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What was Sunny Shields Music Studio? Charles "Sunny" Dwight Shields (1917-2001) led an orchestra during the late 1930s an...

Sunny Shields Music Studio & Dwight Guitars



What was Sunny Shields Music Studio?

Charles "Sunny" Dwight Shields (1917-2001) led an orchestra during the late 1930s and up until he served in the Army during World War II [5][11]. He then founded his business, Sunny Shields Music Inc (commonly misspelled as Sonny) in East St Louis, Illinois during the 40s [1]. His business first appears in the papers in 1948 [13].

NEW YEAR'S EVE DANCE Sho•Boat, Dec. 31 DrenenOn< Sunny SI.leldn and HIn Nninue Dreher.. EIZtii:nrieM,:;2517:11naljuit= ge=1; Adm.: Advance Sale $1 Per Cone].  HOWARD TULEY AND HIS ORCHESTRA Saturday, Jan. 1st Aden..Ion. 75c Den Couple
Moberly Monitor-Index issue from 1937 [11]

[12]


In order to facilitate the teaching of students on guitar, he ordered custom branded instruments to be used by and eventually sold to his students.

St Louis Post Dispatch 1953 [8]
The main office appeared to be located at 1409 State St. East St Louis, Illinois until 1967 when they moved to 402 Missouri Ave. East St Louis, Illinois [9]. The building on State Street still stands but the building on Missouri Avenue has since been demolished.

 Win a  FREE  Music Scholarship  nun SUNNY SHIELDS MUSIC, INC. • Guitar • Drums • Piano • Accordion • Organ  Take Lessons in a Shields Studio Near Your Home  BOYS AND GIRLS ENTER NOW!  Straub  ed Names Contest  A Total of  35 Scholarships  will be awarded S FIRST PRIZES Eight weeks lessons. Use of instrument, lesson ma-terial. 10 SECOND PRIZES Six weeks lessons. Use of In-strument, lesson material. 20 THIRD PRIZES Five weeks lessons. Use of Instrument, lesson material.  FILL OUT OUT ENTRY BLANK AND UNSCRAMBLE NAMES AT RIGHT Listed in the panel at right are the scram-bled names of ten well-known musicians and entertainers. Correctly unscramble the names. For example Eadn Tinmar un-scrambled is Dean Martin. Write unscram-bled name in space provided at right. Fill out entry blank and mail to: Sunny Shields Music, Inc., 402 Missouri Ave., East St. Louis, Ill.  CONTEST OPEN AGES 6 to 18 WITH NO PREVIOUS MUSIC TRAINING  Letters must be postmarked before mid-night, March 8, 1968. Awards will be made on the basis of correctness of solution of the unscrambled names. Frills and fancies will not be considered in judging winners. Names of winners will be announced through the mail. Decision of judges will be final. No en-tries returned.  Take Lessons Near Your Home  Sunny Shields Music Studios  • Belleville • Cahokia • Collinsville • Columbia • East St. Louis • Prairie du Rocher • Waterloo  located at • EDWARDS-VILLE • Granite City • Highland • Mlllstadt • New Athens • Red Bud  Here's All You Have To Do  Unscramble These Names SCRAMBLED NAME CORRECT NAME  Boybb Ardin Honj Lonnen Nycan tranias Veda Larkc  Aulp Rereve Dnay Liliwmas Brndae Ele  La Tirh  Berh Terpal  Jonnyh Thisma  ENTRY BUNK  Sunny Shields Music, Inc. Scrambled Name Contest 402 Missouri Ave., East St. Louis, III. Name   Address  City Age  I would like to play:  vol•• I■ W./  0 Spanish Guitar El Organ ❑ Drums  Hawaiian Guitar 0 Piano ❑ Accordion  Parents signature__----   Sunny Shields Musk, Inc.  Gen. Offices: 402 Missouri Ave. East St. Louis, III.
[7]

In 1956 they boasted 18 years of experience, fifty-thousand lessons in the previous year, 50 instructors, and thousands of students each year as they expanded into Alton, Illinois

 Win a  FREE  Music Scholarship  nun SUNNY SHIELDS MUSIC, INC. • Guitar • Drums • Piano • Accordion • Organ  Take Lessons in a Shields Studio Near Your Home  BOYS AND GIRLS ENTER NOW!  Straub  ed Names Contest  A Total of  35 Scholarships  will be awarded S FIRST PRIZES Eight weeks lessons. Use of instrument, lesson ma-terial. 10 SECOND PRIZES Six weeks lessons. Use of In-strument, lesson material. 20 THIRD PRIZES Five weeks lessons. Use of Instrument, lesson material.  FILL OUT OUT ENTRY BLANK AND UNSCRAMBLE NAMES AT RIGHT Listed in the panel at right are the scram-bled names of ten well-known musicians and entertainers. Correctly unscramble the names. For example Eadn Tinmar un-scrambled is Dean Martin. Write unscram-bled name in space provided at right. Fill out entry blank and mail to: Sunny Shields Music, Inc., 402 Missouri Ave., East St. Louis, Ill.  CONTEST OPEN AGES 6 to 18 WITH NO PREVIOUS MUSIC TRAINING  Letters must be postmarked before mid-night, March 8, 1968. Awards will be made on the basis of correctness of solution of the unscrambled names. Frills and fancies will not be considered in judging winners. Names of winners will be announced through the mail. Decision of judges will be final. No en-tries returned.  Take Lessons Near Your Home  Sunny Shields Music Studios  • Belleville • Cahokia • Collinsville • Columbia • East St. Louis • Prairie du Rocher • Waterloo  located at • EDWARDS-VILLE • Granite City • Highland • Mlllstadt • New Athens • Red Bud  Here's All You Have To Do  Unscramble These Names SCRAMBLED NAME CORRECT NAME  Boybb Ardin Honj Lonnen Nycan tranias Veda Larkc  Aulp Rereve Dnay Liliwmas Brndae Ele  La Tirh  Berh Terpal  Jonnyh Thisma  ENTRY BUNK  Sunny Shields Music, Inc. Scrambled Name Contest 402 Missouri Ave., East St. Louis, III. Name   Address  City Age  I would like to play:  vol•• I■ W./  0 Spanish Guitar El Organ ❑ Drums  Hawaiian Guitar 0 Piano ❑ Accordion  Parents signature__----   Sunny Shields Musk, Inc.  Gen. Offic3s: 402 Missouri Ave. East St. Louis, III.

The above 1968 advertisement from The Edwardsville Intelligencer on March 4th shows that he had locations in Belleville, Cahokia, Collinsville, Columbia, East St. Louis, Prairie du Rocher, Waterloo, Edwardsville, Granite City, Highland, Millstadt, New Athens, and Red Bud. He offered lessons in Spanish guitar, organ, drums, Hawaiian guitar, piano, and accordion [6]. 

Media

A gentleman from Russia named Emir Shabashvili (username: emirko) purchased an old Kodak Bullseye Brownie camera and found undeveloped film which he had developed and scanned [2]. These rare pictures appear to be the only surviving media showing the Sunny Shields Music Studio and the kids who were enrolled. What confirms the photo's origins are the multiple Epiphone guitars visible in the photo with "Dwight" written on the headstock.

Other visible instruments include a Gibson Melody Maker, Kay Value Leader, Gibson ES-125, two Gibson ES-335's, and a Rickenbacker bass.
Photo #1 [2]

Photo #2 [2]

Photo #3 [2]

Photo #4 [2]
A store counter with a Schaum and a Gibson string display

Who made Dwight instruments?

There is a contemporary manufacturer, Clive Brown, who builds Gibson replicas in England and currently owns the rights to the name "Dwight" [14]. His instruments are not related in any way to these Dwight instruments and so they must not be confused.

Epiphone

According to The Official Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide 2010, Epiphone built solid body Coronet models, labelled them "Dwight", and shipped them to Mr Shields. There were 75 built in 1963 and 36 built in 1967 for a grand total of 111 Epiphone guitars [3].

Supro

Valco-built instruments, aka Supro, were also purchased by Mr Shields. He acquired an unknown quantity lap steels during the 50s and 60s [3]. They come up more frequently than their guitar counterparts so we can assume that he purchased more lap steels than guitars.

left: 1959 Supro Belmont branded Dwight on the guard

right: Supro Belmont that I believe is the same instrument
Notice the placement of the Dwight logo on the guard and the pearloid body
Image Credit: Photo #3 (from above)
According to PulseBeatGuitars.com, only 18 Supro-built guitars were ever branded "Dwight" for sale by Shields. They all appear to be the Belmont models and were built from 1959-1960. They can have the branding on the headstock, the pickguard, or the upper bass side bout. 

1960 Supro Belmont (T29479) branded Dwight
Image Credit: Myself

1960 Supro Belmont branded Dwight on the upper bout
Image Credit: Myself


Existing Examples

These are all the Supro-built Dwight guitars that I can find with their serial numbers, color scheme, and last known sightings. 
  1. T18984 - Red Pearloid - Reverb - Southside Guitars
  2. T29479 - Red Pearloid - Driftwood Music
  3. T32770 - Red Pearloid - Private Collection 
  4. T48739 - Red - Ebay - Rocket City Guitars
  5. T57745 - Red - Guitar Database Wiki
  6. ? - Red - Pulse Beat Guitars
  7. ? - Red - Youtube - Billy Barnett
  8. ? - Red - Commenter on above video claims to have one
  9. ? - Red - Private Collection (FB-JK)
PulseBeatGuitars.com claims that Keith Richards owns a white Supro Dwight and is pictured with it but I researched the photo and the original website claims it is a "Supro Dual Tone" with no mention of "Dwight" [15]. I can find no evidence to support the claim that his model is branded Dwight or that the Dual Tone model ever bore such branding.

Accordions

Dwight accordions were imported from Italy for his students.

Ebay [10]

Amplifiers

Dwight branded amplifiers were built by Epiphone and are branded versions of typical Epiphone products.
Image Credit: Reverb - Acme Guitars

Sources:

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Be excellent to each other dudes