1962 Guild X-500

Guild has never been shy about using other companies’ components in their guitars. They did not make any of their own pickups in the first decade of the company’s history. They sourced bridges and vibratos from Hagstrom, a few tailpieces from Kluson, and even some early finish work from United Guitars across the river. Most of their early workforce came from Epiphone, and one employee came from Gretsch: Gilbert Diaz, in charge of final assembly at the Guild factory.

Diaz’s time at Gretsch had brought him into contact with DeArmond 2000 pickups (known to Gretsch aficionados as “Dynasonics”). At the time, Guild was exclusively using pickups made by the Franz company; the relationship was convenient, as Franz was located in nearby Astoria, Queens. Their pickups had a unique sound which is sought after by many Guild fans today, but Diaz felt that DeArmond made a superior product. His argument must have made some impression, as the first DeArmond pickups appeared on the ¾-scale M-65 around 1959. These were cheaper than the pickups used by Gretsch, which was appropriate for what was essentially a student-level guitar. In 1960, a few of the very first Starfires were built with another DeArmond model (identical to the pickups on my Premier Bantam, and termed “deluxe individual magnet pick-ups” in Guild catalogs).

The first model 2000 pickups appeared on Guild guitars in 1961. A very few were identical to those used by Gretsch, but Guild quickly switched from black covers to white. These pickups were used on the top-of-the-line models including the X-500, the Duane Eddy models, the new Starfire series, and the X-350, while the rest of the archtop line continued to sport Franzes until sometime around the beginning of 1963. At that point, all Guild electric guitars began to be fitted with one of several pickups made in-house. Guild shipped a few more guitars with DeArmond pickups around 1967, probably to use up old stock. Because they were used briefly and on a limited number of models, DeArmond 2000 pickups are relatively rare on Guild guitars. They are sometimes mistaken for humbuckers, since the height-adjustment screws look like a second row of pole pieces, but these pickups have a single-coil. The confusion is heightened by Guild’s continued use of old pictures in catalogs; as late as 1968, the X-500 was shown with DeArmonds but described as having “Guild Anti-Hum Pick-Ups”. The units described are actually Guild’s mini-humbuckers.

According to Guild’s final assembly ledger, this X-500 was completed on September 25, 1962. It sports a slightly modified body shape from earlier examples, which had a narrower waist and less “bulbous” look; the new body shape would remain more or less unchanged for decades. This particular guitar sports newer strap pins but is otherwise all original.