1940s Vega Electrovox Archtop Electric Tenor Guitar





I kid you not -- but for about three months, now, I've been on the prowl for an older electric tenor guitar. I used to play mandolin a lot more than I do now (when we do the jams on Saturday mornings I don't like to crowd other mandolin players' frewquency range with my own) and my mind still thinks lead-lines in fifths. Gibsons and Epiphones were beyond my budget and I'd been thinking about Vegas but not seeing any readily available. Speed up to today and in walks this thing. I know this seems to happen a lot on the blog, but it doesn't happen so perfectly all the time.

Some work-trade and greenbacks later and this beaut became mine. With about 45 minutes left to my work day, I managed to give this a fret level/dress, polish it up, and set it up with a set of strings for GDAE (octave mandolin) tuning. In the pics it has a wound-A setup, but after I took them I went to a plain A and compensated the bridge for it. It's running gauges 38w, 28w, 17, 12 and it sounds kick-butt and is sporting spot-on 1/16" action at the 12th fret.


The finish is in excellent shape and the instrument is 100% original. These bodies are ply throughout with a fancy, flamed-maple veneer on all sides. The neck is mahogany and the board and bridge topper are rosewood, though the bridge base is actually painted maple. Curious!

Clearly, Vega built these to look great (it's a full 16" on the lower bout and the natural finish would have been very hip for the time) and also built them to hold-up to the road. The ply is fairly thick and the body features a couple of soundposts connecting the top and back and thus making it a bit like a blocked semi-hollow design. It's reassuring to have all that heft.



Check out the wear and tear in the board itself -- this was played.



This pickup sounds super. It's a strange mix of a P90 growl, a Jazzmaster breadth and focus, and a Dynasonic's smack and zap. I think its closest relative, tone-wise, are the pickups in some old Gibson lap steels with non-adjustable poles.




Who doesn't love seeing dials like that?


Here's one of the soundposts.













The icing on the cake is the original hard case.



Not to mention -- the original inspection tag! Sheesh!


Comments

Brad Smith said…
Sounds and looks awesome. LOVE a good old Vega!
Nick R said…
That looks great! Here's Eddie Peabody- just a few years earlier with his electric band. This was filmed in England in 1938 and it also appears that he has joined the Royal Navy! He makes it all look so easy- he calls the tenor guitar the Spanish guitar. Anyway, Eddie was a naval man- he had been a submariner and his small stature was ideal for a sub! Big personality though and outrageously good player!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaryQ2ORGs0
daverepair said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
daverepair said…
Awww...that's pretty!
Rob Gardner said…
Boy from the fingerboard and the back of the neck that little beauty has really been played, but the body and the case are in great shape. Somebody really took care of that. What a great find. And the case and the tags and those great dials on the potentiomiters (or however you spell it). I hope to be hearing that next time the orchestra gathers.
Jake Wildwood said…
Rob -- Yup! I get to relax with it as I'll be playing mando and guitar at the same time, hah hah... :)