Semie Moseley of Mosrite guitars was a self-described poor businessman, an incredible builder, but not good with the books.
Sometimes bad bosses motivate employees to do incredible things… on their own.
That was the case for Joe Hall, a customer of Semie who was tired of waiting for his custom guitar to be complete.
Joe was a working R&B musician and sold his Gibson ES-147 plus put down a deposit of $400 to finance the build from Semie. This was in the very early 1960s before The Ventures model and Mosrite fame. $400 was a lot.
The guitar was taking forever and Joe was losing money, unable to gig. He struck a deal to work for Semie for free just so he could speed up the process and get back to his real job.
Somewhere in there Joe got his guitar, but he continued working at Mosrite for free.
In his time he saw a number of failed business deals and bad decisions from Semie. One of which was a deal with Bob Crooks to build a Standel guitar line to accompany his Standel amplifier company.
Hall, eager to seize one of Semie’s lost opportunities, jumped in and approached Crooks about building guitars for him. Crooks gave him a shot and Hall made a few prototypes, but it didn’t work out.
Hall was determined, so back to the drawing board. This time he poached one of Semie’s builders, Bill Gruggett, to work alongside him. Together they formed Hallmark Guitars and created their first design, the Swept-Wing.
Hallmark received some “silent” help in the process. An initial infusion of capital came from Bob Bogle of The Ventures and distribution help came from Andy Moseley, Semie’s brother.
With the first run of Swept-Wings in hand, the Hallmark guys headed off to the 1967 NAMM show in Chicago with high hopes.
The guitars bombed. The end- Part I
Joe Hall managed to give out a small handful of Swept-Wings to some popular bands of the time including the Grateful Dead and the Doors to name a couple. Not too long ago, Robbie Krieger’s Swept-Wing was discovered after 40 years in an attic in Alaska.
Bob Shade, a luthier and long time Mosrite and Swept-Wing collector acquired the rights to the Hallmark name in the late 90s. The brand has been revived ever since and still going strong from his shop outside of Washington, DC.
I agree Paul, I first encountered that sad ending when researching Standel guitars (Standel 510-S may be the most beautiful guitar to my eyes). It was not what I expected…
Well that’s a sad coda about the oil business.
Joe Hall’s only pay at Mosrite was the education he got from Semie. Never a cent changed hands. After Hallmark crashed, Joe went into the oil business.