1930s Richter-made The Plainsman Electrified Cowboy Guitar




I've long been a fan of cowboy-decorated guitars and have had a bunch through over the years. Two stencil jobs on them are my favorites -- this one, which is titled "The Plainsman" at the headstock and refers to the Cecil B. DeMilles film -- and the variations on the Regal-made "Buck Jones" guitars. The scene on this one is just fantastic -- black and white high contrast (with ponderosa pine and cowpoke) on a metallic-grey background. 

This is also the cleanest Plainsman guitar I've ever seen, so I simply had to buy it because it's so darn cool that I wanted it in the shop. Unfortunately, unlike Regal and Harmony cowboy-theme parlor guitars, Richter guitars are not the best-sounding instruments out there "as-is" from the factory. Frankly, they tend to sound like a big heaping helping of "only OK." To make matters worse, if you string them with anything over 11-gauge strings, the necks warp on the quick.

I knew this wasn't going to be a great acoustic from the get-go because of these reasons, so I knew that as soon as I got it in I'd be converting it to a hollowbody electric role and that's just what I did. I put an Alnico V-magnet P90 pickup (Korean-made, Artec, in a humbucker-style housing) in the neck position, wired a simple harness with volume control on the shoulder, and fit an ABR-style bridge in place of the original mystery-wood floating bridge.

This has turned it into something like a '50s ES-125 in terms of tone... but a bit livelier and with more chime and sizzle. The scale length is also a short 24" and the wide nut and flat fretboard make it superb for fingerpicking with bare fingers -- so country-blues cats might be comfortable getting in on the act with this one, too.

A note on the pickup: while it's in a humbucker-style mount, the casing for it is actually matte-black plastic and so it sounds like a typical "dogear-style" plastic-covered P90 because it doesn't have the metal shell of the usual bucker-shaped P90s. Also a note on the bridge: I'm using the usual threaded adjustable posts and they're mounted nice and sturdy into the top as there's a thicker bridge plate just below the top in that area.

I've done other more-major work on it, too, and now it plays like a little champ -- straight neck, good frets, and an easy player.

Repairs included: a neck reset, refret with jumbo/pyramid wire, cut and install of the humbucker-case P90 pickup, install of a relic'd Gotoh ABR-style adjustable bridge, new bone nut, fully-shielded wiring harness with cool '30s bakelite volume knob, light cleaning, side dots install (to replace whiteout marks), strap button at the heel, and good setup.

Setup notes: it plays perfectly with 1/16" action overall at the 12th fret. For someone wanting to practice acoustically, it might be good to jack the bass side up to 3/32" so it'll strum a little cleaner not plugged-in. The neck is straight and the bigger frets w/wider tang (added compression to the board) mean it'll stay that way for anything up to 11s. Currently it's setup with electric 46w-10 gauges with a plain G and the tension handles like a Mustang -- quick, easy, and bendy.

Scale length: 24"
Nut width: 1 3/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/2"
String spacing at bridge: 2"
Body length: 18"
Lower bout width: 14 1/4"
Waist width: 8"
Upper bout width: 9 3/4"
Side depth at endpin: 3 3/4"
Top wood: solid birch
Back/sides wood: solid birch
Bracing type: ladder
Fretboard: mystery-wood (birch? -- neck is poplar)
Bridge: adjustable Gotoh aged ABR-style
Neck feel: medium C-shape, flat board

Condition notes: overall it's in fantastic shape with only light scratches in the finish here and there and a little wear on the fretboard at frets 1-3. The image is in wonderful shape. The finish itself has yellowed a bit over time and so the metallic grey base color is discolored a bit differently on each side. The guitar has no cracks (despite being made of solid birch throughout) and structurally is in good order.

It comes with: a funky old chip case that serves for storage or light use.

















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