Friday, August 21, 2015

Crucianelli Guitars

Crucianelli Guitar under the Elite brand name
The 1950’s were boom years for accordion makers. In 1951 The Lawrence Welk Show started airing in Los Angeles and by 1955 the ABC TV network picked it up and aired it across the country.

Accordion salesmen started going door to door in the late 1940’s selling student instruments on credit and convincing parents to sign up their children for weekly lessons.

There were even accordion conservatories” in major cities. But then Rock n’ Roll took charge and the accordion sat in the closet.

By the early 1960’s, the guitar was THE instrument.

Many of the accordion manufacturers were based in Italy and Germany. And in the 1960’s they all saw their sales slump so they decided to use the same skills to manufacture and apply them to manufacturing guitars. That is how the Crucianelli Company handled business.

The Crucianelli company was founded in 1888 in Castelfidardo by Sante Crucianelli. Crucianelli, was a former partner of Paolo Soprani. Both men were pioneers of the regional accordion industry. Interestingly, Oliviero Pigini worked for Soprani before Pigini started his own business, the Eko Company.

Sante Crucianelli set up his shop in an area of Italy known as Castelfidardo. The first instruments were inexpensive button accordions that were fairly easy to play. This region of Italy still remains a center of accordion production today.

Though it took a while, Sante Crucianelli’s business became very successful by 1921. In fact he was awarded some of Italy’s top honors of the day, including the Cross of the Cavalier of the Italian Crown. His sons and families remained in this business through 1971.

As previously stated, both Crucianelli Accordions and the Eko Accordion company, run by Pigini, saw the writing on the wall during the early 1960’s and made the business decision to diversify into manufacturing guitars.

Vox Bobcat -
made by Crucianelli
It was odd that during the guitar boom that started around 1963 and started a decline in late 1965. Crucianelli and Eko, as competitors were vying for business. So when Vox Musical Instruments made a move to offer guitars under the Vox brand, both companies were utilized by Vox as subcontractors.

Eko specialized in building acoustic and solidbody guitars and Crucianelli specializing in acoustic hollowbody instruments.

Olivero Pigini of Eko
Sadly Oliviero Pigini passed away in 1967. He had envisioned an eventual merger of the two companies.

For us to understand the Italian guitar market of that era, one has to look at the accordion design of the day. The accordions that once came in standard black wood or plastic housing were now covered with glittery brightly colored celluloid plastic to stand out under stage lights and attractive to buyers.

These squeezeboxes also came with buttons to switch the instruments sound. Some models were even electrified with built in microphones.

Crucianelli and Eko both utilized these  features on their electric guitars. Crucianelli applied these principals to the electric guitars that they built.

If not for the label it is not easy to distinguish a Crucianelli guitar from an Eko, as some models closely resembled each other. What further confuses identification is the fact Crucianelli marketed their guitars under different brand names, such as Elite, Elli-Sound, Imperial, and Custom Built.

PANaramic guitar by Crucianelli
And then to make matters even more confusing American brand names were added to the mix such as España, Ardsley, FH, Imperial, the quarter moon-shaped Spazial, the Vox Challenger and the Vox Escort, the Vox Teardrop hollowbodies (aka Elite Teardrops) PANaramic guitars, the Vox Astro bass and the Vox Harlem.

Possibly the most unusual Crucianelli was The Spazial. It looked like a quarter moon on its side.

Vox Astro & Crucianelli
The Vox Astro bass was produced by Crucianelli before Vox contracted with the company. When sold as a Vox bass guitar, all that was changed was the headstock.

These instruments were also offered under other brand names for jobbers to sell to retailers and catalog companies.

Crucianelli made some very nice guitars in the ES-335 style and also produced most all of the semi-acoustic guitars for Baldwin when they were in the guitar business.

During the 1960’s Crucianelli offered some violin shaped guitars and basses that resembled those produced by the Hofner Company.

Elite and Vox brand names
Crucianelli’s Florentine electric guitar is reminiscent of a similar Kay guitar. Both guitars resemble the current Gibson Johnny A Model.

Crucianelli produced a good number of guitars that were made with celluloid plastic bodies, such as this 1962 "mother-of-toilet-seat" Tonemaster.

This Crucianelli guitar appears to be made of wood, but it is celluloid plastic designed to look like wood.

Here are a variety of Crucianelli models from a jobber's catalog.

Crucianelli also produced many wooden guitars that were generally hollow body style instruments. This Elite model has a very interesting vibrato bar.

Here is another 1965/66 model Crucianelli in the style of a 335 but with 3 pickups. They were sold under the brand names Tonemaster, Espana and Crucianelli.

Here is an example of a wooden solid-body Crucianelli that was sold under the Elit-Sound brand name.

Crucianelli also marketed a line of acoustic guitars such as this Crucianelli C100. Some were sold in the USA under the PANaramic brand, while other sold under the Crucianelli brand and the C. Renella brand.

It is not known if these were made by Crucianelli in Italy or subcontracted for distribution.

Here is a page from a 1966 Vox catalog. All of these guitars were made for Vox by Crucianelli.

Elka X-605 organ
As the years progressed one of the family members, Pietro Crucianelli branched out into manufacturing combo organs under the Elka brand.

Elka Panther 100

Products manufactured by the Elka company were distributed by Unicord, another major music manufacturer/distributor, that is responsible for many instruments and amplifiers. At the time these included the Elka Panther Organ. The Elka company was sold to GEM (General Music).

Crumar Organizer
In 1971, another of the family members, Mario Crucianelli, who was employed by Elka left the company as the result of family disputes.

Crumar Elan
He founded the Crumar F. Marchetti Company along with a partner. The name Crumar is an amalgam of Crucianelli and Marchetti. The company built combo organs, electric pianos. small home organs and early synthesizers. This company remained in business until 1986.

Vox Jaguar Organ
A company called LEM, owned by GEM (General Music) acquired rights for production of the company’s products. GEM is of interest because they too were building organs for Vox/Jennings.

The combo organs they built for Vox were a cheaper version of the Vox Continental organ and were called Vox Jaguar organ
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)


Liesbeth en Karl said...

Thank you!

Castelfidardo was really the hotbed of Italian accordion production, and its high tide was a bit earlier than in the US, more in the 1910s-1930s. Besides Crucianelli (now a hotel) and Eko, the pioneering Soprani family and Scandalli were the biggest factories. Some others ventured into guitar production as well: Bartolini, Moreschi, Mengini... All quite sparkly, with odd curves and push switches.

This promo video of the new Eko company has footage of the original factory:

marcus ohara said...

Thank you! I'm watching the video now.

GBC said...

I bought a very nice Espana branded Crucianelli ES 335 last year here in Toronto.

Halli said...

My friend sold me his Elite 335-style in cherry red (minus the arm for the Bigsby knock-off tremolo, which I've since replaced with a suitable generic). I got it years and years ago, and have probably had that for close to 38 years. I have no idea how old it was when he got it - very nice guitar, it's great to finally find a well-curated web resource on these rare (in Canada) guitars. Finding this makes me realize I haven't played it in a while... time to get on that!

Surfer Joe said...

The 62' "mother of toilet seat" Tonemaster, as shown in the photo above, was my guitar. I sold it to a dealer a few years ago, but regretted it later. The only reason why I sold it was that I was having trouble playing it. At the time I didn't know it was arthritis. (I also sold a 6-string Rickenbacker 660 at the same time. Both these guitars were fabulous.) After corrective surgery I found a 1964 Crucianelli Elite, which was the same guitar, except with a vibrato and totally covered in white Mother of Pearl. This is probably the coolest guitar I have ever had! So, the messages here are (1) Crucianelli model 40 guitars are incredibly cool and tone full instruments; if you can find one in very good or better condition, buy and never let it go! (2). Always wait a long period of time before you sell a guitar because you may never have the chance to buy another one like it again. I was very lucky here because the Elite is even better than the Tonemaster. By 1964 the company slimmed down the neck and headstock, improved the pickups, and improved the action of the switches. Never the less, the 1962 Tonemaster is a great instrument and lots of fun!

Mr JR said...

I hace a Elite model than some one gift it to me hace a mark on it said C renella i want to know the model an the year this guitar was manufacture write mi on my personal email jrodrol1983@ with the información thank you

Surfer Joe said...

Mr. JR, I just sent you an email in regard to your questions.

Surfer Joe

Blogger said...

Quantum Binary Signals

Professional trading signals sent to your cell phone every day.

Follow our signals today & profit up to 270% per day.