S. Nathaniel Adams

Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars. Formally known as STL Amateur Luthier

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  Elmore James with his Kay K-6000 Image Credit:  www.thehoundblog.blogspot.com The K-6000 Western Rhythm Guitar Image Credit: VintAxe - 195...

 

Elmore James with his Kay K-6000
Image Credit: www.thehoundblog.blogspot.com


The K-6000 Western Rhythm Guitar

Image Credit: VintAxe - 1958 Catalog

The Kay K-6000 is one of the few actually rare Kay guitars (people get confused and incorrectly slap 'rare' on everything they can't immediately find on Google images). It does not appear in the 1956 or 1959 catalogs but only appears in the 1958 Kay/Kessel joint catalog as the only acoustic and only guitar that didn't have any ties to Barney Kessel in its description. Its unclear if this was truly a production model that only lasted a few years or if it was a special run with Kessel and we may never know unless a 1957 or 1958 Kay catalog surfaces. But we can say with certainty that the model didn't last long in the Kay roster, perhaps owing to its steep $175 price tag.

It is also worth mentioning that this was not a "signature" model made for Elmore, as some may claim, it was simply a guitar that he owned and happened to use frequently and publicly

The K-6000 blended two Kay production models, the Kay K-6100 (produced: 1957-1965) dreadnought and the Kay K-27 (produced: 1952-1956; 1957-1965 as the K-8127) jumbo into one unique instrument
  • Maple neck 
    • Large headstock with black celluloid overlay and pearloid inlays (K-27)
    • Ebony fretboard
      • '1-2-1' pattern pearloid dots
    • Kanti-lever truss rod system
    • Nickel frets
    • Kluson "Waffle Back" Tuners
  • Dreadnought body (like the K-6100)
    • Solid Sitka Spruce top
    • Simple, two ring rosette (again, borrowed from the K-6100)
    • Laminate Brazilian Rosewood back and sides
    • Ebony bridge (from the K-27)
    • 15-3/4" wide at the lower bout, 4-1/4" deep

The Look-a-likes

Kay is an enigmatic company, and has been the source of much confusion for years, so it should come as no surprise that there are Kays being advertised as the "Elmore James" model when 

Features from both of these two models were borrowed to make the K-6000 but these guitars by themselves are not what Elmore James would've played.

Kay K-6100 with a refinished headstock
Image Credit: Mine
Kay K-27
Image Credit: Reverb - Bird House Music







 

Elmore's Guitar

Now that we know what his guitar is, we can focus on what makes his guitar unique.

He had his initials set in rhinestones on the bass-side upper bout of the instrument.

The electronics were the biggest contributor to his sound and can be seen best in this picture below. We can see there is a DeArmond RHC-B soundhole pickup mounted incorrectly in the soundhole (its backwards, the sunken pole piece should be under the B string not the A string). 

Below his right hand is the control unit for a DeArmond Rhythm Chief 1000 archtop pickup. It appears that the Rhythm Chief pickup is mounted directly to the soundboard behind the sound hole. Its been brought to my attention that the Rhythm Chief only appeared in this performance so it wasn't a permanent fixture of his instrument.

His guitar also has an archtop tailpiece fastened to it, likely due to a bellying top with the original pinned bridge. That is not an uncommon fix to see on these instruments.

Image Credit: https://www.wirz.de/music/jameselm.htm














1930s Kay Kraft with factory original decals Image Credit:  Mike and Mike's Guitar Bar Decalcomania, commonly known as decals, really pi...

1930s Kay Kraft with factory original decals
Image Credit: Mike and Mike's Guitar Bar

Decalcomania, commonly known as decals, really picked up in popularity with American audiences around the 1920s and 30s. Decals could be added to furniture, food containers, and other objects to help identify them or add some flair to an ordinary item. Guitar manufacturers got into the trend by extensively using decalcomania and stenciled artwork on cheap instruments to make them more appealing to young players. This is most commonly seen with the "cowboy" stencil guitars of the 1940s.

Meyercord Company advertisement c.1902
Image Credit: Music Trade Review

For those who may follow my work regularly, you have probably seen the c.1930 Meyercord catalog that I scanned and uploaded on my website as a reference. I did not find the exact decals that I was searching for in the catalog but I saw some similar styles which was reassuring. From the sheer amount of advertising, I imagine that the Meyercord Company was one of the biggest players in Chicago for decalcomania. I also found evidence in my research to suggest that the American manufacturers were threatened by German decalcomania manufacturers and lobbied to have tariffs placed. So there is always a chance that the exact decals I seek may have come from Germany. 

Whether they were domestic or import, I think I did learn a fair amount from the brief research I put into this

Image Credit: Vintage Blues Guitars
Image Credit: Cream City Music

Decalcomania Manufacturers

  • Brown-Sinramm Co. from New York [Source]
  • U.S. Decalcomania Company (became the Decalcomania Co) [Source] 
  • Palm, Fechteler, & Co [Source]
  • Thomas A. Edison, Inc. [Source]

  • J. W. Beresford & Co. from Birmingham, England [Source]

Decalcomania Importers

Possibly the most common Globe instrument I see 1929 advertisement for the Banjo Ukulele Image Credit:  Music Trade Review 1929 Advertisemen...




Possibly the most common Globe instrument I see
1929 advertisement for the Banjo Ukulele
Image Credit: Music Trade Review
1929 Advertisement 
Image Credit: Music Trade Review

For further information on ukuleles, please consult Lardy's Ukulele Database. It will be worth your while

Company History

The Globe Music Company was a manufacturer of affordable instruments from Chicago. They are not very well known and I suspect many of their instruments are attributed to more familiar manufacturers like Kay or Harmony. Yet Globe was a large enough operation to attend meetings of musical instrument dealers and manufacturers along with big players such as Grover, Harmony, Jackson-Guldan, Vega, Waverly, Regal, etc [3]. They are most known for their ukuleles, especially their banjo ukulele with that wacky headstock (pictured above), but they did produce mandolins and guitars. 

Their instruments were finished in Pyralin which is based on nitrocellulose [6]. Many of them also had celluloid nuts.

1930 Advertisement for stenciled guitars
(Model 520 is pictured)
Image Credit: Music Trade Review

  • 1908 - The factory was located at 162 E. Superior St with 36 employees, all adult males [2]
  • 1914 - The factory was located at 217 W. Superior St with 23 employees [1]
  • 1915 - The factory moves from Chicago (where it had been for 25 years) to St. Charles [7]
  • 1918 - Globe is incorporated in St. Charles with a capitalization of $25,000 [8]
  • 1919 - Globe is in the process of constructing a building in St. Charles, Illinois [12]
  • 1923 - An addition is built onto the factory which doubles the floor space [9]
  • 1926 - Banjo ukuleles are introduced (including the octagonal banjo uke) [5] 
  • 1930 - Harmony, Regal, and Globe banded together to 'stimulate the sale of ukuleles' with the creation of a "vacation special" ukulele retailing at $2.98
  • 1931 - The factory's was located at 103 N 11th St in St Charles, Illinois [11]
  • 1932 - A fire damaged the factory but the loss of property was deemed "not great" [4]
  • 1934 - The Operadio loudspeaker company and Globe seem to move out into each other's factories [10]
1930 Advertisement for the "vacation ukes"
Image Credit: Music Trade Review


1928 Advertisement for the Florence Tenor guitar
 Image Credit: Music Trade Review
1926 Advertisement for their La Pacific line of instruments
Image Credit: Music Trade Review


1926 Advertisement for the Octagon Banjo Ukuleles
Image Credit: Music Trade Review

Sources

[1] https://books.google.com/books?id=Gm1KAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA595&dq=%22globe+music+co%22&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiD3Nb2sfHuAhWbXc0KHZHdDyoQ6AEwB3oECAQQAg#v=onepage&q=%22globe%20music%22&f=false
[2] https://books.google.com/books?id=wPVZAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA473&dq=%22globe+music+co%22&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjXgaW0s_HuAhUQXM0KHeFNC9I4ChDoATACegQIAxAC#v=onepage&q=%22globe%20music%20co%22&f=false
[3] https://presto.arcade-museum.com/PRESTO-1930-2248/03/
[4] https://presto.arcade-museum.com/PRESTO-1932-2265/11/
[5] https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1926-83-12/41/
[6] https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1929-88-29/97/
[7] https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1915-60-18/35/
[8] https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1918-67-1/07/
[9] https://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1923-76-18/26/
[10] https://presto.arcade-museum.com/PRESTO-1934-2274/12/
[11] https://presto.arcade-museum.com/PRESTO-1931-2258/07/
[12] https://books.google.com/books?id=lptQAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA19-PA22&dq=%22globe+music+co%22+st+charles+illinois&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi18pX1uPHuAhWCAZ0JHeDWC1YQ6AEwAnoECAYQAg#v=onepage&q=%22globe%20music%20co%22%20st%20charles%20illinois&f=false

  Image Credit: VintAxe -1938 Targ and Dinner catalog These only appear on Harmony instruments from the 1930s and were called the "Tune...

 

Image Credit: VintAxe -1938 Targ and Dinner catalog

These only appear on Harmony instruments from the 1930s and were called the "Tunerite" patent head. I suspect that these were built in house by Harmony but a Waverly construction would not be out of the question

Image Credit: Heritage Auctions



  Mapes Electric Mandolin Strings Master Strings Rickenbacker Electro Guitar Strings Electro-Amp Strings by V. C. Squier Co TrueSolo Nylon U...

 

Mapes Electric Mandolin Strings

Master Strings

Rickenbacker Electro Guitar Strings

Electro-Amp Strings by V. C. Squier Co

TrueSolo Nylon Ukulele Strings

Milton G. Wolf Dur-A-Glo Flat Wound
By the Quality Music String Company

Senorita Ukulele String

Squier Trued Dur-Flex Double Bass
"Standard Equipment for KAY Bass"

Double bowlback mandolin 1903 - L. Johnson -  US 738,811 I've stumbled across a variety of unusual and innovative guitar patents in my r...

Double bowlback mandolin
1903 - L. Johnson - US 738,811


I've stumbled across a variety of unusual and innovative guitar patents in my research and have compiled them into a list here in hopes that they would be interest for some folks. They may inspire interesting historic builds or perhaps someone owns an example of one of these instruments that was actually built. 

1854 - W. H. Towers - US 10,934

Towers' guitar features bridge pins with a hole through them, instead of a solid wood pin, which is hollowed out to the gauge of the string that it accepts. This may be the precursor to the slotted bridge pin design. He claims it reduces wear on the strings and improves the sound of the instrument. The two middle bridge pins extend all the way to the back of the instrument to act like a soundpost in a violin and improve the tone of the instrument.
https://patents.google.com/patent/US10934A



1873 - G. D. Reed - US 145,241 

Reed patented a guitar constructed from sheet metal for the back and sides and a wood top
https://patents.google.com/patent/US150355A

1886 - R. F. Flemmings Jr - US 338,727

I struggle to understand exactly what is going on with this drawing due to the complex nature of the instrument and the excessive shading. But I can see that this instrument is braced like a tank in an attempt to build a solid instrument that would not collapse under string tension. Reading the text of the patent is an interesting view into his mind where every weak area in the instrument was reinforced with wood or metal strips, bolts, or some other device. It certainly sounded terrible.

https://patents.google.com/patent/US338727A

1895 - W. D. Kyle - US 536,634

The "multiplex" instrument which is a combination of a banjo, guitar, and mandolin. 

https://patents.google.com/patent/US536634A


1895 - J. Holtvoight - US 539,056

This patent focuses on the meeting of the fingerboard to the body of the instrument. It specifically mentions the issue of the fingerboard not running parallel to the sound board (perhaps referring to a "ski ramp" over the body). Holtvoight does not mount the fingerboard to the soundboard at any point but instead has it supported by the heel block and also by a removable wedge which could be sanded down to bring the fingerboard extension back into parallel.
https://patents.google.com/patent/US539056A

1898 - P. Benson - US 608,279

This guitar has a laminate neck made up of at least 3 pieces along with another set of laminations at the heel to strengthen it. Benson notes that the heel of the instrument is the "weakest point of the neck" to "persons familiar with the manufacture or use of guitars" because of the short grain. He also includes a metal reinforcing strip stamped into a V shape to strengthen the neck. He also deviates from the standard bridge construction (citing 'objectionable construction' leading to bridges being torn off) and instead runs the strings through the bridge to anchors in the tailblock.

https://patents.google.com/patent/US608279A

1898 - G. C. Ward - US 613,540

A variant of the harp guitar designed to alleviate playing struggles of the traditional harp guitar design. 
https://patents.google.com/patent/US613540A/


1898 - L. Utt - US 615,053

Utt devised a bridge for acoustic guitars to allow for adjustable intonation and was likely the first adjustable saddle setup ever devised for the modern guitar. It bears a striking resemblance to the Fender guitar bridge. 

https://patents.google.com/patent/US615053A

1900 - S. A. Hunt - US 646,539

This instrument offers a curious take on the traditional method of bracing an instrument. Only one brace, 'd', spans the width of the instrument but it also connects the top of the instrument to the back. The other braces stop far short of the sides but extend deep into the body of the instrument.

https://patents.google.com/patent/US646539A


1901 - T. Wolfram - US 687,097

Wolfram illustrates a typical ladder braced guitar top except with the addition of "rim B" which attempts to blend banjo and guitar construction. He describes the rim as being the end point for the braces which leaves the space between the rim and the kerfing "completely free" like a "strained drum-head"
https://patents.google.com/patent/US687097A


1911 - A. Degulio - US 1,010,240

Degulio's patent describes an instrument with a second plate under the soundboard in order to anchor the top and prevent it from bowing.
https://patents.google.com/patent/US1010240A

1916 - P. Gardie - US 1,183,369

Paul Gardie designed a guitar he described as of the "contrabass type" but is what we would probably toss under the "harp guitar" moniker. It has six strings across the fretted neck but has a second body attached which sports eight more strings. The neck is also hollow with a wooden brace running down the middle. 

He claims that this instrument has been build and used and weighed between six and seven pounds!
https://patents.google.com/patent/US1183369A


1928 - A. Boothe - US 1,684,467

A bizarre guitar zither hybrid that Boothe dubbed the "sirelin"

https://patents.google.com/patent/US1684467A


1928 - H. E. Hall - US 1,692,207

This patent describes a sheet metal fingerboard that is mounted with screws for ease of manufacturing as well as allowing for ease of replacement.
https://patents.google.com/patent/US1692207A

1929 - V. C. Overton - 1,707,192

This guitar was designed with a bolt on fingerboard and an adjustable neck angle via a countersunk screw.

https://patents.google.com/patent/US1707192A/

1930 - W. W. Nelson - US 1,762,408

This patent describes an instrument top with an exaggerated radius in the middle of the guitar much like the Howe-Orme cylinder top and back instruments. 

https://patents.google.com/patent/US1762408A

1938 - G. A. Peate - US 2,130,248

This device took the place of a regular tailpiece and featured tension indicator blocks whose locations were marked when the instrument was in tune and allowed for the user of the instrument to tune their instrument back to pitch without having to hear it based on the location of the blocks. This is actually a fairly clever invention in theory.

https://patents.google.com/patent/US2130248A

Honorable Mentions

1898

 

1904

1939



If you've seen my previous article  outlining the history of the L. A. Elkington company then you are familiar with what the company mad...

If you've seen my previous article outlining the history of the L. A. Elkington company then you are familiar with what the company made. If not then this catalog scan should be very eye-opening because Elton was a pretty big player in the market of metal and plastic musical instrument accessories and many of their products appear on instruments from the 20th century. Their guitar accessories rarely had their name stamped on them but this catalog should provide easy identification for future reference. 

As always, click on the photos to expand them