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Strings available in the late '60's and '70's?

SlyStrat

Silver Supporting Member
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4,618
I'm curious what type and size of electric guitar strings were available back then.
 
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stevel

Member
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I've done a little research on this. There's a good article on Pete Townshend's gear that includes strings:

http://www.thewho.net/whotabs/gear/guitar/strings.html

If you scroll down you'll get the 66 and 69 catalogs for Fender strings.

Some of the older players can confirm but I've heard them say you could buy Black Diamonds at the drugstore.

It seems like the period you're asking about is the "rise of rock guitar" and with it, a rise in the diversity (and people jumping on the commercial bandwagon) of types and gauges of strings.

Generally speaking, most artists prior to the "heavier" rock used much larger gauge strings than we do now, pure nickel for the wounds - and flat wounds were far more common - the stuff the Ventures did, and Dick Dale - on what 80s pointy guitar players would consider bridge cables.

Players gradually started replacing the wound 3rd string with a plain 3rd, or they moved all the strings down one (so the E string was in the B position, and the B was in the G position, etc.) and they used a banjo string for the high E (which apparently came in smaller gauges than any manufactured guitar E string).

I think Steve Cropper (and James Burton) was one of the really early adopters of this - and apparently all of them really got it from blues players.

The last part I'm interested in because a lot of blues players started initially on Acoustic Steel String which typically has a wound 3rd - but maybe the slide elements required a different approach when played with fingers and to get that "bendy" sound they needed a 3rd they could bend? I've not seen any real documentation of it though.

My understanding is that Ernie Ball was one of the first ones who started making various sizes sets to meet the demands of the guitar market that was expanding exponentially at the time.

Steve
 
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Messages
2,176
I'm curious what type and size of electric guitar strings were available back then.
In the '70s, many of the same brands that exist today:

GHS Boomers
Ernie Ball/Slinkies
Fender offerings like the Rock and Roll sets and Super Bullets
Dean Markley
D'Addario
 

StratoCraig

Member
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3,216
Electric guitar strings were originally more like acoustic guitar strings -- thick and heavy, with a wound third string. Eventually players started realizing that you could do things with lighter strings that you couldn't do so easily with heavy strings, and that lighter strings on an electric didn't compromise your tone the way they would on an acoustic. Amplification changes everything.

Typical '60s strings were flatwound. By the end of the '60s, roundwound strings had become available and were gaining in popularity.
 
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I remember buying Picato strings here in UK because we read Blackmore used them. Their Ultralight set had two thirds, a plain and a wound, so you could choose!
 

OlAndrew

Member
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2,345
The Black Diamond strings you could find everywhere were the acoustic strings. The wound ones were silver plated (or some other silver looking metal, not nickel or steel) and it was a good thing they were everywhere, 'cause they tended to break a lot. Also, very stiff. I don't remember the gauge, or maybe there was only one size available. I struggled with those on cheap dreadnoughts for quite awhile.

Once in awhile you could find the electric strings. These were usually heavy flatwounds, and fairly toneless. Painful on Harmonys and cheap imports.
 

buddastrat

Member
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14,689
Is it true that Ernie Ball strings had the same packaging and colors back in late 60's? I've heard that from a few people. That's amazing, and cool if true.
 

bluesjuke

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The Black Diamond strings you could find everywhere were the acoustic strings. The wound ones were silver plated (or some other silver looking metal, not nickel or steel) and it was a good thing they were everywhere, 'cause they tended to break a lot. Also, very stiff. I don't remember the gauge, or maybe there was only one size available. I struggled with those on cheap dreadnoughts for quite awhile.

Once in awhile you could find the electric strings. These were usually heavy flatwounds, and fairly toneless. Painful on Harmonys and cheap imports.



Black Diamond, you would go to the store and buy more because you broke one, then go right back because you broke another.

The windings would separate too.
 

bob-i

Member
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8,763
In the early 60s slack diamond was the only game in town. I used a flat wound medium gauge set until LaBella came out with the super slick and Ernie Ball came out with slinkiest, maybe 1967-8. That was a game changer. I did try the banjo string for the high E and moving every string down, but the banjo string had different magnetic qualities and sounded weak through the amp.

In the 70s the string market opened up, D'Addario, fender, Gibson all started putting out sets and singles in various gauges. Fender bullets were very light on the bottom and I didn't like them, D'Addario sold a nice set of 10s and I used them for many years, i still do. In the mid 70s there were a few stores who stocked D'Addario singles in bulk and you could pick and choose the gauge but you had to buy large quantities, 25 sets or more.
 

Lewguitar

Senior Member
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5,663
Before Fender Rock N Roll strings came on the scene around 1967, some guys would buy regular strings and throw away the low E string.

They'd use the A string for the low E string and move all of the strings down one position so that the B string became the G string, etc.

Then, they'd use a .010 BANJO string for the high E string.

And that's a fact.

According to Reggie Young, when he met the Beatles in the early 60's he was not surprised to pick up George Harrison's guitar and find that George was playing with a wound G string.

Not many knew of the banjo string trick.

A Detroit guitarist we called Joe Mama turned me onto the banjo string trick. ;)
 

Baxtercat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,695
Yes, it was too-heavy Black Diamonds early on, then I recall getting Slinkies in the late '60s. Day-glo packaging.
 

FenderTone

Senior Member
Messages
1,660
Is it true that Ernie Ball strings had the same packaging and colors back in late 60's? I've heard that from a few people. That's amazing, and cool if true.
Yes true. I started buying EB Super Slinky 9's in '67 and they were the same pink packaging. Super Slinkys were a game changer, a quantum shift from other strings of the day.
 

pbmw

Member
Messages
6,627
You could indeed buy Black Diamonds at the drug store.
Played them and Fenders and Gibson flatwounds. Then along came Super Slinkys.
Man, Thats was a long time ago.
 

Bluesman1026

Member
Messages
416
I started bending strings around 1966. I bought Black Diamonds and bought an extra high E string. I used an E for both the E and B strings, then a B for the G, G for the D, D for the A and an A for the bottom E. Then I found Fender rock and roll strings. After that, there were many more choices.
 

woof*

Member
Messages
8,751
Is it true that Ernie Ball strings had the same packaging and colors back in late 60's? I've heard that from a few people. That's amazing, and cool if true.
Yep
I started playing in 67-68 and that's about when they started hitting the stores.
Same packaging and colors. The wound G era was just before that. Everyone I knew used slinkys, a yr or so later several brands like Fender copied the idea.
 

RR59CMS

Member
Messages
1,090
Yes true. I started buying EB Super Slinky 9's in '67 and they were the same pink packaging. Super Slinkys were a game changer, a quantum shift from other strings of the day.
I have heard that Ernie was setting up this packaging and he was looking for a bargain on packaging material. Someone sold him dayglow ~ superbright colored paper that was not selling. It took off instantly and he never looked back. Thats what I've heard anyway.
 






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