The Greatest Guitar Finds: A Jersey Turnpike Treasure

Buying and selling guitars has given me some of the most incredible experiences and stories I could imagine over the years. The story I am about to tell has always been one of my favorites to recount.

In 2007, I received a call from a gentleman who told me he had a 1954 Fender Stratocaster, the highly collectible and desirable first year for the model. My partner at the time, Richie, and I decided to meet him halfway at the exit 7A rest stop along the New Jersey Turnpike to inspect and hopefully purchase his guitar. He was heading out from western Pennsylvania, and we were coming from Long Island, NY. We planned to meet at 9:00 PM, but if you’ve ever traveled in this area, you’re likely familiar with how intense the traffic can get. By no surprise, it took both the seller and us quite a bit of extra time to get to our agreed-upon destination. We finally arrived at the rest stop close to 11:00 PM.

To our dismay, once we arrived, we realized the rest stop restaurant area was already closed for the night. So, there we stood, disassembling a genuine and original 1954 Stratocaster in the back of my Suburban. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, we followed up our authentication with a nerve-racking cash-counting experience in a dark parking lot. Frankly, I don’t recommend doing something like this anymore. However, back in the day, it was like the wild west! These were great times for buying, accompanied by even greater guitars. Believe it or not, buying original vintage guitars in the strangest of places from original owners was more common than you think.

We drove home with the 1954 Fender Stratocaster, original strings on it and all! We’re lucky enough to have it back in our showroom after over 16 years of it being in a private collection. As soon as I saw it, this story came flooding back to me! I hope you enjoy reading about this buying adventure as much as I enjoyed living it.

For more information on this guitar (for sale now), please call us at 516.221.0563.

Workplace Oddities: Innovation at Fender in the late 60s/early 70s

If the ‘50s were about establishing themselves as a tycoon of instrument sales, for Fender, the ‘60s were all about change. Looking back on it, some of these changes were welcome. The earlier years of the decade brought about many beloved Fender features: custom colors, new models, and a fun, fresh approach to their advertisements that few of their competitors could replicate at the time. The latter years, however, brought some of Fender’s most controversial changes. Many fanatics mark the brand’s sale to CBS as its downfall in quality, a clear departure from their earlier years. Adversely, some revel in this period – excited by the changes Fender made or the models the company launched under a new owner. Now, we’re not here to pick any lane; as we always say, “to each their own.” Instead, we will offer an additional perspective – an appreciation for the craftsmanship and creativity of Fender’s Research and Development Department in the mid-60s to early 70s. 

Roger Rossmeisl, posed with one of his signature German-style carved tops

In 1962, Fender hired German luthier Roger Rossmeisl. Well known for his work at Rickenbacker, he was hired to develop acoustics initially, though Rossmeisl eventually grew into archtops and semi-acoustics as the head of Fender’s R&D Department. Rossmeisl was responsible for several of Fender’s mid to late ‘60s models, including the Coronado, Wildwood, Montego, and LTD. 

We are lucky to have a Fender LTD in our store, allowing us to examine the fine detail and careful artistry that characterizes this model. Rossmeisl, with the help of his assistant Philip Kubicki, hand-crafted this limited-production run, making only 36 LTDs over a couple of years. Ours is a 1972 and was #33. This beautiful guitar features a German-style carved body, highly flamed maple, and a special headstock design with mirrored Fender “F” logos. These are but a few intricate specifications that make this model so remarkable. To examine it more thoroughly, click here to read our blog post about this specific guitar and how we discovered something special under its carved top. 

A young Philip Kubicki, in his early days at the acoustics division

Though his independent contribution as a luthier was undeniable, Rossmeisl’s mentorship and partnership with Phil Kubicki was one of his most valuable steps at Fender. In 1964, after being hired by Rossmeisl, Kubicki began as a production worker in the company’s acoustics division. Initially, the two did not work side by side. However, one fateful day Rossmeisl called on Kubicki for some advice on aging metal, and soon after, Kubicki became Rossmeisl’s direct assistant. Kubicki states that “[their] main focus was LTD and Montego production, but [they] always seemed to have a special project going on the side.” Special projects they had going on the side indeed. Over the years, we have had the privileged opportunity to purchase many of these Fender oddities, the prototype/one-off experimental guitars that Kubicki spoke of in this quote. These projects are unique and nothing short of incredible Fender History.

“The main focus was LTD and Montego production, but we always seemed to have a special project going on the side.”

Philip kubicki

This first example is a 1967 Telecaster that is semi-hollow. It has a spruce top, zebra wood back, and a maple cap neck. The body is double-bound, like a Custom Telecaster. The inside of the body is similar to a Thinline as it is built with a center block, even though the top lacks an f-hole. This gives the appearance of a solid body while remaining remarkably light at just 4 lbs 15 oz. As a one-off guitar, this Tele is well-documented and featured in Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970 (Kelly et al.) and The Fender Telecaster (Duchossoir). This Telecaster, and most of the semi-hollow Fender rarities we have seen, seem to be prototypical or exploratory designs for the Thinline Telecaster. 

Our second example is a 1967 Stratocaster that is fully hollow and without contours. The top and back are crafted from red-stained zebra wood, with sides painted a shade of deep brown. Much like the spruce-top Tele before, this guitar is also double bound. 

It weighs only 6 lbs 7 oz, with a noticeable lightness the second you pick it up. Accompanying the body is an intensely flamed Jazzmaster-style neck with a bound fretboard and block inlays, topped with a large CBS-era headstock. You will notice that this guitar also lacks an f-hole, allowing for the same solid-body illusion we saw with the previous Telecaster.

Because Rossmeisl was once in charge of producing Fender’s Wildwood Acoustic line, and both he and Kubicki started in the acoustics department, it is only fitting they would develop this 1966 Telecaster in Wildwood Green. Fender’s Bill Carson even supposed that the duo used surplus Wildwood with this design.

This guitar may have the oddest combination of appointments out of all the prototypes in our store. Along with a bound body and Jazzmaster-style bound neck with block inlays, this guitar also features a Mustang tremolo system. The headstock has no Fender logo, though it is unclear why. There are two f-holes found on the front of the body, and one is even reversed, giving a mirrored effect! A custom-cut pickguard is fitted to the front of the body to make room for the second soundhole. The sides of this body are even painted in Sherwood Green. This guitar was featured in Guitar Player Magazine’s April 1992 issue and as a highlight in Electric Guitars and Basses: A Photographic History (Gruhn and Carter).

The pair loved experimenting with Telecasters, and this one from 1971 is another prime example. While the body may look like it is made of solid Zebrawood, this is another illusion. It is actually an ash body with a thick Zebrawood veneer applied to the top and back. The sides are painted brown, though, with time, the paint has worn away around the edges revealing the ash underneath. The high contrast of this grain pattern is paired with high contrast appointments, taking us back to the early 50s with this black pickguard and maple neck, complete with a walnut truss rod plug on the headstock. Even in their experimentation, Fender calls back to their roots.

Last is this jaw-dropping Circa 1970s “Stringer” Telecaster. Interestingly, this guitar did not leave the factory until 1975, after Kubicki and Rossmeisl left Fender. However, it was built by one or both of them while they were working in the R&D Dept. This Telecaster is strung together (hence the nickname) with many different kinds of wood used by Fender at the time. The body is made of Ash, Alder, Rosewood, Mahogany, etc., paired with an incredibly dark, solid Rosewood Neck. The neck and the black pickguard look to be appointments pulled from Fender’s Rosewood Telecaster design.  

All of the prototypical designs mentioned above were never pursued further. We have never seen other examples of these guitars (though if you have, send them our way!!). We are privileged to compare each of these oddities to the next, admiring how they are similar and how they differ. This is something that we wanted to share with you. We would give anything to go back and exist as a fly on the wall, watching Roger Rossmeisl, Phil Kubicki, and everyone in the R&D Dept at work crafting these creative instruments. Truly, stories like this one at Fender are what it’s all about for us.

Works Cited:

Gruhn, G., & Carter, W. (1994). Electric Guitars and Basses: A Photographic History. Miller Freeman Books.

Gruhn, G., & Carter, W. (1994, April). Rare Bird. Guitar Player Magazine.

Kelly, M., Foster, T., Kelly, P., & Kelly, P. (2011). The Golden Age of Fender, 1946-1970. Cassell Illustrated.

Duchossoir, A. R. (1992). The Fender Telecaster: The Detailed Story of America’s Senior Solid Body Electric Guitar. H. Leonard.

Works Consulted:

Image Credits:

The Anatomy Of Gibson’s Reverse Firebirds

Gibson’s Firebird series comprises eight models, two body styles, and dozens of varying appointments. Their Thunderbird basses follow suit with two models, also in two different body styles and appointments. Confused? You’re not alone. Undoubtedly, these models elicit the most questions from customers in our showroom. These questions range from the differences between the body styles to the variations between each model. So, we’re here to break it down with this easy-to-access guide! Hopefully, this will make your vintage guitar shopping experience a bit easier. This particular blog post is set to outline Reverse Style Firebirds specifically – but don’t fret, we’ll dive into more soon!

Gibson launched the Firebird and Thunderbird models in 1963. These guitars and basses were designed by Ray Deitrich, an automobile designer of the era. It is theorized that his design sought to capture the essence of vehicles back then: sleek lines, exaggerated curves, and an iconic logo. Just the same, it is clear they also went for a modern and cutting-edge shape to compete with Fender. Eventually, Gibson landed on their first iteration of the model, now known as the “Reverse” style Firebird.

The Reverse Firebird is a solid mahogany guitar with a neck-through construction. It features two pieces of mahogany glued together to form the neck and center of the body, with two “wings” applied on either side to make up the outer curves. The body construction would later change to a 7 piece laminate by the end of 1963: a five-piece neck and center with two wings. This design offered more structural support for the neck and headstock. These models were available with varying features, referred to as the Firebird I, III, V, or VII. With each number, the appointments grow increasingly embellished, a system that Gibson also used in their thinline ES series. All of these guitars were available in Sunburst as well as various Custom Colors. You’ll also notice that some of the earliest examples lack the Firebird emblem on the pickguard.

The following further breaks down each model’s specs:

I: The Firebird I showcases one single mini-humbucker pickup, which evolved from Epiphone’s New Yorker pickup that Gibson adopted when they purchased the company. The model was available with a stop bar wrap-around tailpiece and a short vibrola with a “spoon handle” term arm. The standard models featured dot inlays on an unbound rosewood fretboard, a raised holly veneer or “step” area on the headstock, and banjo-style tuners. Due to their single pickup, there is only one volume and one tone control. The hardware on the Firebird I is nickel at this time.

III: The Firebird III features the same body construction as the Firebird I, including a bound rosewood fretboard, dot inlays, raised holly veneer on the headstock, and banjo-style tuners. Further than that, the appointments change. Most examples shipped exclusively with short vibratos and metal “spoon handle” trem arms. They feature two mini-humbucker pickups rather than one, along with a three-way selector switch. The four knobs allow for volume and tone controls on each pickup. All of this hardware is also nickel, and the fretboard on the III is bound.

V: With the same body construction as its more simplified variations, the Firebird V is the first in the lineup that begins to feature more upscale trimmings. These features include trapezoid fretboard inlays made of pearloid, along with a long maestro Lyre vibrola with a plastic handle. Even with these upgrades, the V still showcased two mini-humbuckers, a three-way selector switch, and four knobs – just the same as the III. The hardware remained nickel on the Firebird V.

VII: The VII equates to the ES-355 in the world of Firebirds – the top-of-the-line offering being produced for this series. With the same body construction, the VII stands out due to its appointments. It has a bound ebony fretboard, and genuine Mother Of Pearl block inlays, as opposed to the pearloid, trapezoid inlays that you saw on the V. You’ll also see an upgrade from nickel to gold plated hardware here, and a whopping three mini-humbuckers. These guitars were wired similarly to a Les Paul Custom and also had a three-way selector switch and four knobs. Lastly, it featured a gold Lyre Vibrola with a plastic handle.

When shopping for Reverse Gibson Firebirds between 1963 and 1965, be sure to keep these appointments in mind. And remember, there are exceptions to every rule! Gibson, like Fender, was no stranger to making things work for an order when necessary or customizing a guitar for a buyer. When in doubt, ask a specialist to make sure you are buying the best gear possible for you! In our next blog on Firebirds, we’ll look at what is now known as the “Non-Reverse” body style and the changes you see compared to the first iteration. Plus, we’ll dive into Gibson’s elusive Custom Colors!

For a quick reference, we’ve made the following images to aid in what to look for:

Gretsch’s Flightless Birds: A Quest for Solid-bodied Success

Throughout the Great Guitar Boom of the early 1950s, many companies like Fender and Gibson began gearing production towards solid-bodied electric guitars. The legendary rivalry between Fender and Gibson is one for the ages, however these two guitar giants we not the only ones on the cutting edge of this new field. Often overlooked, there was another major player experimenting at this time: Gretsch. 

Located not too far from the Williamsburg Bridge at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn, NY, was Gretsch’s main facility. Gretsch had been manufacturing acoustic guitars since the 1930s and archtop style guitars since late 1949, kicking off their archtop offerings with the Electromatic Spanish Model, a semi-acoustic guitar that featured a lone DeArmond pickup. 

The following year, Fender released the market’s first mass-produced, solid-body guitar, the Broadcaster. Coincidentally, this was a copyrighted Gretsch name as their “Broadkaster” drum and acoustic line. Following a telegram, Fender eventually renamed their model to the Telecaster by 1952. Almost simultaneously, Gibson released their iteration of a solid-bodied electric guitar: the Les Paul. The success of the Telecaster and the Les Paul models and their respective companies was too much for Gretsch to miss out on. So, in 1953, Gretsch released their Model 6128: the Duo-Jet.

The Duo-Jet was crafted with a mahogany body, routed to make space for the electronics, and topped with a sheet of maple to create a more “solid” feel. Sales for this model were nothing to write home about, but that all changed in 1954 with the arrival of Gretsch’s own “Les Paul”; Chet Atkins. Atkins’ signature models, the hollow-bodied 6120 and to a much lesser degree its solid-bodied companion the 6121, brought Gretsch some much-needed success and recognition. Following this boom, it wasn’t long until Gretsch unveiled their top-of-the-line models: the White Falcon and White Penguin. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll focus primarily on both iterations of the White Penguin. 

First released alongside the White Falcon in 1956, the Penguin (Model 6134) was finished in white with multi-laminate binding. The outermost gold layer of the binding was actually repurposed Gretsch drum wraps. This ebony fretboard features neo-classical inlays on our single-cut model and the same on our double-cut. The headstock is finished off with gold-plated Grover Imperials. In fact all of the hardware on this model is gold plated, a careful touch that ties in with the gold in the binding. Electronically, this model is rich with two gold-plated Filter’tron pickups and accompanying volume and tone controls. The volume and tone knobs were inlaid with pearl, and Gretsch even went as far to include a “ruby” as a position indicator! Unlike many of these guitars, our single cut White Penguin is wired mono with two individual volume controls, a master volume, and a tone switch instead of the traditional potentiometer style knob. 

To summarize just how special, and just how rare these beautiful instruments are, our very own David Davidson sat down with Rod Brakes of Guitarist Magazine:

“I’ve had two straight single-cuts and one double-cut in my life, but I’ve seen several that had numerous problems, including broken headstocks, and/or strange appointments that I would hesitate to authenticate.

“I’ve seen two ’58 White Penguins. But I wasn’t convinced the other one was 100 percent real. Not a lot of people know this, but if you magnify the original gold sparkle binding, each little sparkle should appear octagonal-shaped. When you look at reissues or others where the binding has been replaced, that isn’t the case because nobody makes that binding any more. You can’t get it anywhere. And because the celluloid binding on so many of these guitars shrinks and rots and breaks away, it’s very common to see Falcons and Penguins with pieces of binding missing. Most Gretsch guitars from this period are starting to develop problems, although these two are very much intact.

“So, I’m very happy to have them in the store. They really are the Holy Grail of Gretsch collectors.”

Works Cited

Signed, Carved, and Numbered: A Full Examination of our Rare 1972 Fender LTD

Picture this: one day, you’re scrolling online doing a bit more research about a 1972 Fender LTD you’ve just received in stock. You’re just about ready to stop, believing you’ve found sufficient information…until you come across a 1999 Vintage Guitar Magazine article written by Philip Kubicki.

You casually skim the paragraphs, looking for insight from the man who helped build the guitar beside you. Finally, you read a line and pause. Five minutes later, the LTD is on a workbench, and you’re carefully positioning a mirror inside the F-Hole, trying to catch a glimpse of something special underneath that german-carved top. 

Fender’s LTD was a limited production model offered for only a couple of years. Each guitar was hand-crafted by Fender’s Research & Development Head, Roger Rossmeisl, assisted by Phil Kubicki. Reading the Vintage Guitar Magazine article about this model, it is clear through Kubicki’s words that the two put intense time into this beautiful, intricate model. 

While the design of the LTD was similar to the Montego I and II, it was intended to be their highest-end model, rivaling the work of jazz guitar greats like John D’Angelico. Looking at the 1970 Catalog, Rossmeisl and Kubicki left no stone unturned or appointment unembellished when creating the LTD’s design. This is evident in the tremendous attention to detail demonstrated on each guitar. We are pleased to have a 1972 LTD in Sunburst in our store, allowing for a thorough examination of this ornate model. Ours is serial number 33. Only 36 LTDs were made, completed in batches of 6 at a time. This guitar would have been built with the last batch. Though a Natural finish was offered in the catalog, none were ever created.

This top is custom hand-carved spruce, with curly maple on the back and sides. The top and back carving was uniquely Rossmeisl’s and done in the German style. He learned this technique from his father and fellow luthier, Wenzel Rossmeisl. The neck matches the body in maple, coupled with an ebony fingerboard. Kubicki stated that the two imported the highest quality European wood possible to build these guitars, allowing for a better sound and lighter grain color. 

Each appointment is just as meticulous as the next. This “tilt-back” headstock is inlaid with Australian mother-of-pearl. Looking closely, you’ll notice that the decorative headstock design is the “F” from Fender’s logo, self-mirrored to convey hearts. This ivory nut is hand-cut and filed, and six gold-plated Grover rotomatic tuners round out the headstock design. This 20 fret, 25 ½” scale neck features 9 rectangular, custom-made inlays made of Australian Mother of Pearl. 

A custom ebony bridge was hand-fitted to the body, feeding into a gold-plated tailpiece with two ebony inserts. One proudly wears Fender’s signature “F.” This highly flamed pickguard is made of celluloid imported from Italy, carefully cut and bound by Rossmeisl. There are multiple binding layers around the body, neck, and headstock. All of the gold plating on this model is 24-karat.

The pair executed the electronics just as carefully. Rossmeisl and Kubicki tapped another Fender legend – Freddie Tavares – to design the pickups and circuitry for this model. This single pickup is a specialty humbucker completely shielded, grounded, and designed with a jazz sound in mind. The pickup is fitted with 6 individually adjustable pole pieces and, of course, gold plating. Mounted just under the neck, this humbucker is accompanied by Master volume and Master tone controls in the form of two small, black knobs mounted to the pickguard. The ¼” jack sits just below the knobs underneath the pickguard.  

Rossmeisl signed and dated a label applied to the inside of each guitar as his finishing stamp of approval. The labels were positioned right at the back so that you could see them through the F hole. The glue on our label has lost its tackiness over time but was carefully saved inside the case. We are thankful for this, as it allows for an even closer look. Although, as we would soon learn, Rossmeisl wasn’t the only one granting his signature to the model.

Kubicki’s insightful 1999 article had already given us crucial information about our 1972 Fender LTD. Yet, upon coming to the end of his first-hand account, he gave us one last golden nugget of knowledge. Kubicki quickly states, “I signed a few inside the top, so the only way to see my name is with a mirror.” It’s easy to miss in the article, bookended by names of Jazz greats that visited the luthiers in their shop.

This sentence led us inside our Fender LTD, using a lighted dental mirror to see if ours was one of the lucky few to receive Kubicki’s signature. While it seemed rare enough that we had one of only 36 LTDs made, could you imagine if this was one of the few guitars signed under the carved top as well?! After some positioning, we saw something… although we couldn’t quite determine what it was. It looked like a bit of scribble, maybe with a pencil, we figured. Once we got our mirror just right, this is what we discovered:

Amazingly, the inside of this guitar is signed not just by Phil Kubicki but also a second time by Roger Rossmeisl. It is even dated: 1971. We compared Rossmeisl’s signature on our LTD label to the one we found inside the top for further verification, and they match exactly. Finally, the anticipation that began building the second I read that sentence was over. Given its beauty, sound, and history, we loved this guitar from the moment we received it. But the excitement of this find took it to another level. This is a guitar with depth that reminds us why we love what we do.

Works Cited:

Catalog Scans Courtesy of:

Gear Breakdown: The Rolling Stones’ First Ed Sullivan Appearance

Image Courtesy of Getty Images

Though it wasn’t always this way, The Rolling Stones are synonymous with American culture. Despite being from the UK, this iconic group’s music, dance moves, and logo are all instantly recognizable in the United States and around the globe. The Stones entered the US music scene in 1964, an era now commonly referred to as the “British Invasion”, alongside groups like The Beatles and Hermans’ Hermits. 

At that time, The Ed Sullivan Show was the go-to program for up-and-coming artists performing their latest releases. For many, it was their first exposure to true fame and success. The Stones first appeared on Sullivan’s show on October 25, 1964, just a few months after gaining momentum in the United Kingdom. Knowing just how impactful this international exposure could be for their careers, when the show’s production team invited them to perform on October 7, 1964, it was a no-brainer. The Stones performed two songs that evening, both Chuck Berry covers, of “Around and Around” and “Time Is On My Side”. The group fought to be heard over the audience’s screams. In fact, the crowd was so enthusiastic that after the final performance of the evening, the conversation between Mick Jagger and Ed Sullivan was barely audible! It was a smashing success, and though some viewers had found their relaxed and casual style unsettling, the numbers spoke for themselves. Their following Fall tour sold over $1M in tickets. 

Image Courtesy of Alamy Stock Photos

Aside from their talent, The Rolling Stones have played some of the most legendary instruments. In this particular Ed Sullivan performance, Brian Jones can be seen playing his prototype Vox MK III “Teardrop” guitar in White. This guitar is known for having a Stratocaster bridge and tremolo block that was cut specifically to fit the thickness of the body. The “Teardrop” was his go-to throughout 1964 and 1965, along with his shaggy haircut!

Bill Wyman’s German-made Framus Star Bass can be seen regularly in the group’s early days of performing, so much so that it is often lovingly referred to as a “Stone-Bass”.

And last, but certainly not least, Keith Richards is seen playing a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with a Bigsby. Perhaps one of the most desired collectible instruments, the Les Paul had not yet become the holy grail it is today. Richards’ use of the “Burst” during this performance helped push these guitars into the forefront of desirability, where it has stayed for decades.

Though this is not Keith Richards’s 1959 “Burst”, this one is available at Well Strung Guitars!

This trio, along with drummer Charlie Watts, created the perfect background for frontman Mick Jagger. This perfect lineup catapulted them into American music royalty. In total, the group performed on The Ed Sullivan Show a total of six times, each appearance playing another massive hit with some of our favorite guitars and basses…but we’ll talk more about that later 😉

Guitar Highlights: Oscar Moore’s Fender Nocaster

It’s hard to find a guitar more incredible than this. Not only is it the first custom-color Fender made through their factory production line, but it is also the first Fender guitar to receive gold hardware – a true luxury next to Fender’s usual nickel. All of this feels unreal but yet, here it is! This 1951 Nocaster is painted in White. You might wonder why we’re not referring to it as Fender’s Olympic White, and that’s because it’s unlikely that this color existed under that name so early in Fender’s history.

As for this guitar’s owner: legendary jazz guitarist, Oscar Moore. He played alongside Nat “King” Cole in his trio for many years. While Moore had allegedly fallen out of touch with the group sometime around 1947, below he is pictured playing with Cole in 1951. Surely enough, he is using this very Nocaster, looking pristine in its brand-new condition. Though there was very little documentation of Moore playing Fender guitars at this time, this photo was taken by Mr. Leo Fender himself…a rare sighting indeed!

Photo Credit: “A Modernist” Blog

Moore was primarily a Gibson arch top player, but Leo had this guitar made for him with custom appointments that included the White color, gold hardware, and a clear Lexan Pick guard painted with gold leaf on the underside. At the time, Leo was interested in attracting the jazz box crowd to play his guitars. Moore was very popular then and Don Randall, the President of Fender Sales, thought he would be the perfect fit to popularize their new, electric solid-body model. In a letter from 1953, Don Randall writes to Syd Heller of Columbia Music Company about how to attract more jazz players to Fender guitars and quotes Mr. Moore, who said it was the fastest guitar neck he had ever played!

Photo Credit: “A Modernist” Blog

This really is such a special piece with amazing provenance. Aside from its historical pedigree, the guitar has since been featured on the cover of Guitarist Magazine in the UK while it was at the Songbirds Guitar Museum. This spread includes pictures and a full feature on the story of this guitar as well!

Guitarist Magazine Cover from January of 2018 featuring Oscar Moore’s ’51 Nocaster

This history-filled Nocaster is available for sale now at Well Strung Guitars. Call us for more information – serious inquiries only, please. You can reach us at 516.221.0563 or

The Greatest Guitar Finds: “O’ Canada”

In 2001, I purchased the greatest 1959 Gibson Les Paul that I have ever touched. I remember it like it was yesterday…the phone call that provided me with one of the best Bursts I would ever have in our store.

It starts with my friend Francis* and his girlfriend Danielle*, who lived in Montreal, Canada. Every so often, Francis would come up with a guitar for me and I would pay him a “finders fee”. Through these dealings, we had become fairly good friends and one day he called me and told me an unlikely, yet incredible story…

Francis and Danielle had been on the couch watching TV late one night when Francis fell asleep. Danielle flipped the channel and landed on  “Swap & Shop”, a local shopping program that offered various privately saleable items. This could include anything from cars to home furnishings and more. That night, a listing came up for a 1959 Les Paul with an asking price of $2,000, being sold by the original owner. She jumped up, immediately taking the phone number down, and woke Francis. He initially waved her off, certain that the guitar would be a reissue or have something wrong with it. Danielle insisted that he call to be sure. He blew it off, but in the morning she brought it up again. Francis gave in and called. Against all odds, on the other end of the phone was an older gentleman who had purchased the guitar new in 1959. Francis moved quickly: he got up, dressed, and left to meet the man immediately. Upon arriving, he was blown away to find that it was, in fact, a 1959 Les Paul…the “holy grail” of electric guitars.

1959 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst (Burst): “O’ Canada”

Since it was 2001, $2,000 was an unbelievable price for a guitar like this. Francis excitedly called me within a few short hours of his purchase and told me this whole story.  Francis told me that he would never get a deal like this again and wanted to sell me the guitar. He asked me, sight unseen if I would pay him $200,000 for this guitar ensuring me that it was one of the nicest Les Pauls he’d ever seen. He mentioned to me that this may be his only chance at a “home run” find and that this would help him send his kids to college. I said, “Well if it’s everything you say that it is, I would have no problem paying that to you.” I trusted him because if there’s one thing about Francis, he knew guitars!

I felt it was important to go see this guitar in person, so I booked a flight on Air Canada and arrived roughly 8 hours after our initial conversation. We went to his flat, and the moment I saw the guitar, I immediately knew it was well-played but perfectly original. To this day, the top is one of the greatest tops I’ve seen on a Burst. It’s got multiple layers of deep flame and it’s faded to a beautiful honey burst. Upon inspecting the guitar and seeing that it was everything Francis said it would be, I paid him on the spot and flew the guitar back to New York with me that day. I had the guitar for a while before it went into the Songbirds collection. It resided there for years, though it hadn’t been displayed while the museum was open. 

When the Songbirds Museum closed, I was lucky enough to get this guitar back. I’ve had well over 100 Sunburst Les Pauls made between 1958-1960 in my life and let me tell you, this is THE one. If I was still in the business of collecting guitars rather than selling them, this would be the one I would take to my is fantastic in every way. While “Bursts” are nearly always referred to as the “Holy Grail” of electric guitars, not every single one plays great, looks great, and sounds great. Like any other manufactured item, there are good ones and bad ones. This one happens to be the most exceptional one I have had the privilege of owning. While this Burst is on hold for a client, we are thrilled to have this story to share with you all.

For information on any of the Bursts in our inventory, call us at 516.221.0563!

* Names have been changed for privacy purposes.

Guitar Highlights: George Fullerton’s 1954 Stratocaster

A few months ago, there we all stood; awestruck as we opened a mint tweed case and thrilled as we studied what was inside. We are honored to have this opportunity, and lucky to write about this very special instrument recently added to our inventory. This is George Fullerton’s 1954 Fender Stratocaster, a one-of-a-kind piece of history. 

George Fullerton was the Vice President of Production for Fender Musical Instruments. This Stratocaster was made as a gift for him, and it is truly like no other. The insane flame on this one-piece Ash body is coupled with an equally flamed maple neck and matching Sunburst headstock. Past its clear physical beauty, this guitar also features a few unique appointments. These pickup covers are original Black bakelite prototypes, and this special control plate positions the volume and tone knobs closer to the edge of the body than a standard production Strat. This plate is made of “camera case” plastic and was designed to allow easier playing for Mr. Fullerton, due to his larger hands. The guitar also features chrome instead of nickel-plated hardware, something that is completely unique to this Fender instrument.

As the story goes, Mr. Fullerton was gifted this guitar by Fender employees for creating the Stratocaster production line, therefore ensuring more hours of employment for those building the new model. Under the pickguard, you will find special markings including Mr. Fullerton’s initials and the production date of the guitar. This Stratocaster is virtually unplayed and still retains its original center pocket tweed case which is also in incredible condition. We are fortunate to have several books that show Mr. Fullerton with this guitar as well as a grainy video of Mr. Fullerton discussing it.

The price of ownership for this museum-quality guitar with bulletproof provenance is not for the faint of heart, but we promise that you will definitely be the only kid on your block that has one! For more information, give us a call at 516.221.0563.

Swiden’s Stunning Sparkles: Fender’s Sparkle Finishes

Some of the guitars we’re very fortunate to have in our collection are an array of extremely rare, original 50s and 60s Sparkle Fenders! These finishes feature large metallic “flecks” that give each guitar a glitzy effect. This style of painting was and is extremely popular in the automotive industry, from its invention to this very day. To understand the popularity and creation of the Sparkle guitar, one must look at the cultural landscape of California in the late 50s and early 60s. “Hot Rod” Car Culture and Surf music was all the rage at this time in Southern California, and musicians were keen to incorporate this culture into their instruments.

Our very own David Davidson spoke about Sparkle Guitars in Guitarist Magazine: “[Fender was] in Fullerton, California, and all that stuff was happening around them. So naturally, the idea of painting your guitar to look like a hot rod was a cool thing.”

The metallic fleck used in custom sparkle finishes differs from standard colors like Candy Apple Red or Lake Placid Blue, as the metallic particles in the former are much larger. With the chunkier fleck, you can see the texture underneath the clear, and almost feel it on some instruments. While these sparkles were still factory original guitars, Fender’s paint guns were not equipped to spray these rare finishes in-house until 1966. As a result, Fender built the bodies and then outsourced the finishes to the one place they knew could perfect them: auto body shops. Once the bodies were finished, Fender took them back into the factory to complete the electronics. Various shops were tasked with this important job and one artist, Dennis Swiden, is known to have painted a number of Sparkle finishes for Surf players, including Dick Dale and Eddie Bertrand. Dennis worked out of his parent’s furniture store and was close with many of the artists. Many one-off examples of Sparkle guitars were made for these popular artists, and we’re very lucky to have a few in our collection. One example we have even features crushed glass rather than glitter as the “fleck” to really add another dimension to the sparkle and texture.

Authenticating a sparkle finish as an original is no easy task, as no two are alike. We’re lucky enough as a store to possess multiple confirmed originals, allowing us to compare. However, each requires research, history, and even senses to authenticate. It can be anything from texture, smell, what we can see under the paint, and what we don’t. Because of this, and the amount of non-original pieces, authenticating Sparkles is one of the hardest tasks. Even so, here at Well Strung Guitars, we’ve done our homework so you can take one home with peace of mind! Give us a call today to add one of these jewels to your collection! 516-221-0563

Photos Courtesy of Facebook Group, “Dennis Swiden in Memory Of” and