I love old vintage guitars,
but they’re so dang expensive
these days. So instead
of shelling out big bucks for
a vintage Gibson or Fender,
many bottom feeders like me
turn to the secondary brands
like Silvertone, Harmony, and
Kay. But in recent years, even
these have skyrocketed in price.
What’s a tight-fisted picker to
do? Get creative, of course!
I was at a vintage guitar show
in Los Angeles about 15 years
ago when I spotted an old Supro
case hiding underneath a dealer’s
table. Whoa—inside was a ’50
Supro Dual Tone. The guitar
was in parts, so I had to be careful
not to get burned. Almost
all the parts seemed to be there
except for the original bridge
and part of the lower pickguard,
which was missing in action.
The dealer wanted $125, but
I talked him down to $90 and
took it home, happy I had something
to show after spending a
day at a high-priced guitar show.
I took the parts to my favorite
L.A. repairman, John Wescott,
who shook his head when he saw
what I had, mumbling something
like “Oh man, here we go
again.” He told me to take two
aspirin and call him in a week.
When the guitar was ready, I
was blown away at the restoration
job John had done. For
the missing wooden bridge, he
installed a used, gold-plated
Tune-o-matic. This was a real
improvement as it allowed more
precise intonation than the
fixed saddle that originally came
with the instrument.
To replace the missing section
of the pickguard, John masterfully
fabricated a new piece from
another pickguard, carefully
cutting the plastic to match the
unique swooping design. The
only thing he said he didn’t want
to do was extend the white racing
stripe from the existing pickguard
to the newly fabricated
section. He said that would cost
me way more anyway.
His bill was a bargain at $75,
so for a total of $165, I got a
cool ’50s guitar. At the time,
Supro Dual Tones were priced
at $400–$500. Nowadays, these
go for $1,200–$1,800. I felt
great about saving money, but I
felt even better that I’d brought
an otherwise unusable instrument
back to life.
Bottom Feeder tip #344:
Always make friends with a
skilled repairman who has reasonable
rates. A pro with the workbench
can really save the day.
So how do I like it? Old
Supros have fat necks, and for
the uninitiated this can take
some getting used to, but I find
it’s actually really fun to play. I
just love the guitar’s looks, and
the graduated tailpiece on these
models is especially cool. But
the pickups are the real prize
here, and they just ooze vintage
tone. It’s definitely a keeper.
1. My 1957 Supro Dual Tone after being rebuilt. Notice the retrofitted Tune-omatic bridge. 2. The lower portion of the pickguard was missing when I bought the guitar. Here’s a close-up of the repaired pickguard with its new control section.
3. Link Wray—a pioneer of electric guitar distortion and instrumental mayhem— with his Supro Dual Tone. 4. Supro outfitted the Dual Tone with a carved, compensated wooden bridge similar to a vintage archtop. Photo courtesy of justgreatguitars.com.
is a founding
member of the
trio. He also does guitar
clinics promoting his
namesake G&L signature
model 6-string, and produces
artists and bands at his studio in
Asheville, North Carolina. You can contact
Will on Facebook and at willray.biz