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-   -   Vintage Kay and Harmony guitars (https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=463252)

hat 03-15-2017 09:09 AM

Vintage Kay and Harmony guitars
 
There are a lot of old vintage Kay and Harmony archtops that always seem to pop up on auction websites, and craigslist. Any clues as to sorting the wheat from the chaf on these?

mr. beaumont 03-15-2017 09:12 AM

Mostly chaff.

There's some fun ones out there, they'll be priced a little higher, solid pressed tops, can sound pretty good. But most of 'em are just novelties.

hat 03-15-2017 09:31 AM

so then, did they make good ones - but you just never see those for sale? I've seen some historical data that indicates they made some solid ones, ( maple, rosewood, mahogany,). I've just seen a few lately that looked like they were of better quality. It would be fun to get one or two to play with, but I certainly don't want to waste my time or $$ on a plywood POS either...

mr. beaumont 03-15-2017 09:47 AM

They're definitely out there, but yes, just not as many. I guess people either hang on to 'em or there just weren't as many of them to begin with. Generally, it seems the smalle bodies tend to be the cheaper ones that are more miss than hit.

I have a 17" Kay "Master Cutaway," and it's pretty cool. Has a huge neck and tiny frets--it's not a guitar I'm going to fly around playing jazz solos on, but for old school swing rhythm, it's great. Solid pressed top, I believe. It's LOUD:)

zombywoof 03-16-2017 12:48 PM

Like all other instruments, quality is all over the place. There is a big difference between say an all-birch Harmony Archtone and a Cremona or Brilliant model. Same with Kays. The Kay Television archtops from the late 1930s are, as example, beautifully made, carved top and back plate instruments. I recently picked up a 1935 Capital which was built by Gibson for Jenkins Music to help weather the Depression. 16" lower bout, pressed spruce top and mahogany body, no truss rod. Interesting skunk stripe inlaid down the center of the board. Feel is all Gibson.

zombywoof 03-16-2017 12:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hat (Post 5268666)
so then, did they make good ones - but you just never see those for sale? I've seen some historical data that indicates they made some solid ones, ( maple, rosewood, mahogany,). I've just seen a few lately that looked like they were of better quality. It would be fun to get one or two to play with, but I certainly don't want to waste my time or $$ on a plywood POS either...

Harmony did not make a "plywood" guitar until just before they closed up shop in the 1970s. While it may have been birch, every Harmony up to that point was built with solid woods. While most Harmonys were fashioned with pressed wood top plates, you can find carved top models if you know what you are looking for.

PinetopJackson 10-12-2017 10:54 PM

Here's a good old cheap one!
 
if I can get this youtube link to work...

https://youtu.be/6stEmxrwU68

Steve DeRosa 10-13-2017 04:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by zombywoof (Post 5270028)
Harmony did not make a "plywood" guitar until just before they closed up shop in the 1970s. While it may have been birch, every Harmony up to that point was built with solid woods. While most Harmonys were fashioned with pressed wood top plates, you can find carved top models if you know what you are looking for.

Those old pressed solid-top Harmony archtops make quite good roots/early acoustic blues guitars - not as refined as a Gibson L-50 or Epiphone Zenith (or even its modern-day counterpart Godin 5th Avenue) but loads of punch and volume - if you can find one where the neck/dovetail joint hasn't gone south. As beginner/budget instruments too many of them were subjected to the ravages of the old New Brunswick (NJ) Black Diamond strings - standard fare when you walked into your local mom-&-pop music store/record shop/hardware store/drugstore and asked for "a set of strings"; you've got to hope for one of those "under-the-bed" specials that was bought in the late-50s/early-60s, played maybe a half-dozen times, and then put away when Junior lost interest - and after six decades those are becoming increasingly rare. If you're after the same visual/sonic vibe with none of the hassles of an old instrument, grab a Godin 5th Avenue acoustic or Loar LH-300, set it up with Martin Monel 13's, and play to your heart's content... :guitar:

Truckjohn 10-13-2017 06:00 PM

Also bear in mind that the playing style of old archtops was very different from what we are used to thinking of with "Jazz" today...

Those old guitars were usually strung with heavies and run with a fairly high action. They were played HARD to be heard unamplified in the mix against horns. They are LOUD played this way with a really good tone... String them with lights and try to play technical, modern stuff - and you will be completely unimpressed/disappointed.

Quality wise... Yep.. They had a HUGE range of offerings from cheap beaters to the most expensive on the market.. More expensive than Martin and Gibson offerings. Their good stuff was very very good.. Their cheap stuff was generally pretty uninteresting.

Gotitmade11 04-07-2018 08:35 PM

Slingerland Archtop made in the thirties
 
I have a beautiful Slingerland Archtop natural finish that is in perfect condition with a four bar Grover De Luxe tailpeice on it... Action is low, neck is straight, it's a beautiful guitar... Five piece neck is a little fat compared to my Gibson's, Martins etc. but its fun for that slap rhythm style playing... My wife can't stand the sound of it when she sings... I think she is just used to hearing the bold sound of my other guitars..
Question is, what size and type of strings would you recommend that may change the sound or if changing would help... I have med Elixir's on it now... Thanks

Jcamp 04-08-2018 10:21 AM

I use to hang out with a girl whose grandma had a Martin d28. We went to see her one day and she pulled the Martin out and a very old harmony archtop. That Martin was nice but the old harmony was just plain cool. Sounded good and easy to play. Definitely was hard to put down Iíve been looking to find one every since but Iíd rather not finding one in need of work

terken 04-16-2018 06:54 PM

Iíve restored a few Silvertones and no name catalog archtops with good straight necks and put mounted neck position humbuckers in.

They are great players plugged in for many styles and have a lot of mojo.

http://i252.photobucket.com/albums/h...pson9apsah.jpg

mr. beaumont 04-18-2018 01:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by terken (Post 5703154)
Iíve restored a few Silvertones and no name catalog archtops with good straight necks and put mounted neck position humbuckers in.

They are great players plugged in for many styles and have a lot of mojo.

http://i252.photobucket.com/albums/h...pson9apsah.jpg

Man, I'd love to plug that into a little tube amp and crank it up!

terken 04-19-2018 12:49 PM

I am in rural MN and it has been common to see these old catalogue archtops come in that belonged to a clients grandparents and in many cases were used in old time dance bands. Mostly as rhythm instruments I would guess as the finish is usually completely worn off in the first position.

Here is an old Regal that belonged to the client’s wife’s dad who fronted a dance band in central MN back in the 30’s and 40’s

https://youtu.be/XWXcjh7pAoc

Steve DeRosa 04-19-2018 08:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by terken (Post 5703154)
Iíve restored a few Silvertones and no name catalog archtops with good straight necks and put mounted neck position humbuckers in.

They are great players plugged in for many styles and have a lot of mojo.

http://i252.photobucket.com/albums/h...pson9apsah.jpg

Something like this might make for a more period-authentic visual/tonal vibe:

https://shop.guildguitars.com/produc...-mount-pickup/
https://shop.guildguitars.com/produc...0rhythm-chief/
https://shop.guildguitars.com/produc...me-knob-amber/


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