Funky, Cheap Electrics
and unique tone possibilities. I had no interest in
playing a Strat or Les Paul, or interest in emulating the sound of guitar gods like Hendrix and
Page. Plus, the oddball guitars were super-cool
looking.” When asked about the reason for
his attraction to weird electrics, he had this to
say: “I got into learning about them. So many
foreign companies were building guitars in the
1960s. I have enjoyed learning about the different brands, and then trying to find and play
them. Many are pretty trashy, but some, like Vox,
Hagstrom and Wandre, are very high quality. A
relatively large portion of my business comes
from the sale of oddball guitars. I really search
for them and try to have a large selection at all
times. Musicians who want them are trying to
find a voice of their own, perhaps something to
use on a record that will sound different.”
Finally, Mike Robinson, owner of Eastwood
Guitars, a company that offers reissues of chea-po electrics, weighed in on the subject: “I have
always been drawn to the types of guitars that
had far too many pickups, knobs and switches.
The attraction was driven more as pieces of art,
I suppose.” When asked why there are so many
new retro guitars out there, and why so much
interest in oddball electrics, he replied, “The
price of traditional vintage guitars, like Fender,
Gibson and Gretsch, have skyrocketed over
the past decades, putting ownership out of the
reach of your average collector. Secondly, the
Internet has allowed the awareness and history
of these quirky guitars to be available to anyone.
Because they have more appeal for their looks
than their playability and tone, it is not as crucial
to physically pick one up and play it, so people
buy them for the look first. More often than not,
they are pleasantly surprised to find they actually play as well as any other Fender, Gibson or
Gretsch production guitar in that price range.”
Not all guitar dealers think low-end electrics are
worth owning. Phil Keller, manager of the guitar
department at Alto Music in Middletown, NY
commented, “We’re going right down the food
chain with these weird guitars from the ‘60s. We
used to throw guitars like this in the garbage.
You found them hanging in pawnshops all the
time and nobody wanted them back then.
People are collecting Teiscos because they can’t
afford high-dollar electrics.”
A recent Burns of London Bison Bass based on the mid-‘60s models; mid-‘60s Klira Twen Star model 162 violin bass; ‘60s
Danelectro-made Silvertone electric bass.
The author wishes to thanks Doug Tulloch, Ron
Rothman, Mike Robinson, Ben Taylor, and Phil
Keller for their participation. Belated thanks to
the late Nat Daniel, a man I wish I’d had the
pleasure of knowing.
Should you decide to explore the possibility of
acquiring an oddball electric guitar or two (or
more), check out a very informative article titled
“Guitar Collecting on a Budget” (by Steven
Brown of vintaxe.com) on the website: ToyNfo.
com, the Vintage Toy Encyclopedia. It’s an informative starting point for anyone interested in
bizarre guitars. A few dealers specializing in weird
electrics are: Diamond Strings of Rochester, NY;
Southside Guitars of Brooklyn, NY; and Mike
Robinson of Eastwood Guitars, who sells selected
pieces from his vast collection. Other dealers can
be located online. There is a good deal of information about unusual electric guitars available on
the internet, including these websites: voxshow-
room.com; fetishguitars.com; cheesyguitars.com;
lordbizarre.com; sovietguitars.com, and vintaxe.
com. There are many others as well.
The photographer wishes to thank Russell
Pompeo of Moonlight Music, 467 S. Coast Hwy
101, Encinitas, CA, for carte blanche permission
to shoot photos in his store. All photographs for
this article, except the pawnshop façade, were
taken at Moonlight Music.