The Mosrite name is a combination of the founding brothers last name, Moseley, and their friend/investor’s last name, Boatright. - “Mosrite”
Semie Moseley, the guitar building brother is the star of this show. His credentials include a stint at Rickenbacker learning under luthier Roger Rossmeisl (Rickenbacker and Fender) and apprenticing with Paul Bigsby.
The brothers started the company in 1956 in Los Angeles before eventually finding their way to Bakersville. Through the late 50s and early 60s Mosrite was a custom guitar maker building guitars from their home-based workshop. Commercial success for Mosrite didn’t begin until 1963 with an endorsement from Joe Maphis.
That was followed by an exclusive deal and line of guitars with the band, The Ventures.
Mosrite’s Ventures models are what the company is best known for and they had several iterations between 1963 and 1968. Being a small production shop their guitars were expensive and had expensive design features like a German carved top and a fancy “M” notch headstock pictured above. This made their market lucrative, but narrow.
The romance ended in 1968 after the licensing agreement ended with The Ventures. That was on the heels of a bum deal with an amplifier manufacturer licensing the Mosrite name and a failed marketing/distribution deal with Thomas Organ Company.
Mosrite filed for bankruptcy in 1969. Though there were many resuscitation attempts and more guitars were made by Semie, the company never fully recovered.
One of those attempts includes a location near me in the mountains of NC in Jonas Ridge during the 1980s. Poor Semie, he moved there in 1981, made a few hundred guitars, and his shop burned down in 1983. Semie remained in the area producing guitars out of his house until moving the operation to Arkansas in 1991.
Mosrite guitars from the 1960s are legendary and the list of famous Mosrite players are household names including this one: Johnny Ramone
His sold at auction last month for $937,500. “Heavily gigged” doesn’t quite do it justice as Johnny used this as his main guitar in nearly 2,000 shows and he wasn’t known for playing lightly (or slow).
He played a 1965 Ventures II. It was Mosrite’s only attempt at an entry level guitar. They are known as the “slab body” version made from basswood. No binding and no beautiful German carve that helped differentiate Semie’s guitars from other builders.
The story goes that the idea of a budget guitar came from Semie’s brother Andy, and at the end of the day Semie was not happy with the result. Production lasted less than a year.