Kay guitar company

Kay guitar company

Kay Guitar Company primarily produced inexpensive department store style guitars from the 1930s to the 1960s. Kay guitar is a part of the Kay Musical Instrument Company that has manufactured professional and student instruments since the 1890s.

Kay also produced a high end guitar that today is extremely collectable. In 1957 president Sydney Katz introduced the Gold “K” line of archtop and solid body electric guitars to compete with major manufacturers like Fender, Gibson, and Gretsch. Valued among collectors, the headstocks from 1957-1960 featured a reverse painted plastic overlay similar to the Kelvinator logo. The guitars featured art deco patterns. It was difficult to get players to take Kay’s high end entry seriously, and the Gold line was discontinued in 1962. The company was sold to Valco in 1967 and driven out of business two years later by low cost Asian imports.Fact|date=February 2007

Kay’s current line includes low priced acoustic, electric and bass guitars, and moderately priced banjos, ukuleles, mandolins and resonators. They also sell the Chicago Blues line of inexpensive harmonicas.

Kay manufactured guitars under different names: 'Old Kraftsman' guitars for Spiegel, 'Sherwood' and 'Airline' for Montgomery Wards, and 'Silvertone' for Sears. Also, Kay produced a line of Archtop Acuostics called Kamico, which have become rather rare.

Gold “K” Line

The gold “K” Line featured the Jazz Special, Artist, Pro, Upbeat, Jazz II, and Jazz Special Bass.

Gold “K” guitars used the same hardware as top manufacturers. There were truss rod and neck issues. Gold models had single coil pickups with clear silver plastic covers and phillips head bolt adjustable pole pieces. The Upbeat model came with an optional transparent black plastic cover. These pickups appeared on Kay instruments through the late 1960s and are sometimes referred to as “Kessel” or “Kleenex Box” pickups.Fact|date=February 2007 The Jazz Special Bass has a single coil chrome pickup.

Notable Players

*Barney Kessel, American jazz/blues guitarist/ session musician prominent in the 1950’s and 60’s. Kessel endorsed the Jazz Special, Artist and Pro guitars, but left to join Gibson after three years.
*Big Joe Williams, American blues guitarist/ songwriter.
*Jack White, American singer/guitarist of rock bands The White Stripes and The Raconteurs
*Eric Clapton, Singer and lead guitarist of the band Cream
*Paul McCartney of The Beatles
*Robert DeLeo and Dean DeLeo of the Stone Temple Pilots
*American Singer and Songwriter Bob Dylan
*Blues Singer Jimmy Reed
*Sarah Mclachlan
*Ry Cooder [http://rycooder.nl/pages/ry_cooder_Instruments_gear_amps_effects.htm]
*Phil Alvin of The Blasters

Kay Basses

Kay also began to produce in 1937 an "upright bass", which is widely believed to be the Concert or C-1 bass. Much like the guitars manufactured, the basses were hand crafted by skilled craftsmen using special ordered machinery. They even had a hot stamping machine that could emboss the trademark KAY cursive script.


Kamico guitars were the lower-priced versions of Kay's original guitars, and among the first guitars to use a humbucker type pickup, predating Gibson by some few years. Produced along with Kay brand name guitars from 1931-1951, according to most sources. The most recognizable model is the Jumbo Jazz.

Further reading

“50’s Cool: Kay Guitars” (1992), Jay Scott. 64 pages.Second String Press (ISBN 978-1880422014).


[http://kingofkays.com/American.aspx King of Kays]
[http://www.kayguitar.com Kay Guitars]
[http://www.kaybass.com Kay Bass]
[http://www.guitartimetv.com/kay_guitars.php Kay Guitar Collections]
[http://www.geocities.com/stereoscoptic/kay/index.html Geocities Kay Site]
[http://www.vintaxe.com/guitars_american.htm Vintaxe.com]

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