Sunday, April 1, 2018

Guitar Rifles - April 1 2018

Sincere protester that should
have paid more attention in class
These days there is much turmoil in the United States regarding guns. I have no opinion. I am neither pro or anti-gun. But I do have a wonderl solution.

Much like pounding your swords into plowshares, turn your rifles into guitars.

Homemade Kalashnikov

Just think of it; a 100 watt Marshall stack cranked up to 11, and strumming power chords on your Kalashnikov rifle guitar; that would be enough to send the bad guys scrambling.

Former UN General Kofi Anon
 with his AK-47 guitar-rifle

All you are going to need is a rifle, a guitar neck with frets and tuning machines, a pickup or two, and a bridge. Oh you might need a few tools. How hard could it be? Kofi Anon, former UN Secretary General built one. So can you.

Rifle Guitar 

First make sure the magazine is empty and there are no rounds in the barrel.

Guitar Rifle with neck attached

Next remove the barrel, or you could even use it as a truss rod if you like. You will need to attach the neck to the rifle’s body. I’ll leave that up to you. Be creative.

On the rifle’s body, route out a section for the pickup(s).

Guitar Rifle controls
in the magazine

I suggest that you run the wiring into the magazine clip. Onto the clip add the volume and tone controls. Use the gun’s trigger as a pickup switch, or volume boost, by adding electronics into the stock. Add a bridge and saddle. This one is off of an acoustic guitar. I prefer metal bridges, but whatever works for you should be fine.

This guy used a Strat Jack - Smart move!

Of course you will want to add the input jack at the end of the rifle’s butt.

The most wonderful thing is that there are plenty of ready made molded hard shell cases to carry your Guit-rifle.

You may have a little trouble getting it through security and onto a plane, but once again, I have faith in you.

Glen Burton AK-47 Guitar Rifle
Now go forth, and turn your weapon into a formidable ax.

By the way, did you realize this is April Fools Day?

Click on the links under the pictures for sources.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Nokie Edwards, Surf Guitarist and Much More

Nokie Edwards    1935 - 2018
Nokie Edwards, best know as lead guitarist with The Ventures passed away on March 12, 2018 at the age of 82.

Born  Nole Floyd Edwards on May 9, 1935 in Lahoma, Oklahoma, and nicknamed Nokie, Edwards was a native American Cherokee. He came from a family of accomplished musicians, and by age five he began playing a variety of string instruments including the steel guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin, and bass. He became an excellent guitar player.

Later in life, his family relocated from Oklahoma to Puyallup, Washington. At age 18 he joined the Army Reserves and traveled to California and Texas for training. After his stint was over, he returned to Tacoma, and his family.

Nokie with his trio
In January 1958, country songwriter and guitarist Buck Owens relocated from California to Tacoma, Washington, as owner of radio station KAYE. Prior to the formation of The Buckaroos with Don Rich, Edwards played guitar with Owens in the new band he formed in the area, and also played in the house band of television station KTNT, located in the same building as KAYE.

That same year found Edwards playing at a local club.

Don Wilson and Bob Bogle had a chance meeting in 1958 where they discovered they both played guitar. These guys bought a couple of used guitars from a pawn shop and started playing at bars and small clubs.

Nokie with the Original Ventures

They went to see guitarist Nokie Edwards, who was playing at a nightclub and asked if he would join them as a bass player.  He took them up on the offer.  They originally called their band The Marksmen, but soon changed the name to The Ventures.

The drummer that originally played on the recording of Walk, Don’t Run, was Skip Moore. He left the group to work at his families gas station.

General George Babbit with The Ventures
Next George Babbitt joined the group, but had to leave, because he was too young to play in nightclubs. Years later he joined the US Army and went on to become a 4 Star General.

The Ventures then hired Howie Johnson as their drummer, and he played with the group until he was injured in an automobile accident. He was replaced by Mel Taylor. Taylor stayed with the group throughout the band's tenure until he became to ill to continue, and was replaced by his son, Leon.

Johnny Smith

Back when Wilson and Bogle met Nokie Edward, he was already performing a Chet Atkins song called in his nightclub set called Walk, Don’t Run. This song was actually written and recorded by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith.

The Ventures
The Ventures took their version of this song to a recording studio and laid down a track, along with a B-side called Home, and had the company press some 45 rpm records, which they shipped to record companies and radio stations. The tune was eventually picked up by Dolton Records and went on to become #2 on the charts.

Walk Don't Run '64

It was later redone by The Ventures with an updated surf guitar arrangement and released again as Walk, Don’t Run ‘64. This song became one of only a handful of recordings that charted twice on the Billboard Hot 100. Walk, Don’t Run became required playing for all garage bands in the mid 1960’s.

It’s theme was slightly more complex than other surf songs, as it went from a minor to a major mode. The Ventures went on to produce many more albums, and even TV themes, however the early recordings were generally surf based music.

Night Run - The Marksmen

But in 1960, the first song Edwards and The Marksmen recorded was a single, "Night Run" with a song called "Scratch" on the B side, on Blue Horizon Records.

The Ventures 1960 Nokie on bass guitar

Edwards originally played bass for the group, but he took over the lead guitar position.

The Ventures in Japan 1965

The Ventures released a series of best-selling albums through 1968.  It was that same year that Edwards left the group, although he would occasionally reunite with the band.

The Venture Japan 2011
Nokie is seated

Nokie Edwards continued to tour Japan annually with The Ventures, primarily in winter, until 2012. It is amazing that the popularity of The Ventures never waned in Japan.

Edwards began a solo career in 1969 and released several albums through 1972.  Unfortunately Edward's solo career was never successful in America.

The Ventures 1984

Nokie returned to the Ventures as lead guitarist in 1973. Edwards performed with the band until 1984, when he left again to pursue a music career in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nokie with The Ventures 1984

By the later 1980's Edwards re-joined The Ventures once again. The group began another short stint of recording and touring before returning to Nashville.

Nokie Edwards on TNN 1996

During the 1990's Edward's was involved with numerous country-influenced recording projects. He became known and respected among many musicians and people in the recording industry.

These included Mark Moseley, who is the nephew of Semie Moseley, and owns a successful recording studio in Nashville that was started by his father, Andy Moseley.

Another friend of Nokie Edwards was Bob Shade, the current owner of Hallmark Guitars. Dana Moseley, Semi's daughter, who still makes and sells Mosrite guitars in the United States can be counted among Nokie's friends.

Deke Dickerson, who carries on the tradition of guitar music from the 1950's and 1960's was also one of Nokie's friends.

Joe and Rose Lee Maphis were both friends of Edwards. There are also many more folks that worked with and respected Nokie Edwards.

The Ventures Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Finally in 2008, Edwards and The Ventures were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Ventures 1959
 Nokie Edwards and The Ventures used quite a few guitars during their careers. During their early years, The Ventures played late 1950 era Fender guitars; a Jazzmaster, a Stratocaster, and a Precision Bass. But probably the best known Ventures' model was made by Semie Moseley's company, Mosrite guitars.

Gene Moles on the left

One evening California session player, Gene Moles, was displaying his Mosrite guitar to Nokie Edwards of The Ventures. Edwards feel in love with that guitar. He asked Moles to take him out to visit that guy that builds these wonderful guitars and the men went to visit Semie Moseley.  That evening Edwards came home his own Mosrite.

Soon after the encounter, The Ventures hooked up with Moseley to build custom made Ventures guitars and basses.

Original Mosrite
Ventures model
“It was a beautiful guitar,” said Gene Moles, the Bakersfield session guitarist, and member of Jimmy Thomason’s TV band.

Moles was and assembly-line inspector for Mosrite guitars. Mole's is quoted as saying  “It was a well-designed instrument. It felt good to a guitar player when he grabbed it. It had a narrow neck and a low profile, so you didn’t have to push down as hard on the strings to play it. And it had what we called ‘speed frets,’ where you could slide up and down the neck without getting held up on high-profile frets.”

Later Side
Jack Model
The client who turned Mosrite into a household name, at least among guitar enthusiasts, was Nokie Edwards, lead guitarist for the kings of ‘60s surf-rock, the Ventures. Edwards fell in love with the Mosrite guitar, and by 1962, the entire Seattle-based band set their trademark Fender guitars aside and were playing Mosrites on songs like “Walk, Don’t Run” and the theme from “Hawaii 5-0.”Before long, Edwards struck up a deal with Moseley to build guitars under The Ventures logo.

The Ventures signed a special distribution agreement with Mosrite, featured their guitars on their album covers.

This arrangement lasted from 1963 to 1965, when the model name was changed to the Mark I. However The Ventures continued to tour with Mosrite guitars from 1963 to 1968.

Briefly Mosrite had attempted to build and market an all transistor amplifier under The Ventures banner. However it failed, due to design problems. Mosrite made at least 4 versions of The Venture's model that included a budget version and a six string/12 string double neck.

After the agreement between Mosrite and the Ventures ended, The Ventures returned to playing Fender instruments.

Wilson Brothers Model

Later in life, the group had arrangements with Aria Guitars, and Wilson Brothers Guitars to produce Ventures model guitars.

 Hitchhiker Guitar

Bob Shade of Hallmark Guitars, created a special model for Nokie called The Hitchhiker. This is an exquisite neck-through body guitar, with a hard maple neck, ebony fret board and highly figured body. The twin Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups are controlled by master volume and tone potentiometers, with a five-way pickup selector switch, a two mini-toggles that yield a tonal palette of 15 different sounds.

Hallmark Hitchhker 1

Shade also built Nokie an exquisite gold sparkle version of the Hitchhiker called The Hitchhiker 1. Nokie loved his Hitchhiker and it was the last guitar that he played in his concerts.

Nokie with an Aria guitar at
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

Though Nokie Edwards was known for his single note picking on The Ventures records, he was also a devotee and friend of Chet Atkins, and Nokie was an excellent finger picking guitarist.

He claims that the longevity of The Ventures was due to the songs they choose to record. They would look at the Billboard Top Hits, and the guitar styles played on those songs, and copy those styles to stay current with the times.

For all of us that learned guitar back in the mid-1960's, we owe a debt of gratitude to Nokie Edwards, and Bob Bogle. We learned to play single note guitar, by listening to Walk, Don't Run, and the other hit song by The Ventures.

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Norma Guitars

Norma Guitars
In the mid 1960’s, a wholesale musical instrument distribution company existed known as Strum and Drum. They were based in Chicago, Illinois and imported guitars from all over the world and sometimes re-branded them for sale to United States music stores, or anyone who owned a business and wanted to sell guitars.

Don E. Noble & Company
In the 1950's company called Don Noble and Co, was founded in the 1950’s by Don Noble, a well-known accordion player and entrepreneur.  He began by importing Italian made musical instruments, mainly accordions, in an era when the "stomach Steinway" was very popular and accordions were being sold door-to-door, and accordion academies were common in most larger cities. But he also imported guitars under the Noble brand name.

Somehow Noble became involved with business man Norman Sackheim.  Eventually the name became Strum and Drum.

Italian made mid-1960's Nobel Guitar

Between Nobel, and Sackheim they imported quite a line-up that included Italiian guitars from EKO, Avanti, Wandre, and Goya.  In 1969 Strum and Drum purchased the National Guitar brand name.

Norma  EG-470
However from 1965 until 1969, you could find guitars with lots of pickups and switches under the brand name Norma, which was the feminized version of Mr. Sackheim’s name. He made certain the name adorned the headstocks of thousands of inexpensive guitars back In a time when everyone wanted to be the next big rock star.

The logo was a stylized music staff, with the name Norma entered with the "N" as artistically designed 8th note. On some "high-end" models, the fret maker inlays were done in the letter "N".

1966 Norma Guitars
The manufacturing origin of these guitars is somewhat of a mystery, but for the most part they seem to have been manufactured at a plant called Tombo. We are for certain most of the fancier versions had their origin there.

1966 Tombo Guitar

As an aside “Tombo” is the Japanese word for Dragonfly The company is still active, but no longer manufacturers guitars. They now specialize in harmonicas under the Lee Oskar brand name. Some of the Norma guitars may have been manufactured by Teisco.

1969 Norma electric
  very similar to a Goya Rangemaster

The necks on these guitars were rather thick, possibly due to not have an adjustable truss rod. The single coil pickups are basic, and some guitars had as many as four pickups.

1966 Norma Bass Guitars

Then there are switches and knobs; lots of them. Most of these guitars and bass guitars were sold with a chipboard case, and retailed well below $100.

Mid 1960's Norma Catalog

Unfortunately after purchasing National Guitar, Norman Sackheim was killed in a plane crash while on a trip to Moscow. I know the company existed at lease until 1972.

'68 Norma 12

By far my favorite Norma electric guitar was their 12 string. The body was based on an exaggerated version of a Fender Stratocaster.

Head stock of 12 string

The headstock was an exaggerated version of a Rickenbacker 12 string.

1968 EG421-4

This guitar also came in a six string version with four pickups, lots of switches, and knobs. In doing some further research on Norma Guitars, I have learned that these guitars are prized by collectors, and are currently selling in the $800 to $1000 USD range.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Stella Guitars

The Oscar Schmidt Factory
 Jersey City, NJ

Stella was the model name given to a series of guitars manufactured by The Oscar Schmidt Company of Jersey City, New Jersey. This company was established sometime between 1871, and incorporated in 1911.

Vintage Stella paper label

The Oscar Schmidt Company not only made some nice guitars, but manufactured a variety of stringed musical instruments, such as lap harps, autoharps, chord zithers, and something called a ukelin (which is a bowed psaltery made in the shape of a violin).

While other instrument manufacturing companies would create instruments to be sold through department stores, or catalogs, usually under the store’s brand name, the Oscar Schmidt Company’s strategy was door-to-door marketing.

A pair of top-of-the-line
Stella guitars with Tree of Life inlay
Each year the company would offer a special edition of an instrument, which was sometimes linked to a current newsworthy event, Salesmen kept detailed records of the customers buying habits, with the intent of reaching out to this customer in the future. Most of the instruments produced by the company were durable, easy to play, and to learn on for beginners.

Family music time in the parlor
circa 1920's

During this era the only form of entertainment for families was outings, playing games such as cards, or playing music. Playing music in the family room/parlor, was how the term “parlor guitar” was coined.

1920's Stella               1925 Soveriegn                  1925 La Scala 
The company created the Stella brand in 1899 as low cost and mid level guitars. At the time the company had two other brands; La Scala, and Sovereign, with Sovereign being their top-of-the-line. Stella guitars were made in various configurations, from parlor-sized, grand concert, even jumbo sized.

1920's Stella

To keep the manufacturing cost down, many Stella guitars were made of solid birch. The nicer models were made of mahogany or German spruce. Despite the low cost, the wood was solid. Some of the tops featured unique decal designs. I've even run across those with decals applied to the fretboard. Stella guitars generally used ladder bracing.

1920's Stella

Most Stella guitars did not last throughout the years, as the interior finishing was rather crude, and quickly completed. The bridges were made of rosewood, and on some instruments the strings attached to a trapeze tailpiece.

1935 Stella Westbrook

The fretboard was usually made of birch or maple and it was stained black. Unfortunately this stain caused some of the boards to eventually rot.

Leadbelly with his Stella 12 string
He tuned it down to B

With all that said, Stella guitars sounded great, and came with an affordable price; only $15 for a new guitar. This made the Stella an attractive guitar for Blues players of the day.

Stella 12 string

Leadbelly’s 12 string Stella (he called his guitar Stella, in the same way B.B. King called his guitar Lucille) provided a loud booming sound that could be heard In the Juke Joints or in the house parties during the days when amplification was not available, or deemed necessary. He tuned it down to B.

1920 Stella Regal

The Oscar Schmidt Company flourished for many years. At one point they even had five manufacturing facilities within the United States. Unfortunately the company did not last through the Great Depression of 1929. In 1930 the company’s assets were sold to the Harmony Company of Chicago, although Oscar Schmidt continued to manufacture and market autoharps.

Harmony made Stella H6130

Most guitar aficionados  will be more familiar with the inexpensive  Stella guitars manufactured by Harmony, than those made by Oscar Schmidt. Many of these were made by Harmony using solid birch wood for the bodies, that was painted to appear to have faux flame. The tops were usually had a two tone sunburst.

1965 Stella
Steel Reinforced Neck

The necks were made of poplar. The headstocks proudly announced "Steel Reinforced Neck", although it was not adjustable. The position markers were painted on the fret boar. The machine heads were inexpensive, 3 on a plate, open gear style tuners.

A typical mid 1960's Stella guitar
 model H929

Most models had a stamped metal trapeze tailpiece. If there was a fixed tailpiece, it was screwed into the body.

Stella-type guitar
 under the Winston brand
In later years manufacturing of some Stella-type guitars were built in Japan. These were beginner or student grade budget guitars. A four string tenor model was also available. These guitars usually retailed for a mere $20.00 USD and were made by either Teisco, or Kawai in the mid-1960's. Essentially they were copying (although they refer to it as 'making a reproduction') of an already inexpensive USA made guitar. They were sold under the Winston brand name, and they were actually "badged" guitars, made for an import firm.

Waterloo WL-14

A few years ago, before his passing, luthier Bill Collings, of Collings guitars launched a new venture. He wanted to recreate guitars made in the 1920's, that had "that" sound you would find on a guitar much like an Oscar Schmidt made Stella guitar and other brands of the era. So he founded Waterloo guitars.

Waterloo WL-S Deluxe

Waterloo instruments come in parlor to jumbo sized model guitars that feature ladder braced tops (with an X bracing custom option), necks with a V shape (this was an important feature on older guitars before truss rods were used), tops are spruce, backs, sides and necks are made of mahogany.

Instead of a $15 price for a new 1920 Oscar Schmidt Stella, with a $2.00 cardboard case, a Waterloo guitar with a custom hard-shell case will set you back around $2200.

But they are very nice guitars. 

Currently the Washburn Musical instruments owns the Oscar Schmidt brand name. The company was formerly owned by musical instrument/electronics distributor U.S. Music, but was recently sold to the Canadian firm J.A.M Industries, which also is the wholesale distributor of musical instruments that are made abroad, and electronic musical equipment.