When it comes to rosewood, there’s a wide variety out there—which makes identifying it a bit of a challenge. On this K. Yairi guitar, the type of tonewood remains a mystery.
The jacaranda trees that line Australian sidewalks with bright violet blooms are a famous variety, but around the world, the name “ jacaranda ” can refer to many different plants. In Brazil, the word encompasses an incredible variety of shrubs and trees, including some species of rosewood .
There, “ jacarand á -da-Bahia ” is a common name for Brazilian rosewood. These so-called jacaranda trees of the Bahia region are, scientifically speaking, Dalbergia nigra , and when the full phrase is used, you can be sure that’s what you’re getting. But this phrase, too, can be shortened to “jacaranda” alone.
Now, why am I treating you to a lesson in the naming conventions of flora? Because to vintage guitar fans, true Brazilian rosewood—rather than just some rosewood from Brazil, like cocobolo—is what we might call “ the good stuff .”
Martin used it religiously until 1970. Fender’s famous slab fretboards were made from it. The stuff is so good, in fact, that its international trade has been protected for many decades, most formally through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
This ’70s K. Yairi guitar’s slotted headstock is one of the features that indicate that it was inspired by Nashville's Grammer acoustics from that era.
Photos courtesy of Reverb/DK Factory
So if a guitar trader tells you, “This is built with jacaranda,” that could mean it’s honest-to-goodness Brazilian rosewood. It could also mean it’s cocobolo or even Honduran rosewood, which picked up the nickname “new jacaranda,” confusingly enough, when it started being used as a substitute for Dalbergia nigra .
Which brings us to the matter at hand: the 1974 YW-800G built by K. Yairi, featured in this edition of Vintage Vault. Up for sale on Reverb now through the Tokyo-based seller DK Factory, the YW-800G has an all-rosewood body that makes a striking impression. But what kind of rosewood is it? Do I need a CITES permit if I’m going to buy it?
“For a moment, I thought, is this majestic-looking instrument far more common than I knew?”
Many guitarists know Kazuo Yairi’s name through his long association with Alvarez, starting in the late ’60s. With a small team and time-honored craftsmanship, Yairi earned a reputation as a master luthier, whether his guitars were tagged Alvarez-Yairi, Alvarez (with his signature on the label), or another brand, like his own K. Yairi. In the ’70s, many K. Yairi guitars were Martin copies, and great ones at that. Some resemble the spartan D-18; others are as decked out as a D-45.
So, what should we make of this YW-800G? It has enough abalone in its inlays and binding to go toe to toe with any top-tier Martin. Its ebony fretboard, hand-carved mahogany neck, and Grover tuners fit in with that hallowed lineage. Underneath, Yairi’s unique approach to scalloped X-bracing is still Martin-esque in character. But the outrageous curves of its slotted headstock and bridge, that almost batwing pickguard…. These features aren’t from Nazareth—they’re straight out of Nashville, taken from that city’s own Grammer acoustics, which were then popular with country artists.
I’ll confess, when one of these YW-800Gs recently landed on Reverb, I didn’t think I’d ever seen such a guitar. A few days later, a second one appeared, leading to a quick double take. For a moment, I thought, is this majestic-looking instrument far more common than I knew?
These Grover tuners are one design element that match Martin guitars, which many K. Yairi models mimicked in the ’70s.
Photos courtesy of Reverb/DK Factory
Thoroughly curious, I went back through old Reverb listings and confirmed—this is a rare breed indeed. Only a handful of similar K. Yairis have popped up for sale in Reverb’s decade-long history, ranging in price from about $1,500 to this $2,500 version. (Interestingly, the YW-800G has crossed decades of construction, made as early as 1973, and as recently as 2014.) But back to the question of the hour: What exact wood did Yairi use to make this wonderful rosewood body? The answer is, unfortunately, not fully forthcoming.
There’s a 1980 K. Yairi catalog that shows the model. There, we can tell that it sold for 80,000 yen at the time, or about $400 (roughly $1,500 in today’s dollars). But the specs and features are in Japanese, naturally, which doesn’t help us here. Alvarez-Yairi catalogs from the era written in English provide more clues. They use “jacaranda” and “rosewood” as distinct words, referring to different types of wood. For example: “Three piece back has two panels of jacaranda; center panel is select grain rosewood.”
Given this, and given the budget-friendly price point, I think it’s safe to assume that K. Yairi’s jacaranda is not, in fact, proper Brazilian rosewood ( Dalbergia nigra ), though you’d be hard-pressed to spot the difference. With such good looks and a beautiful sound, it might not even matter that it’s just some rosewood from Brazil instead—especially if that means it gets through customs unscathed.Sources: Reverb listings and Price Guide data, K. Yairi’s 1980 Hand Crafted Folk Guitar catalog, Alvarez Guitars’ catalog for the 1976 United States bicentennial, America Sings: Commemorating 200 Years.
It's Here! Grab your Mystery Stocking Below.
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more MSRP.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 12, 2023.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, one per person, so more people can get in on the fun!
Thank you to this year's sponsors!
On this month’s menu, a ’64 SG TV and a ’68 EB-0—prime examples of the company’s classic mahogany slab designs.
The successful sales of the Les Paul model, launched in 1952, convinced Gibson to expand its solidbody line to include a variety of guitars aimed at players from beginner to professional. This led to the introduction of both the low-priced, flat-bodied, single-pickup Les Paul Junior and the high-priced, elaborately appointed Les Paul Custom in July 1954. By 1955, the Les Paul line also included the Les Paul TV (aka TV Yellow) and the Les Paul Special. The Les Paul Special, TV, and Junior became double cutaway by 1958.
This close-up shows both instruments in remarkably good condition, as well as their to-the-point electronics.
By 1960, waning sales for Gibson’s original Les Paul guitars prompted the company to completely redesign them. The Les Paul Standard and Custom joined the Junior, TV, and Special as part of Gibson’s line of slimmed-down mahogany-body guitars. They were reshaped to include pointed horns and beveled outer sides. The new double-cutaway body left easy access to all 22 frets. The already double-cutaway, flat-slab-bodied Les Paul Junior, SG TV, and SG Special received the new dimensions and contours during 1961. (The Les Paul TV and Les Paul Special had been renamed “SG” in late 1959.) This whole group of guitars became known as the SG Series when Les Paul’s endorsement ended in 1963.
Gibson introduced its first electric bass guitar in 1953 and named it the ‘Electric Bass.’ (Catchy, right?)
The SG TV’s early catalog description explained the important details: “ Ultra-thin, contoured, double-cutaway body, nickel-plated metal parts, quality machine heads. Slim, fast, low-action neck-with exclusive extra-low frets—joins body at the 22nd fret. One-piece mahogany neck, adjustable truss rod. rosewood fingerboard, pearl dot inlays. Combination bridge and tailpiece, adjustable horizontally and vertically. Powerful pickup with individually adjustable polepieces. ” The original price for the 1964 SG TV pictured was about $147.50. The current value is $5,000. The guitar was the soul of simplicity, with a single bridge P-90 and one volume and one tone control.
And now, let’s look at our SG’s 4-stringed friend. Gibson introduced its first electric bass guitar in 1953 and named it the “Electric Bass.” (Catchy, right?) It was followed by various EB models over the next several years, including the semi-hollow EB-2 in 1958 and the double-cutaway solidbody EB-0 in 1959. By 1961, the EB series also received the thin SG-shaped body.
This 100-watt Marshall PA head, with four sets of inputs, is rare and currently valued at about $10,000.
The 1966 catalog describes the latter model as “ a new, economy-priced solidbody bass by Gibson—it offers clear sustaining bass response, easy fast playing action, modern cherry red finish. ”Although a custom color option is not mentioned, the 1968 example pictured is finished in a white similar to the SG TV. Like it’s SG counterpart on display this month, this bass has a single pickup and one volume and one tone control. The original price was about $240. The current value is $2,500.
Behind the instruments is a 1967 Marshall PA. This 1968 JTM100 Super PA head pushes 100 watts through two columns of four 12"20-watt Celestion greenback speakers. The controls on the head are power and standby switches, presence, bass, middle, and treble, plus four loudness controls for each channel, along with two input jacks each for channels 1 through 4. About £200 in British currency could get you this PA in 1967. The current value is $10,000.
Sources for this article include Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years by A.R. Duchossoir, Gibson Guitars: Ted McCarty’s Golden Era—1948-1966 by Gil Hembree, and The History of Marshall: The First Fifty Years by Michael Doyle and Nick Bowcott.
Patterned on Mosrite’s Joe Maphis model, this luxurious guitar is truly one of a kind.
Before the Mosrite brand was born, its founder, Semie Moseley, was just an independent luthier trying to make a splash. In the same way Paul Reed Smith pitched his pre-factory builds to Carlos Santana and Heart’s Nancy Wilson , Moseley found his first golden ticket in a Southern Californian picker by the name of Joe Maphis.
Back in the mid-1950s, Moseley got fired from Rickenbacker after making a guitar of his own. Soon after, he built a three-necked amalgamation that contained a standard guitar, an octave guitar (one octave higher), and a mandolin—all in a single solidbody electric. The goal was to attract attention, and attract attention it did.
Joe Maphis was a flashy country player who led the Town Hall Party radio show, which was beamed all over Southern California and into Northern Mexico. Maphis requested a double-neck version (without the mandolin), and from then on Moseley was a known entity, crafting about one custom instrument a month for years.
This close-up brings the brass nut, elegant binding, Grover tuners, and sterling silver headstock inlay into focus.
Later, in 1960, Maphis got a proper Moseley-made signature model, with a body that looked like an upside-down Stratocaster . In the early ’60s, the Ventures—the top-selling instrumental rock group who helped codify surf music—became Mosrite’s distributor. They took a Maphis-style signature guitar as their own, and created a rush of capital and orders.
Johnny Ramone’s 1965 Mosrite Ventures II model fetched nearly $1 million at auction in 2021.
Business went up, business went down. Mosrite’s distributor agreements and parent companies came and went. As Moseley wrote to clients and inquirers in 1986: “Some day, in the near future, the Semie Moseley and Mosrite Guitar story will be in process. It will read like a fairytale—a drama—a love story; from rags to riches—to rags—to the fight back, from one major tragedy to another, from the very beginning through its evolution to the 1980s.”
But by then, despite the vagaries of the musical instruments industry, Moseley was back doing what he had always done best: building incredible custom guitars. And that’s where we pick up the story for this month’s Vintage Vault find.
Walnut pickup rings machined to match the bird’s-eye maple body surround these split-coil humbuckers.
After Maphis’ death in 1986, Moseley created this one-of-a-kind beauty for a friend, Ross Coan Jr. While standard Joe Maphis models had spruce tops and single-coil pickups, this Maphis-style custom build has a bird’s-eye maple top and unique split-coil humbuckers. But it retains the bound neck and beveled edges that Moseley must have learned first-hand from Rickenbacker’s Roger Rossmeisl, along with the angled neck pickup, metal nut, dual-knob, and 3-way pickup-selector switch of Moseley’s previous models. And the headstock and fretboard inlays are sterling silver.
Take a look at those pickup rings, too, which—unlike pickup rings on nearly any other custom guitar—are remarkably gorgeous and carved out of a wood that perfectly complements the maple top. Obviously, Moseley put a great deal of care and consideration into this build. He even stamped the name and date of birth of his friend at the very last fret and inscribed the back of the headstock: “Hand made for Ross Coan Jr. by Semie Moseley 1986.”
It’s impossible to put a price on what this guitar would’ve cost back then. Whether it was a gift or a commission, it was a labor of love—a late-career testament to Moseley’s guitar-building prowess.
The back of this unique guitar is made of figured walnut.
George Gruhn writes that Moseley’s pre-Ventures custom guitars are highly sought-after by collectors. Johnny Ramone’s 1965 Mosrite Ventures II model fetched nearly $1 million at auction in 2021. But most production-era Mosrites—those that were not played by famous musicians—often sell on Reverb in the range of several thousand dollars.
Moseley signed and dated the headstock of this guitar built for his friend Ross Coan Jr.
This custom build from Moseley himself, who died just a few years later, in 1992, is currently listed for $12,500.
Sources include Reverb listings and pricing data, American Guitars: An Illustrated History by Tom Wheeler, and Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars .
This JTM45 is an amp of which rock and blues dreams are made on.
So often in the world of guitar and amp design, the earliest innovations are hard to improve upon. Companies spend years and countless dollars trying to tweak the formula just to wind up back where they started. The Telecaster still looks virtually the same 75 years later, and Marshalls are still the gold standard for classic rock ’n’ roll amplification.
This 1966 JTM45 might be the “holy grail” of Marshall heads. For most of 1965, the JTM45 featured the block logo design. This example sports the newly introduced and now familiar script Marshall logo. This is also the second full year of the black levant Tolex still found on Marshall amps today. Later in 1966, the small-box 50-watt Marshall heads would replace the JTM45s, making these amps relatively short-lived in their original incarnation, despite all their early adopters. Original examples like this are incredibly hard to find in the States, especially in excellent, stock condition.
With a gold plexiglass front panel and white back panel, this amp certainly has the looks, but as with most things in life, it’s what’s inside that counts.
Off with its hood! Here’s the power tube and transformer array in this 56-year-old tone machine. It’s a simple but potent mix.
The folded-end aluminum chassis features the early style lay-down power transformer with a top-mounted voltage selector. A pair of KT66 power tubes complements three ECC83 preamp tubes and a GZ34 rectifier tube, delivering the singing, sweet sustain you hear on countless records. With two channels and high and low inputs for each, the amp offers several distinct sounds, including the popular choice produced by jumping the channels with a patch cable, to combine the best qualities of each. (The bright channel has a bright cap on the volume pot and a second cap bypassing the 270k mixing resistor, FYI.)
“The previous owner is a Nashville sideman who has backed up legends like Hank Williams Jr. and Jimmy Hall.”
The 2x12 combo configuration of this amplifier is thought to be the type of amp Eric Clapton used for the so-called “Beano album” with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, officially titled
Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton
and released in July 1966. Pete Townshend and other players had been using Marshall amps live for some time, but it was Clapton’s combination of a PAF-equipped 1960 Gibson
and a JTM45 amp, as well as his insistence that the engineers of the recording session pull the microphones back and allow him to turn his amplifier up, that introduced the world to what these amps could do. Soon all the guitar greats on the London music scene were flooding Jim Marshall with orders. Clapton’s early successors in the Bluesbreakers lineup, Peter Green and Mick Taylor, also used Marshall amps for their times in the band, forever linking the sound of a Marshall amp to the British blues explosion of the 1960s. Soon you could hear Marshalls on nearly every record coming from England, and subsequently in the recordings of generations of guitarists around the world that they inspired. Classic albums by Humble Pie, the James Gang, AC/DC, Jeff Beck, and ZZ Top all demonstrate the 45-watts of solid power of a JTM45. Even today, no studio would be complete without some kind of plexi-era Marshall.
As often happens with plexis, at some point a tech hand-wrote the ohm-output position numbers on the white rear plate of this vintage Marshall.
This amp walked into our store some time ago and has been in our private collection since, but it’s now for sale. The previous owner is a Nashville sideman who has backed legends like Hank Williams Jr. and Jimmy Hall. Its condition reflects its status as the prized possession of a working musician. It’s been played but very well maintained and is in pristine running order. These were built to last, and this amp has performed faithfully for many years.
In the endless pursuit of tone, so often it seems the sound many of us are chasing is the sound of this amplifier. No matter how many pedals claim to nail it, or how many boutique amps copy the circuit, there is simply nothing like plugging into a plexi-panel JTM45. These amplifiers are in many ways a musical instrument unto themselves and have no doubt inspired and shaped guitar-centric music for 60 years.