Sunday, February 27, 2011

Italia Mondial Sportster

Italia is another retro-minded guitar company, looking back to the stylish designs of the 60s whilst updating much of the hardware and, of course, offering new instruments free of the thirty to forty years worth of sweat and abuse that tend to afflict the old ones. 

These guitars are inspired by various Italian models, designed by English luthier Trevor Wilkinson, and manufactured in Korea.  This one, a Mondial Sportster, it actually pretty stripped-down and conservative compared to some of the others.  The other Italia guitar that uses the Mondial body shape is a semi-hollowbody with a top made of "Acousti-Glass!"  But the Sportster is a simple, traditional LP-style electric with some neat design theories at work.  Notice how the flowing lines of the pickguard keep the chunky body from looking too squat or dumpy.

The chrome-looking headstock logo is neat, too.  All in all, a very hip and snazzy-looking alternative to the usual double-humbucker guitars out there.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hagstrom Viking

Found another old one.  This is a Hagstrom Viking from the late 60s,  a Swedish-made semi-hollowbody guitar from a company that was one of the first electric guitar builders in Europe.  In the late 60s Hagstrom had their profile in the United States raised with considerable thanks to two things.  First, the company had the endorsement of the great Frank Zappa, who appeared in a series of print and radio ads for many Hagstrom models.  Second, the King Hisself was featured strumming on a borrowed Hag in his famous '68 Comeback Special.

But what about this particular model?  Well, the headstock logo has held on through the years (the only other Hagstroms I've seen in person have had them flaking off), though most of the finish has worn off the back of neck.  That seems to be a common problem with Vikings, though with a neck this slim and fast its easy to see how they can become "well-played."

The pickups are single-coils, unlike the later humbucker-equipped models that were even more shamelessly copping an ES-335 vibe.  These single coils still sound very dark and jazzy, though.  A very cool guitar with a positively regal style and sound.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kay Electric Bass

New arrival!  It's a Kay electric bass; not sure of the model but it looks to be one of the later Japanese Kays from the 70s.  Obviously patterned after a Gibson SG, but if you look closely you'll find that it's full of little oddball touches.  There's a little foam piece underneath the bridge cover that's slightly muting the strings, while the "K" on the headstock seems to have flipped upside-down.

 The pickguard is raised slightly, which has a neat overlapping, two-level effect with the control plate, and  the dual pickups have a nice "gator-esque" tolex covering.  A very cool, playable old bass with lots of character.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Amps, amps, and more amps...

We've just taken in some very cool amps on consignment.  This one might be the crown jewel - a blackface Fender Bandmaster.  Slam this thing with a pair of humbuckers and it produces a ferocious broken glass roar worthy of the snottiest punk riff.  In addition, the amp is in fine cosmetic shape, without any cigarette burns or missing hunks of tolex (you know, like my amp. Sigh...).

A Silvertone Twin Twelve head and 2x12 cabinet.  This one didn't stick around very long; a customer snapped it up just this week but I still had to show it off.  Very clean, especially for a Silvertone, and complete, a rare treat considering how often the head and cab are found separate.

A Fender Reverb Unit.  Here's the secret to true surf-rock righteousness.  Hook this tube-powered reverb tank up in front of the amp and then get ready to Shake N Stomp.  This is a re-issue, not an original, but it still drenches your guitar and your formerly sad, non-reverberating amp in a tidal wave of springy goodness.

Another cool sighting - the guy that bought that Twin Twelve brought this sweet electric Kay archtop in to show off.  A hollowbody Kay through a Silvertone amp!  Ah, what lewd sounds these two will make together...

Friday, February 11, 2011

National Lap Steel & Supro Amp

Behold:  A National Lap Steel and another wailing little Supro Combo.  The Lap Steel is a "Dynamic" model, and it sports a killer Art-Deco look.  I'm not sure of the exact model on the Supro, but I do know that the sounds that pour forth from it's 6 inch speaker and single volume knob are some of the thickest you're gonna hear.

Lap steels are pretty basic - no frets, no neck issues, and no worrying about the "action" of the strings.  It's basically a plank of wood with strings and a pickup, but that austerity just seems to have pushed the manufacturers of the 40s and 50s to work in every hip design element they could think of, and this Empire State-esque Dynamic model is a shining example.


Also, just to let everybody in the area know - we're going to be at the South Carolina Guitar Show in Spartanburg this year.  The show is the weekend of March 5 & 6th, and we'll have a booth for the store to sell, swap, and show off all of our coolest finds.  Come check it out!  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

1958 National Belaire

Here's another one that a friend brought in to show off- a 1958 National Belaire.  As most guitar geeks can tell you, the body is actually a Gibson-made ES-175 body, with the National/Valco guys providing the neck, hardware, and most importantly, the pickups.

The National/Valco stuff may cause a few guitar snobs' noses to tilt skyward, but the slimmer neck is very playable, and the stylish headstock and inlays have a cool retro appeal that the more staid, old-world archtops are hard-pressed to match.

Now, if there's one thing that the Valco folks knew, it was how to make fat, funky single-coil pickups.  This baby has three of 'em.  The brass pickup covers also darken the sound considerably, although the fact that the strings probably haven't been changed since the Carter Administration doesn't help.  We're going to spruce this one up a little, and then we'll see how she sounds!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Santo vs. Dracula

This is actually an old Kay Starter guitar that a friend of mine had. It would never, ever stay in tune, so he gave it to me to turn into wall art. I've done goofy paint jobs on a couple of cheap, banger instruments - in fact, I also did a mandolin for my friend featuring, per his request, a zombie hillbilly string band. I'll have to dig up pictures of that sometime.

Santo is the most famous of all Mexican Luchadores. Not just a professional wrestler, El Santo spun off his fame into a movie career, taking on all manner of grisly pulp monsters and fiends. One of those movies, Santo contra las Mujeres Vampiro, made it on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is probably where I first saw this stuff.

Also, you just have to love the motifs in Mexican folk art. Granted, there are already plenty of skull-adorned electric guitars, but most of them are of the angsty, sinister variety. I just love that all the Mexican Day of Dead stuff is full of happy skulls covered in gaudy colors. Hey, these guys don't let a little thing like being skeletons get them down! Strike up the band! Sing another ranchera! Order another round of Tecate! Viva Santo!

SoI didn't know if this thing would ever sell at the store, but it's a moot point because as of today I've donated it to a benefit auction for Ray Evans, who's fighting a battle with cancer.  Ray has worked at a lot of the music venues around town over the years, so he's got a lot of friends here in the Greenville music scene, who are going to be putting on a benefit show this Saturday at Gottrocks.  So come out, bid on this guitar, and rock out for a good cause.