Alvarez Yairi – The Forgotten Ovangkol Models!

Recently we’ve been lucky to get our hands on some top shelf Alvarez Yairi acoustic guitar samples. Most were your basic widely available models, and when I say basic, I mean that the new Yairi acoustics are some of the best you can buy for the money, with a very rich history to back them up!

But we also stumbled across 2 that were sent to us with some strange model numbers. The LOK7OVA, and the YWK7OVA. A Google search was almost entirely fruitless, but we did discover that these were foreign market exclusives (sold in 2011), never sold in the US, and not sold in large quantities anywhere. But really, its a wonder why because they are very special guitars!

What we have here is a one-two punch of beautiful ovankgol wood guitars! The LOK7OVA has “mini dreadnought” dimensions, and the YWK7OVA is a full size dreadnought. They featured nicely tinted solid Sitka spruce tops, and solid ovangkol back and sides. The satin finish lets the solid woods breathe and creates a nice looking “pore” on the ovangkol. Both guitars also feature a bone nut and saddle, Gotoh tuners, mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, and a rosewood bridge.

And what’s that? Is that a wood pickguard!? Yep, they even have ovangkol pickguards! You may know that Taylor started using rosewood pickguards in 2014. I wonder where they got the idea from? Even if I’m being slightly facetious, a wooden pickguard is a beautiful, classy touch that we’ve come to expect from a Yairi build.

Check out the pictures and videos of our friend Michael Neverisky playing them! You can own either for $999!

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Gibson Electric Spanish (ES) Series Guitars!

Have you ever wondered what the designation “ES” stands for? Are you confused by the many different ES-XXX Gibson models? This little blog post is a great read if you are interested in clearing up some confusion or learning more about some of the greatest and most innovative guitars ever built!

First of all, the “ES” designation stands for Electric Spanish. It was used to differentiate these new guitars from the “EH” or Electric Hawaiian” lap steel guitars. Some models, like the 150, had both Hawaiian and Spanish models.

The set of 3 numbers after the “ES”, was originally related to the retail price of the guitar, but this trend soon wore off and there are no other known reasons as to why future sets of 3 numbers were chosen.

We’ve left out some of the higher end Artist models, such as the Byrdland and the Barney Kessel – definitely take a peek at these on the internet too!

ES-150

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The ES-150 was the world’s first widely commercially successful electric guitar. It was introduced in 1936, and the “150” designation was the actual retail price of the guitar! Early models followed this same pattern but this trend did not continue into the “new generation” of Gibson electric archtops, beginning in the late 40s.

This guitar was endorsed by and also known as the “Charlie Christian” model. Even the specific bar style pickup came to be known as the Charlie Christian pickup. These were some of the first pickups to use copper wire wrapped around a plastic bobbin.
The ES-150 was popular with jazz orchestras and ensembles as it had a louder, more authoritative voice than other acoustic instruments during this time period.

The ES-150 featured a solid spruce top and solid maple back and sides, a mahogany set neck, and a 24.75″ scale. It had an adjustable ebony bridge and trapeze style tailpiece. A recipe for success that has been endlessly duplicated!

ES-250

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The ES-250 is quite the rare beast. It was introduced in 1939 and was very short lived. Essentially, this is an ES-150 with several cosmetic and structural upgrades. The body was 3/4 inches longer, 17 inches wide as opposed to 16 1/4″. It had a snazzy looking tailpiece, headstock, and tuners, and the Charlie Christian pickup had adjustable pole pieces for each string! The guitar was built with better quality, more refined woods – flamed maple was used for the back and sides!

ES-100 / ES-125 (This picture is ours!)

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The ES-100 was introduced in 1938, and was the “entry level” Gibson electric archtop. It was renamed the ES-125 in 1941. The prewar models had a smaller 14.5″ wide body, although they later re-introduced the 16.25″ body size. This guitar, along with the ES-150 models beginning in 1946, were the first guitars to use P-90 pickups.

These full body archtops were sold with several different options, from the “thinline” ES-125T, to the double pickup, cutaway ES-125CD. (C for cutaway, T for thinline, and D for double pickup.)

ES-5

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The Gibson ES-5 was introduced in 1949 and although not the most recognizable model, it offered several innovative features! This guitar was intended to be the electrified version of the L-5 archtop. It was the first electric guitar to offer 3 pickups, each with separate volume knobs and a master volume – no switches, so the player had more control over their sound. The original models used P-90 pickups, but after 1957 they came with PAF humbuckers.

ES-175

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The ES-175 was Gibson’s mid level electric archtop. You may recognize this model, as it is one of the most popular Gibson archtops ever. It was built with all laminate construction for a lower cost to consumers, but it also had practical uses, as laminate woods were less prone to warping and feedback at high volumes.

The ES-175’s retail price was $175. It was the first Gibson to use the stylish Florentine cutaway. Early models used a single P-90, but the dawn of the PAF in 1957 turned the ES-175 into a whole different animal. This pickup and guitar combination became one of the most recognizable sounds in jazz and is often replicated.

The ES-175 was also one of the first electric archtops to use the Tune-O-Matic bridge, which provided more precise intonation than the older wooden adjustable bridges.

ES-135

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The ES-135 was one of the first “semi-hollow” electric guitars. It featured a thinline, laminated maple body, and a solid maple center block that acted as a feedback suppressor. The original models only lasted a couple of years, from 1956 to 1958, and then were reissued in 1991.

The ES-135 had a Florentine cutaway, 2 P-90 pickups, and a trapeze style tailpiece. It had a similar sound to the thinline ES-125, although the tone was not at thick, as it was not a full hollow body guitar. On the other hand, you could play it louder and with a bit more grit than the full hollow models.

ES-137

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The ES-137 is a newer Gibson design that is essentially a nicely appointed ES-175. It is a bit of a hybird, as the body shape is nearly identical to the ES-175, although it has the center block, like the ES-135 and ES-335. The ES-137 is built with laminated flamed maple, and full binding for a higher end appeal, and was loaded with 400 series humbuckers.

We have a used one of these in stock right now!

ES-335

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I’m sure you’ll recognize this one. The ES-335 was the worlds first widely available semi-hollow body electric guitar. Like the ES-135, it was built with a maple center block and hollow “wings” with F-hole cutouts. They were designed to attempt to find a middle ground between bright, aggressive solid body guitar tones and feedback prone, loose, hollowbody tones, and they were quite successful, as this model is still in production to this day.

These guitars used PAF humbuckers and featured a Tune-O-Matic bridge and tailpiece, mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard, and a standard 24.75″ Gibson scale.

The ES-335 was so popular that many signature artist models were derived from the original design. You may recognize the Trini Lopez model, and the BB King Lucille, which is technically a modified ES-355, the higher end ES-335 model.

ES-339

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The ES-339 is another newer offering from Gibson. It builds on the huge success of the ES-335, and features a smaller Les Paul style body, with 335 cosmetics. It has a laminated maple body with center block, PAF Style ’57 Classic humbuckers, and 335 cosmetics . These guitars are also available with a ’59 style fat neck, or a 30/60 neck, a slimmer profile.

We have these in stock too!

So there you have it – these are most popular and most important Gibson Electric Spanish models. Stop by the Mill and you can play most of them and find out which one suits you best!

Manchester Music Mill’s Rare Guitars Series Part IV

This will be the last part in this series (for now!) and our guest this time is the very cool Microfrets guitars from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Reminiscent of some Gretsch and Gibson semi-hollow bodies, these guitars employed building techniques and designs that were way ahead of their time.

The company was founded in 1967 in Frederick Maryland by a Mr. Ralph Jones. His early designs were pretty funky – strange semi hollow and full hollow body shapes with “cosmetically altered” Gretsch/DeArmond DynaSonic pickups. The first model was known as the Orbiter, check it out!

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The Orbiter was the first electric guitar ever made to feature a built in wireless FM transmitter. During this time period, FM stations were mostly empty, so it was a great idea!

Another “ahead of its time” feature found on all Microfrets guitars was the officially dubbed “Micro-Nut”. It had single rollers for each string, and the G string roller was offset – to provide perfect intonation. LSR Roller nut anyone?? Buzz Feiten tuning system? Yea right, this is way cooler!

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Microfrets guitars also of course, had a vibrato tailpiece, known as the “Calibrato”. It was a Bigsby style tailpiece, but again featured some new innovations – you could individually adjust the string tensions on the tailpiece to keep it perfectly in tune when in use! This would keep the strings in “relative tune”, like the Steinberger Transtrem, only decades prior !

The bridge saddles could also be locked into place for stable intonation. TonePros, i’m looking at you now!

The early bodies were in some ways similar to the Valco manufactured fiberglass guitars, they had a center gasket and two pieces of wood, “sandwiched” together. Later on they got rid of the gasket but kept the sandwich construction techniques. Like below!

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In the early 70s, newer models arose – usually dubbed the Style 1, 2, and 3. The funky body shapes gave way to more elegant and familiar designs. The Gretsch/Dearmond pickups were replaced with uniquely designed Bill Lawrence pickups. They looked and sounded similar to P-90s – very clear and clean but high output.

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We had a Microfrets Stage 2 guitar here at the store briefly, and it was an incredible guitar! The necks are very slim and fast and the fretboard has a nice loose radius for a curvy feel which added to the vibe and mojo of the guitar. The pickups pretty much handled whatever you threw at them, from Jazz, to Indie Rock, and beyond!

These guitars are becoming more collectible, but generally a fair price for one would be between 800 and 1300 depending on model rarity and condition. Only about 3000 were made so if you find one at a fair price, definitely grab it!

Manchester Music Mill’s Rare Guitar Series, Part III

Supro / Valco Rhythm Master / Val Trol

While Gibson and Fender were building some of their most legendary guitars ever in the 50s and 60s, another smaller, under the radar, US based company was also pumping out some excellent instruments. Supro was a subsidiary of the Valco company, who also made instruments under National, Airline, and Oahu name. Valco’s history began with lap steel and acoustic guitars in the mid 1930s, but for a brief period of time from about 1955 to 1965, they made solid body electric guitars, usually under the Supro name.

You may recognize the Supro name for their also legendary tube amplifiers – most famously the Supro Thunderbolt, which was rumored to have been used by Jimmy Page to record much of the Led Zeppelin material!

Most Supro guitars from 1960 on were made from fiberglass, a new construction technique that was met with a bit of hesitancy. If you are wood purist – you’ll love the following guitars though, as early on, they were made from solid maple.

The guitar we are going to focus on is most commonly known as the Val Trol. In the late 1950s, it was called the “Rhythm Master”. This was the top of the line Supro guitar – it featured a solid, uniquely chambered maple body with a german carve, and was loaded with 3 pickups. Yes that’s right, it had a pickup under the bridge! It was technically not a piezo pickup as it was still magnetic, but was probably one of the earliest examples of what a piezo would become. The other two pickups were high output single coils with humbucker sized covers. The guitar had a brass tailpiece and adjustable rosewood bridge as well. The maple neck, true to that era, is fat and chunky and has an inlaid rosewood fretboard.

Because the body was chambered, it has a gigantic rear control plate, covering most of the back of guitar. You’ll also notice a bunch of tiny screws on the left side of the pickups. Some models had knobs here for easier adjustment. What we have there are voulme and tone controls for each pickup, and the knob by the pickup selector is your “master volume”. This was a great design that allowed the player to “set it and forget it”, and save space on the top of the guitar.

This guitar was only offered in Sunburst, although in 1960, they introduced a natural finished model, called the “Silverwood” Val Trol.

These guitars have tons of collectible value. They book for between $1200-1500 but usually they can be had for under $1000, if you want one in “players” condition. Now is a great time to invest in one as they are sure to increase in value!

Check out the pictures!

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Manchester Music Mill’s Rare Guitar Series Part II

Guild S-200 Thunderbird

The Guild S-200, or Thunderbird, is one of those strange enigmas – it happens to be one of the more recognizable Guild solid bodies, while at the same time is one of the most rare! You might recognize the Muddy Waters / Thunderbird pair, and Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys also rocks one.

The Thunderbird was introduced in 1963 and lasted until about 1969. It featured a mahogany body and neck with rosewood fretboard and a 24.75″ scale. It also features a great tremolo system in a Hagstrom style, likely designed by Burns. The body cut outs are very unique and distinctive, making it almost instantly recognizable, even if you aren’t sure exactly what to call it!

Early models were loaded with cream cover single coils but soon after Guild HB-1 humbuckers were standard up until the guitar was discontinued in 1969. The Thunderbird has a pretty unique sound – the low output humbuckers provide lots of beautiful chime and clarity but they also dirty up pretty nice and pump out some great lo-fi, garage rock tones!

Of course we can’t forget the best feature of the Thunderbird – it has a “kick stand” built into the back of the guitar! It was a simple long metal bar that was fitted flush into a carved out strip on the back. While a very cool idea, it is generally not recommended to use it if you have a quality guitar stand – it is more of a unique little widget than a functional apparatus.

Check it out!

 

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Manchester Music Mill’s Rare Guitars Series, Part I!

Manchester Music Mill employs some of the biggest gear nerds you will ever meet. Even when we are not at work, we are reading, researching, and yearning for that next piece of gear! So we want to share some of our findings with you all, in hopes that you might find a unique guitar that you will want to search out for yourself! This is the first of a 4 part series (and maybe more!) so check in often to see them all!

O’Hagan Guitars – The Nightwatch

The Nightwatch isn’t even the most rare of O’Hagan guitars, but it is my personal favorite. Jerry O’Hagan, the founder, hailed from St. Louis Park, Minnesota. He was your typical musician who was living the dream, making his living by playing and teaching at local music stores. He soon though, found his way into the music product industry in the form of retail and sales positions, and after being impressed by a few Japanese import acoustic guitar brands, he decided that selling guitars may be a bit more lucrative.

Jerry O’Hagan first was involved in brief stint where he imported acoustic guitars from Japan under the “Grande” name. You can find these, well, actually, good luck finding one of these! Soon after though, he realized that times were changing and music was evolving, and just selling acoustic guitars was not going to cut it. Not to mention he did not want to be at the mercy of a foreign supplier. He had a vision that quality, USA made guitars could be had for reasonable prices.

The first O’Hagan designed and produced guitar was the Shark model – which hit the scene in 1979. Like most other O’Hagan guitars, it was made by hand and featured maple and walnut neck through construction. This type of guitar construction was very common at the time, not to mention the similar body shapes that also arriving on the scene during the early 1980s. The Shark was essentially an Explorer type guitar, but it was routed a bit differently to provide more comfort while sitting and playing. Many woods that found their way onto O’Hagan guitars were nicely figured and/or very unique looking.

After the Shark came the Nightwatch single and double cutaway model. These are the most common O’Hagan guitars, although still relatively rare. They pop up once every several months or so. The Nightwatch was your typical Les Paul / Hamer Special type guitar, not exactly a unique design but it had its own flare. Some of them had nice German carves, and they came in natural, burst, coffee, or black finishes. They had either Schaller or Badass bridges, and the pickups were either Schaller, Dimarzio, or Mighty Mite. Check them out!

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A Nightwatch generally can be found in the $400 to $700 range depending on condition, options, and finish. There are a couple on the internet priced at a couple thousand dollars although these are not the most accurate representations of their market value. New, in 1981, a NIghtwatch was $479.

It is hard to beat these guitars when you talk quality to price ratio. Hand made, in the USA, with the best ingredients! We have seen 2 here at the store and they have both been treats to have around, however briefly!

Baldwin Era Gretsch Solid Bodies!

When you think of Gretsch guitars, you think of the 50’s and 60’s – the golden era for Gretsch. During this time period arose the legendary Electromatic, Country Club, Jet, Chet Atkins 6120, and the White Falcon. These guitars usually featured Dearmond pickups and flashy designs, which made them a great alternative to Fender and Gibson offerings. They were originally geared toward country players but they also found a home with rock and rollers and rockabilly players.

In 1970 though, Gretsch started a bit of a downward spiral. Fred Gretsch could not find a suitable heir for the company, so he sold it to Baldwin Pianos, who moved production to Bonneville, Arkansas. During this time period, Strats and Les Pauls were all the rage and all the kids and established musicians alike wanted similar styled guitars. Baldwin tried their best to provide these kinds of guitars, but failed quite miserably.

Many Gretsch purists are disgusted by this era of Gretsch Guitars, and rightfully so. Quality control suffered, and classic designed were ruined. Even Chet Atkins withdrew his endorsements in 1979.

But the Baldwin era did produce some interesting guitars of note, in my opinion, in the form of a few solid body models that were so different from the classic Gretsch style that it is unfair to judge them based on what a classic Gretsch guitar is supposed to be, they need to be looked at in their own right. The three I will focus on are the TK-300, the BST Series, and the Committee.

TK-300

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The TK-300 is probably one of the weirdest looking guitars every created. It featured a solid maple body and bolt on neck, with a hockey stick style headstock, and “offset” (yep its an offset!) horns and bridge pickup. (very Fender right?) It was available in natural or a nice “autumn red” translucent color. The pickups are quite mysterious but were Japanese import PAF clones although a bit hotter than a normal PAF. The pickups get mixed reviews but had good output and helped to balance out the maple body, which generally leads to a bright and nearly unpleasant sound. The TK300 is one of those uncommon combinations of a maple body and humbucking pickups – this is a underrated and often overlooked combination, most just think “oh maple body? way too bright!” This is not always the case!

The TK-300 was a slightly smaller scale than a Gibson, at 24.5″. It also featured a Leo Quan “bad ass” style, or as Gretsch terms it, “Terminator” wrap around bridge and tailpiece. Many Les Paul Junior enthusiasts will tell you these are the best bridges as there is little hardware to disturb the string to body vibrations that provide sustain and overall fuller and thicker tones. It even had 70s style jumbo frets!

While not a popular guitar, it deserves some attention – a great unique alternative to say, an SG. Usually they go for around $750, which is a great price point for a vintage, USA made guitar.

The BST Series

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The BST, or often termed “Beast” series Gretsch guitars were also solid body designs that seem to have been geared to compete with Gibson, however unsuccessfully. Most featured mahogany bodies with bolt on necks and relatively high output humbuckers. Certain models had Dimarzio Super Distortion pickups.

There were a few incarnations of these guitars, the BST-1000, 1500, 2000, and 5000. The BST 5000 is the most worthy of discussion. This beauty was your typical late 70s/early 80s maple and walnut neck through guitar. A very solid guitar with some high end features such as a nice german carve around the top. It was loaded with Super Distortion pickups, magical pickups really, high output but excellent clarity and touch responsiveness, for a humbucker.

These guitars were an interesting combination of Gibson sounds and aesthetics with a bit more of a Fender feel to them, from the bolt on necks to the slightly radiused fretboards. Definitely a guitar worth checking out – you can pick up most of them for under $500!

Gretsch Committee

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The Committee instruments were similar to the higher end BST models, and they even made a bass! Both are not too common but again feature walnut and maple neck through construction and hot pickups. The Committee had a couple different pickguard styles, one model year featured a clear pickguard, and other model years featured a translucent “smoke” colored pickguard. They can also be picked up for as low as $400, although their value continues to rise as consumers are beginning to discover the quality in these guitars!