This Solo King features a Masonite body, a set neck, a single pickup, and a weird, oversized Gumby-style headstock.
1. Sporting the Old Kraftsman brand, the Solo King model was made by Kay from 1958 to 1960. Because of its shape, the guitar is also known as the “Map
of Ohio” model. 2. Tonewood? The Solo King is constructed with Masonite—a material consisting of steamed and pressure-molded wood fibers. But don’t
scoff: Vintage Danelectros were also made of Masonite, and they still play a role in rootsy music today. 3. The Solo King’s asymmetrical headstock leaves
plenty of room for the Old Kraftsman logo. 4. Wired to simple volume and tone knobs, the Solo King’s single “pancake” pickup sounds surprisingly cool.
It was like the Wild West during the
early days of eBay, and you could often
find some pretty interesting things out
there. I acquired this Old Kraftsman guitar
in the late ’90s and had to do some
research to figure out exactly what it was.
I discovered I had a Solo King, which is
also known as the “Map of Ohio” model
because of its shape. Selling for around $75
new, these were made by Kay between 1958
and 1960, and were considered budget
student-model guitars at the time. They are
slowly becoming collectible these days, yet
are still considered somewhat affordable. I
snagged this one for $107 plus $25 shipping.
I got it cheap because the seller had
zero feedback, and most buyers were afraid
of being ripped off by scam artists during
those early days of eBay. I wasn’t too worried
at the time because I emailed the seller
beforehand, got his phone number, and
chatted with him. He seemed alright to me.
Bottom Feeder Tip #285: These days
if you’re shopping on eBay, there’s no need
to be afraid of buying from someone with
zero feedback. As long as you use PayPal,
you’re protected on most purchases and
can get all of your money back plus shipping.
It’s pretty safe now.
This Solo King features a Masonite body,
a set neck, a single pickup, and a weird,
oversized Gumby-style headstock. The flat
“pancake” pickup actually sounds pretty
darned good. The bridge is cranked down
to its lowest setting, yet the action is quite
playable. There’s no adjustable truss rod,
but the neck is chunky and has near perfect
relief. The 19-fret neck is fairly comfortable
and the brass frets still have plenty of life left
on them, even after 50 years of battle.
I’m always amazed that companies could
make such good guitars back in the ’50s
from whatever they had available at the
time—like Masonite, in this case. The guitar
has a nice, fat tone that’s perfect for blues
and quirky rock projects. So is it a keeper?
You bet. Even if it didn’t play and sound so
good, it’s such a trip to look at!
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.