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Guitar Guru

Otherwise known as Paul Day, who identifies your old, unusual and weird guitars.

It's that man again, Mr Paul 'Love To Flog You My Burns Book' Day, otherwise known to wise readers of Making Music as GUITAR GURU. He is so knowledgable about guitars, he has actually got f-holes on his... but wait, he has answers for you, and we have but little space. So onward, fair guru, and tell us what you know, pronto.

Keith Farr, Southend-on-Sea:
"I recently bought a Gibson ES320TD and nobody I've spoken to knows anything about it. Serial number is 683751 and it's the same shape and style as the semiacoustic 335. The overall finish is blonde with a rosewood fingerboard. I paid £100 for it. Please could you tell me when it was made and what is its approximate value."

Craig Booker, Sheffield:
"Could you please identify and give some idea of value of my Ibanez Musician, serial number D815132. The neck is seven-piece straight-through, hardware is gold plated, there's a master volume, tone, gain, two tri-sound coil taps and an active system with a control each for bass, mid and treble. I found a close parallel in the late 70s Ibanez catalogue with the MC500 top-of-the-range model, but there are differences. Is mine a revised version of the MC500, perhaps issued in about 1980?"

Heath McLaren, Inverkeithing:
"What can you tell me about a guitar called the Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe — ie how many were made and for how long?"

Haydn Allan, Sheffield (popular this month):
"I would like to know the year of my Framus semi-acoustic electric bass guitar, and possibly value of same. It has a sunburst finish, a white scratchplate, 20 frets, two pickups, two tone controls and 'overall' control, and serial number 35655."

Jim Basset, Chorlton:
"What can you tell me about a Vox Tornado arch-top semi? Unfortunately someone has cut a hole in the top to fit a Burns vibrato unit. The body is finished in a red stain with white binding. I love it!"

Bill White, Kirkintilloch:
"Any chance of identifying model, age and value of my old Vox guitar, serial number 48217? Pickups are microphone types with a two-position selector, and volume front front, volume rear and tone controls. The original socket, which I've changed, looked like a female aerial socket. I think it's 20 years old."

"The ES320 was one of quite a few models launched in 1972, during what is politely referred to as the 'low' period in Gibson history. It was designed to be the 'budget' model in the ES range, retailing at £210 (natural) and £205 (cherry), compared to the ES335 which sold for £279 at that time. The ES320 shared a few features with the solid body SG range of the early 70s, the SG100 and SG200 — these are commonly regarded as real lemons and the ES320 is tarred with the same brush. I can't comment on how justified this is. It has to be regarded as another floundering attempt by Gibson to recapture a share of its ever-diminishing market in the face of increasing Japanese quality competition — a plight which has remained until the present day. But £100 would still seem to be a good buy for a genuine Gibson, however unpopular — a realistic price now has to be about £200.

"Mr Booker's assessment of his Ibanez Musician is accurate, though I would say it is in fact an MC550 model. The serial number reveals its date: 815132 makes it 1981. In the November '80 catalogue the model has been redesignated as the MC550, and last appears in the December '81 catalogue. Like so many Japanese guitars of this era it never met with any real popularity, and was quite an up-market and therefore pricey model. Also, the knobs-with-everything approach just didn't appeal to players — Western ones, at least. The over-active idea and stripey, multiwood construction are definitely out of fashion these days and prices are correspondingly low — I've seen 'new' examples selling for as little as £250. So many Eastern guitars of this period don't hold their prices — even though many are excellent guitars, as I know this one to be.

"The Gibson Sonex range was launched in 1980, designed as 'budget' Gibsons to compete with the Japanese. Bodies were made of resonwood (ie plastic) with a maple core, and there were three models in the range: the Artist with active circuitry at £640; the Custom at £369; and the Deluxe at £329 (really budget, eh?). The range never proved a great success being overpriced (a common Gibson marketing failing), and rumours were rife at the time as to the origins of the instruments, with hints of Taiwanese construction and components, but no proof ever appeared. Current values are low, and the Deluxe seems to crop up most frequently, usually between £150 and £180, and is hard to move even at these prices.

"Mr Allan's Framus is in fact an FS150, the larger model of the two Framus semi-acoustic basses produced from the late 50s to the late 60s. It was one of the mainstay basses of the boomtime 60s groups — Bill Wyman of the Stones endorsed this model, for example. The model underwent various styling and component changes during its production life — from Mr Allan's description I would say his is an early 60s example. Retail price back then was £65 (about £550 at today's prices), but current values aren't too high as this isn't much of a sought-after model. A good example can be found for about £80.

"The Vox Tornado was something of a misnomer — it's an aggressive name for a very mild performer. It appeared around 1966 and was made in Italy by Eko for Vox, in common with most Vox models at the time. It was very much a budget Vox acoustic/electric, and examples do seem to crop up quite frequently, both here and abroad. Current value is low as it isn't one of the trendy Vox models right now — I would estimate a nice all-original example to be worth no more than £30-£40.

"From Mr White's photo of his Vox, I can tell him it's a Clubman model which was definitely aimed at the cheap end of the market when it appeared in this styling around 1964, retailing at about £20. In common with other Vox models of that era it did indeed have a co-axial type input socket. The selector switch is unusual, however, it isn't shown in any catalogue of the time so perhaps it's a later modification (an internal inspection would confirm this one way or the other). But Vox specs were constantly changing so it is just possible that the selector is original. These very basic, cheaper Vox models aren't worth much these days and are still surprisingly common, often in good condition. A good example can be picked up for about £25 — about what it cost originally, and a good rule-of-thumb valuation guide to budget electrics in general."

Send details of your rare, old, or just plain weird guitars for identification to GUITAR GURU, (Contact Details). Please give as much detailed description as you can, plus a photo if poss. Now go and play where you live.

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That Was Then

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Making Music - Copyright: Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.


Making Music - Oct 1986

Feature by Paul Day

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