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.


payatot said...

I can't wait to read far more from you. Your writing skills and how you discuss things are really impressive that makes the whole thing so intriguing and interesting.

Cindy Dy said...

I read your blog.I thought it was great.. Hope you have a great day. God bless.


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