Wizard of Odd

This flashy, hard-to-find guitar looks great, but how does it sound?

Recently, my son and I have discovered a passion for sports-card collecting. I remember being a young lad and riding my bike down to the corner store, where I chased my dream of completing the entire set of 1985 Topps football cards. This summer, we’ve been going through my old card collection, and he and I have been visiting local card shows and conventions. If you haven’t collected cards since the ’80s, you’re in for a surprise. There are a multitude of different card makers and different series within each yearly run, plus some hard-to-find variations. It’s mind-boggling. We’ve been really digging a particular Topps baseball set because it’s modeled after the 1952 card design—you know I love vintage—and every pack has a chance, albeit slim, of including a low-numbered Mickey Mantle card. This card is super rare, but every time we open a pack there is this thrill that just makes me smile.

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With such a flashy flame top, the Silvertone 1445 was built to catch the eyes of department store shoppers.

I don’t know what’s going on lately, but I’m breaking down all over and my shoulder is the latest to crumble. When I was a kid I would practice guitar in my bedroom near a radiator with an ungrounded amp plug and I’d get a zap right through my guitar and into my hands. Well, my shoulder pain is like that now, only without the cool story of rock ’n’ roll survival. I simply woke up one day like this. After a few weeks of discomfort, I figured I’d try out a new pillow, since mine are flattened like a wafer. I ventured out to the mall and, much to my sadness, saw the local Sears store shuttered, with weeds growing up from the sidewalks and concrete barriers blocking the large glass doors. I know I don’t get out much, but, man, was I sad to see the Sears store I’d known since childhood closed-up like that. My wife was laughing at me because apparently it had been closed for some time. But since I seem to exist on a separate timeline than most folks, it was all news to me.

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This 1965/’66 Univox UC 12-string, with its angular body, mechanical-looking bridge, and funky 2-piece pickguard, looks sprung from a space-age fever dream.

H. Noble’s Univox guitars were funky and forward-thinking, and they remain so today.

I never seem to get rid of anything, including clothes. I have Vans from the ’80s that my son swears are worth a “ton of money,” and I have t-shirts dating way back. Since I never embraced fads, most of my old clothes are retro cool—according to my daughter, at least. The other day she was going through some aged t-shirts of mine and managed to claim a whole pile as her own. I looked through the shirts she liked, and among them I saw a Univox shirt, which I had totally forgotten about, but I quickly recalled that angular logo. (Man, the Univox Super-Fuzz is still my favorite all-time fuzz pedal.)

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Few might invest in an old Kay as deeply as our columnist, but, in his case, it paid off.

When I was in my early days of researching guitar history, I embraced all sorts of guitars from all over the place, from kitchen countertop guitars to cheap rusty resonator jobs. I really had no focus whatsoever. Every topic, as it related to guitars, was rather fascinating. Eventually, though, I moved towards crazy electrics and away from folksy acoustics. I wanted loud, interesting, and rare, and in my eyes acoustic guitars were all sort of the same. I know, I know … they aren’t the same at all. But in the 1960s, acoustic guitars were copies of copies, and they just never really held my interest. For this month, when I was tasked to write about an acoustic guitar, the choice was easy since I only own one.

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