had twin Lindy Fralin P90 style pickups and a ‘Tone Styler’ control.






Matt Umanov Guitars
Dennis Fano got his start in the business repairing guitars at Matt Umanov Guitars in New York City's Greenwich Village on Bleecker Street, where he worked until 2001, when he decided to pursue guitar building full-time.


When Dennis first opened his Pennsylvania shop, Fano Guitars, he repaired and modified bass guitars, with one of the first models Fano modified were his Fender Jazz Bass and then a Harmony bass. Since those day Dennis Fano acquired a reputation for building boutique guitars. His flagship model was the aforementioned Alt de Facto guitar line-up which is available in a wide range of styles and options.

2010 Fano Alt De Facto JM6


Dennis built up Fano Guitars until 2009, when he sold the company to Premier Builders Guild aka PBG. Dennis Fano then became an employee of that company, working at his old workshop and doing prototypes and one-offs. He worked there until 2014 when he started his current brand Novo Guitars.



Gene Baker
B3 Guitars



PBG Fano Guitars also purchased boutique builder Gene Baker's "B3" guitars and set up shop in Arroyo Grande California.








Koll Guitars

Saul Koll was another builder associated with PBG. He left PBG in 2015 and returned to running his company, Koll Guitars in Los Angeles, California.

In 2015 Gene Baker took back his B3 brand from PBG and resumes building his own boutique guitars.

That same year PBG shut down the Arroyo Grand facility and farmed out building Fano Guitars to Grover Jackson's company. The company, still known as Fano Guitars, began offering the Fano Standard Series, which utilized necks and bodies possibly made in Japan. However the Alt de Facto series was always made in the USA.

Jack Schwartz - Fano Guitars

At the end of 2016 PBG (Premier Builders Guild) made a decision to sell out to Desert Son Music, which was headed up by Jack Schwarz, who spent many years working for Fender Musical Instruments.


Desert Son Musical Instruments
- Fano Guitars
Desert Son Music currently builds Fano Guitars, including the Alt de Facto models, the Standard Series, which is completely USA made in small batch production, the Omni Series, and the Builder's Choice models, which are custom designed instruments built to the buyers specifications.

Dennis Fano at work


Dennis Fano is currently building his own models under the Novo Guitar brand. He once again moved his shop. This time to Nashville, Tennessee. He hired Matthew Timmons, formerly of Lollar pickups as the shop's general manager.





A Few Fano Models
Fano offers three base models under the Novo brand, and a more affordable guitar called the Rivolta under a partnership with Eastwood Guitars. All Novo guitars all use pine for the body. To me this is reminiscent of New York City luthier Rick Kelly, that searches demolished city building for 'Bowery' pine to make some of his Carmine Street guitars.

The Novo Serus line up consists of six different models. These have familiar features from popular guitars such as the Telecaster, Jazzmaster, and Strat, but with a different shape. The design favors the offset-body style like the Jazzmaster,  but with sharper on the horns.

All feature Fralin pickups, or Lollar pickups and Mastery bridges (from The Mastery Bridge Company).

Novo Serus J
For the J Series,  Novo prefers to use P-90's instead of regular Jazzmaster pickups. However, like on all Novo models, you can customize pickups, pickguards, and colors. All Serus model guitars have a similar unique body shape.

The also utilize Emerson potentiometers and Emerson paper in oil capacitors of varying types.

For the Serus J-Series, think Jazzmaster, but without the second circuit.

Novo Serues JS



The Serus JS-Series is a similar guitar, but without the vibrato bar.








Novo Serus S


The Serus S-series comes with three Fralin single coil strat-like pickups and the vibrato,





Novo Serus SV
The Serus SV model combines a strat-style whammy bar, but with two different Lollar humbucking pickups. The neck pickup on this guitar is a Lollar Firebird model, and the bridge pickup is a Lollar Imperial. This instrument features a chrome control panel. You can customize it with your choice of colors, amount of distress, fretboard binding, and types of inlays.

Novo Serus T
The award winning Serus T model  comes with Tele-style knobs, a chrome control panel and chrome Tele-style bridge plate, with a three piece brass bridge/saddle assembly. The Fralin pickups are a Tele model, and a P-45 in the neck position.

As with all Novo guitars, this model comes standard with a pine body, but you can customize it with different wood, and other options.

Novo Serus TC
The Serus TC model features a "chopped" Tele style bridge with the three piece adjustable brass saddles, and two Lollar Imperial humbucking pickups. Both T, and TC guitars feature a forearm contour and are customizable.

The Novo Miris Series is made up of two guitars. The standard body is pine, but as with all Novo models you can customize to a different wood material.

Novo Miris J

The Miris J is done in the Fender Thinline Telecaster style, with a single 'F' hole, but in the Novo shape. The large pickguard in made of chrome/nickel, and topped with two Fralin Alnico hum-cancelling P-90 pickups.

The guitars top is trimmed in herringbone. This model has a Jazzmaster style vibrato, and strat-style knobs.

Novo Miris T
The Novo Miris T features a similar body with herringbone trim on the top. The pickguard is plastic, but can be customized. It also has the single 'F' hole, and comes with a Fralin hum-cancelling Alnico pickup in the neck position. The Telecaster syle bridge has a three piece saddle arrangement and a Fralin T-style single coil pickup.

The two models that make up the Novo Solus Series sport a different shape. This series feature more of a single pickup Les Paul Standard type guitar.

Novo Solus F1

The Solus F1 has a chrome/nickel Tele-style bridge plate with the three piece brass adjustable saddle unit, topped with a Fralin T style pickup. The neck scale on this guitar is 24.75" compared to 25.5" on other Novo models.


Novo Solus M1
The Solus M1 is similar but comes with a single Fralin Dogear P-90 pickup. Novo guitars are handmade and therefore range in price from $2400 to $3800 USD.




Eastwood Rivolta Guitars


The more affordable Eastwood Rivolta line was designed by Dennis Fano, and built by Eastwood Guitars. Their guitars are built in China and South Korea.  This line up consists of 14 different guitars, a baritone guitar, and a bass guitar, ranging in price $900 to $1400 USD.

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