The Alternative Brand Spotlight is a brief overview of some of the worlds' most interesting guitar, bass, amplifier, and effects companies offering a worthy and unique alternative to the major brands dominating the world of musical instruments today.
What the brand Make:
You may know Kay for cheap 70's copies of classic models like the Les Paul and the Precision bass, but that's not where Kay started; their original incarnation was a fantastic, mostly hollowbody range of unique and brilliant electric guitars and basses.
Kay was a American firm officially first making roads into the world of musical instruments in the 1930's, but really with strong roots in Stromberg, a late 19th century company who were technically responsible for the first ever electric guitar, having released their own model in the same year as Gibson's ES-150.
In line with a lot of guitar manufacturers at the time, Kay built instruments under many names, operating as manufacturer for Sears for some time, making guitars under the name Silvertone (Danelectro) and even Airline for a short time.
In the 60's Kay expanded their range of both electric guitars and amplifiers and made some incredible models, but after being bought and sold a handful of times throughout the decade Kay eventually shut their gates for good in 1968.
A year later Japanese leviathan, Teisco bought Kay (in name alone) and began using the brand name to manufacturer affordable copies of popular models of the time, and did so throughout the 70's.
In 2008 The Fritz Brothers purchased the Kay brand name and happily one again started to make models from the original 50's and 60's Kay catalogues. Whilst now manufactured in the far east, the new reissue models are fantastic quality and a welcome return to my wish list.
You'll love these if you're into:
Kay's current catalogue is for the 50's/60's enthusiast. Think really flimsy bridges, strangely shaped lipstick pick-ups, and scratch plates that look like leopard print. Their range mostly consists of hollowbodies, so their porbably more suited to a Hofner, Gretsch, Guild or maybe Gibson Memphis player who is looking for something super unique that still offers that same traditional woody tone.
What's in the Range:
The range currently consists of two guitar and two bass models, all brilliantly unique, but the one that stands out is the Thin Twin; originally released in the early 50's and then known as the Howlin' Wolf, the Thin Twin gets it's name from two remarkably thin lipstick pick-ups that give the guitar a wonderfully brash, woody, bluesy tone that lead to T-Bone Burnett choosing the Thin Twin to back up Robert Plant during his Grammy performance in 2009.
The entire range of Kay reissues offer a completely uncompromising attention to 50's standards. The conventions of Kay's instruments are a part of the 1950's aesthetic that has been forgotten, in favour of more common images such as the Telecaster, Stratocaster and Les Paul. The new Fritz brothers have brought back an art deco inspired look in everything from the intensely detailed headstock to the yellow flamed tops.