Friday, December 21, 2018

The Christmas Wish Book

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. Most of the artists I liked played guitar. When The Beatles showed up, that did it for me. I 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 turned right to the guitar section and read each description with fascination.

1960's Harmony Guitar catalog

Wow that Harmony flat top was made of seasoned wood! It had to be great!

1963-64 Fender Catalog

Later on, I was able to send away to different companies for their catalogs. I wish I still had them.

Let’s go back to those days and review some of the guitars, and amplifiers available years ago. Check out the prices too.

Silvertone guitars sold by Sears
Straight out of the Sears catalog are all of these Silvertone instruments. The two hollow bodies and the two solidbody guitar on the lower right were made by Harmony Guitars. 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, and televisions.

Sears Silvertone guitars and amplifiers
They applied it to their musical instruments. Sears contracted with several different manufacturers to produce guitars, and amplifiers, and then badged them with their own brand. All of these guitars 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 Danelectro sold most of their guitars and amplifiers through mail order retail companies such as Sears.

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 Danelectro of Neptune, New Jersey.

It was much less expensive than a comprable Fender amplifier.

The Danelectro speaker cabinets were made with a compartment in the bottom to store the head for transportation.

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.

The Montgomery Ward Company used the brand name Airline for its electronic and music products. They used a number of "jobbers" or companies for their guitars and amplifiers, such as National, Valco, Supro, Harmony, Kay,  All of these guitars were sold by Wards under the Airline brand.

Two Valco made Airline guitars.
The one circled is
Jack White's 1964 Hutto Airline model
Perhaps the most interesting guitar out of 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.

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 most 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.

Kay Value Leader

Another 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

The 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.

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.

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
Another company that was offering guitars in the mid 1960's was The Carvin Company of California. I recall sending for this catalog. It may have cost 50 cents. It was very interesting, and it came with a separate price list written on a typewriter. Years later I learned that the bodies of these early Carvin guitar were made by the California based company, but the necks, pickups, and electronics were made by Hofner of Germany. Later on Carvin manufactured their own parts.

So sit back and check out these old catalogs. Dog-ear the pages for your selections, and make a wish. I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar publications.

1 comment:

revfish said...

Excellent post. I was one of those kids pouring through the guitar pages of catalogs! Quite a few budding guitarists in my town played Kay or Silvertone guitars.

I believe Rick Marksberry still has his original Baldwin electric.