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Kay guitars. Huh?

ABKB

Member
Messages
3,167
I am old enough to remember Kay guitars back in the 70's. And what I remember of playing them is they were poorly put together, poor action (like mile high action), poor sounding pickups etc...They also seemed to always be the guitars that were the cheapest in all the mom n' pop stores, and the ones that were just sold to students, if they were sold at all. In other words, :barf

So, why am I seeing these things again going for $600 on up?
http://www.kayguitar.com/
I am assuming somebody bought and is resurrecting the name. So what's the story here? Anybody played em? Are they at all improved? Or is this just a case where anything vintage must be good?
 

BigPapiFan

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,636
I think that most of the interest in that brand is due to the same reason certain baseball cards sell for so much - baby boomers, such as myself, want to buy back their youth.
 

Alvis

Member
Messages
3,414
Kay guitars go WAAAY backto the 19'teens...1920s, and thru their history , vary in quality from fine well made professional grade insturments to student grade plywood
Like a lot of 50s 60s USA dept store mass produced guitars ,it was usually great parts married to poor set-ups

The thing IS, if you know anything about guitar mechanics , you can make even the plywood SING ,at least I have ....

My old Jimmy Reed Thin Twin is a Gretsch killer. I'll have to find a pic
But meanwhile .....The Pac Man



The Saddam



A J-200 KILLER




Zippo pickups ,cool as hell. Im gonna add another to this one & wire 'em in series

 
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chrisr777

Member
Messages
24,760
Kay guitars go WAAAY backto the 19'teens...1920s, and thru their history , vary in quality from fine well made professional grade insturments to student grade plywood
Like a lot of 50s 60s USA dept store mass produced guitars ,it was usually great parts married to poor set-ups

The thing IS, if you know anything about guitar mechanics , you can make even the plywood SING ,at least I have ....
Yes, well you can make anything sing.
 

michael30

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,867
I am old enough to remember Kay guitars back in the 70's.
The 70's Kays were cheap Asian imports. If you'd be old enough to remember the early 60's you might have memories of a few cool Kays. Not that the American-made Kay lineup didn't include a few clunkers as well.

Like Alvis said most of these just need a setup.
 

ABKB

Member
Messages
3,167
Cool collection there Alvis.

Michael, I am not old enough to remember the early 60's Kays (I started playing around 69-70), so I cannot speak to them. So I assume that the only ones I ever saw were the cheap, fugly imports.

Agreed too that almost any guitar will benefit from a good setup, but there's no getting around plywood and cheap pickups. If I pick up a guitar and the action is so bad you need vice grips to play it, it can't speak well for the manufacturer. Yes, you can make plywood sing I suppose, but I can make mahogany, adler, korina, maple or just about any other wood sing a heck of a lot easier than plywood.

Which goes back to why I just do not get the whole Kay resurrection thing. :huh It would make more sense to me if these guitars were going for say $200. But $600 for a Kay???? Nostalgia of that sort is way over the line IMHO of course. No disrespect to anybody like Alvis who has a cool collection like that.
 

TravisE

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,683
They work for T-Bone:





Howlin' Wolf:



'Wolf's bass player (a little embarrassed that I don't know his name):



Jack:



And COUNTLESS others. They can be GREAT sounding guitars. If you don't like 'em, leave them to us that do. My 50's Thin Twin is a winner.
 

jtm622

Member
Messages
9,261
^^^ Is the color a little off there, or is White actually sporting "PINK" Mariachi pantalones???


P.S. - He'd never make it out of the barrios down here in S. Texas with those on...
I guess he could wear 'em on the Oprah Winfrey show, though... :)
 

101Volts

Member
Messages
556
I've never played a Kay but I can imagine what kind of quality they were, Judging from how my Plywood LP Copy was when I got it. Despite that they did make some oddballs with interesting body styles.
 

supergenius365

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,262
I think T-Bone Burnett posing with his Jimmy Reed on the Raising Sand cd had a bit to do with it. It certainly brought Kay to my attention. I picked up a 1964 Kay Speed Demon not too long ago. I had Fralin re-wind the pickup. It is a cool little guitar with a big, full warm sound. Fun to play. Can't get too crazy with the floating bridge.
 

mad dog

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,011
That Swingmaster is one cool guitar, if you can find one in good condition. Real good pickups.
 

ABKB

Member
Messages
3,167
Mad Dog, are those one of the new Kays or one of the old Kays?

Jack White I can understand, he likes cheap guitars. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Again, I just come back to the price point for these things is all.

Am interested to see if the quality of the new ones is any better than the old ones? Not that it would be hard to make the new ones better than some of the 70's stuff.
 

Alvis

Member
Messages
3,414
That Swingmaster is one cool guitar, if you can find one in good condition. Real good pickups.
Those tissue box pickups are P-90 killers ! n fact ,they are probably P-90s just in a different package. That Chicago guitar community was famous for swappin ideas,parts ......

I had one mid 60s Kay ,it was a Red Speed Demon-like body with a 6 in line brush axe headstock,had a single tissue box pickup , SCREAMER !

I took the pickups outa my '59 Thin Twin to pot them so I could play it out of a Marshall,I found some weird tone inhibiting wiring.When I had the pickups out I measured them at 11k & 9.5k. I put 'em back in and just wired the guitar up normal,it was awesome. It sounded like Malcolm Young
The Thin Twin pickups are deceiving. They look like lipsticks on top ,but have a huge coil hiding underneath that big piece of magnet

The Zippos are cool pickups too,low output like lipsticks ,but a bell like tone . I mostly use them for mandolin.Marc Ford can get some nasty sounds out of a Value Leader (the other Jimmy Reed,the LP body shape) with zippos thru some kind of germ. fuzz

Can't say I like the toaster top pickups much.I been thinkin what I could hide under the toaster cover in the bridge of my 3 p/u Speed Demon

I can't recall ever payin over 200 for any of my Kays over the years .No nostalgia for me ,most of this stuff's older than I am. But I did spend a fair amount of my sentence in Subway Guitars learning what all this freaky **** will do and how to make it work
 
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Messages
8,093
I'm not sure if it's been made clear or not yet, but the imported firewood that had a Kay brand name on it in the seventies bears no relation to the products of the the Kay Co. of Chicago USA. It's not all plywood either; they had a range of total crap to not-so-crappy models. I never much liked their p.u.s or their necks. This is a good body (late 40's K-44) with a better (Harmony!) neck.


 

pitseleh

Member
Messages
806
The old ones were SOLD as cheap guitars. These new ones, at their price points, are probably decent instruments at the very least, and possibly even very good ones. I doubt they have much in common with the Kays from the 70s aside from how they look, which as other people have detailed, is probably just for nostalgia purposes. Lots of aging rockers with fat salaries who might've learned on those guitars a few decades ago!
 






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