Friday, 19 July 2013

Supposedly ultra-rare Burns Flyte guitar in red finish... original or refinish?
I hope that regular readers will forgive me for returning yet again to one of my favourite guitars. Of course we all have our favourites; mine include the Ovation Breadwinner, the Yamaha SG-2 and SG-3, and - the guitar we are looking at here - the Burns Flyte.

In 1965 Jim Burns sold the original Burns guitar line, that is Burns London Ltd, to the Baldwin Piano and Organ Company of Cincinnati who soon re-branded the guitars with the Baldwin name before discontinuing the line in 1970. Jim Burns bounced back in 1974 with Burns UK, and one of this company's most recognisable guitars was the futuristic looking Burns Flyte, styled after the British/French supersonic airliner Concorde and originally to have been named the same.

I've seen Flytes in silver and natural finishes before, but never before a red example like this Flyte currently listed on eBay in Germany. The lack of a Burns logo or Flyte legend do make me wonder if this red Flyte may be a refinish job, but the eBay seller seems to be implying that it is original when making the statement:
one of a kind, 1975 handmade in England for guitar trade show
...which isn't to say that it hasn't been re-finished. I should imagine that it would be important for any guitar made for a tradeshow to have the company logo on it at least.

Whilst I'm in a questioning frame of mind, I often see quoted that the Burns Flyte was played by Marc Bolan of T Rex and Dave Hill of Slade; we know that Bolan did indeed play a Flyte - there is plenty of photographic evidence - however, I have never seen a photo or footage of Slade with such a guitar. I remember going through a rather exhaustive (now defunct) website detailing all the guitars used by Slade and never saw the Flyte listed there either. Do any of our readers know if Dave Hill or ANY of the members of Slade ever played a Flyte?

Anyway, the red Burns Flyte pictured above is currently listed on eBay Germany with a Buy It Now price of €1444.

G L Wilson

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  1. Can't see the pictures (this came up on facebook and I'm posting from are blocked...), but I had a Burns Flyte bass that was red - bought it in NY in 1993 - had the original decals on it. I can forward pics if you want (and I can find them...) - it was a great fuzz bass. Then my dog ate the headstock...sucked...but somebody still ended up buying it for $1k in 2006 or so b/c it was a really rare color...!!

    1. Yes please... would love to see pictures!

  2. Looks like a refinish to me also, as you say the giveaways are the lack of any logo - there should be one on the treble "wing" of the body and an oval metal plaque on the headstock. Those black Strat knobs don't look original either, they should be metal ones. Flytes were finished originally in silver only, then later in light or dark natural wood as well as brown sunburst (I've seen all of these in Music Ground at the old shop in Doncaster) then there was the special one-off Union Jack Flyte done as a promo for the Silver Jubilee in 1977, as seen in the "Pearls And Crazy Diamonds" book, but that's all the finishes I know of for the 70s Flytes.

    As for Slade, there's a couple of promo pictures showing Dave Hill and Jim Lea with Flytes (one of them is here: but as far as I know they just posed with them for the photos and never played them either in concert or in the studio (someone correct me if I'm wrong). Hope that helps.

  3. I was the marketing director of Burns UK Ltd and it was me that transported 12 Burns Flyte Guitars to The Frankfurt Music Exhibition in February 1975. I had a MkIII Ford Cortina - and was stopped by German autobahn police because the guitars (which were in very heavy solid cases) were too heavy for the car!!

    We had produced various special colours for the exhibition, including red, blue, white, and a natural mahogany finish (at that time we were still having problems with the silver paint turning a greenish colour). There had also been supply problems with the logo plaques used on the head of the guitars although I can't recall if that was a problem for the guitars taken to the exhibition. However, I think we did have the Flyte logo as a transfer on the small 'wing' of the guitar. At this very early stage of the company, there had been supply problems in getting the right volume control knobs so we could have used Fender knobs on those guitars taken to Germany. That said, the colour red (at least as it appears in the photograph) doesn't look like the red colour we used on any Burns UK Guitars.

    As for Slade - the promotional photographs were taken during a Top of The Pops session at the BBC studios and, as suggested they were really just publicity shots. However, the Flyte bass guitar was used on at least one track of a Slade LP.
    Marc Bolan might have used a Flyte guitar although I only know that Marc featured on the front cover of an issue of the Top Of The Pops Magazine which also featured the winner of a Burns Flyte Guitar which was presented by Marc Bolam to the winner. It was Mark Griffiths (at the time he was playing with David Essex) who paid full price for a Burns Flyte in natural mahogany and I know he used this and later a Flyte bass. We subsequently worked on his old Fender Stratocaster, adding a Burns neck and reducing the size of the body. That was (is?) an outstanding instrument!

    I would be interested to find out what happened with the sale of the red guitar featured in the 2013 report.

    Grahame Wright

    1. Grahame, thanks for your very insightful posting here. Much appreciated!

  4. I owned a green Flyte & it looked 'glittery' would that have been a silver one that had faded? It deff. was green all over.

    1. Yeah, sounds like a silver finish that has faded over the years.

  5. Nick Saloman, The Bevis Frond, can be seen in many videos on youtube playing his red one.

    1. My band played a festival last year at which the Bevis Frond were also appearing. I was chatting to Nick Saloman in the green room and asked about his Burns Flyte, so he opened his guitar case and passed it to me. He told me that it wasn't the original finish and that the pickups had been changed, and that he had bought it like that but saw no need to change anything. So yeah, I've seen that guitar up close and personal.

  6. My site at has a run down of the gear Slade used.
    Jim and Dave were certainly given Flytes. There is no record of them ever being seen on a stage, apart from a Top of the pops appearance. Dave sold his on. He does that with promo guitars.




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