“Lick Of The Week” with Ian Cowan
Smooth clinic master Ian gives us a “low-fi, soulsy, jazzy, bluesy, hip-hop kind of thing”.
During the 1950s and 60s Valco produced all kinds of guitar centric products including pickups and amps mostly for other brands. Its two house guitar brands were National and Supro, but also provided instruments for Silvertone, Academy, and Oahu. Amps were built for Gretsch and JC Penny. Valco was bought by Kay in 1967 and Kay went out of business a year later.
Valco’s first high-end solid body offering was the 1955 National Town and Country and sales of the guitar performed well for the company.
Valco is also well known for their Res-O-Glas guitars made of fiberglass which was introduced in 1962. The most famous being the National Glenwood 99, otherwise known as the “map” guitar. It also had a number of cousin models, the Glenwood 95 & 98, Newport, and Westwood (made of wood).
Frankly, the Valco backstory is probably the most convoluted mess in the guitar manufacturing world so here’s a link to the full saga I wrote several months ago.
Supro was Valco’s budget friendly brand with regards to guitars. The label first appeared under the National Dobro umbrella in 1935 with an aluminum lap steel that looked very similar to Rickenbacker’s Frying Pan. Alongside the lap steel was a Spanish electric archtop, tenor guitar, and electric mandolin. On the other hand, Supro badged amplifiers were a premium product beginning in 1936 and have a storied history through the 1950s, assuming legendary status at this point. Although manufacturing was reduced during WWII, Supro’s core offerings consisted of amps, resonator guitars, and archtops through the late 1940s.
Solid body guitars didn’t appear until approximately 1950 and the first model was the Supro Ozark. History writes Jimi Hendrix’ first guitar was a 1957 Ozark. By that time, however, the guitar looked quite different from the original 1950.
Supro’s most recognizable guitar came along in 1954, the Dual Tone, originally called the Duo Tone. Link Wray helped make this guitar famous and it’s beloved for the gold plated humbucker sized single coil pickups. The guitar featured a 2-way pickup selector, but kind of like the sweet spot in older Strat switches, a happy medium can be found to activate both simultaneously.
Not uncommon of budget guitars from this era materials varied based upon availability and price. Many Dual Tone’s had a poplar or mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard, others had maple and ebony. Standard hardware included Kluson in-line tuners with butterfly buttons, and gold plated hardware. The body wood is a mystery… poplar? alder?
Valco introduced a Res-O-Glas version of this model in 1962 but the full line disappeared in 1966, two years before the demise of Kay and subsequently Supro.