1970 Guild JS-II

It’s no secret that Guild derived considerable inspiration from other companies’ instruments. Their first models drew heavily from contemporary Epiphone models, as can be seen in their fret marker inlays and the switching panel on the X-350. As the 1960s progressed and Epiphone models gradually became Gibson-ized, Guild looked more to Kalamazoo for hints of where the market was heading. Certainly, some Guild instruments reflected more of an independent design spirit – their first solidbody line seemed to come out of nowhere – but the early Starfire range was clearly influenced by the ES-125 and ES-335 thinlines.

Not surprisingly, when Guild’s first electric solidbodies failed to set the market alight, they again turned to Gibson for design clues. The Jet Star bass of the mid ‘60s was certainly unique – its “Gumby” shaped body fit with the S-100 guitar – so when the S-100 was redesigned to mimic the Gibson SG, the Jet Star was redesigned to mimic the EB series. The bass was also renamed and split into two models: the JS-I and JS-II, the numeral denoting the number of pickups. (Although the initials remained, the Jet Star name was permanently dropped from company literature.). Like their EB-0 and EB-3 counterparts, the Guild basses had short 30.5” scales and had mahogany necks glued into mahogany bodies.

However, the similarity to Gibson products didn’t extend to the electronics or the sound. The first JS basses, built in 1969, featured one or two Hagstrom Bi-Sonic pickups. These massive units actually contained fairly small coils with magnetic poles that were adjusted in a manner copied from the DeArmond model 2000 guitar pickup. The resulting tone was clear but powerful, a stark contrast to the “mudbucker” pickups employed by Gibson. By 1970, a number of JS-IIs were being fitted with more conventional Hagstrom humbuckers in the bridge position; these pickups offered a slightly thicker tone, but still considerable clarity. Guild seems to have simply used whatever pickups were on hand regardless of catalog specifications. Some Guild Starfire basses around this time were even fitted with smaller Hagstrom single-coil pickups; I haven’t seen these pickups on JS basses, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. By 1971 Guild started using their own humbucking bass pickups on all basses; these tend to be muddy and compressed, with less dynamic range and clarity than any of the Hagstrom units. Consequently, the rarer, earlier basses are prized by players and tend to be preferred over the later ones.

My bass dates from 1970 and features the mix of two different Hagstrom pickups. The two are well balanced and the 3-way selector switch provides a smaller but more usable range of tones than the complex 4-way switch found on an EB-3. The pickups are wired out of phase, as was common on Guilds of the period, which produces an interesting tone but a significant drop in volume in the middle position. The short scale produces a considerable low-end thump, particularly on the low E string, and it makes for easy reaches between frets. The neck has a moderate profile, fairly narrow but deep. There is some scattered finish wear on the body and headstock, but no significant damage and no replacement parts. The bass even still resides in its original leather gig bag.