Thursday, June 30, 2011

1973 Engelhardt EC-1

Yesterday we had somebody come in wanting us to sell his old Engelhardt EC-1 upright bass.  An Englehardt of this era is known affectionately as an "EngelKay" due to the company's close association with the Kay Music Instrument Company, and the super-desirable uprights they made in the 30s-50s.  More on that later.  First soak in that beautifully constructed and finished top.  There's something downright intimidating about an upright - this is one of the 3/4 scale models, and it still stands about 6 foot tall at the tip of the headstock! 

The Engelhardt story really begins with the merger of Kay and Valco, a move which ultimately failed to save either company from their financial doldrums.  When the Kay/Valco company was dissolved in the early 70s, former Valco president Robert Engelhardt and VP Al Link started a new company called Engelhardt-Link that bought up the assets and inventory from Kay's bass and cello division.  They also retained some of the same builder/luthiers, so that the first Engelhardts that the company produced were essentially the same classic Kay uprights with a new brand name. 

Needless to say, this is an example of great old-school American craftmanship.  No cheap composites here, just a whole lot of nicely aged maple!  

Of course, with an upright, the set-up is just as important, and this thing is good to go cat, go -  it's been professionally set-up for very fast and loud rockabilly-style slapping.  Very playable, even to a pampered putz like me who's never really held an upright before.  Throw a transducer in there and it's ready for the stage!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Competition Mustang Re-issue and '68 Super Reverb

Here's a cool pair.  The guitar is a Japanese-made Competition Red Mustang re-issue, and the amp is a genuine 1968 Super Reverb.  Being a '68 means that though the amp has the look of a silverface, the insides are still the same as an older (and more desirable) blackface model.  I myself play a later Super Reverb from the early 80s, and I firmly believe that if you seek to play rock and/or roll music (as opposed to metal or hard rock), you can do no better than one of these babies.  The ten-inch speakers sound vicious when they break up, and the shattered glass roar you can unload still leaves plenty of room for the dynamics of the rhythm section.

We've had older Mustangs in before, but this one being a reissue puts it in a more affordable price range - ironically the reason why old vintage Mustangs and the like became so popular (and gradually less affordable) back in the 80s and 90s.  Of course, there are more virtues to the "student" offset models - the short scale and comfy slim neck are a boon if you've got smaller hands.  And of course, racing stripes rule.

We often take it for granted, but the amazing thing about Fender is the wide range of players that their products appeal to - from the snooty types whose noses fly up if it isn't covered in tweed and/or nitrocellulose, to the punk rockers scraping up enough to buy some scrappy Japanese Squier.  Of course, here at the shop we try our best to do the same!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Univox Hi-Flier Bass Phase Three

Here's a cool find that might seem kind of familiar.  Yes, we like our Mosrite copies, and none are quite as cool as the Japanese-made Univox Hi-Fliers of the 60s and 70s.  We've had one of the Phase One basses before, but this one is a later (mid-70s) Phase Three.  You can tell right away because the Phase Threes were the first Hi-Fliers to be available in a natural finish.

The Phase Three was also the where they switched to using the clear plastic-covered humbucker pickups instead of the older P-90-style single coils.  Those funky-looking pickups have the bruisingly loud output that has helped make the Hi-Flier guitars and basses the weapon of choice for many a rock-and-roll noise merchant.

The Pac-Man-esque Univox logo is the cherry on top.  No wait, I take it back - one of their purple-and- teal-tolex'd bass amps from the same era would be even sweeter, but we haven't got one...yet!  As you can tell, we're pretty big fans of the old Univox stuff here, but check out this fan page for a nearly exhaustive look at pretty everything they ever made.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Vintage Spanish Cittern

The guy that sold us this piece told us that his family bought it in Spain, but he didn't know what it was called or how it was supposed to be tuned.  A peek in the soundhole at least reveals that it was built in December 1969 by a Mr. Alfonso Checa, a well-regarded classical guitar builder from the town of Baza.  It's not a guitar, though - it's another mystery instrument!

Here it is with our store's spokes-robot, in another flyer I made.
Well, it was.  Somebody sent us an email explaining that this thing was a varation on the Spanish cittern called a "laud."  It's got six double courses, tuned in fourths.  That's what the man said, anyway, and who am I to argue?  When it comes to stringed instruments, it's amazing how many variations there are in the world.  Needless to say, this thing can do a pretty good job of covering all the cittern parts in the band, but what about the mandola?  The oud?  The tres?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Armstrong Deluxe Archtop

Well, hello there...

Here's one that took me buy surprise - a woman brought this in for us to restring.  See, someone had pulled all the old strings off at once, causing the floating bridge to fall off.  She told me that it had been her father's, and that it was "nothing fancy..."
I covet.

Yes, nothing fancy...and then she reaches into a gig bag and pulls this gorgeous vintage archtop.  Wow!  This has got to be one of the coolest archtop guitars I've ever seen!  The finish is quite fetching, being a few shades darker than your usual sunburst - I'd call it a "sweet tea-burst."

The Art-Deco headstock stencil says "Armstrong Deluxe," but everything else screams "Harmony!"  This would have been one of the nicer guitars they made, likely  from around the late 50s to the early 60s.  Uncle Freddie was kind enough to come over from next door to take a look, and he commented that it looked similar to the "Cremona" series, mostly because it has a spruce top and maple back and sides.

Speaking of the back - yes, it looks like curly maple, to boot!  But looks aren't everything...luckily, with the intonation properly set and a fresh pack of strings, this thing sounds as rich and vibrant as it looks.  The woman said that her son had been learning how to play on this one - man!  Somebody out there has earned my guitar envy....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More new arrivals - Hondo Guitarlin and Checkmate 14

We just got these pieces in the other day.  The guitar is a Japanese-made Danelectro copy that's technically called a "guitarlin," a crazy 31-fretted beast that lets you soar up into the stratosphere and pick in the range of a mandolin.  At least, that's the idea.  This one was made back in the late 70s/early 80s by a company named Hondo, and as far as I know this was the very first in a long line of guitars built around the reviving the old Danelectro/Silvertone mystique. 

The Hondo II Guitarlin upgrades the masonite-constructed body of the original with one made from solid mahogany, and the single humbucking pickup is active-electronics-boosted, coil-tappable, and phase-flippable.  It's about as far from lipstick tubes as you can get!  The amp in the picture is a Checkmate 14, another retro Japanese-made piece.  I think Teisco built these back in the 60s and 70s.  This is one of the solid state models, built it does have a nice queasy tremolo built in.  We found the original manual and schematic in the back - neat!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ralston Electric Bass

This one came to us courtesy of a customer who found it while cleaning out the back room of an old church.  When we first plugged it in, we were greeted only by the sound of the input jack howling in protest.  But one fresh jack and tone cap later, and this thing was ready to kick out the jams.

The headstock says "Ralston," but the back neck plate says "Japan," and that tells you a bit more - cosmetically and tone-wise it fits right alongside most 70s-era stuff that Teisco, Kawaii, etc, pumped out.  This is no short-scale featherweight, however - it has a long-scale neck about as fat as Louisville slugger, which surely contributes to the meaty tone of that one single coil pickup.

I love the overall look, with the not-quite-a-jazz-bass body and a nice roughed-up finish.  The grubby metal pickguard is a nice touch, and helps shield the electronics, to boot.  Even though this bass was found in a church somewhere, I have a hard time imagining it being played for gospel music - it justs seems too wonderfully hip and grimy to not be a disciple of rock-and-roll.  I dunno, maybe somebody got saved and had to leave it at the door - "Gee, I think Bob will be a lot less likely to stray if we can keep this durn thing away from him!"