Monday, April 1, 2024

How To Build Your Own Vintage Mickey Mousegetar


One of the original 
Mousegeetars in 
the Disney vault

Today is April 1st, and it’s time to start on a new project. We will need several grades of sandpaper, some varnish remover, different sizes of paint brushes, some wire cutters, and Bondo™.

1961 Gibson ES-335

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. We will also need a 1961 cherry red Gibson ES-335. I guess we can substitute a newer Epiphone version. If you must.

1961 P.A.F Humbucking
guitar pickup

First of all we need to remove that neck pickup. Just set it aside to use for another project. Save the potentiometers too. We next use the Bondo™  to fill the rectangular hole left where the pickup was. Use a scraper to level that adhesive. 

Variety of Sandpaper

Now this next part is very important, so pay close attention. We are going to start sanding the guitars’ upper body with 80 grit paper and then finishing with 0000 paper until the surface is smooth as silk, 

Cherry wood stain

Afterward we apply some Cherry Red stain from Stew Mac with a rag or cloth. Brush on the upper surface and blend in with a smooth bristle brush the rub the finish in with a cotton cloth.


Cherry Wood Spray Paint

Next apply Stew Mac Cherry Red spray paint to the guitar’s upper body. Do this in a well-ventilated area. I advise that you wear a mask, or respirator so your nasal foliage doesn’t turn cherry red. Chicks really don’t dig that look. 

Guitar Lacquer

Once everything has dried, spray a nice thin coat of nitrocellulose lacquer on it. Once it has dried I suggest doing this at least three times. 

Mickey Mouse Decal

I have looked and you can buy large Mickey Mouse decals on Pinterest for less than a couple dollars. Very delicately soak the decal in a pan of water and then place your Mickey Mouse decal on the instrument top side carefully covering the upper and lower bouts with Mickey’s mouse-ears. 

Once everything has dried, restring you guitar and start playing your favorite Mickey Mouse Club songs. Yes sir,  ♫ You’re and honorary Mouseketter! ♫


This is unbelievable Gibson will now be available under the name Xibson, after being purchased and renamed by Elon Musk. 

Oh yeah, April Fools!!!

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Chinese (Guitar) Invasion Is Here


The Chinese Guitar Invasion

Beatles on Sullivan 1964
I am old enough to recall the British Invasion. Back in February of 1964 The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Those countless teens that were not fortunate enough to be at the show watched The Beatles perform on television that Sunday night. After that many of them decided to learn to play guitar. 

This resulted in a guitar boon that lasted for about three or four years. Musical instrument sales of guitars soared, and the majority of those instruments were made in Japan by various manufacturing companies, then shipped in bulk to the United States and Europe where brokers relabeled or ‘badged’ them. 

Most of these guitars, basses, organs, and drums were of inferior quality to the American made instruments. The Japanese manufacturers attempted to model the guitars off US made designs. They usually based them on pictures of American guitars since receiving an actual American made guitar was expensive, and had a tariff.

So we not only had The British Invasion of musicians anad bands but we experienced The Japanese Invasion of guitars as well. Though I might add some of these mid 1960’s instruments were also made in Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Russia. 

Norlin vs Elger 1976
In 1976 Gibson sued Ibanez in the lawsuit Nolin vs Elger Music. Briefly, the Hoshino company of Japan, purchased Elger Music/ Medley Music of Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania was owned by Harry Rosenbloom. Although his store was located in the same state as Martin Guitars, Rosenbloom could not get a Martin franchise. 

Rosenbloom hired two luthiers to build guitars under the Elger brand name. 

Medley Music Bryn Mawr
This went on for a year until Mr. Rosenbloom found it was far too expensive to employ luthiers, so Harry inked a deal with Hoshino to manufacture guitars for his store and label them as Elger guitars. At the time Hoshino/Ibanez had been making pretty good copies of Gibson guitars at the time. From 1969 to 1986, Gibson guitars were owned by The Norlin Corporation.

The Ibanez company bought Medley Music from Rosenbloom and began using it as their USA distribution center. This resulted in Gibson/Norlin suing Elger for patent infringement. This famous suit was settled out of court, but brought about the term "Lawsuit Guitars".  The suit never made it to trial and was settled out of court.

Orville by Gibson
Yet only seven years later, in 1983 Gibson/Norlin decided to hire a Japanese firm to build it's Epiphone line of guitars. These were produced by Tokai, Burny, and Greco. Then in 1988 Gibson hired a Japanese firm to build  models called "Orville" guitars.  In the proceeding years Epiphone as moved most of its production to China. 

Made In Japan 

Then in 1982 Fender inked a deal with the the FujiGen Gakki factory in Japan to produce some of its guitars. This happened at a time when Fender/CBS was up for sale. Then in 1985 Fender was sold to a group of investors. After the sale Fender did not have an onshore manufacturing site as the Fullerton California site was not part of the deal. Around this date all Fender guitars were made in Japan. 

Within a few years there were American made Fenders built in Corona California and the cheaper guitars, basses, amps were built in Eseneda Mexico as well. Later Fender moved it's Squier line are made in China and Indonesia. 

With the advent of all the well known USA guitar manufacturers using Chinese, Japanese, and Asian labor to build budget instruments it was bound to result in the same Chinese companies manufacturing their own line of guitars, basses, and amps and retailing those instruments at extremely low costs.

Yako Musical Instrument Co.
The Yako Musical Instrument Company is located in ZangZhou China and has a branch in Taiwan. Yako manufactures hundreds on brands including Squier.  In the past Fender built it's Modern Player series under the Fender brand name in China.

AXL Musical Instruments also manufactures Squier instruments and is located in Shanghai, China. Squier Affinity guitars are manufactured in China as well as in Indonesia. 

Samick Co. Korea
Cort  Crafter, and Samick of Korea all have associations with Fender as well as other companies. All of this to say that because of Gibson and Fenders offshore production,  Because of the decisions of the major US guitar manufacturers which also include  Gretsch, and Guild, which is now owned by Cordoba Guitars, we are in the midst of a Chinese Invasion.

Amazon Electric Guitars
Amazon was quick to pick up on guitar and musical instrument sales and set up affiliations with these  same Chinese manufacturers that the USA manufacturers have contracted with for Squier and Epiphone such as the Yako Musical Instrument Company, to sell guitar and basses under Amazon brands.

Interestingly Yako and AXL both build  guitars for Gretsch and for  Cordoba, which owns Guild Guitar brand. This same company builds guitars under the Donner brand as well.

If you shop on Temu for guitars and basses, these instruments are built by Yako.  Fesley Guitars are made by the same Chinese company, Yako. Incidentally, Yako is the same company builds Fender's Squier guitars. 

Firefly Guitar are made in China, but by a smaller unidentified company. They are made in small batches. These guitars are of better quality than some of the other Chinese brands and tend to sell out quickly.

These guitars can be found on  

Glarry T-Style - $65.99
One of Amazon’s most popular brands are Glarry Guitars. They are made in Fuzhou City in China. Glarry Musical Instruments makes many other musical instruments mainly for export and rebranding. 

The popularity of Glarry Guitars arises from the very low price point, of sixty to one hundred-sixty dollars for their line up, and most bore resemblance to Fender Instruments.  

I purchased a Glarry T-Style guitar.  It took me a good while to set it up.  The strings that come on the guitar are awful. I was never a fan of Telecaster bridges so it took some work to get all the strings set to a comfortable height. The neck truss rod needed to be tightened up about a quarter turn to the right.. The neck could still use some sanding, since it is rougher than the typical satin finished neck. Also some of the fret ends need to be filed down.  After putting all the work into it the guitar is now comfortable to play, however the neck is a little clubby. If you are planning to buy one of these guitars for your kid, I advise that the set up is not a job for a beginner.

Michael Angelo Batio
Michael Angelo Batio is an extraordinary ambidextrous  heavy metal shredder that plays specially built guitars with two to four necks. He is a sponsor for the Chinese brand of guitars called Sawtooth. 

Sawtooth Guitars
The multi-neck instruments are made for him, but the single neck versions are available on Amazon. These are definitely better instruments than most Chinese brands and run from the $150 to $225 range. 

Sawtooth guitars are made and distributed by the wholesale manufacturer Guangzhou Vines Musical Instrument Company. 

They usually sell in lots of a minimum of four pieces direct from the manufacturer. Their house brand is called Smiger Electric Guitars.  

Hotone Nano Amp
One company I haven't mention is Hotone. They make small amplifiers and effects.  This one is a puzzler.  Is it pronounced "Hot One or Ho Tone?" let me know in the comments. 

Amazon sells guitars and musical instruments under many different brands, that are generally made at one of the aforementioned factories. Many of these instruments rival Epiphone and Squier guitars and basses.

With some tweaking any these guitars and basses can be updated to very nice instruments.  

As I look at the videos below I am reminded of the humble beginnings of Leo Fender's factory in Fullerton California. That facility, Leo Fender opened in 1946, was housed in a warehouse that had little or no ventilation, climate control, humidifiers, air purification, or air conditioning.  The current Fender factory in Corona California is much improved, for the guitars, and the employee, The videos below show some of these Chinese factories, but for the CNC machines and other updated equipment, being housed in the same conditions that Fender employees worked in back in the 1950's.

©UniqueGuitar Publications 2024 (text only)
   Click on links in the pictures for sources. 
   Click on links in the text for further information.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Christmas Wish Time

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. Yep, AM. FM would come later. Most of the artists I liked played guitar. When The Beatles showed up I was glued to their perfomance. 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 and an 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 all.

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, televisions, and electronics.

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, Montgomery Wards, and others.

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 considerably 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.  A similar 12 watt 1965 Fender Princeton Reverb was $169.

The Montgomery Ward Company used the brand name Airline for its electronic and music products. They used a number of "jobbers" or wholesale companies to procure their guitars and amplifiers, such as National, Valco, Supro, Harmony, Kay,  All 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 offered in 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. Though the pickups covers seem thin, the actual single coil pickups underneath the pickguard were normal size compared to comparable instruments.

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 catalogs were like finding gold. We could look at all those 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 originally sold guitars and instruments made by other companies, but within a few years manufactured their own guitars by the mid 1960's. This was The Carvin Company of California. I recall sending for their catalog. It may have cost me 50 cents for postage. It contained very interesting guitars and amplifiers, and it came with a separate price list manually typed on a typewriter. 

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

I wish there were more videos of guitar catalogs on the internet. There were a few last year, but they now they all seem to  come with a subscription price.

I wish you all A Very Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!  I hope Santa brings you a new guitar.

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

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