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!