This very cool Kay "Barney Kessel" hollowbody archtop electric is owned by a friend of mine. He's got a pretty extensive collection of crazy old stuff, though I didn't know he had one of these up his sleeve. These are pretty desirable, bling-tastic guits and they also have that delicious 50s blues-romp sound in spades.
I'm guessing this one dates to the late 50s or early 60s judging by the modified "Kelvinator" headstock and slightly different hardware compared to the mid-50s models. It's in great shape and plays well "right out of the case." The only wear and tear is the usual finish weather-checking and lacquer crackling.
The interesting thing about these Barney Kessel models sold by Kay is that in the years before these models were rebranded to the Kessel line, the same instruments existed in much less wild format: they were a bit more reserved and didn't have the crazy batwing pickguards, gold hardware, and big old pickup surrounds. Instead they had more understated, Gibson-y looks.
I don't know which I like more...
...but for those who want to show off, does it really get any better than this? It's like hanging your favorite car's body trim from a strap and playing it!
The truss rod adjustment is in the heel on these guys. The neck on this particular guitar is also a lot thinner than the 50s models I've played/worked on before. It's less "Kay baseball bat" and more "40s Gibson."
It's a looker (and a sound-er!) throughout.