If you were a member of a garage band, or dreamed of joining or starting one, then the sounds and sights of the guitar, bass, amplifier, keyboard and drum makers would be music to your ears and candy for your eyes. From Fender and Gibson to Gretsch, those guitar logos would beckon to you from the music store displays. How about Mosrite if you were a beach music lover, now those were some outstanding axes. Remember the Ventures? Then there were Silvertone guitars from Sears. One model came in a hard-shell case that had an amplifier built right into it. If you had one of those and got rid of it you might be kicking yourself for not hanging on to it because somehow they have become desirable and valuable today. Silvertone also made some rather nice tube amplifiers. I bought one from a keyboard player in my home town and played bass through it for quite a while. I don’t recall the wattage but it had a speaker cabinet with Six 10 inch Jensen heavy duty speakers and it did reproduce bass pretty well even though the amp head was voiced for guitar. When I got back to school that fall my roommate showed up with his own exact same Silvertone amp. We hooked up a turntable to them and had the most awesome stereo system in the Southern region!
Danelectro manufactured most of those Silvertone guitars and amplifiers. Evets corporation started selling copies of the Danelectro and Silvertone products in the late1990’s. They sold well for a while but now there are only a few sold each year and the main thing they sell are effects pedals.
Speaking of Gibson guitars and amps, Epiphone also produced some excellent guitars and pretty good amps. Gibson bought out Epiphone in 1957. During the 60’s both Gibson and Epiphone guitars were produced by Gibson. The Kalamazoo, Michigan-made Epiphones were very similar to their equivalent Gibson instruments.
Hagstrom was another well-known guitar and bass name during the 60’s and 70’s. I think that was because they were a pretty well made series of instruments and were priced economically. They were bought, sold and traded among garage band players and were very common and easy to find. One thing that helped their popularity was the fact that there were several models of Hagstrom guitars and basses were styled very similarly to Fender Stratocaster Guitars and Precision Basses. To the untrained eye they were virtually indistinguishable. The main difference being the pickup switches. On Fenders there was a three-way toggle switch to select between the pickups. On the Hagstroms there was a row of slide switches arranged in an arc. I acquired a Hagstrom II from a member of The Chosen Few (later known as The Soul Sensation). It was gloss black on the front. The back was covered in black textured vinyl. The front had a white section around the pickups with some textured gold toned metal in the area between the pickups. The pickups were pretty “hot” and had good tone. The neck was excellent, slim and fast. The only real drawback that gave me trouble was that the bridge was not adjustable and the intonation was off, meaning that I could not get it in tune all the way up the neck. I managed to work around it by tuning the lower end of the neck in tune and not playing much in the higher registers (higher than about the 10th fret).
Hofner was the grail many garage band bassists were seeking if their band played British style rock, because it was the Hofner that Paul McCartney of the Beatles used during the early years. By the release of Magical Mystery Tour Sir Paul was playing a really nice Rickenbacker. Both Hofner and Rickenbacker deserve their own discussion and I will write about them in a later post.
In fact there were many different instruments that were popular then, and an amazing number that remain so now. We have yet to discuss the various keyboards. Organs such as Farfisa and Hammond. Pianos like the Fender Rhodes. Amplifiers ranging from Ampeg through Fender, HiWatt, Kustom, Marshall, Orange and Vox. Drums – Ludwig, Gretsch, Pearl and Tama. And don’t forget all the other details such as – strings, cymbals, drumsticks, stomp boxes, tone cabinets, picks, cords. and, oh yeah, how about band transport. Hearses and vans were great but so were family station wagons and pickups (if it wasn’t raining).
We have a lot to discuss, so stay tuned as we work our way through the catalog of memorabilia and goodies of the time of garage bands. If you were a fan or loved to dance or watch and listen to the band you will find plenty here to enjoy. After all it was the music, the excitement of live bands and a crowded dance floor, throwing your latest moves and scoping out the opposite sex, trying to get a chance at that fox across the room and singing along with the best songs of the day – all that stuff made for the heady mix that drove us and still provides the soundtrack of our lives.
Stay tuned. See you guys and chicks soon.