Magazine article Guitar Player

Return of the Supro-Sonic Valcos

Magazine article Guitar Player

Return of the Supro-Sonic Valcos

Article excerpt

Last month we traced how the National String Instrument Company gave birth to brand names such as Dobro, Supro, Valco, and OMI, as well as the Airline and Kraftsman lines commissioned by Montgomery Ward. We also saw how eye-catching models liek the Supro Dual-Tone and National Glenwood 99 failed to capture the public's imagination. Now, as promised, let's examine some more plastic Gumbys.

Although some of the models were virtually identical, Valco put out catalogs (and instruments) under both the Supro and National names, with the Supros generally being less expensive. In addition to four models of "Hawaiian Electric" lap steels (including a model called the Airline), the 1963 Supro catalog contained eight electric 6-strings as well as the Supro Pocket-Bass (so named because of its short 24 3/4[inches]-scale neck). These ranged in price from $59.50 (the wood-body Super) to $197.50 (the Res-O-Glas Martinique). Speaking of marketing, the model's finish was described thusly: "Attractive streamline body is of Space-Age Arctic White Polyester Glass." Who could pass up such a beauty, you ask? Oddly enough, everyone. (Incidentally, what looked on the surface like a two-pickup guitar actually had a third pickup hidden in the bridge, Valco's "Silver-Sound" piezo-type unit.)

The corresponding National catalog from the same year featured the Glenwood line, with the Val-Pro and Westwood lines being somewhat toned-down versions of the map shape. Meanwhile, the Supro Martinique barely hinted at the map connection.

With the exception of the Super, all Supros and Nationals in the '63 catalogs have Valco's distinctive "Gumby"-shaped headstocks--so nicknamed because they resemble the claymation character's sloping head. Incidentally, the Supros slope down to the right (as do the Airlines), while the Nationals slope up.

By '65 Supro's electric line consisted of nine guitars and one bass, with only the Martinique (now sporting a Bigsby tremolo) and Pocket-Bass remaining essentially unchanged. …

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