Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars.

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Vibraphone serial badge Image Credit:  Reverb - King Louie Music About Jen-Co Musical Products (JMP) was an Illinois-based manufactu...

Decar Guitars by Jen-Co

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Image Credit: Reverb - King Louie Music


Jen-Co Musical Products (JMP) was an Illinois-based manufacturer of musical instruments located in Decatur (just west of Springfield). The company is often mispelled as Jenco Musical Products. The company was founded by owner G. C. Jenkins shortly after the first World War and his son, James B. Jenkins, later became owner. They were located at 1014 East Olive St. in Decatur, IL and their factory occupied 44,000 square feet and had 25 employees in 1959. They were the world's largest producer of mallet-played musical instruments in '59 with glockenspiels being their biggest seller. At the time they had 3,500 dealers in the US and Canada [1]. The company folded sometime prior to 1976 [2].


In 1958, they launched their line of solid body guitars under the name of Decar (which I suspect came from the town's name, Decatur). These guitars were built in-house by Jen-Co [1]. Older pot codes may exist depending on when they bought their supply of potentiometers but the line officially launched in '58.

Their guitars follow a similar single cutaway style similar to the Harmony Stratotone or Kay K125 but definitely were not made by either of those manufacturers. This body style is often referred to as the "peanut" shape because of its resemblance to a legume.

Image Credit: Reverb - SS11211
The tuners appear to be generic imports from Japan. Definitely not the Waverly or Kluson tuners that the Chicago manufacturers were known for using. The bridges appear to be custom built as well and resemble nothing else that was being mass produced from that era. The bodies have Formica veneers on the front and back with a faux-wood finish. The pickguards are also apparently Formica. There also does not appear to be a truss rod in any of the guitars so that doesn't bode well for the playability of the instrument.

These guitars can be seen with DeArmond "hershey bar" pickups (common on Harmony instruments) or Kay "pancake" pickups. I've not heard of Kay selling their pickups to other builders so this is curious. The potentiometers are Stackpole.

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