Orpheum Archtop Model 837 1950’s Guitar

Orpheum Archtop 837 1950's Natural
Orpheum Archtop 837 1950'sNatural - Buy Now!
Orpheum Archtop 837 1950’s Natural – Buy Now!

This 1950’s Orpheum 837 archtop has a great cutting sound, a killer look, and is a true vintage player. It’s a tight-waisted jumbo body with original white celluloid pickguard and adjustable rosewood bridge. The neck is in good shape with plenty of wear left in the frets. It has the thick baseball-bat neck profile you expect in a 1950’s Kay-style guitar (Orpheum was made by Kay during the 1950’s), but it’s easy to play all the way up and down the neck.  It’s an awesome guitar – buy it here

This Orpheum has striking jumbo pearloid fret markers, with double dots at the 5th and 9th frets, which is a common 1950’s style. Tuners and other hardware are original. The Orpheum 837 is similar to a Kay K42. Orpheums are less common, though (this is the only 837 I’ve ever held). The only non-original piece of hardware is the trapeze tailpiece, which is stickered Gibson and appears to have been added sometime during the 1960’s.

A bit of history: Orpheum guitars (and mandolins) were originally a brand of Rettberg and Lange, starting in 1897 when they bought the facilities of New York banjo-maker James H. Buckbee. Orpheum went out of business in 1942, but in 1944 New York’s Maurice Lipsky Music Co. bought the brand and had Orpheum guitars made by Kay, Regal, and others (that period is when this Kay-produced one was made). In the 1960’s Lipsky used the brand on Japanese and European imports and dropped the brand by 1972. Between 2001 and 2006, Tacoma Guitars made a series of Orpheum guitars. 

Orpheum Archtop 837 1950's Natural - Buy Now!
Orpheum Archtop 837 1950’s Natural – Buy Now!

It’s in good shape given its age. There’s some wear around the binding, especially on the back, and on the headstock, as shown in the photos. No case, although I’ve found that it fits in a dreadnought gigbag. Most importantly, it plays well, to the point that I haven’t been able to put it down around the house and even used it for a few songs at a recent gig. Yep, this one needs to be played. If you’re looking for a classic Kay-style 1950’s guitar with great looks, an unusual brand, great sound, and mojo to spare, this is your guitar! Buy this Orpheum Archtop Model 837 now!

  • Make: Orpheum (by Kay)
  • Type: Archtop acoustic
  • Model: 837
  • Fretboard: Rosewood
  • Bridge: Rosewood, height-adjustable
  • Frets: 19

1967 Telestar T2 Teardrop

Telestar T2 Teardrop Sunburst 1967 - Buy Now!
Telestar T2 Teardrop Sunburst 1967 - Buy Now!
Telestar T2 Teardrop Sunburst 1967 – Buy Now!

It may be a 1960’s survivor and a relic of the greatest Weird Guitar period in history, but the most impressive thing about this Telestar T2 Teardrop is how well it plays. It has a rock-solid neck and I’ve carefully set it up  for blazingly low action and perfect intonation. It’s perfect for the guitarist who wants great playability and tone, a retro look, and a groovy sixties vibe from the great Japanese Guitar boom.  Buy the Telestar T2 Teardrop here.

Unlike many guitars from its era, it plays well all up and down the 21-fret neck. The neck is straight and true, and the truss rod works just fine. Electronics are stock and I’ve wax-potted the original single-coil pickups to retain the original sound while avoiding the screechy microphonics that are common to Japanese pickups from that era. Action is low and even, and intonation is accurate all the way up the 24″ scale (same as a vintage Mustang, or Brian May’s Red Special for that matter).

The Telestar T2 Teardrop is as sonically versatile as it is cool. The neck pickup alone delivers a classic 60’s mellow jangle, and with both pickups wide open and a touch of distortion it snarls and growls beautifully. Take this one on stage and you’ll sound good and get noticed.

Telestar T2 Teardrop Sunburst 1967 - Buy Now!
Telestar T2 Teardrop Sunburst 1967 – Buy Now!

Hey, if you were born in 1967, by now you’d have a few scars and a couple tattoos that others might regret, but that you’d show off proudly. This guitar was stored in a moist environment at some point in the past, resulting in a lot of finish checking. There are a number of dings and some holes, now doweled, where the original bridge was removed. I’ve sealed the cracks and applied a light nitro clearcoat. I’ve degreased and cleaned the metal parts, then bathed them in oil to stop further corrosion. The result? The original finish and aging is preserved, yet the guitar is solid for many decades to come – and SO much cooler than a new factory-created “relic.”

There’s no case, as it was lost on Ken Kesey’s Merry Prankster bus (but any standard gigbag will fit). All those details are shown in the photos, and none of them can be seen from the audience or detract from playability. In short, this is a player’s guitar, not a collector’s piece to hang on a wall.

The history and scars add to the soul and uniqueness of this rare bird. This guitar lived through the 60’s and might even remember some of it, but unlike your ex-hippie uncle, it never cut its hair and went back to the corporate world.

Want a vintage vibe and sound? Want to own a piece of guitar-boom history? Want something more “alternative” than a made-in-Mexico Relic Pawnshop Mustang reissue? This is your guitar.  Buy the Telestar T2 Teardrop here on Reverb.com.
  • Make: Telestar (which was a Kawai brand)
  • Model: T2 Teardrop
  • Pickups: Two single-coil, potted to eliminate microphonics
  • Controls: Volume and Tone, three-position switch
  • Color: Sunburst
  • Fretboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 21 (plus zero fret)
  • Case: none (will fit any gigbag)
  • Cool factor: off the charts

1930’s Kalamazoo Flat-Top Mandolin by Gibson

Kalamazoo_KM-11_Mandolin_Gibson1This is a rare find – a 1930’s vintage Kalamazoo flat-top mandolin, still in shape to play well. Kalamazoos were made by Gibson, so this is a chance to own a playable 85-year-old piece of history at an affordable price. Buy the Kalamazoo Flat-Top Mandolin by Gibson here

As you can see from the photos, it has the wear and tear that you might expect of an 85-year-old instrument that’s been played rather then being kept in a museum. The shellac finish is worn and is worn through in places. Although it plays well for the first 12 frets, it has a slight ski jump at the neck joint that prevents it from playing well above the 13th fret on the G, D, and A strings. However, everything from the first to the 12th fret rings cleanly without a hint of buzz. So I’ve chosen to leave it in its current condition, highly playable for all but the demanding mandolin virtuoso, to avoid tampering with the neck of a very vintage instrument.

Espresso Machine as a Luthier's Steamer
Espresso Machine as a Luthier’s Steamer

It has been modified a few times throughout its history. A previous owner installed a pickup; not a modern one from what I can tell, but probably not 1930’s vintage either. The pickup is loud and clean, giving you the chance to play an electrified vintage mandolin without feeling guilty about modifying it. At some point many years ago a previous owner installed additional bracing as the top was beginning to buckle. The bracing wasn’t done by a professional luthier from the looks of it, and was done with Titebond rather than hide glue, but it is functional and successfully stabilized the instrument. The sound remains quite bright and strong, despite the additional bracing.

I had to do a couple of small repairs to it to get it ready for you to play. The fretboard was separating from the neck in the upper ranges and the rosette was coming loose. I reglued both with period-correct hot hide glue, which transfers the sound better than modern glues. The bottom part of the rosewood bridge was broken when I got it, so I replaced it with an adjustable rosewood bridge modified to fit on a flat-top. Not quite period, but more functional.

1930's Kalamazoo Flat-Top Mandolin by Gibson - Buy Now!
1930’s Kalamazoo Flat-Top Mandolin by Gibson – Buy Now!

It comes with a rather unique hand-built coffin case that a previous owner presumably made. It’s rather heavy and certainly not original, but since it’s been part of this mandolin’s journey, I’m including it. (If you’d rather not have the case, let me know and I can reduce the shipping cost by $15 or so; it is a heavy case). 

These are very rarely seen in collector’s condition, and when they are, they’re as pricey as you might expect. This is a chance to own a piece of history in playing condition, not just a wall hanger, at an affordable price. A must for the Gibson/Kalamazoo/mandolin history buff, or for the bluegrass picker who wants an instrument his grandpappy could’ve played. Buy the Kalamazoo Flat-Top Mandolin by Gibson here on Reverb.com