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Paul Brett: Vintage Guitar Heaven

Guitar Interactive welcomes back the noted guitar collector and historian Paul with his unique take on vintage guitars. Just what’s left that is affordable and – most importantly fun to play?

Phoenix doubleneck: cost £1,500 about eight years ago. Fender – with Custom Shop provenance from $17,000 upwards. Without, around the $2,000 -$2,500. Stella Sovereign approx $3,500 mark. These arc very rare to find in any decent condition.

Double your money and double your sound – or double your headache! This month I am going to feature double neck guitars: acoustic and electric. Most players shy away from these extra neck beasts as the techniques required often limit what they can play and they are certainly more cumbersome to hold. All the same, there are lots of players who do Sure into this realm and there is a growing movement in the Harp Guitar genre too.

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As a basic form, many guitarists tend to play one neck throughout a song, rarely venturing between the two necks in the same piece. The point I am making is that double necks are a flirtatious whim and are rarely featured throughout a whole set. Having said that, if you approach them differently to single neck guitars, they can produce some extremely good sounds and give the players lots of options that single necks cannot.

Another problem that is usually present I have found, is on lots of double necks, the width between the necks is too wide to switch comfortably between necks in the same song, especially at speed. A few years ago I designed a parlour size acoustic 6 & 12 string twin neck which I called die Phoenix.

The major mass produced companies centho shy away from manufacturing these in any numbers as demand is not what it is for normal guitars. So I asked a UK luthier, Steve Jones, if he could make the Phoenix for me. We met, agreed the materials and price and off he went to his workshop to begin. A IS months later he called me and said the guitar was ready for approval.

When I saw and played it, it was a real success and it did exactly what I wanted, especially as I was looking to use it on a new project I was involved in, putting the poems in Izaak Walton’s “The Compleat Angler” to music and melody. The gap between the 6 and 12 string necks was the key and it worked perfectly. You can see a demonstration in the accompanying video clip of an instrumental I wrote for the Angler’. In terms of collectability, one-off creations by individual luthiers over time, do become collectable, especially if they sound good, age well over time and are associated with known play recordings.

Fender is the main household name alongside Gibson over the years and both companies have produced iconic guitars that have transcended musical genres and have been used in many style of music by many guitarists. It was interesting speaking with George Gruhn at NAMM about various topics and 14/0111.11141.111.1 as many of you will know, George’s knowledge over the years in the Vintage Guitar market is second to none. He pointed out that it was not Fender Telecasters and Swats that were popular in the ’50s and ’60s, it was the Jaguars and Precision Bass that were the sellers for Fender then.

The former became popular later when the likes of Jimi Hendrix and others started playing them. In terms of collecrability, early Fender electrics arc up there with Gibson and Martin. Late ’50s and ’60s models are always in demand and can fetch mucho $$$$$$ if you are lucky enough to own one in decent condition. You have to be careful of all vintage electrics in this genre and check that they still have the original parts, pickups, pots and electrics. Look also for resprays and rodern replacement parrs as that can devalue the guitar too.

The Fender Custom shop has been cleating specialised guitars since 1987. There aren’t many Custom Shop double necks around and all of them have a provenance that accompanies them. The first double neck was made in 1987 carrying the 0001 serial number and was a Telecaster and Stratocaster 6 strings with maple necks. This is probably worth many thousands of dollars in today’s market and there have been others made since. Each Custom shop model is unique within itself and their value should be judged accordingly. There was a 6 & 12 string Fender electric made as a production model by the Japanese but was only ‘released in Japan.

 

By the same token, there are a few anomalies out there that fit the bill of a Custom Shop made guitar but do not carry the provenance or any serial numbers but are very identifiable as Fender made guitars or Custom made guitars from Fender parts. They are certainly not easy to identify or even value as the ones with provenance, but are still however a pretty good buy and very rare. The one featured in this article falls into this category and it features Jazz Bass and Stratocaster necks which are made in Mexico with added Fender parts. You can see from the close-up of the bridge on the Strut that the Fender logo is clearly stamped on the back plate. It has the five way tone switch single volume and tone controls and a three way switch selector either guitar on, bass or both. It’s also showing the odd ding from playwear, so it has been gigged. Other than having a good sound and playabilty, it has no ID Marks. I haven’t stripped it down but ar a guess I’d say the pans were Fender. Taking all that into consideration. I can’t put an exact value on it until more information surfaces. If you have ever owned this guitar or even made it, I would be gratefid of knowing more.

 

Lastly, here’s a real rarity. Made by the legendary Oscar Schmidt factory in Jersey City in the 1920s, this is a double neck combination of 6 string bass and 6 string guitar. Note the reversed hcadstocks bringing to mind later Fender shaped ones and note that the bass neck is fretless.. In certain styles, this instrument Icicles out a really strong and complete Blues sound. Stellas from the late ’20s through to the late ’30s are the ones that both players and collectors search for the most. Why? Because these are the guitars that the Blues was created on. Most of the early Blues pioneers played them not because they were the best, but because they were cheap and as no money was available tp street musicians and the poorest in society – these were the most affordable ones.

The main guitars issued by Oscar Schmidt sold for around $2 to $3 dollars US. They have in the main, ‘THE SOUND’ that Blues players crave, There are no modern equivalents, even though many have tried to replicate their sounds. My one has an Undersaddle passive pick up. running under the bridge. The pyramid shaped bridge is an identifier of Schmidt’s work and the paper label inside the body is about 3/4 intact, which is quite rare because most have faded over the years. I’ve only seen a kw others of these, the last one was sold by Neil Harpe, the Stella Guitar expert in America, and it’s well worth visiting Neil’s site www.stellaguitars.com as he usually has a selection of Stellas for sale.

I like to end on a note of warning regarding: international postage and import charges. Over the past few years, these charges have risen dramatically, especially postage and insurance. If you were to buy a guitar from America and have it mailed to the UK or vice versa, make sure you check our the price of posting and import duties that are charged, also check out insurance charges and you must ger this one right in case anything goes wrong and the guitar is either damaged qr lost. There is also an element of VAT to consider too, for guitars entering the EU. If you buy guitars that need repairing and you are not yourself capable of self repair, add-up all the repair charges (even if they are an guestimate) before you buy, as additional costs may tip the balance to whether the deal is a viable one or not!

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