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Guitar Guru

Article from Making Music, September 1986

You got guitars. You got questions. You got any money on you, er, sorry I mean. We got answers.

J Latimer, Dunfermline:
"Can you give me some info on my Burns Vista Sonic bass, ie year of manufacture and number made. The serial number is 817, it has three Trisonic pickups, and three control knobs (volume, tone, and preset sounds). Mine is finished in sunburst, with black scratchplate with 'Burns London' in white. I've seen pictures of a Black Bison bass which looked a much grander machine so I would expect that mine was a fairly cheap model. Mine has a crack at the top of the neck and around the volume control and the action is high."

A Harris, Benfleet:
"I have a Vox Phantom which I acquired before they started to become overpriced cult objects. I've never seen one before in the top-half white, bottom-half black combination that mine has. Could you tell me whether many were produced like this! Serial number is 72615, it has a large black pad on the back, two tone controls (which work 'backwards'), one volume, 'Mark VI' on the headstock, a chrome scratchplate and a rosewood fretboard."

Andy Linden, London SE13:
"Could you tell me whether Antoria are still producing guitars? I don't think they are. I have one of their Les Paul copies and the pickup mounting has broken. I tried replacing it with one from a Gibson but it's not the right size — at the moment the pickup is stuck on with gaffer tape."

Mark Zigmund Aber, Northampton:
"Five years ago I bought a Les Paul Artisan for £500. It needed setting up but was in good condition, serial number is 0620485. What year is it! Is it rare? What value has it! It's a warm guitar, very heavy, and suits well as a piece of furniture when it is not being caressed. Unfortunately no-one has been able to tell me anything about it. My only response has been sharks-talk from music shops, like: 'It's not a Gibson because of the unstandard emblem on the headstock, I'll give you £200,' I don't want to sell it, I want to know about it! Not even the distributor of Gibson was much help."

With little further ado, over to Making Music's Guitar Guru himself, Paul Day, a man of whom it has been said, "Coo blimey he knows everything about them guitars." It is true. And here he is:

"The Burns Vista Sonic was the mainstay bass of pop groups around 1962-3 (even Status Quo and the Troggs had them). The Black Bison you mention (mine was pictured in Making Music last month) cost £153 when new; the Vista Sonic was £94. Current value would be about £350 upwards for the BB, and around £150 for the VS. Your high action is odd as the Burns basses were renowned for their low action and playability. A new scratchplate would cure the crack at the volume; I can put you in touch with Eddie Cross who makes exact replacements. I can also (WARNING: PLUG APPROACHING) offer Making Music readers 'The Burns Book' by my good self, a complete 93-page guide with pix and info throughout, for £4.25 inc postage (from me at (Contact Details)).

"The Vox Phantom in the black-white 'Schenker' finish is very rare and Mr Harris is a lucky man — I've only ever seen one other example. It certainly wasn't in the Vox catalogues, and may have been made for a trade show. The first popular Vox solids were UK-made (1963-4); then when demand increased some of the work was farmed out to Italy (1965-7) resulting in guitars made from some Italian and some British components; and finally the later models (1968-70) were all-Italian. Yours is a mid-period Anglo-Italian combination — for instance, the backwards controls are definitely Italian — and dates from about 1966. Cultishness of this kind costs about £350 nowadays for a normally finished example. Yours would be worth more.

"Antoria was a name given by a UK importer to a range of guitars, rather than a proper Japanese brand. Antorias started to appear from Japan in the 1950s, but came to Britain in large numbers in the 1970s during the heyday of the Japanese 'copy' guitar (which is when your Les Paul dates from). Some of the Antorias were made in the same factory as the contemporary Ibanez instruments. The copying wasn't too exact — as you've discovered some components differed in size to those of the original. Have a look round some guitar repairers' junk boxes; otherwise, get them to make you a mounting ring out of plastic.

I recently came upon a 1986 Antoria catalogue, so they are still going, though what the relationship to the earlier models is I don't know. The current importers are JL Music of Leeds ((Contact Details)).

"I'm surprised you couldn't get info on the Artisan as Gibsons have been widely written about: my usual reference work for Gibsons, and many other US guitars, is Tom Wheeler's 'American Guitars'. The Artisan was launched by Gibson as a flash Les Paul derivative in 1977 (though two 'prototypes' appeared in 1976) and continued in production until 1980. The centre pickup is a Super Humbucker; the other two pickups are Series 7 types; the body is mahogany, the top maple (original!); the fingerboard is ebony and the hardware gold. The Artisan first appeared in walnut only like yours; later they also came in ebony-and-tobacco sunburst. They were made in small quantities, but I can't tell you the year yours was made as I think you must have mis-read the serial number — it should be an eight-figure number (see Gibson Guide, July issue). The logo is a re-issue of the original 'old-style' Gibson logo: the shop response to this shows their lack of knowledge. Don't go there again. Your walnut version sold for £837 in 1979 (compared to just over £600 for a three-pickup Custom). Now it would be worth close on the £500 you paid for it, although three-pickup Les Pauls are currently rather unfashionable. Unfortunately you bought gold when everyone was moving into silver."

Send details of your rare or unusual guitars for identification to GUITAR GURU, (Contact Details). Please give us much description as you can, plus a picture if possible.

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

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Making Music - Sep 1986


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