This rare English Tonemaster was made circa 1957.

The Valco-produced English Tonemaster is a rare, lap-steel-inspired gem from the 1950s—when genres and guitar design were fluid.

The 1950s were a peculiar time for the electric guitar. Innovators, designers, and tinkerers were pushing the boundaries of the instrument, while musicians were experimenting with various playing techniques and sounds. There was an evolution of sorts (or de-evolution, depending on your slant) from solidbody “sit-down” guitars, like pedal and lap steels, to “stand-up” or “upright” solidbody electrics. If you look at an early Fender catalog—let’s say from 1953—you’ll see the Telecaster (and Esquire), the Precision Bass, and then a whole bunch of steel guitars. There was a shift underway, and many manufacturers began to blur the lines of what a guitar should look, sound, and play like.

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The Vox V241 Bulldog is (almost) a dead ringer for a Mosrite, but plugging in reveals a mellower sound that is less Ventures and more … Pinky Perky and the Beakles?

I mention this all the time, but I have a real fascination with old music catalogs and print media. The other day, as I was perusing all my catalogs and magazines, I came across my grungy Vox catalog from 1966. The Beatles were on the cover! On page 6, the print reads: "Vox: It's what's happening to the world's top beat groups." The text goes on to list some rather interesting band names that must have been using Vox gear.

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The Firstman Liverpool Deluxe looks extreme, but would you believe it once appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show?

I've had this month's story on my shelf for quite some time, because I could really weave so many interesting threads and connections to this guitar. How does one honor a tremendous man with huge contributions to music when limited to a single page? But I'm feeling like it's time to tell at least part of the story behind one of the most interesting people I've ever met through my love of guitars.

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