Thursday, 2 June 2011

Kalamazoo KB bass from 1966
A couple of years ago when Gibson announced its plans to launch a decidedly Stratocaster-like signature Jimi Hendrix guitar with full support from his adoptive sister Janie Hendrix (see here), there was as outcry on the internet and the whole project was abruptly and conveniently swept under the carpet, Gibson acting as if it had never happened.

The reason for the outcry was two-fold. Many thought it was in poor taste, a crass attempt at cashing in on Hendrix's legacy. But many seemed shocked at the very idea of Gibson issuing a guitar so obviously based on a Fender design.

I was surprised at the fuss was being made over this secondary complaint, for this was nothing new. In the late 1980s, Epiphone - a subsiduary of Gibson - issued budget guitars based on the Stratocaster and Telecaster (which are NOT as "rare" as eBay sellers would have you believe). At around the same time Gibson themselves issued the US-1 and the U-2 - guitars firmly in the Superstrat mould.

Even before this in the mid to late 1960s, Gibson decided that they wanted a slice of Fender's success with their student models and from 1965 produced bolt-on neck guitar and bass models under the Kalamazoo brand (named after Gibson's original home of Kalamazoo, Michigan) which looked suspiciously similar to Fender's Mustang series. These were indeed budget instruments with bodies being made from Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF). It's not surprising that Gibson wanted a different brand name on them, which isn't to say they were bad as such, but that they didn't represent the usual high quality build that Gibson were known for.

In 1968 the design was changed so that the bodies took on more of a SG-inspired shape, but still used the same MDF construction with bolt-on Fender-esque neck. These were still being produced into the early 1970s.

Gibson continued to flirt with bolt-on neck designs throughout the 1970s and 80s. These included the S-1, the timber and composite resin bodied Sonex, the L6-S, the unexplainably weird-shaped Corvus, etc, but with the exception of the latter named these all had more of a familiar Gibson look to them and wouldn't be mistaken for a Fender or derivative thereof.

The above-pictured 1966 Kalamazoo KB bass in Las Vegas Blue is currently being offered for sale on eBay and looks to be in fine condition for a student model of its vintage. It had a starting bid of $0.99 and has been attracting a fair few bids. I don't think it's going to sell for big bucks but these Kalamazoos have certainly been generating a lot of interest in recent years.

With thanks to Colin Brown who suggested featuring this auction via our Facebook page.

G L Wilson

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1 comment:

  1. Hi, the L6-S was not a bolt on, but the S-1, Sonex, and Corvus were.



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