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Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.

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catspaw49 22 Mar 99 - 10:02 AM
Jon W. 22 Mar 99 - 10:38 AM
Allan S. 23 Mar 99 - 08:32 PM
Den 23 Mar 99 - 08:48 PM
Guy Wolff 23 Mar 99 - 09:15 PM
ritajgatti@aol.com 24 Mar 99 - 01:13 AM
Songbob 24 Mar 99 - 11:19 AM
Jon W. 24 Mar 99 - 12:25 PM
Mikal (the new guy) 25 Mar 99 - 12:28 AM
Bert 25 Mar 99 - 10:27 AM
Rick Fielding 31 Mar 99 - 03:57 PM
catspaw49 06 Apr 99 - 06:59 AM
bill\sables 06 Apr 99 - 07:54 AM
harpgirl 18 Aug 02 - 08:07 PM
Rick Fielding 19 Aug 02 - 11:07 AM
GUEST,Russ 19 Aug 02 - 11:39 AM
harpgirl 19 Aug 02 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,sorefingers 19 Aug 02 - 12:44 PM
Rick Fielding 19 Aug 02 - 05:55 PM
truer sound 19 Aug 02 - 06:25 PM
GUEST,CraigS 19 Aug 02 - 07:14 PM
GUEST,sorefingers 19 Aug 02 - 07:39 PM
Devilmaster 19 Aug 02 - 09:41 PM
GUEST 20 Aug 02 - 01:12 PM
Devilmaster 21 Aug 02 - 01:51 PM
GUEST,Rick Fielding. 23 Aug 02 - 11:02 AM
Kim C 23 Aug 02 - 01:54 PM
GUEST 17 Sep 05 - 02:02 AM
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Subject: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: catspaw49
Date: 22 Mar 99 - 10:02 AM

The last thread in our guitar series. Remember, we do have threads on Martin, Gibson,Guild,Epiphone, Takemine,Ovation,Yamaha,High Line (Taylor,Larrivee,Collings,etc.,and independent luthiers),Alvarez,Seagull,and Washburn. Go back to any of these to add your comment at any time.

An awful lot of info has come through these threads and I'm very happy with the way they have turned out aas a resource for us.

This one should be fun. Some of these old names were the stars and workhorses of their day and although we often laugh about them now, they too had a place in our folk music traditions. Have fun and let's here the stories. I'm sure Rick will have more than 2 cents to add when he returns from tour.

catspaw


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Jon W.
Date: 22 Mar 99 - 10:38 AM

My camping guitar's a small Stella I got at a pawnshop for $35. I would guess it was made in the '60s so I'm not sure what relationship it has to the older more famous Stellas. It has a tailpiece (which is why I bought it) and a floating bridge (obviously) and a plywood top - not instrument grade plywood either, just cabinet grade. For all that it sounds surprisingly good. I just need to lower the action a little now...


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Allan S.
Date: 23 Mar 99 - 08:32 PM

God. I bought my Stella for $5 back in 1952 With a while painted finish . ended up by putting U-Conn decals on it and a leather boot lace for a neck strap on it for some reason hanging on the end of it was a baby's pacifier I dont rember why tho. You mean you were suposed to change the strings? If I recall if one broke you bought a single string to replace it. One of the broken 1st string was made in to a pick to clean the orfice on my carbide lamp that was used for spelunking. also remember jumping over a stone wall when the bottom of the Stells slamed in to the wall Just a chip of paint gone not even the tuneing changed.We never heard of guitar cases, tho there were some cardboard ones around. Those strings shure put calloses on the thumb. Dont remember any one playing a Kay. THose were expensive and only the rich kids could afford to buy them fron Sears. We would throw the old Stella in the babk of the car, pile the camping equipment on top of it and drive to Virginia to go Spelunking on our Spring break. THose were the days Stella by Starlight.


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Den
Date: 23 Mar 99 - 08:48 PM

Anyone heard of Sigma guitars. I used to have one and I loved it. They were endorsed by Martin, if that is the right terminology. The Martin name was on the sticker on the inside of the guitar. The one I had was modeled after the D12. I have a friend who had a real D12 and we compared them for sound and the only real difference was in the lower end, especially the e string. Otherwise my Sigma sounded pretty good. I gave it away to a friend when I moved a number of years ago. I bought a Takemine for more than twice what I paid for the Sigma but you know it just doesn't sound as good acoustically (the Takemine is a wide body with a built in pickup). But my sigma sounded better even through a mic.


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Guy Wolff
Date: 23 Mar 99 - 09:15 PM

On the way to the waterbury Ct Sears was a pawn shop of the type where the sales-staff wore side arms! On the wall I found the most wanderfull guitar. Here's an ozymoron for you.... a"Kay Profesional"..Wow what an incredible sound this thing has. It is perfect for slide-work. By the pearl of toilet seat peghead I would guess it's from the late 30's{Also the font on the peghead looks to be remenicent of that decade} ..I have never heard such balanced power from treble to bace.I have used it exclusivly to record MR.R.Johson work.WHen put up against my national DeolianI wuold be hard pressed to choose.When recording it I like to use a good clean studio mike and then one of those old harmonica mikes just to quiet or soften this thing out alittle.My best to all, Guy.......................


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: ritajgatti@aol.com
Date: 24 Mar 99 - 01:13 AM

My first guitar was a Kay...Bought it from Newberry's 5&dime in So. California. $28.00 in about 1958. Thing was built like a tank, sounded pretty good though. After a few years I converted into a tenor guitar, took all the paint off and tried to make it look as much like a "real" guitar as I could. My next guitar was and still is my Martin NY ladies model...built in 1891. She's a beaut.


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Songbob
Date: 24 Mar 99 - 11:19 AM

I've got an old Orpheum archtop that was obviously made by Kay. It's the same size as a Kay jumbo flattop, same peghead shape, and the serial number starts "K43-" which makes me deduce that it was made by Kay in 1943. This is further reinforced by the fact that the neck ISN'T reinforced, a wartime measure when metal was used for other things. Very nice guitar, "advanced" size (18" lower bout, like putting a cello on your lap!) and in wonderful shape for its age. Not a beginner's Kay at all.

My very first guitar was a Wards "Airline" guitar, with tailpiece and movable bridge, high action, etc. Pretty basic, but it served to get me somewhat interested. Gave it to a cousin years later, when I'd moved up through a Harmony Sovereign (dandy guitar, by the way -- I had the 000- size model, not the D- sized one) to a Guild to a Guild to a Martin D-28 (which I now have back again -- for the story on that, go to my web page of song lyrics [at http://members.aol.com/rjclayton/songs] and look for "Reunion").

There is a sort of mini-boom in values for some of these oldsters, partly because they're old, and partly because they're possible to find and some of 'em are pretty good instruments, particularly for certain applications (slide, jazz, etc.). So the Ebay auction now has those $15 Stellas being offered (they bring $40-60 now, except for the 12-strings and the higher-grade models, which get up to $200) and bid on. Even at yard sales, the sellers hold out for more than the intrinsic "playability" value of the bottom-end guitars in the Kay and Harmony lines. Based on inflation, they haven't held their value, though; $15 represents a lot more hours of work in 1960 than it does today.

Anyway, here's to cheap guitars, long may they wave!

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Jon W.
Date: 24 Mar 99 - 12:25 PM

I forgot - I do own a Kay guitar. It was my father's. He bought it in the '40s when he was a single guy who spent his time trying to strike it rich in the mines of Utah and Nevada. It is an archtop. It has been broken (never by me) and has been poorly fixed (most often by me) more times than I can count, the worst being a shattered peghead/neck joint that I reglued with black epoxy, dowelled, and reinforced with a chunk of wood on top for good measure, when I was young and ignorant (16 or 17 years old). The last rescue attempt was several years ago when I put on a high nut so I could play slide on it, but the sustain was so poor that I gave up on that attempt. Now it sits in it's alligator case in the basement gathering dust.


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Mikal (the new guy)
Date: 25 Mar 99 - 12:28 AM

My first box was a Stella, so old when I got it the name was worn off the thing. My mother had played on it to put us to sleep at night, so I know it was older than me. I had a velvet belt from my mother's old housecoat as a strap on it for years. Funny thing was, the guys I played with swore it sounded as good as their far more expensive ones. I always assumed it was the age on the old beast. I finally put it in the hands of my nephew, who is now using it to keep the grad students in his dorm awake at nights. (He plays as poorly as I do!) My second was a Kay, bought from, (yes, it is true,) Sears! Flame blaze with the imitation mother of pearl and the nasty plastic tuning keys. I hauled it all over creation in it's flocked, black cardboard case. I must have worn out a thousand picks before I finally realized I can't play for beans! Still, the cheap "gits" are the best memories I have. Now i stum an old Washburn mellon-backed mandolin and let the more skilled players do the front work.

Mikal


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Bert
Date: 25 Mar 99 - 10:27 AM

I saw a small old Stella in an antique store last weekend, typical red sunburst. It had been poorly repaired a time or two and had a couple of strings missing. Of course I couldn't resist strumming it. I was amazed at how good it sounded, I just couldn't believe that sound came from such a small plywood guitar. It didn't have a price on it and seeing the inflated prices of a couple of other instruments there I didn't bother to ask. But I'll certainly be on the lookout for them in future.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 31 Mar 99 - 03:57 PM

Stellas, Harmonys, and Kays can be great fun to collect because you can't go broke on them! A couple of things to look out for would be the Harmony Sovereign, 6 and 12 string models from the 50s to early 60s. They're solid, sound good and rarely cost more than a couple of hundred. Of all the instruments I've had, I guess the one I'd want back the most (it was stolen) was my Sovereign 12. 'Course the Epiphone Emperor that I bought for 200 and sold for 500 would buy us a new house today..but for sound..the old Harmony was great.

Keep in mind that Harmony and Kay also built lots of guitars for other companies. Most Vega guitars were made by Harmony.(but had Vega price tags)

Few celebrities played or endorsed these instruments (save the blues guys who appreciated their durability) but the amazing Roy Smeck had his own models (he also endorsed Gibson) and if you love the sound of Joe Hickerson's playing..he did it on a BIG Kay.


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: catspaw49
Date: 06 Apr 99 - 06:59 AM


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: bill\sables
Date: 06 Apr 99 - 07:54 AM

I bought a Harmony Soverign new in 1962. It cost £47 probably about $100, exchange rates in those days were higher than they are now, I played it at my local folk club and my friend was so impressed he went out and got one identical to mine. Since that time I have tried and played many guitars I never liked Martins I find them too stiff, and have only played one good Guild. I haven't played a bad Lowden they all were very good. One of the best handmade guitars I ever played is a Terry Docherty. But until about two years age I was still playing my Harmony, it matured with age and sounds very bright, then I was given the other Harmony by my friend so now I have a pair. I came across a arched back and front guitar with F holes called a Berkley unfortunatly the neck is warped. Has anyone heard of a Berkley and where they were made etc. Cheers Bill


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: harpgirl
Date: 18 Aug 02 - 08:07 PM


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 11:07 AM

Great thread! Glad it's back....bet it'll get 100 plus responses! Good to know that my stay in hospital didn't temper my normal (pleasantly) sarcastic side.

But guess what's happened in the last three years friends. Stellas have gone through the roof!!

Two of my friends have just purchased Stellas, and were not the least discombobulated at the thousand buck price tags. Holy shit, I've lived too long!

...on the other hand, that little Stella hangin' on my wall might just be worth a few lobster dinners now.

There are a few websites on Stella, Harmony, and the parent company Oscar Schmidt. Go find 'em.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 11:39 AM

It seems to be some sort of boomer musician phenom. Same thing is happening with banjos. Mail order catalog banjos with plastic (for God's sake) pots now command unbelievable premiums.

As a boomer, I remember when we all owned a single instrument, be it a guitar, banjo, fiddle etc. It was all we could afford and we felt lucky to have it.

Now that we all own entire families of big name big ticket axes, the only way to go is DOWN.

I hope that at least part of the phenom is the mature realization that:
- most of the legends played instruments that we wouldn't pull out of a dumpster
- all that really counts is the sound
- when it comes down to it, it's the perfumer, not the instrument.


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: harpgirl
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 12:22 PM

I was touring pawn shops in Valdosta, Georgia last weekend (don't ask; it's about Nathan) and I saw one for $150. It looked to be in perfect condition but since they were $8.50 at Sears a long time ago I wondered if that was a bit steep. What say you, Rick?


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: GUEST,sorefingers
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 12:44 PM

I recently seen a 12 string - looked like it had been played a lot - but I live in such a large city I have no idea which store it was in. Should have tried it out!


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 05:55 PM

ONE FIFTY!! I say grab the sucker!

Better than payin' this guy's prices.

kerplunk

Rick


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: truer sound
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 06:25 PM

Good God!! $725 For a Stella? Makes me really wish I hadn't taken the paint off of mine!!!

My stella was $15 at a Junk Shop and it came with a Velvet and Suede Paisley guitar strap. I took it home and stripped it down to see if I could make it prettier, but the wood was uglier than the fake-sunburst paint job!! I've still got it though.

No one's said anything about Silvertones, though. My first Arch-top was a black plywood Silvertone with white decoration, harder to play even than my Stella (much longer string length.)

I'll agree with what everyone's saying about Harmony Sovereigns. They have a great tone (I think it has to do with the skimpy bracing.) My friend has a Harmony 12 that He traded a squire strat for; He made off like a Bandit!!


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: GUEST,CraigS
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 07:14 PM

Leadbelly did OK with a Stella 12. Paul Brett bought a Kay 12 string from Woolworths (major Kay outlet in GB) and used it a lot; Woolworths also used it a lot for advertising. Nobody said anything about Kalamazoo guitars - Robert Johnson used one! I've heard the flat tops are really good value if you find one. In GB, I've only seen Kalamazoo cello guitars - look like a Gibson 125 - small, black, no cutaway, sound and play really good. I had two that I wish I still had. I've been warned about Kalamazoo electrics with chipboard bodies where the neck tends to detach over time, but we didn't get them in GB.

All these guys with plywood Stellas should have tried the dreadful ply creations we had in 60s GB - the Egmond, a Dutch creation better suited to processing tomatoes than playing music - the Tatra, an eastern bloc secret weapon to slice the fingertips of westerners - the Antoria, a Japanese instrument of torture (actually, that's not fair because Antoria actually learned to make guitars, to the point where their Strats were preferable to the CBS ones in the early 70s).


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: GUEST,sorefingers
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 07:39 PM

Craig you are making me cry!


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Devilmaster
Date: 19 Aug 02 - 09:41 PM

Jeez, perfect timing on this thread.

After asking Clinton Hammond, and he only being able to help me a little bit, I was about to start a new thread about this, but stumbled upon this one.

So I ask for some help and info. My disclaimer is that I know zilch about guitars and do not play. So anyways, we moved my grandmother out of her house and into storage, which all will probably be sold or given away later. One thing I got out of this, was an acoustic KAY guitar. I am assuming its quite old. Now I would like to learn, of course. Why not learn a new instrument when its dropped into your lap.

The only problem with this guitar is that it doesn't have a lower bridge anymore(forgive if I have the wrong terminology). Shots of the guitar can be seen here:
Guitar pic 1
Guitar pic 2
Guitar pic 3
Guitar pic 4

The stamp inside says 'L3176'. After doing Google searches on it, it looks like KAY is a 'Sears Special' as I call it, a cheap guitar for the beginner. I would like to use it, so I need to fix or jury-rig something for the lower bridge to work, and get new strings.

Any ideas or info will be much appreciated. Thanx in advance.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Aug 02 - 01:12 PM

Looks like its in god shape, and from what folks are saying about the prices of old Kays, now is a good time to have one fall in your lap.

Please be more specific about thepartthats missing, as the pictures don't show too well whats wrong


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Devilmaster
Date: 21 Aug 02 - 01:51 PM

Well, update on this. I jury rigged a lower bridge from an old useless electric I also have. Went over to Clinton's last night to have him try and put strings on and tune.

A trained eye and nose like Clinton's was able to tell that it sat in a humid room for some time (a sun room filled with plants) and that it had been dusted with pledge. (something i didn't know, but don't doubt) Well, working on it, and almost getting the low E string almost to its spot, it blew the nut and developed a wobble in the pin.

So I dont know what's next. Clint suggested trying to sell the KAY for parts, as the pickguard and other KAY decals are in good condition. We'll probably take better pictures of it and see where that takes it.

And to Guest, if you look at pic two, the lower bridge is where that black mark on the guitar is, underneath the soundhole and pickguard. Its missing, thats what the problem was.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: GUEST,Rick Fielding.
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 11:02 AM

Hmmmmm...I dunno. The problem with this particular model is that it ain't old enough to be a valuable "antique Kay", but in fact the REAL old ones haven't really gotten into that rarified market yet either. (They will)

I think you have a wall-hanger on your hands. My first guitar was a Kay, and my Mother turned it into a Planter! Now THAT was one humid guitar!

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: Kim C
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 01:54 PM

My dad had a Kay guitar. I don't know when he got it but since I'll be 35 in 3 weeks, it was probably sometime in the 60s. He had it as long as I can remember. He also had an instructional record album that came with little colored sticky dots you put on your fingernails and the fretboard. (anyone remember that?) I don't recall that he ever actually learned to play it.

My brother has it now. He is not a guitar player himself, but is thinking on having it fixed up so he can take a few lessons. I haven't seen it lately, so I don't know what, if anything, it really needs. Maybe just some new strings. Dad took pretty good care of his stuff, so I imagine it's not in too bad-a shape. Hell, it might even be worth some money!

I have a new cheap guitar I bought off Ebay. It's a Valley guitar, which I assume is probably made in China. It cost me a whopping $40, and the only reason I bought it was for its looks!!! It's a screaming blueburst thing with a little hummingbird on the pickguard. The ultimate cowgirl guitar. The only thing I don't like about it is the plastic peg heads. But you know what? This bugger actually sounds pretty good!

Did I tell you guys I got the Spanish guitar (the cracked one) in playable condition? The crack actually closed itself up (humidity) but they recommended having it glued, which we'll do. It's a nice little piece and has a HUGE sound for the size.


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Subject: RE: Info/Opinions: Guitars Past-Stella,Kay,etc.
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Sep 05 - 02:02 AM

!


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