Saturday, March 30, 2019

How You Can Transform Your 1956 Fender Stratocaster Into a Hello Kitty® Strat

Today, my friends, I will show you how you can take a vintage 1956 Fender Stratocaster and update it to the more contemporary 21st Century look of a Hello Kitty® Strat.  It's much easier than it sounds. Just follow along.

1956 Fender Stratocaster

First you will need to procure a vintage 1956 Fender Strat complete with original tweed case.  They are available, just check out eBay.

Sand the body to remove sunburst finish

Remove the neck, then sand the body and neck down to the bare wood.  Nice lookin' wood, huh?  Don't forget to sand the headstock and neck to get out those darn aged-in finger marks. To heck with patina. It is overrated.

I suggest routing out the bridge pickup area to accommodate the Hello Kitty® humbucking pickup. You may want to get some wood filler or Bondo™ fiberglass filler to fill in those routed sections of the body. Then sand it again until the surface is smooth.

1956 Fender Stratocaster Neck

Now this might be the hardest part. The 1956 Fender Stratocaster neck came with black dot inlays that were made of baked clay buttons. These were then glued into routed out spaces in the neck.  You will have to get a knife, or some kind of tool to pry those pesky buttons out.

Then get some #0000 sand paper and scrape out the remnants.  Fortunately in our modern times there is a readily available substance called polymer clay, which is available at hobby shops.  Get some that is already colored pink. You can even get it at most Walmart stores, Michaels, or Hobby Lobby stores.

There Are Your Pink Fret Markers.

Shape the pink polymer clay into tiny flat buttons. You can air-dry these, or put them in an oven and bake them for 15 minutes. Once cooled, put a dab of glue on the back of your pink buttons and place them in the routed area of the neck. You will have to do some further sanding, but it will look great.

Mambo Pink Kryon Spray Paint.

Next, get a couple cans of Mambo Pink acryllic spray paint. Krylon® glossy ought to do the trick. Hang the body up and spray it until it looks good. Repeat this step eight, or nine times until you have a shell-like look on the body of your Hello Kitty® guitar.

Pre-assembled Hello Kitty pickguard, pickup, and adjustable bridge/saddle

There are a number of companies that supply guitar parts, such as Musician's Pal, and Guitar Parts-R-Us where you can get a pre-wired Hello Kitty® pickguard.  Buy one. But, don't ditch those old original parts. Some folks love the sound of vintage pickups hand wound by Abigail Ybarra, so you can sell them on eBay, along with the old wiring harness, and potentiometers for a lot of money.

Back of Your Hello Kitty Stratocaster

Now for the final touch, get a Shocking Pink Sharpie permanent marker and in your best cursive hand, write Hello Kitty on the back of the body. Better yet, get your girlfriend or wife to do this step. Girls seem to be able to do that flowery cursive script, better than guys. And if you are a lady, then you got this step!

Your Finished Hello Kitty Stratocaster

Put it together and what have you got?  Hello Kitty®!  And it sure looks great!

Making a Vintage Martin D-28 into a Hello Kitty Acoustic Guitar

Next week, we will learn how to take a Pre-war Martin D-28 and turn it into a Hello Kitty® acoustic guitar.

By the way, it's April Fools Day!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

On the Anniversary of Nokie Edwards Passing - March 24th, 2018

Nokie Edwards    1935 - 2018
Nokie Edwards, best know as lead guitarist with The Ventures passed away on March 12, 2018 at the age of 82.

Born  Nole Floyd Edwards on May 9, 1935 in Lahoma, Oklahoma, and nicknamed Nokie, Edwards was a native American Cherokee. He came from a family of accomplished musicians, and by age five he began playing a variety of string instruments including the steel guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin, and bass. He became an excellent guitar player.

Later in life, his family relocated from Oklahoma to Puyallup, Washington. At age 18 he joined the Army Reserves and traveled to California and Texas for training. After his stint was over, he returned to Tacoma, and his family.

Nokie with his trio
In January 1958, country songwriter and guitarist Buck Owens relocated from California to Tacoma, Washington, as owner of radio station KAYE. Prior to the formation of The Buckaroos with Don Rich, Edwards played guitar with Owens in the new band he formed in the area, and also played in the house band of television station KTNT, located in the same building as KAYE.

That same year found Edwards playing at a local club.

Don Wilson and Bob Bogle had a chance meeting in 1958 where they discovered they both played guitar. These guys bought a couple of used guitars from a pawn shop and started playing at bars and small clubs.

Nokie with the Original Ventures

They went to see guitarist Nokie Edwards, who was playing at a nightclub and asked if he would join them as a bass player.  He took them up on the offer.  They originally called their band The Marksmen, but soon changed the name to The Ventures.

The drummer that originally played on the recording of Walk, Don’t Run, was Skip Moore. He left the group to work at his families gas station.

General George Babbit with The Ventures
Next George Babbitt joined the group, but had to leave, because he was too young to play in nightclubs. Years later he joined the US Army and went on to become a 4 Star General.

The Ventures then hired Howie Johnson as their drummer, and he played with the group until he was injured in an automobile accident. He was replaced by Mel Taylor. Taylor stayed with the group throughout the band's tenure until he became to ill to continue, and was replaced by his son, Leon.

Johnny Smith

Back when Wilson and Bogle met Nokie Edward, he was already performing a Chet Atkins song called in his nightclub set called Walk, Don’t Run. This song was actually written and recorded by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith.

The Ventures
The Ventures took their version of this song to a recording studio and laid down a track, along with a B-side called Home, and had the company press some 45 rpm records, which they shipped to record companies and radio stations. The tune was eventually picked up by Dolton Records and went on to become #2 on the charts.

Walk Don't Run '64

It was later redone by The Ventures with an updated surf guitar arrangement and released again as Walk, Don’t Run ‘64. This song became one of only a handful of recordings that charted twice on the Billboard Hot 100. Walk, Don’t Run became required playing for all garage bands in the mid 1960’s.

It’s theme was slightly more complex than other surf songs, as it went from a minor to a major mode. The Ventures went on to produce many more albums, and even TV themes, however the early recordings were generally surf based music.

Night Run - The Marksmen

But in 1960, the first song Edwards and The Marksmen recorded was a single, "Night Run" with a song called "Scratch" on the B side, on Blue Horizon Records.

The Ventures 1960 Nokie on bass guitar

Edwards originally played bass for the group, but he took over the lead guitar position.

The Ventures in Japan 1965

The Ventures released a series of best-selling albums through 1968.  It was that same year that Edwards left the group, although he would occasionally reunite with the band.

The Venture Japan 2011
Nokie is seated

Nokie Edwards continued to tour Japan annually with The Ventures, primarily in winter, until 2012. It is amazing that the popularity of The Ventures never waned in Japan.

Edwards began a solo career in 1969 and released several albums through 1972.  Unfortunately Edward's solo career was never successful in America.

The Ventures 1984

Nokie returned to the Ventures as lead guitarist in 1973. Edwards performed with the band until 1984, when he left again to pursue a music career in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nokie with The Ventures 1984

By the later 1980's Edwards re-joined The Ventures once again. The group began another short stint of recording and touring before returning to Nashville.

Nokie Edwards on TNN 1996

During the 1990's Edward's was involved with numerous country-influenced recording projects. He became known and respected among many musicians and people in the recording industry.

These included Mark Moseley, who is the nephew of Semie Moseley, and owns a successful recording studio in Nashville that was started by his father, Andy Moseley.

Another friend of Nokie Edwards was Bob Shade, the current owner of Hallmark Guitars. Dana Moseley, Semi's daughter, who still makes and sells Mosrite guitars in the United States can be counted among Nokie's friends.

Deke Dickerson, who carries on the tradition of guitar music from the 1950's and 1960's was also one of Nokie's friends.

Joe and Rose Lee Maphis were both friends of Edwards. There are also many more folks that worked with and respected Nokie Edwards.

The Ventures Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Finally in 2008, Edwards and The Ventures were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Ventures 1959
 Nokie Edwards and The Ventures used quite a few guitars during their careers. During their early years, The Ventures played late 1950 era Fender guitars; a Jazzmaster, a Stratocaster, and a Precision Bass. But probably the best known Ventures' model was made by Semie Moseley's company, Mosrite guitars.

Gene Moles on the left

One evening California session player, Gene Moles, was displaying his Mosrite guitar to Nokie Edwards of The Ventures. Edwards feel in love with that guitar. He asked Moles to take him out to visit that guy that builds these wonderful guitars and the men went to visit Semie Moseley.  That evening Edwards came home his own Mosrite.

Soon after the encounter, The Ventures hooked up with Moseley to build custom made Ventures guitars and basses.

Original Mosrite
Ventures model
“It was a beautiful guitar,” said Gene Moles, the Bakersfield session guitarist, and member of Jimmy Thomason’s TV band.

Moles was and assembly-line inspector for Mosrite guitars. Mole's is quoted as saying  “It was a well-designed instrument. It felt good to a guitar player when he grabbed it. It had a narrow neck and a low profile, so you didn’t have to push down as hard on the strings to play it. And it had what we called ‘speed frets,’ where you could slide up and down the neck without getting held up on high-profile frets.”

Later Side
Jack Model
The client who turned Mosrite into a household name, at least among guitar enthusiasts, was Nokie Edwards, lead guitarist for the kings of ‘60s surf-rock, the Ventures. Edwards fell in love with the Mosrite guitar, and by 1962, the entire Seattle-based band set their trademark Fender guitars aside and were playing Mosrites on songs like “Walk, Don’t Run” and the theme from “Hawaii 5-0.”Before long, Edwards struck up a deal with Moseley to build guitars under The Ventures logo.

The Ventures signed a special distribution agreement with Mosrite, featured their guitars on their album covers.

This arrangement lasted from 1963 to 1965, when the model name was changed to the Mark I. However The Ventures continued to tour with Mosrite guitars from 1963 to 1968.

Briefly Mosrite had attempted to build and market an all transistor amplifier under The Ventures banner. However it failed, due to design problems. Mosrite made at least 4 versions of The Venture's model that included a budget version and a six string/12 string double neck.

After the agreement between Mosrite and the Ventures ended, The Ventures returned to playing Fender instruments.

Wilson Brothers Model

Later in life, the group had arrangements with Aria Guitars, and Wilson Brothers Guitars to produce Ventures model guitars.

 Hitchhiker Guitar

Bob Shade of Hallmark Guitars, created a special model for Nokie called The Hitchhiker. This is an exquisite neck-through body guitar, with a hard maple neck, ebony fret board and highly figured body. The twin Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups are controlled by master volume and tone potentiometers, with a five-way pickup selector switch, a two mini-toggles that yield a tonal palette of 15 different sounds.

Hallmark Hitchhker 1

Shade also built Nokie an exquisite gold sparkle version of the Hitchhiker called The Hitchhiker 1. Nokie loved his Hitchhiker and it was the last guitar that he played in his concerts.

Nokie with an Aria guitar at
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

Though Nokie Edwards was known for his single note picking on The Ventures records, he was also a devotee and friend of Chet Atkins, and Nokie was an excellent finger picking guitarist.

He claims that the longevity of The Ventures was due to the songs they choose to record. They would look at the Billboard Top Hits, and the guitar styles played on those songs, and copy those styles to stay current with the times.

For all of us that learned guitar back in the mid-1960's, we owe a debt of gratitude to Nokie Edwards, and Bob Bogle. We learned to play single note guitar, by listening to Walk, Don't Run, and the other hit song by The Ventures.

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)

Levin and Goya Guitars

I am curious about the least known brands of guitars, and one brand I had not really explored were Levin Guitars. I had read they were built in Sweden, but that was the extent of my knowledge.

Herman Carlson Levin
Herman Carlson Levin was born and raised in Asaka, Sweden. In the evenings he attended carpentry school in his home town with the intent of becoming a furniture maker. By 1887, he immigrated to the United States and the following year he got a job at a guitar factory, where he spent three years learning the trade.

Levin along two other employees left their jobs and started out on their own forming a small company to manufactured guitars, and other stringed instruments.

On a visit back to Sweden in 1895, Mr. Levin discovered that there was quite a demand for guitars, mandolins, banjos, and lutes.  Levin had a small savings, and opened his own shop, in the town of Gothenburg, calling it "Herman Carlssons Instrumentfabrik". He hired two other woodworkers and began manufacturing guitars and mandolins.

Levin Facility early 1900's
By 1901 his logs show that 473 instruments were built and sold. Two years later, with an addition of three more employees, the company had more than doubled the number of instruments manufactured.

His company's name and reputation spread throughout Europe, and Mr. Levin received many awards including a gold medal in Madrid for best guitar, and the Grand Prix award and an exhibition in Spain.

Levin Facility
By the mid 1920’s his factory grew, and production topped 50,000 instruments. A line of banjos were added.

In 1936, the company had built it’s 100,000 instrument. Levin had added a line of archtop guitars.

Four years later, in 1940 Mr. Levin had a staff of 45 professional builders, and expanded his facility to 1000 square meters.

1950 Levin Model 10 Tarragona
Ten years later, Levin launched a line-up of inexpensive student grade instruments. Although these were of lower quality, they caught the eye of importer Jerome Hershman, an American guitar distributor.

(Hershman will later surface as the sole importer of Swedish made Hagstrom Guitars. But that is another story.)

In 1952 Levin guitars were featured at a trade show in Germany, and Hershman convinced the company that he could market their brand in the United States. But, because the name was “Levin”, Mr. Hershman, who was Jewish, felt the "Levin" would be hard to market in the United States, due to its Jewish connotation. So he suggested that the guitars sold in the USA under the name Goya. It sounded Spanish, and the artist, Francisco Goya, was known for depicting guitars in his paintings.

1950's Goya Classical

The Goya guitars imported to the US had high quality finishes, and were usually classical, nylon strung instruments, and they became quite popular among the folk musicians of the day.

1950's Goya M-22

In the late 1950’s a line of steel string flat top guitars were offered. These instruments had adjustable truss rods, and bolt-on necks.

1960's Goya TS-4 12 string guitar

Later in the 1960’s, Goya offered a line of “Folk”guitars based on the wider neck folk instruments, but fitted with steel strings. Two 12 string models were also offered under the Goya brand.

1960's Goya Classical
By 1967 Levin inked a deal with Goya Music, which was owned by Mr. Herschman, for a shipment of 120,000 instruments over a 10 year period. At that time Herschman/Goya was importing 70% of the companies production at this time.

However in 1968 the contract was broken when Herschman/Goya Music was acquired by Avnet Incorporated, which owned Guild Guitars. (Guild was sold to Avnet following the death of its founder Al Dronge.)

1960's Goya Catalog
By 1970 Avent Incorporated sold Goya Music to Kustom Electric, the Chanute Kansas company that made Kustom Amplifiers. Two years later, Bud Ross, and Kustom Amplifiers filed for bankruptcy, and their assists were taken over by a Chanute company called Dude Incorporated.

It is assumed that Levin never delivered any stock to Dude, and this company probably sold off the remaining assets of Goya guitars. Perhaps some of the guitars were sold under a different label.

1967 Levin  (Martin) LN26
Around 1967 Martin was considering a line of imported guitars that would be less expensive than the company’s flagship brand. They contacted Levin to build some prototypes of a Martin D-18 around 1967.

Martin Guitar purchased Levin Guitars in 1973, with the intent of an imported line up. They had already launched Sigma Guitars as early as 1970 to import parts from Japan.

It was not until 1976 when Dude Inc sold their remaining stock of Goya instruments to C.F. Martin.

Martin was already importing Japanese and Korean made instruments under the Goya name, which had an adverse effect on a well known European manufacturer. This ended in 1990 when Martin quit selling Goya guitars.

Martin LD-18

As stated already, 1973 was also the year that Martin purchased the Levin facility to be used as their European headquarters. Their intent was to have guitars built under the name Sigma. According to Goran Levin, the last surviving family member, there were approximately 200 Sigma guitars labeled “LD-18 Made in Gothenburg, Sweden” produced at this facility. This lasted until 1981.

Martin and Levin

At that time, the remaining instruments, parts, facility, and Levin brand were purchased by Svensk Musik AB, which started producing Levin classical guitars in a factory owned by former guitar neck supplier Hans Persson. Hans’ son Lennart is still producing guitars for "Svenska Levin AB" in his father's workshop outside Mariestad, Sweden.

1941 Levin Royal

During its best years Levin produced some very fine instruments, that were worthy competitors of most American made instruments.

Django Reinhardt with a Levin guitar

During a trip to the United States, Django Reinhardt was photographed playing Fred Guys' 1938 Levin Deluxe Archtop guitar. Fred Guy played guitar in Duke Ellington's band.

Julie Andrews with a Goya guitar
Even its Goya line up were excellent classical instruments. If you look closely at the movie The Sound of Music, you will see Julie Andrews playing a Goya guitar.

1927 Levin parlor, 1951 Levin Deluxe
and a 1952 Levin Royal

Here are few very fine Levin guitars.

Levin 315/M2

This is a later model. A beautiful 1962 Levin 315/M2.

1914 Levin Model 3

And finally a gorgeous 1914 Levin Model 3, with an Alpine Spruce top. C.F. Martin became attracted to Levin, not just because this company was making excellent instruments, but because they used Alpine Spruce in the builds.

Click on the links under the pictures for sources.  Click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)