1950s Kay-made Silvertone Aristocrat "Deluxe" Archtop Guitar

There's no model information on the guitar, but it appears to be an early-50s Silvertone Aristocrat with a bit of extra bling in terms of those nice, bound, f-holes. This box was made by Kay and is in a style they've used since the late 40s. It's a full 17" jumbo archtop and while the top is solid spruce (press-arched) with tonebar bracing, the back and sides are ply with figured-maple veneer. It has a maple neck, Brazilian rosewood board and bridge, and that usual extra-long 25 3/4" Kay scale length.

All of these features add-up to a guitar that is authoritative, punchy, and full in a traditional jazz comp sort of way. 3-note zippy chords sound tops while single-note playing is out-front and engaging. I jammed with a friend of mine back and forth on this for about half an hour yesterday and found this not lacking at all for carrying-power and "band cut."

Work was straightforward -- the guitar was in pretty darn good shape but it did need a neck reset and a fret level/dress which also removed a bit of warp in the neck, essentially.

I'm pretty conservative about stringing these old Kays with their unreinforced, long-scale necks and use a set of 52w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 16, 12 strings rather than a "purely normal" set of 12s. A regular set of 12s feels pretty tense at this scale, anyhow.

The headstock veneer is lovely, isn't it?

The original bone nut is 1 11/16" but it's over a big, C-shaped neck profile. The board has a 12" radius.

The frets are medium/jumbo stock and are in good order. They're a little thinner top-to-bottom near first position due to the level/dress job cutting some overall warp out of the neck.

The deco-style inlay is actually pearl -- just a very weird white stuff I've seen on many Kay and Regal products from this era.

The repro, Gibson-style bound pickguard looks snazzy as heck. Mixed with the extra-thick, curved-over white binding on the top and back, it looks right at home.

The bridge base is original but I've made a replacement saddle/topper for it. There's a lot of adjustment room available, here.

The tailpiece is also a replacement but works just fine. It's interesting to note that original screw holes (not for this tail) were installed off-center which means that the neck was installed off-center when first put on. I corrected that and so had to move the tailpiece on center.

Don't you love that binding job? The little "darts" near the curl are spiffy.

The figured maple veneer on the back and sides is handsome stuff.

The replacement Kluson-style tuners work well, though one was installed a little off.

The headstock and fretboard edges are bound, too.

A nice, hard, arched, fitted case came along with the guitar.


Robert Gardner said...

Beautiful guitar. Loved seeing it in the flesh.

Nicholas Ratnieks said...

That's a guitar that's really "putting on the style"- not much restraint involved in finishing it off, it seems! I saw in an old Arthur Windsor catalogue, the headstock of a 1930 Italian made tenor guitar described as a "polished escutcheon". Now, what I like about the carved plastic escutcheon of this Aristocrat is that faux armourial aspect. Where else would you find a guitar that features a poleaxe and what looks like a spear for disemboweling a warhorse and its rider? This guitar is a real joy for so many reasons, and I can imagine the eager buyer getting the delivery from Sears,Roebuck and opening the box to reveal this guitar-WOW! The next thing you know he would be looking for a suitable lady love to serenade and worship, although back in the late 40s early 50s multiple guitar ownership was not not welcomed or tolerated. This guitar would be his "one and only" squeeze and I think it hits the spot. As a subtle as a charging warhorse.