Hello fans and fellow players,
The world of steel guitar up until about 12 to 15 years ago was very fluid when it came to designing and building new steel guitar models. People still today look at an old Sho-Bud and try to figure out what year it is by certain features on the guitar. This is a frustrating thing to try to do because design changes happened as they were figured out and not because the year changed. As I said, design changes were fluid.
Of course, some big basic changes will help identify the decade, like most Permanent guitars were built before ’64, but not all of them. Most Baldwin guitars that Sho-Bud built were built from ’66 to ’69, and were built alongside some Permanent guitars and almost all of the Fingertip guitars. So here we have three different guitars being built by Sho-Bud at the same time.
I see people on the forum trying to figure out what year their Fingertip was made because of certain features one individual may have on his guitar and letting everybody know what year he bought it, but because features were added or subtracted at any given time, this doesn’t necessarily indentify the year.
Emmons guitars can be even more confusing to identify. The end castings for the push pull guitars were stamped with serial numbers when they were cast and then stacked up on a shelf in the assembly shop. They would cast several years worth of end castings at the same time and they were not necessarily used in order, they just grabbed whatever was within reach. There were even many end castings that were made with no numbers at all.
As far as experimental Emmons guitars go, there were plenty of them and they were a combination of any parts that were available, not necessarily part of any grand design. I remember Ron Lashley building a double ten keyless guitar with both necks the same level. But he never made a second one.
Many times when a customer would ask for a specific feature to be built into their own personal guitar, Ron would do it and quite often this guitar would end up on the market, sold to an owner that thought he had just a standard guitar from the factory.
I know of a bolt on mechanism guitar that was built and owned by a prominent Texas player, sent back to the factory, converted to a split neck guitar and then later on restored to a wrap-around guitar so it would come closer to matching the serial number of that era.
Folks that are trying to pinpoint exact building facts like they would on a mass produced automobile really are facing a difficult task as the history of these guitars is very muddied. Being a dealer in Nashville, Tennessee, I ran across these guitars on a regular basis. There was a standard model, but there were many experimental units.
Sho-Bud was very good about coming up with different changes to the bodies, mechanisms, keyheads etc. throughout the life of this brand. I remember going into the Sho-Bud factory one day and seeing a new keyhead design and asking David why he’s changing the keyhead design.
He told me, “To fit the new tuning keys that are available from Grover.”
This is another example of design being changed by necessity instead of by annual date.
I see people today that are trying to date their guitar by what tuning keyhead it has on it. Unless you want a wrong answer, ignore some of these details. We’re talking about some guitars back in the old days when all of these changes were taking place that really sounded incredible.
As far as numbers of guitars per year, in 1969 there were lawsuits flying all over the place at Emmons guitar company. Consequently, there were only about 50 double neck guitars made that year and that’s all. That makes the ’69 model of Emmons a lot harder to find, but these are wonderful guitars. Actually ’67 through ’69 are my favorites to play.
There weren’t very many guitars made before ’67. Most guitars that were made before ’67 were those that the neck wrapped around the changer. A few of these earliest guitars had cast aluminum changer parts, not particularly desirable because they are not particularly strong like small extruded parts are.
It’s amazing how many people will say while looking at an Emmons of early manufacture, “That’s not right and this isn’t right and I don’t know why that’s like that.” It may be perfectly legit and have been built by Ron and Fred themselves.
What early Emmons is the most desirable? Any of them. What early Sho-Bud is the most desirable? Any of them except the Baldwin Cross-over model. This is just my opinion here.
I feel that Buddy Emmons came out with some very good and constructive ideas in the early periods of the push pull design. Many of these guitars are showing up in private collectors and players hands. I’ve finally gotten to where I can pretty well identify all the strange quirks that were assembled into push pull guitars at the Emmons company.
I must admit that in talking to Ron Lashley and Fred Trogdon before they died, I learned much about the very early construction traits of these first guitars. I have been an Emmons guitar dealer and player since January of 1966.
There seems to be a growing population of people interested in the history and the details of the early guitars made by these companies and a couple of know-it-alls that really know very little about Sho-Bud and Emmons. Even the company itself today doesn’t seem to have much desire to keep the history straight.
I love these early guitars, the history of the guitars, along with their players and builders. This was a wonderful era and I am glad that I was a part of it. There are fewer and fewer of us that were actually there and remember the way it really was and I feel that I should help keep the record straight.
Back in the very earliest days, most of the Emmons guitars were finished with felt the color of red, but not all. As a matter of fact, some of the earliest rosewood guitars have brown felt under the guitar, but they all had felt of some kind, which actually wasn’t felt but was very short fuzzy strands of material from the carpet mills in that area. It looked great, was easy to apply and repair, however it seems like the factory was the only place it could be obtained.
Emmons was doing this while Sho-Bud was shooting the bottom with lacquer, either natural or in a few cases, black. But remember, all of the details were constantly changing through the early periods of both Sho-Bud and Emmons.
The early guitars of both of these brands are very collectible today because they are excellent guitars that sound as good as anything anywhere and they are rare and hard to obtain.
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