1965 Kay K350 Titan I


The Kay Musical Instrument Company is primarily remembered for supplying countless students and budget-minded musicians with inexpensive guitars, either under their own name or under the guises of myriad other brands. It is certainly true that Kay competed with Harmony, Regal, and many other American and Japanese companies for the bottom of the guitar market, where profits were made on mass production rather than quality products. However, Kay was also capable of producing instruments of higher quality, and their finer creations have been known to tempt professional players from time to time.

The company frequently introduced new designs in the 1960s to keep up with changing tastes in the guitar market. More solidbodies were added as the decade progressed, and perhaps the most striking examples came in 1965. The K350 Titan I, K360 Apollo and K370 Artiste shared a body design that combined curves and angles in a unique way, with contoured edges that were a new feature on Kay guitars. The asymmetrical headstocks were also new, and the total ensemble made for a striking guitar at any price point.

The three models differed in a few ways. The K350 featured two pickups with non-adjustable poles, double-slash fret markers, and a trapeze tailpiece. The K360 added adjustable poles, a vibrato tailpiece and solid block fret markers. The K370 added a third pickup and featured various split geometric designs for fret markers. The price range of the trio - $150.00 to $299.50 – placed them among Kay’s more moderate and expensive products, though not in the same range as the flagship models from Fender or Gibson. The “Kleenex box” pickups actually are similar in design to P90s, though the lack of adjustable poles on these examples means that their output is relatively low. The guitar has a warm, full sound that doesn’t provide much sparkle but sounds great through an overdriven amplifier.

All three models had mahogany bodies and necks with white plastic pickguards. Perhaps the most unusual feature was the output jack, which was placed on the back of the body. With a right-angle plug this is not cumbersome, but it’s hardly a surprise that the innovation did not catch on. Otherwise, this Titan I was fairly conventional for the time. Kay’s choice of name was oddly prescient; within a year, the Titan I was replaced by the Titan II. The new model kept the basic appearance of the original but added adjustable poles and a vibrato tailpiece – but a cheaper vibrato than on its sibling models. The Titan II would last into 1968, apparently until Kay went bankrupt and ceased manufacturing.