Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hallmark Guitars

Joe Hall was a R and B musician from the Bakersfield California area. In 1959, Joe was looking for someone to build a custom made guitar. 

Around this same time, Semie Moseley and his brother Andy were building futuristic looking electric guitars, working out of a Los Angeles garage.  Semie seemed to be blessed with God-given talent to create wonderful electric instruments.  He had taken jobs with Rickenbacker and Paul Bigsby’s guitar company.  

Semie’s first claim to fame was building not just double neck guitars, but guitars with three necks.  

Country rocker Joe Maphis was hosting a television show called Town Hall Party. 

Maphis happened to see one of Semie’s creations and commissioned him to build a very flashy double neck instrument.  Maphis’ show featured a sister and brother act called The Collins Kids. 

Maphis commissioned Moseley to build a similar double neck instrument for 12 year old guitar wiz, Larry Collins.

This all takes us back to Joe Hall’s story.  Hall saw one of Moseley’s guitars and he decided this would be the man to build his custom guitar.  

He ordered a guitar from Semie Mosely and paid upfront by trading him $400 and his Gibson electric guitar. 

We can delve into Mosrite history later, but for now I’ll say that Semie Moseley was a genius when it came to building an electric guitar, but even he admits in interviews to being a very poor business man. 

Hall waited and waited for his instrument.  He had to pass up gigs for lack of an instrument.  He asked Moseley to speed up making his guitar. Moseley responded by inviting Hall to come and assist in building the instrument.  Hall took up the invitation and spent the next several years learning the process of how to build an electric guitar from a master builder.  

Hall never earned a penny, but came away with an education. This led him to a career in making custom made guitars.

Moseley Standel
Semie Moseley secured a deal to build guitars under that Standel name.  Standel, was a company owned by Bob Crooks, who was known for building fine amplifiers during the early 1960.  Chet Atkins and Scotty Moore both used Standel amps.  Unfortunately Moseley’s deal failed.  

Bob Hall took over the deal and made a run of guitars that bore the resemblance of Mosrite’s instruments, only they bore the Standel brand.  This deal also soured due to unforeseen circumstances.

1966 Hall Standel

Joe Hall began building custom order guitars under the Sterling brand name. 

By this time, Semie Moseley was manufacturing the famous Venture model guitar and now was heading a real factory.  

Bill Gruggett

Hall was able to hire away a luthier named Bill Gruggett that was working at Mosrite.  Gruggett had some ideas for new instruments and Hall was willing to try them.

Gruggett was the designer of an unusual hollowbody instrument he called The Stradette.  This hollowbody guitar had a unique shape which was more reminiscent of a solid body instrument.

Hall’s luck seemed to change when Bob Bogle, the Venture’s bass player showed him crude drawing of an instrument, he had envisioned. This was the year when the Batman TV series was one of the number one TV shows. 

Hallmark Swept Wing

Bogie’s sketch featured a wing-shaped instrument that would become Hallmark’s signature Swept Wing guitar.  

1967 NAMM Eldorado in Front
About a year later Hall and Gruggett added a sort of 335-style guitar to their line up. This guitar was known as The Eldorado. They advertised this in publications and secured a booth at the Chicago NAMM Convention.

Unfortunately world events and a flood of cheap Asian-made guitars ended the era of the guitar boom.  Hallmark possibly gave away as many guitars as they sold.  The guitars were given to popular artists of the day in hopes of promoting their business.  Soon after Hall became discouraged and left the guitar business.

Bill Gruggett continued to build guitars and even got back together with assist Moseley.  They created the well-known Red, White, and Blue guitar that Buck Owens’ band presented him.  Buck featured this guitar on the Hee-Haw TV show.
Hallmark filed bankruptcy in 1968 and Gruggett closed up shop.

Bob Shade
Enter Bob Shade, a luthier from Maryland who became the well known go-to guy for restorations of original Mosrite instruments.  

As a collector, Shade was able to obtain several of the original Swept Wing guitars and other rare Mosrite guitars. He got in contact with Bill Gruggett with plans to revive the Hallmark name.  

They were able to get permission from Joe Hall to use the trademark.  Now the company is back in business building guitars on order.  

New Swept Wing
Their products include the Swept Wing, several Moserite style guitars, and the Stradette.  Hallmark even offers a guitar in the old Mosrite tradition named after player Deke Dickerson.

Deke Dickerson
If you are not familiar with Deke Dickerson, please look him up. Dickerson is a collector, player, producer, writer and band leader.

Deke is THE prominent collector of Moseley double neck instruments and other exotic guitars.  Dickerson holds an annual event in Anaheim California called The Guitar Geek Show, which features prominent guitar players such as Jennifer Batten, Jr. Brown, Duane Eddy, Del Casher, and Thom Bresh.

Also, please check out the new Hallmark Guitar page and all their new guitars. The prices are reasonable, comparable and in some cases less than what you would expect to pay for a factory made instrument. 

The Swept Wing Guitar aka Wing Bat makes appearances at guitar shows and charity events along with the original 1966 TV Batmobile, which the guitar will be forever linked with.

The Batmobile was designed and built by famous automobile designer George Barris.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guitar Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Handmade Batguitar
Today someone pointed out the Batguitar for sale on eBay  I thought, "h'mmm.  That's interesting. I wouldn't want it, but it is interesting and handmade."  Then I saw the price.  Oh sure, it  probably comes with a utility belt guitar strap, but the seller is asking $65,000 Canadian for it.

I don't think so, eh?

So I thought it would be interesting to see what other outrageously expensive guitars are being offered on eBay.

So I present Guitar Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

1956 Stratocaster
Here is a 1956 Fender Stratocaster.  It is in excellent shape. So is the case.  The serial number is 06673. Asking price is a  mere $42,000 U.S. dollars.

I can't imagine gigging with a $42,000 guitar. I'd spend the whole night worrying about it being stolen.

1960 Gibson Cherryburst

Lo and behold, the most desirable of all Gibson electrics; the holy grail if you will; a 1960 Gibson 'burst.  Not only in cherry-burst, but in cherry condition, as we used to say in the 1960's.  Yep, I'm vintage too.

The guitar comes with a vintage case in great condition, hang tags, ancient strings, warranty and original polishing cloth.  Get out your Visa card.  The seller would like $325,000 for this puppy.

Barney Kessel Collection
Next up is a collection of Barney Kessel's instruments the seller claims Mr. Kessel used in the studio.  There is a 1960 Barney Kessel Kay guitar, Barney Kessel's 1959 Danelectro bass and his circa 1940's Gibson BR-3 amplifier.

For you, such a bargain at $135,000. But I bet they would take $134,995.

1957 Gold Top

Norm's Rare Guitars in Los Angeles is a most reputable shop.  They know guitars at Norms. However I do not think I can scrape together $98,000 U.S. to get this most excellent 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop with original case and hang tags. There is some slight wear on the back, but sorry Norm, I'm going to have to take a pass.

Pearly Gates Replica

This guitar is a puzzler.  It's a Billy Gibbons Pearly Gates replica.  For $40,000 U.S.  For real!   It comes with a genuine signed picture of the Reverend and it's relic'd by the Gibson Custom Shop. is a replica!  For 40 grand!  No thanks.

EVH Charvel
Heck, for only $25,000 U.S. you could buy a genuine Charvel Eddy Van Halen Frankenstrat, autographed and played by the man himself and in the original case.

eBay Harrison Tele
But wait! There's more!  This seller is advertising a 1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster Original Harrison.  They allude it to be a Harrison.

I am aware that Fender gave George a Rosewood Telecaster in 1968. This guitar was ordered by then Fender head designer Roger Rossmeisl and custom made by noted luthier Philip Kubicki. Harrison gave it away to Delaney Bramlett. The seller wants GBP18,999, which equates to about $30,000 U.S.

Harrison's actual Tele
On closely examining the wood grain and comparing it to the grain on Harrison's actual instrument, I'm not certain the eBay guitar actually belonged to George Harrison.  Click on the pictures and compare.  Look at the wood on the lower bout of each where you would rest your arm.  I may be wrong. This is only my opinion.

So much for Guitar Life Styles of the Rich and Famous, and dreams of guitars I cannot afford.  But I've got my eye set on a sweet Hello Kitty 00-21. $39.95 with free shipping.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Brian Jones Mark III Teardrop Guitar

Brian Jones
Brian Jones was one of the founder of the Rolling Stones and the driving force behind much of the original Stones music.

The story goes that Jones placed an advertisement in a Soho club information paper called the Jazz News saying that he was inviting musicians to audition for a new R and B group. Mick Jagger showed up and brought his friend, guitar player Keith Richards along.

Later on bass player Bill Wyman was invited and finally Charley Watts made the scene.

The Stones music was strongly influenced by American blues-men such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Elmore James. However as time went on Brian changed the format with such songs as Good-bye Ruby Tuesday, Paint It Black, Dandelion and Lady Jane.

Due to his drug excesses, elusive behavior and the fact that the Stone's manager wanted Jagger to be the focus of the band, Jones was eventually asked to leave the band. He died in 1969 at the age of 27 years old, shortly after being sacked from the Stones.

Playing Framus & Harmony guitars
One did not have to be a guitar fanatic to know that the Rolling Stones started their career playing inexpensive instruments. Bill Wyman was fond of his Framus bass. Keith Richards played a Harmony Meteor and Jones first appeared with a Harmony Stratotone.

 Some of these were the same instruments we could first afford. We saw these instruments on the Stones first appearance in the United States on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Most all of the British groups of this era, 1963 through 1969, relied on Vox amplifiers, particularly the AC30 model. These were readily available in the U.K., where as amplifiers imported from the United States, carried an expensive duty tax.

Tom Jennings, the man behind Vox, wanted to build a guitar line that would compete with American made instruments. He turned to a British furniture builder for assistance and later set up an agreement with several Italian accordion and guitar manufacturers.

Jennings company, JMI, came two guitars with unique shapes; The Mk Series, commonly called The Teardrop and The Phantom. Both were based on Fender instruments.

Vox approached Jones with a white two pickup Mk model and asked him to promote it. Brian's guitar was built in the Dartmouth British factory and it's shape is slightly different than the guitars made in Italy by Eko Industries. Jones' instrument is elongated when compared with subsequent models.

It's two pickup layout and switch plate seem to slightly mirror Fender's Telecaster.

 The six-on-a-side headstock has a slight Fender appearance as well. The Vox name appears parallel to the bottom of the headstock. The six pole-piece pickups with white covers could be mistaken for Fender pickups if not for the rectangular shape and metal bases.

 The bridge and saddle were quite similar to a Fender hard tail Stratocaster tail-piece. Later models incorporated a Bigsby vibrato tail-piece and a more Gibson style bridge.

The guitars back side came with a round protective, snap-on pad, similar to the ones found on some Gretsch guitars.

Brian Jones' guitar was sold at an auction a Southeby's for $3200 in 1984 by the Hard Rock Cafe.

 It was placed in the New York City Hard Rock for many years and it now reside safely in the Cafe's London Vault.

During the years Eko built the Vox Mk Series they produced not just the the Mark III, but the Mark VI (two pickups with a Bigsby), Mark IX (9 strings) and Mark XII (twelve strings).
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gibson ES-125

Gibson introduced it's first commercially successful electric guitar in 1936. This was the ES-150, commonly known as the Charlie Christian model. The instrument was 16 1/4 inches wide and had a single blade pickup in the neck position that was held in place by three screws that were visible on the bodies top under the strings. The screws also adjusted the pickups height.


Following the success of this guitar, in 1938 Gibson introduced a budget model known as the model ES-100. This instrument was based on Gibson's L-50 arch top acoustic guitar. A pickup was added to the body and placed in the bridge position. 

The ES-100 was two inches shorter than the ES-150, having a body depth of a mere 14 1/4 inches. It's body was bound on the top and bottom. Within the guitars body were two sound-posts.  The guitars arched top was carved and made of spruce. However the back was flat. The neck was unbound and capped with a rosewood fretboard. The tuners were Klusons. The strings were held in place by a trapeze tail-piece.

Originally the pickup on this model was a blade style unit. In 1940 this changed to Gibson's first pole magnet pickup.

By 1941, the ES-100 was dropped from the line-up and replaced with the Gibson ES-125 model. Several changes in design occurred.

The body on this guitar was now 16 1/4 inches in width and came with a laminated arched maple top, which became Gibson's standard on it's electric hollow body instruments. The back and sides were also made of maple. The pickup was now Gibson's P90 dog-eared unit with adjustable pole-pieces. The body depth was 3 3/4 inches. The unbound solid Honduras mahogany neck was capped with a Brazilian rosewood fretboard which was originally topped with pearloid dot markers. The headstock, like the previously mentioned guitars, was unadorned except for the Gibson logo silk-screened in gold lettering across the top. The guitars pick-guard was made of tortoise-shell style celluloid.

1956 ES-125
The electronics remained similar to prior models; a single volume and tone potentiometer, but now featured gold tinted bonnet style knobs. The input jack was on the lower rim of the body. The bridge was compensated and made of rosewood.

The tuners, once again, were made by Kluson. The nickel plated tail-piece was trapeze style. The guitar was offered in sunburst.

In 1942, production stopped, due to the war. The model was reintroduced in 1946 when Gibson once again geared up for guitar production.

In 1956, Gibson updated the model, by offering it in their thin-line series, renaming it the ES-125T. All accouterments remained the same except for the body depth, which originally was 3 1/2 inches. The thin-line models depth was 1 3/4 inches.. A year later the model was offered with two P 90 pickups and called the ES-125TD. Both models were produced through 1969 when production ended.

One notable ES 125T players is blues man Roy Rogers.

In 1960, Gibson offered the ES-125TC and the ES-125TCD, both of which had a single Florentine cutaway.

The TC model came with a single P90 pickup up and the TCD (thin-cutaway-double) came with twin P90's.

In 1962 Gibson came up with the ES-120T. This was a student instrument. The body and neck were similar to the ES-125T, except it only had one "F" hole. The lower bout was covered with a large scratch plate which had one single coil pickup, a volume and a tone knob, plus the jack.

Between 1965 and 1970 Gibson produced 475 ES-125C and ES-125CD full bodied guitars. These came with one or two P90 pickups. George Thorogood favored the ES-125CD model.

By 1970 the entire line of Gibson's ES-125 models were discontinued. It's market was aimed at country and jazz style players. But rock players had moved on to the Les Pauls and other solid body guitars and jazz players preferred the fancier Gibson ES-175.