|1963 Burns Double Six|
In the mid 1960's I spent a lot of time at Dodd’s Music Store in Covington Kentucky. As a new guitar player I was awestruck by the collection of guitars hanging on the walls. Two of them in particular were fascinating. These were the Burn’s Double Six, a twelve string model and its six string companion, the Burns Jazz guitar. Both instruments featured Green-burst finishes and both had the famous Burn’s of London pickups. And both the six and twelve string guitars featured vibrato bars.
Wild Dog setting sounded like. In later years I discovered it didn't sound that great, but I digress.
Burns of London was originally known as Ormston Burns Ltd. Founded by James Ormston Burns and a partner Alice Louise Farrell in 1960. I cannot find any information about Miss Farrell.
|James Ormston Burns|
Under his ownership and ideas, this little guitar repair shop became the producer of guitars that had a world-class reputation. Like Fender, Burns sold off his company and later re-emerged with a new company and new guitar designs.
|1963 Black Bison|
The Ike Issacs model was distrubted by the Supersound Company. This was a company founded by a couple with the surname Wooten that specialized in public address and guitar amplifiers from 1952 to 1974. Their company needed someone to build guitars, so they contracted with Jim Burns. Burns introduced the Ike Issacs model in 1958 and shortly afterward introduced the Single Cutaway Bass for the company.
By 1959 Burns was building guitars under his own name, although he did so in collaboration with a fellow named Henry Weill. The result was The Fenton Guitar. Burns forte was wood working. Weill designed the electronics. The original Fenton Guitar looked somewhat like a Guyatone of the same period.
|Vibra Artist Deluxe|
|1963 Burns Bison|
|1963 Burns Split Sonic|
Jazz Guitars, it is doubtful most Jazz player would equate them to this music style, for these resembled Stratocasters and came with two or three Tri-Sonic pickups and a tremolo. However they were sweet looking guitars.
|Burns Shadows Bass|
The GB65 looked like a jazz guitar with F holes. The GB66 was a double cutaway version.
|GB66 Virginian D|
It had a round faux sound hole on the front that had two pickup on the upper and lower sides of the sound hole and like an acoustic guitar from the front.
However it featured a tremolo unit and if you saw it sideways you could see it was a thinline instrument.
signed an agreement with Ampeg to distribute their instruments in the United State. So you may run across a Burns of London guitar with the name Ampeg on its pickguard.
You would think the British Invasion would have brought bountiful sales for Burns, however quite the opposite happened. Popular British bands were using American made guitars. Burns sales plummeted and Jim Burns was very short of capital.
It was around this time, 1966, that Cincinnati, Ohio based Baldwin Piano Company was also experiencing a slump in piano and organ sales due to the popularity of the guitar. The company made an offer to buy the Fender Guitar Company, but was outbid by CBS. They then set their sites on Burns of London and purchased the company and all of its assets for just under £ 400,000. ($380,000 USD)
|Pickguard & controls are changed|
Baldwin later swapped necks or used a similar one on all models. Generally this was the one with the carved scroll on the head stock.
Baldwin (and Gretsch) guitars.
Baldwin employees spent a lot of time refinishing guitars that had been returned due to the paint or varnish being damaged. Due to a number of factors the brands popularity tanked and Baldwin Guitars shut down in 1970.
Although James O. Burns sold the tradename Burns of London, he did not totally get out of the guitar manufacturing business. He started a new company called Ormton in 1966. Initially his goal was to market pedal steel guitars made by the Denley Company. This venture lasted until 1968.
At this time Burns decided to create and original guitar which went on to be distributed by Dallas-Arbiter under the brandname Hayman. The line lasted from 1969 to 1973.
|Burns Flyte Guitar|
The Burns Steer, which gained some popularity through its use by singer Billy Bragg.
However this business closed in 1983 and was James Ormston Burns last venture as owner of a guitar manufacturing business.
Barry Gibson and Jim Burns was hired as a consultant to the company. The company's initial goal was to resurrect replicas of famous Burns guitars from the past and hand build each. This brought some accolades from performers of the day including Steve Howe from Yes, who is himself a guitar collector and very knowledgeable.
The Club Series expanded quickly and many Jim Burns designed guitars such as the Marquee, the Marvin, the Steer and the Bison were resurrected.
the Barracuda was introduced. Burns Guitars also worked with Queen guitarist Brian May to build a reproduction of his home-made Red Special, which was originally built by May and his father using 3 Burns Tri-Sonic pickups.
James O. Burns passed away in 1998.
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