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.
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