1963 Guild Tenor Guitar


Major guitar manufacturers were not averse to custom orders in the 1950s and 1960s, but Guild seems to have produced an unusually large number of instruments that don’t fit catalog specifications. Perhaps this was due to the Hoboken factory’s easy access from New York – it was a short ferry ride away from a thriving entertainment center, while Gibson’s location in Kalamazoo was relatively out of the way. Regardless of the reason, many unique Guild instruments were delivered both to celebrities like Merle Travis and Phil Lesh and to myriad players of more local renown.

In particular, a large number of Guild tenor guitars survive from the 1950s and 1960s, most of them built around standard electric archtop models and the occasional flat-top acoustic. The most commonly-seen Guild tenor was based on the M-75 Aristocrat, though tenor versions of the X-100, X-150, CE-100, M-65, F-20 and F-30 are known to exist. Guild actually mentioned tenor models in their catalogs in the late 1950s, but only for a brief period. Given that the tenor guitar was already something of an anachronism when the company was founded, its prodigious output of 4-stringers is remarkable. Perhaps the most famous example was the tenor CE-100 played by jazz and blues player Tiny Grimes late in his career.

This tenor is actually not based on a standard Guild model, though all its various features (save for the reduced number strings) can be found elsewhere in the 1963 Guild lineup. The thinline body is that of a Starfire II or III, and is similar to that of a T-100 except for the binding on the back. The block fret markers appear to derive from a CE-100. The pickups are unique 4-pole versions of Guild’s own single-coil units introduced the year this guitar was built and commonly found on solidbodies and cheaper archtops. The harp tailpiece is standard to most Guild archtops, as is the headstock veneer. Because of its mongrel nature, the label identifies it simply as a “Tenor Special”.

Most Guild tenor guitars have a scale of approximately 22.5”, similar to the scale used on the 6-string M-65¾. However, this guitar has a full 6-string scale of 24.75” – unusually long for a tenor, though too short to be called a plectrum guitar. The instrument is in remarkably clean condition, with all its original parts and barely any wear. It resides in the original case, originally designed for a Starfire or T-100.