1960s Kay-made Silvertone 000-Size Electrified Tenor Guitar

Update 2018: The owner of this guitar has gone non-electric and so this is now on consignment. I've updated all the photos with new ones and have added a little bit more information to the post. Now back to that post...

Here's another electrified toy. A customer of mine brought this in and was uncommonly (for any customer) up-front about what he wanted done -- a refret and a lipstick pickup install in the soundhole. I like a decisive owner and he'd also assessed the guitar the same way I would assess something like this -- as a good platform to do what you want to.

As an acoustic, these '50s/'60s Kays are a decent instrument but won't be winning any prizes for stunning, edge-of-your-seat tone. They're ladder-braced and 000-dimensioned in size. They're workmanly. As a hollowbody electric, this one sounds pretty dang good. It has a nice balance of warmth and bite and a woody, lingering sustain.

Work included adding a neck bolt (you can see it at the neck block on the inside), a board plane and refret, new bone nut, new Kluson-style tuners, a 1-volume wiring harness install (complete with vintage knob), scrounging of some vintage bridge pins, and a grounding solution for the strings -- here realized in the form of a fret saddle that rests on a ground wire in the slot.

Specs are: 23" scale, 1 1/8" nut width, 7/8" string spacing at the nut, 1 1/4" string spacing at the bridge, medium C/V neck shape with flat fretboard, 15" lower bout, 10 1/2" upper bout, and 4 1/8" side depth at the endblock.

The top is solid spruce and the back and sides are ply mahogany. The neck is poplar but both the fretboard and bridge are Brazilian rosewood.

This has a skinny, 1 1/8" nut width but a medium-depth C/V neck profile.

The new frets are medium stock and feel good.

Amazingly, Kay managed to put this instrument's bridge in the right place for proper intonation. I often find the bridges off from the factory by almost 1/8" from their correct place on the top.

Note the added string ramps for good back-angle on the saddle.

I could have put the volume knob farther down the bout, but something about this location spoke "sorta like Kay would've done" to me. One can also just barely wrap a finger around it for volume swells.

The new Kluson-style (Korean) tuners are a big step up from whatever would've been on this originally.

I added a strap button at the heel, too.

It comes with a more recent, TKL-made chip case that's in good order.


Nick R said…
These Silvertone guitars were made for just two years, 1964 to 1966. They were brought out during the great folk scare but the scare was on the wane by then, so that's why the run was cut short. Pawnbrokers had just too many tenor guitars filling their shops so a halt was called to production. Mine appears to have never been played and I think any blemishes are there courtesy of Kay quality control. I seem to recall that it does intonate okay- for a Kay. I took mine to a bluegrass pick and a delightful woman told be I was exceptional but I think it was the Silvertone 661 tenor guitar in its pristine glory and brass frets that turned her head!