I was looking through an old photo album the other day and came upon some pictures of a few old friends.
That is a Fender “Duo-Sonic.” It was my first electric guitar.
I purchased that guitar sometime in 1975 or 76. The person that I bought it from ran a private school for special needs children. Her school building was a large, Victorian-style house (previously a private home) located directly across the street from the public elementary school where I was the music teacher. She’d found the instrument in the attic of the house and thought I might be interested. My memory tells me that I paid her $90.00 for the guitar with the hardshell case.
[Just To Let You Know: The Fender Electric Instrument Company of Fullerton, California, added the “Duo-Sonic” – a 3/4-size, solid-body electric guitar – to its product line in 1956. (This was just two years after they had introduced their now-iconic “Stratocaster” electric guitar.) With a list price of $149.50, the Duo-Sonic was designed for the student and/or beginning guitarist. My guitar was a “second version” Duo-Sonic and manufactured some time between 1959 and 1964. Its features included a rosewood fingerboard, plastic pick-guard, 2 “vintage style” single coil pick-ups and a body color known as “Desert Sand.” Fender stopped making Duo-Sonics in 1969.]
The guitar in the next photo is a Gibson “ES-125T.” It was my first “Jazz guitar.”
I bought that guitar about a year or two after buying the Duo-Sonic. I came upon it one day standing on display in the window of Exeter Music. To this day, I swear that the instrument beckoned me into the store. Mrs. Clegg – co-owner of Exeter Music with her husband, Gordon – took the guitar out of the window for me to try. She informed me that it was “made in the ’50’s.” I was soon writing her a check for the asking price of $150.00. I left the store that day a very happy guitar player.
[JTLYK#2: The Gibson Guitar Corporation of Kalamazoo, Michigan added the ES-125T – a hollow-body, archtop electric guitar – to its product line in 1956. (This was just four years after the company introduced their now-iconic “Les Paul” solid-body electric guitar.) A thin-line version of the popular ES-125, the company considered the ES-125T to be a student and/or beginner guitar. My guitar – which I estimate to have been manufactured in 1959 – had a 16 & 3/4-inch wide, laminated maple body with a “Tobacco Sunburst” finish; a “dog ear” P90 pick-up; a mahogany neck with a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard; gold “top-hat” volume and tone control knobs; and an “alligator” cardboard case. Gibson discontinued the ES-125T in 1969.]
Now that I had two electric guitars, I needed a guitar amplifier!
In the late 1970’s, I knew of three ways to “research” guitar amps: see what the local guitar stores had for sale, talk to other guitar players and read articles in Guitar Player magazine to learn what the pros used.
The cover story in the April, 1976 issue of Guitar Player was about Jazz virtuoso Joe Pass. In the article, Joe said that he used a Polytone “102” guitar amplifier. He explained to interviewer Jon Sievert: “It’s the only transistor amp I’ve ever found that has a warm, round Jazz tone. It doesn’t give me any problems and weighs only 23 pounds, which makes it easy to carry.”
Good enough for Joe Pass was certainly good enough for me, but no local guitar store carried Polytone amps. I ended up ordering one by mail from Sam Ash Music out of New Jersey. My 102 was everything I hoped – and Joe said – it would be.
[JTLYK#3: After a good bit of on-line searching, all I can tell you about the company that made Polytone amplifiers is that they were a California-based company; they made amplifiers from the 1970’s into the 1990’s; and their amplifiers were extremely popular among Jazz guitarists and accordion players. Beyond that, nobody seems to know much of anything about Polytone! There is no website or even a Wikipedia page. (Therefore, they must not exist.)]
Over the years, I ended up playing the ES-125T much more than I played the Duo-Sonic. I even used it and the Polytone on two tracks of my 1988, self-produced, cassette-tape-only album, Anytime.
Here’s the Gibson, the Polytone and the brilliant Jim Howe, on upright bass, on my song “Love Is Given,” from that album.
The most memorable use of the Duo-Sonic came in 1987 when it became a prop for my daughter to act out her childhood Rock & Roll fantasy for the family camera.
So, what became of those two guitars and the amplifier?
In 1990, three friends and I formed a band. We called the band “Merseyside.” Our main goal was “to accurately reproduce the recorded music of The Beatles live, on stage.” (See my post of April 17, 2011, titled Merseyside, Part 1.) After one rehearsal, I realized that neither the Duo-Sonic or the ES-125T was going to work sonically or visually in that musical format.
I needed a Rickenbacker.
Most fortunately, the Guitar Warehouse in Portsmouth, NH, had one: a gorgeous Jetglo (black) Rickenbacker 330. To be able to afford the purchase of the Rick, I had to offer the Gibson and the Fender as trade-ins. So, on December 21, 1990, Rod – the salesman at The Guitar Warehouse – gave me $550.00 for my two guitars towards the purchase of the Rickenbacker.
I used the Polytone with Merseyside for about a year. Needing a bigger, more “Rock & Roll” sound, I traded it in at Daddy’s Junky Music Store in Portsmouth, NH, for a tweed Peavy Classic 50 212 amplifier.
If I could get together with one of these old friends again, I must say that I’d really like to be able to spend some time with the Gibson. There are several vintage ES-125Ts listed for sale on-line, but with prices ranging from $1,195.00 to $3,480.00, a reunion is… well, who knows?