The Amateur Luthier

Cataloging my experiences and encounters repairing and restoring guitars

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Scanned documents of original paperwork that was included with a 60s Kay Vanguard III electric guitar including an explanation of Kay's...

Scanned documents of original paperwork that was included with a 60s Kay Vanguard III electric guitar including an explanation of Kay's "true pitch" vibrato tailpiece and an explanation of the controls on the instrument.



These are scans of the brochure that is included with a mid 60s Truetone 9528 D guitar amplifier. Commonly sold with Kay-built electric gui...

These are scans of the brochure that is included with a mid 60s Truetone 9528 D guitar amplifier. Commonly sold with Kay-built electric guitars. 

It includes a parts list with all the specs for the electronics as well as a wiring diagram. Enjoy






A bit tarnished but entirely complete and from a Zenon ZES-90


A bit tarnished but entirely complete and from a Zenon ZES-90

Kay-built Image Credit:  Reverb - Mike's Gear Garage Harmony-built Image Credit:  Reverb - Aunt Tilly's Harmony-built Imag...

Kay-built
Image Credit: Reverb - Mike's Gear Garage
Harmony-built
Image Credit: Reverb - Aunt Tilly's
Harmony-built
Image Credit: Ebay - Clark's Music

When and why were they made?

Having never seen one in person to check for identifying stamps, I cannot decidedly say when or who they made them based off marks on the inside of the instrument but context clues and other listings give me an idea. I see listings claiming they were built in the 1940s or 1950s and I would expect them to have been built shortly after WWII and not post-1960 like the Harmony-built 'Buck Owens' red, white, and blue guitars.

I can say with a strong degree of certainty that they were built in Chicago by both Kay and Harmony. I identified the guitars by using their headstock shapes as those are often the most distinct characteristic between the two manufacturers and they rarely overlap. The Harmony instruments are labelled with the house-brand of the individual stores they were sold under while the Kay instruments are called "The Patriot".

Construction.

Knowing the possible manufacturers, its highly likely that they're made from birch all the way around. The bridges are Brazilian Rosewood (which definitely supports the pre-1960 assumption) and the fretboards are ebonized or painted hardwoods which was common for budget instruments. 

The instruments have open-back Kluson tuners which are correct for the 1930s and 1940s. The Harmony instruments have white buttons while the Kay models have black buttons and then the Harmony flat top has these bizarre red, white, and blue colored buttons. They look to be well done (disregarding the plastic rot which plagues all of these) and so I suspect it might be factory.

Harmony - Image Credit: Aunt Tilly's
Harmony - Image Credit: Clark's Music

Harmony

The Harmony flat top has cracks through the top which are indicative of a solid wood top which Harmony instruments are well known for using. The bodies were painted white with a faux-flame finish that has all yellowed with age.

Kay

The Kay archtop would've been built with head-pressed laminate wood that they advertised as "crack proof" because of the perpendicular grain patterns. The Kay has a flamed back which could be a faux-flame like the Harmony or it could be that the outermost ply of wood is a thin veneer of flamed maple. Both of which I have seen, in person, on Kay instruments. The frets are nickel-steel like modern instruments.

Kay (replaced tuners) - Image Credit: Mike's Gear Garage


How many are out there?

I've only ever seen 3 listings for the Harmony built instruments. Two for archtops and one for this flat top model. I've reached out to the owner of the first archtop via Craigslist who was kind and explained that she did not know much about them nor could identify any stamps int he body. I've also reached out to the owner of the flat top and am waiting for a response.

The Kay Patriot comes up more frequently, likely due to the fact that its a consistent model name and not a variable brand name. There is not a whole lot of them that come up for sale though.

I've read through dozens of old catalogs from various companies in my ever-constant search for more information on department store guitars from the mid 20th century and I have yet to come across any reference to these models suggesting that they were likely a very limited run.


The bridge had already been detached by this point and was just set back onto the guitar for the photo I've have the honor of wor...

The bridge had already been detached by this point and
was just set back onto the guitar for the photo

I've have the honor of working on a very clean late 60's Kay K6150 flat top "super auditorium" acoustic guitar in a "golden cherry" finish. This model was made from 1966 till 1968.

This guitar was a product of a struggling Kay Musical Instruments and the market flood of cheap Japanese built guitars, these were some of the last models built in the US before Kay was bought out. The instrument has some glaring design flaws that I've not seen in earlier Kay models which leads me to believe that quality control was on a downward slope

Previous Repairs

The guitar has had a bolt attached through the heel of the neck and bolted to the neck block from inside the body in an attempt to keep the heel from lifting; it didn't work. Luckily the drilling was done well and neither the dove tail nor the heel block were cracked from the bolt

The bridge was shaved flat in an effort to bring the strings down to a playable level. The saddle slot was cut deeper too and the bridge modification seems fairly professionally done.
Mystery species of Rosewood bridge (7"x1.25")
with stock decorative brass bolts


Issues 

The bridge has been bolted down to the body with 3 bolts, two decorative ones that I know are stock and then a third solid brass flat-head bolt that I cannot determine its originality. The bridge was lifting from the back and cracked between the pin holes which I determined to be caused by the chewed up bridge plate. The bridge was about ready to pop off and I only needed a little heat to encourage some stubborn spots which, as it turns out, the bridge was glued directly onto the lacquer finish. There was no attempt made to scrape the lacquer back or even to score or rough it up; the bridge was glued right onto the finish and bolted down which is why it failed to stay put.

The neck joint's glue failed years ago and after removing the aforementioned bolt I discovered that the neck had an impressive amount of wiggle room. The hole for the bolt made for an easy entry to the dovetail for my steamer and I removed the neck fairly quickly since it was already so loose. I was shocked at how loose the dovetail joint was after I removed the glue. Most guitars I can put the neck on dry and it'll fit pretty snug but this guitar's block barely makes any contact with the dovetail; no amount of glue will help hold that joint together.

I've been asked to fill the neck bolt hole with a strap button which I believe is totally feasible and the strap button is an easier approach to hiding the hole.

Solid spruce top bound with checkerboard binding

Repairs

I am going to carve a new bridge for the guitar out of a block of Indian Rosewood which will match the color and grain of the fretboard a little closer. I'll scrape the lacquer down to the wood underneath the bridge footprint in order to get a very solid wood-to-wood bond which will improve the sound and strength. The bridge plate will get a maple cap that will support the ends of the strings and keep them from putting excessive pressure on the top and bridge that leads to cracking and lifting bridges

The neck joint will be shimmed with maple until the guitar can be strung up without any glue and then I'll check the angle and glue the neck onto the guitar. That will improve the tone and the stability of the neck joint for years to come

The strap button hole will be filled with a dowel and a button will be attached


I cannot establish anywhere near the level of research that other people have put into these guitars so I will just add my own personal disc...

I cannot establish anywhere near the level of research that other people have put into these guitars so I will just add my own personal discoveries as well as link to the most thorough resource out there

This list here is the most comprehensive list I've seen to date for manufacturers and brands
https://spinditty.com/instruments-gear/Japanese-Manufacturers-of-Made-In-Japan-Badged-Guitars-from-1950-to-1980

Kingston

Built by Kawai

Nola

Same font as Norma branded guitars

Norma

Built by Tomono and distributed by Strum and Drum Inc out of Illinois.

Winston

Built by Kawai 

Picture of the schematic attached to the inside of the PC-II amplifier Paris Corporation Guitar Amplifiers are one of the more obscure U...

Picture of the schematic attached to the inside of the PC-II amplifier
Paris Corporation Guitar Amplifiers are one of the more obscure US-built brands of musical instrument gear that came about in the 1960s.

The amplifier is labelled with a date ending in "66" in a couple places and the last "issue" on the schematic is dated to "65" which leads me to believe this amplifier was built in 1966. The resistors and capacitors seem to be of good quality and the entire amp is wired point to point. The potentiometers are Mallory and their pot code is 235 which is confirmed by one of the pots having the word "Mallory" on it. The speaker is Oaktron with a speaker code of 918. The amp has two germanium transistors for the power section.

Paris Corporation was based out of 521 Bishop Street in the town of Salina, Kansas . According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's assessment of the property, "Facility operations included assembly and manufacturing of electronic consumer products" [Basin Report pg. 79]. It appears the company dissolved quietly as KDHE reports again "From 2002 to 2004, KDHE identified past property owners and operator; and also attempted to identify any potentially responsible parties, but none were identified. The corporate status of the Paris Corporation was listed as dissolved with no apparent successors" [KDHE]. The business name was forfeited in 1993 after a failure to file with the state [3].

The schematic has 4 names on it, 3 of which I was able to make out. They are Al Dillard, K Lindberg, and Fred M Berry. The final name is signed very ornately and the paper is damaged which makes it difficult to read. Albert Dillard is the only one out of the 3 that, so far, appears to still be living.

Sources:

Harmony Guitar Brand Origins The Harmony Company was based in Chicago, IL and built musical instruments which were either sold directly t...

Harmony Guitar Brand Origins

The Harmony Company was based in Chicago, IL and built musical instruments which were either sold directly to consumers or through a distributor. Sometimes distributors would put their own labels on the instruments as a cheaper alternative to building their own house brand. Tracking down what brand names were built by whom is often a difficult process and takes someone who is very familiar with that builder's characteristics to identify. So I've decided to go ahead and create a list of as many brand names and aliases that Harmony musical instruments could be found under. This list will focus only on the US-built guitars by Harmony and so any of the instruments built after 1975 will be ignored.

Disclaimer: Brand names were often shared as distributors changed who they wanted to buy instruments from. There are brands listed here that were made by both Harmony and Kay as well as other companies.

Credit to Jedistar.com for having one of the largest searchable indexes of guitar brand names which definitely has helped.
Also to the Internet Archive'd DeMont Harmony Database's Brand list for having a large list of confirmed Harmony brand names
And Jake Wildwood who restores vintage instruments and is an immeasurable source of knowledge on obscure guitars.

Check out my page on Kay Guitar Brands and Aliases

Airline

Image Credit: Reverb - Ben's Gear Emporium
Airline guitars were sold by Montgomery Ward through catalogs and physical stores. The brand was used from 1958 to 1968 and more recently reissued by Eastwood Guitars. Airline guitars were built by Harmony and Kay








Aloha

 "Aloha acoustic guitars were sourced primarily from Chicago-based Harmony." [2]

Armstrong

Image Jedistar



















Biltmore

Image Credit: Jake Wildwood
Appeared in the Vitak-Elsnic sheet music company in the 1930s [5].

DeMont Harmony Database















Broman

Image Credit: Jedistar
"After a lot of googling it appears that Broman was a marketing company in the US that sold Broman branded guitars, lap steels from around the 1930s to 1950s at least." [6]

DeMont Harmony Database









Bruno










Buckeye

Not to be confused with the "Buckeye" stenciled design featured on many cowboy guitars of the era.

DeMont Harmony Database

Carelli

"The "Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars" shows a 30's archtop, Harmony made Carelli "Artist model E" (property of Gary Sullivan, seen at the 19th Dallas Guitar Show), and similar to a H1305 Cremona (well they say H1307 but I say H1305)." [7]

Carl Fischer

Image Credit: Jedistar
"Carl Fischer Music is a major sheet music publisher that was based in New York City’s East Village since 1872. The company has since moved to the Wall Street area in 2013. After 140 years, the company remains a family-owned business, publishing both performance and educational music for students, teachers, and virtuosos." [8]













Columbian

Image Credit: Reverb - Midwest Buy and Sell Chicago

Distributed by Selmer UK [9]

DeMont Harmony Database






Commander

Image Credit: Jedistar
Distributed by Aldens














Concertone

Brand of Montgomery Wards used from 1914 till the 1930s. Also labelled Lee Gibbs[10]

Continental

Image Credit: Reverb - JL Guitars
Produced from 1929 until the late 1940s [Wright 169, 170]. Produced for the Continental Music Company [11].









Crest

Image Credit: Jedistar
Late 1930s











Esquire

H&A Selmer, (Elkhart, Indiana) distributed Esquire guitars made by Harmony in their 1938 catalog. The upper grade Esquire models were made by Kay at the time. Of course there is no connection with the German Hoyer Esquire model, nor with the most famous Fender Esquire [3].

Fender

Image Credit Premier Guitar
Built in the 70s by Harmony for Fender. Common models include the Sovereign
















Galiano

"Although many Galiano guitars were relabeled Stellas made by Schmidt, a fair number of them were made by independent Italian American luthiers such as Antonio Cerrito, Raphael Ciani, and Joseph Nettuno. Still others were purchased from various large Chicago factories like Kay, Regal and Harmony." [12]


Gaylord

Image Credit: OfferUp


















Gretsch

Built guitars for Gretsch during WWII like Kay also did for Gretsch. Wooden tailpieces are a key indicator. [14]


Heath 

Image Credit: Reverb - SilverDozen Guitars
Distributed by Heathkit based in Minnesota [15]. Branded "Harmony by Heath"









Holiday

Image Credit: Jedistar
"The Holiday brand was the “house label” for Aldens, a catalog mail order company." [16]

They can also be seen as Kay-built guitars

Gui






Jay Johnson

DeMont Harmony Database

Lee Gibbs 

Brand of Montgomery Wards used from 1914 till the 1930s. Also labelled Concertone [10]

Lombardi 

Image Credit: Jedistar
Built in the late 30s and 1940s by Harmony, also labelled as Nobility [17].

















Manhattan

Distributed by Selmer from Elkhart, Indiana [14].


Marvel

Image Credit: Ebay - Bigmatt55
Marvel guitars were marketed by the Peter Sorkin Company out of New York, USA. Made in the 1940s through the 1970s according to Jedistar and ebay [18].











Marwin

Image Credit - Reverb - Bruce's Geetars
The guitar pictured to the left has the late 30s, early 40s headstock; other listings on the internet show that the brand continued into at least the 50s [19]

Distributed through the Barth-Feinberg catalog based in NY [37]

DeMont Harmony Database











Master Art


Minerva

Image Credit: Jedistar
"Distributed by Eaton's Canada" [20]

DeMont Harmony Database












Melody King

Image Credit: Reverb - Ray's Music Exchange
"Was a Bronson guitar and amplifier brand [36]". Also produced by Kay

The pictured model to the left is a 1936









Mitchel 

Image Credit: Reverb - Old Towne Strings
No information is known


















Nobility

Built in the late 30s and 1940s by Harmony, also labelled as Lombardi [17].

Opus

Image Credit: Jake Wildwood
Built between 1974 and 1975 as one of Harmony's last lines of instruments. Higher end construction to try to combat the rising Japanese import market. [21]

Sonata

Image Credit: Jedistar
"A Harmony Brand and available from at least the 1940s" [22]

The pictured guitar is a late 30s, early 40s model of the Harmony Monterey.












Orpheum

Common name used by Kay and other manufacturers. Built by Harmony in 1939 [23]

Paramount

"In 1934, the William L. Lange Company (New York) debuted the Paramount guitar series - and some of the models were built by the C.F. Martin guitar company. However, Lange´s company went out of business in the early 1940s. In the late 1940s, the Paramount guitar line was reintroduced and distributed by Gretsch & Brenner (source: Tom Wheeler, American Guitars).
But it looks like no later than 1942, a Paramount line of guitars were built by Harmony." [24]


Playtime

Image Credit: Reverb - Music Stuff
Sold as a budget brand through Sears [35]














Prairie Voice

'"Speaking of Canada, one source stated that each year, Harmony made 200 Roy Rogers-style guitars for the Calgary Stampede, and that such istruments were marketed under the "Prairie Voice" brand name" (source: Willie G. Moseley, Stellas & Stratocasters).' [25]

Premier


Regal

"Harmony aquired the rights to the Regal brand name in 1954. Regal guitars were licensed to Fender in the late 1950s, and some of the Harmony built "Regals" were rebranded with the Fender logo. This agreement continued up until the mid 1960s, when Fender introduced their own flat-top guitars. [4]"

Rex

Image Credit: Reverb - Great Vintage Items

Built by Kay and Harmony in the 30s and 40s [26]

DeMont Harmony Database











Rogers / A. Rogers

"House Brand of Selmer (UK) (source: Willie G. Moseley, "Stellas & Stratocasters")" [27]

Serenader

Image Credit: Jake Wildwood

Distributed by Buegeleisen and Jacobson and also built by Kay. [28]









Silvertone

Image Credit: Myself

Probably the most common brand out there. Built by Kay and Harmony and distributed through Sears, Roebuck, and Co for a majority of the 20th century.





Sonata

Image Credit: Reverb - Mike and Mike's Guitar Bar










SS Stewart

Image Credit: Jake Wildwood
"Harmony-made S.S. Stewart-brand guitars (sold by retailer/catalog-house B&J at the time) can be commonly seen from the late 1930s through the early 1950s, but it's rarer to find the earlier ones. Judging by the build, size, and hardware, this is probably a 30s model and it's a nice one at that. I'm pretty sure the top on this one is carved as opposed to pressed, though I can't say that without a doubt. [34]"




Supertone

Image Credit: Jake Wildwood
"Supertone brand was used by Sears and Roebuck, 1914-1941." [1]

DeMont Harmony Database






Suprema

"Distributed by Eaton's Canada" [29]. Also built by Kay.


Tone King

Image Credit: Jake Wildwood









Tower

No known information

Truetone

Distributed by Western Auto. More commonly seen with Kay built guitars


Vega

"Some Vega guitars have Harmony made bodies. Harmony may have made complete Vega guitar models too." [30]

Vibratone








Vita Uke

Image Credit: Jake Wildwood

Can be seen with the Roy Smeck endorsement








Walters

1930s to 1950s [31]

Weymann

Image Credit: Reverb - Mike's Gear Garage













Webster

Built in the 1940s

Windsor

Distributed by Montgomery Ward [32]. 

Wizard

Image Credit: Jedistar
Possibly a house brand for a South African company as a couple people on Jedistar.com say thats where they found them [33].

















Sources:

[1] http://jedistar.com/supertone/
[2] https://web.archive.org/web/20071016091452/http://vintageguitar.com/brands/details.asp?ID=89
[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230858/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=48
[4] https://web.archive.org/web/20071224094016/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=27
[5] http://jedistar.com/biltmore/
[6] http://jedistar.com/broman/
[7] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230848/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=46
[8] http://jedistar.com/fischer-carl/
[9] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230913/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=51
[10] http://jedistar.com/lee-gibbs-concertone/
[11] https://www.stlamateurluthier.com/2018/10/kay-guitar-brands-and-aliases.html
[12] http://www.stellaguitars.com/about/stella-guitar-myths-factoids/
[13] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230853/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=47
[14] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230150/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=17
[15] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230155/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=18
[16] http://jedistar.com/holiday/
[17] http://www.vintaxe.com/cgi-bin/vintaxe_viewer.pl?cat_1938lombardi_001&cat_1938lombardi_001
[18] http://jedistar.com/marvel/
[19] http://www.guitarsite.com/discussion/messages/326.shtml
[20] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230727/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=25
[21] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230958/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=60
[22] http://jedistar.com/sonata/
[23] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230928/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=55
[24] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230918/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=52
[25] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230908/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=50
[26] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230737/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=28
[27] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230115/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=1
[28] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230743/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=29
[29] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230803/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=36
[30] https://web.archive.org/web/20071226230808/http://harmony.demont.net/brands.php?id_brand=38
[31] http://jedistar.com/walters-gb-walters/
[32] http://jedistar.com/windsor/
[33] http://jedistar.com/wizard/
[34] https://jakewildwood.blogspot.com/2017/02/1930s-harmony-made-ss-stewart-archtop.html
[35] http://www.guitarsite.com/database/Guitars/rec/1733/wwwboard/messages/196.shtml
[36] https://www.guitar-list.com/brands/melody-king
[37]http://www.vintaxe.com/catalogs_pages/catalogs_american_marwin_bf_1951.php

Updated: 4/4/2019