Tuesday, August 26, 2008

1962 Fender Jaguar/1965 Kent "Mutt"

Story Submitted by Keith Campbell

So here's the story. It's a "gone, but not far" type of story.

I was about 15/16 years old (so the purchase happened in 97/98), and I was on vacation visiting my grandparents in Florida. I was at the Daytona Beach flea market, which is one of the larger flea markets in the country, when I come across a guitar that's certainly seen better days. It's a 4-pickup, sunburst guitar with a Bigsby-ish trem and a Fender neck. I didn't quite know as much about vintage models then as I do now, and I thought, surely, this would be worth something. I ask the guy running the booth how much he wants, and he says $50. I had $30 in my pocket and didn't think to negotiate, so I tracked down my mother and pleaded my case for buying this instrument ("It's gotta be some rare production model!" "If I don't like it, I could probably sell it for a lot more!"), and got the extra $20 to buy the guitar.

So I got it home to my grandparents' house, and got ready to put new strings on it (the guitar had four strings that were at least 10 years old still on it), when I realized a couple of problems: one) the bridge had no saddle, two) the pickups were extremely high, and three) to compensate for the pickup height, the previous owner had done a terrible shim job to jack up the neck. The fixes for problems two and three were simple enough at the time: I super glued down the stripped pickup screws at an acceptable height, and removed the shims (should I ever get the guitar back, I am going to attempt replacing the screws).

When I removed the shims from under the neck, I found something out: the guitar neck had a 1962 stamp on it. Jackpot! A '62 Fender!

(Sort of, the tailpiece read "Kent," a brand I recognized from my grandfather's mandolin).

The bridge required some problem solving. My grandfather had previously made a jackplate replacement for my first guitar, a department-store Yamaha Strat copy that I later traded in toward my MIM Fender Tele (which will appear later in the story). So, back to the workshop we went, and Grandpa took a piece of scrap pine, trimmed it down, drilled holes for the bridge screws, and slapped some stain on it to match the burst. In the meantime, we had found an old machine spring to get the trem working properly.

Once that was all in place, time to plug in. Here's where I noticed some nifty features on the guitar--each pickup had an on-off switch right next to it, and each pair of pickups had a "rhythm/solo" switch. At the time, my rig was the Yamaha practice amp that came with the aforementioned Strat copy, and a Tubescreamer reissue. The pickups on the guitar had that beautiful "aged distortion" sound. I jacked up the gain on the Screamer and you could still hear every note in an arpeggio without that nasty "fuzz blob" sound where distortion makes everything sound like an amorphous mass. I should note here that I've always been a neck pickup guy, and prefer the mellow, round tone of the neck pickup even on my Tele to the bright, cutting tone associated with the bridge pickup. [Editor's note: Me too!] Well, the old single-coils on this guitar were smooth and mellow, exactly as I like 'em.

When I got home to New Jersey with the guitar, I took it into my local music shop (Bach to Rock), where I had executed the Yamaha/Tele swap, to get it appraised. The repair/gear guru there, Doc, told me he couldn't do anything with the body, but the neck was a 1962 Jaguar neck, and I could probably get $500 for it on consignment. I realized that, while that was a nice chunk of change, I would prefer to keep this sweet sounding guitar intact.

So I kept it around for a while and played it, along with my Tele and a Dano reissue, pretty happily. When I moved to the city in 2005 I couldn't fit all of my gear, so I kept it at my father's, and my Tele and the mutt ended up in storage (I brought along my nylon-string acoustic since I couldn't do totally without my guitar). The Dano ended up at my in-laws.

So flash forward to last year, when my little sister decided she wanted to play guitar. I had my Dad get the Tele and Mutt out of storage and realized I wanted to bring an axe back to the city. So I asked my sister to choose, and she chose the Mutt. I would have been happy either way, but felt that, while the Mutt had more mojo and is probably more fun to play, the Tele might have been easier for her to keep in tune. C'est la vie. If she ever wants to trade back, I'll be pretty happy.

Note: I wasn't able to get pics of the actual guitar, but found a 1965 Kent catalog cover that has the body at Bob Gatewood's Kent Collection page: CLICK HERE. My guitar's body is the top left sunburst beauty with four pickups. Pictures, perhaps, to come.


Dean said...

Great story Keith! (and thanks for posting it Jaimie!)

Keith said...

Glad you enjoyed it! It's a really fun guitar, and unfortunately, the picture does the pickups no justice, though they probably look a lot better with some grit and age in 'em than they did new.

Keith said...

UPDATE: Apparently, you too can own the mutt (without the gorgeous Fender neck) http://cgi.ebay.com/VINTAGE-ELECTRIC-GUITAR-TEISCO-KENT-4-PICK-UPS-NO-RESER_W0QQitemZ290259341112QQihZ019QQcategoryZ2384QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem