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  1. #1

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    So I recently saw a for sale add for a vintage Kay Barney Kessel K6700 and did a little Googling... appears to be little information on the vintage guitars and a lot on the reissues. Though Kessel had the endorsement deal, it appears that he never "really" played the guitar.

    Anyone knowledgable on these Kay guitars... build, playability, sound, just cool because they look cool...? Always fun to learn more about guitars.

    What I could find...

    • Kay Barney Kessel Artist K6700 (2 pick up model)..... K6701 (1 pickup model)
    • 1956-1960
    • available in sunburst and blonde
    • 15 1/2" body
    • 24 3/4" scale
    • Press-arched solid (?) spruce top
    • maple back and sides (ply ?)
    • "Kleenex Box" pickups are a wide single coil.... (similar to P90?)
    • Adjustable "Melitta" bridge


    Kay Barney Kessel K6700 ('56-60) - Any info, experience?-kbk1-jpg

    Kay Barney Kessel K6700 ('56-60) - Any info, experience?-kbk2-jpg

    Kay Barney Kessel K6700 ('56-60) - Any info, experience?-kbk3-jpg

    A couple vids I found on YouTube...



  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2
    There appears to be a hole in the heel of the neck for... adjusting the angle? bolt to attache the neck? ....

    Kay Barney Kessel K6700 ('56-60) - Any info, experience?-kbk4-jpg

  4. #3

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    Strap attachment?

  5. #4

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    It's been 45 years but a friend had one and I fell in live with it. Chunky neck, warm dark tone and just felt great to play. A top player in Toronto in those days used to teach on one.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Z View Post
    There appears to be a hole in the heel of the neck for... adjusting the angle? bolt to attache the neck? ....

    Kay Barney Kessel K6700 ('56-60) - Any info, experience?-kbk4-jpg

    for trussrod adjustments..had it's own little tool


    don't dismiss the recent fritz bros. kessel kay re-issues...

    cheers

  7. #6

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    In Summerfield's Barney Kessel book Barney is quoted as reportedly saying " I don't play that Kay, it's a terrible guitar."

    I have never tried one myself.

    Danny W.

  8. #7

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    Personally, I love it. All that glitz and bling. This guitar is trying too hard, and I love it!

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny W. View Post
    In Summerfield's Barney Kessel book Barney is quoted as reportedly saying " I don't play that Kay, it's a terrible guitar."

    I have never tried one myself.

    Danny W.
    He apparently didn't think much of the Gibson BK either. He played mostly one guitar for a long time and it always sounded great. I think it really may have ruined anything else for him

  10. #9

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    ^ his post all endorsements regular player guitar... he was never happier



    cheers

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic View Post
    ^ his post all endorsements regular player guitar... he was never happier



    cheers
    I once had that guitar in my car. I was hired to pick him up at the Toronto Airport. I was very much a fan boy based on his Guitar Player columns and his work with Grappelli. It was a pretty cool day.

  12. #11
    I saw him him at a workshop performance at Berklee in the seventies and Lenny Breau with a Hagstrom 12 string with 6 strings on it Dont think Twice Its Alright

  13. #12

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    Most inexpensive guitars of that era were unplayable junk. Kay and Harmony were the exceptions. They weren't Gibson quality but they weren't junk either. They played okay and sounded okay.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Soloway View Post
    He apparently didn't think much of the Gibson BK either. He played mostly one guitar for a long time and it always sounded great. I think it really may have ruined anything else for him
    His problem with the Gibson wasn't with the guitar, it was some disagreement he had had with the company. That's why he covered up the logo on his ES350.

    Although he stuck mostly with the modified ES350 for jazz he had many instruments for studio work, including a couple of early L-5 acoustics.

    Danny W.

  15. #14

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    He's right about the chicken head knobs. I think I'm going to put them on my Comins.

    The tone control does most of the change in tone in a small part of its rotation. It would be helpful to be able to feel where it's set.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan0996 View Post
    Most inexpensive guitars of that era were unplayable junk. Kay and Harmony were the exceptions. They weren't Gibson quality but they weren't junk either. They played okay and sounded okay.

    harmony and kay could be an exception...but they had way more erratic quality control than gibson ...but if you got a good one... it was good!!!...lots of them were pressed spruce, which developed cracks over time...but still good sounding, cool looking guitars

    i'm big fan

    cheers

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny W. View Post
    His problem with the Gibson wasn't with the guitar, it was some disagreement he had had with the company. That's why he covered up the logo on his ES350.

    Although he stuck mostly with the modified ES350 for jazz he had many instruments for studio work, including a couple of early L-5 acoustics.

    Danny W.
    Him and Bill Monroe.... What is it with Gibson and the artists who play their instruments??

  18. #17

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    I tried one 2 years ago. Sweet looking but hardly playable guitar.

  19. #18

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    All this talk about Barney Kessel reminds me of a Kessel story... Allegedly, one time he took a break at a gig and put the guitar on his chair. As he started to walk away a fan came up and said, "Man Barney, that guitar sounds great!", to which Barney replied, "Oh yeah, how's it sound now!"

  20. #19

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    session man era tele...(with ashtray cover in place)

    cheers

  21. #20

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    I had a blond one, called it my refrigerator because of the horrendous plastic bling. I wasn't much acoustically, but at least it sucked electrically. I had my lessons with Bill Leavitt on it, he got a great kick out of it. I guess it was sort of functional, but first chance, I picked up a 175, traded the Kay in, probably got $25 off the price of the Gibson. Never missed it for a second. Bill would let me play his Emperor occasionally so he could hear what I could actually do.

  22. #21

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    Limited expertise here with the large-bodied Kay archtop guitars made before 1955 - I've seen 7 or 8 models now - and like them, though most Kays of that era have a problem with the neck-tenon-attachment (neck angle). You'll find an incredibly high variation of the neck profiles, etc..
    The manufacturing quality of later models, the fancier looking guitars (Kelvinator era), IMO, declined, as well as their acoustic sound potential. However, if amplified, even the rougher made models could - still can - really make fun:



    In 1955 presidency of the Kay Musical Instrument Company passed from Hank Kuhrmeyer to Sidney M. Katz. In a nutshell: since the early 1930's Kuhrmeyer was really interested in pushing new designs (like the very first commercially available electric guitars) and production techniques (think of the Kay laminated basses), and bringing affordable and comparably good sounding instruments to the masses, whereas Katz was a marketing and sale numbers guy more interested to offer countless "face-lifted" models. Not only guitars: In a thoroughly "modern" approach a glamorous female model named "Kay" was used to promote the Kay line at the NAMM show, and conventioneers were invited to see "the gal" up in "Kay's room" [Michael Wright covered the Kay story and model line up really well].

    Mr. Wright: The process of snaring Kessel was wonderfully simple. Basically, in around 1956, Kay made a special version of the Kay Pro [K172, 12 1/2" single cutaway, introduced in 1954]. Kay executives then took the guitar to a Chicago nite club where Kessel was playing, approached him at the bar during a break, offered him the guitar and coaxed him into endorsing a line of Kay guitars. It should be noted that while Kessel posed for numerous publicity photos playing his namesake Kays, anecdotal evidence, at least, suggests that he never actually performed using Kay guitars. But never mind that, Kay had a big name endorser, just like Gibson.

    There were three Barney Kessel models in the '57 Gold "K" Line, the Jazz Special (K8700 and K8701), the Artist ((K6700 and K6701) and the Pro (K1700 and K1701).
    Your data of the Artist model seem to be correct. Laminated back; can't tell if the top was laminated or pressed spruce (Kay used both techniques). I wouldn't bother too much because this 15 1/2" guitar, like the Pro, was intended to be an electric model. The Kleenex pickups sound convincing and are accordingly priced on the vintage market. The K6701 cost $265; the two-pickup K6700 cost $300.

  23. #22

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    I've owned and played a bunch of them. Kay managed to make its best guitars kind of not-that-good, despite using high-quality parts. With a bunch of work, they can be made into playable instruments, but they simply don't hack it compared to Gibson, Guild or even Gertsch guitars.

  24. #23

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    Especially Gertsch!

    Danny W.

  25. #24

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    My first guitar was an early '60s Kent. Talk about an unplayable dog...

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan0996 View Post
    My first guitar was an early '60s Kent. Talk about an unplayable dog...
    Me too and mine could wag it's tail as well.

  27. #26

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    What I said: Katz killed the former Kay quality, so America's first company that announced and offered electrically amplified guitars (October 1928) seems to be widely disregarded today. Actually, it was the predecessor of Kay, Stromberg-Voisinet, but it was Kuhrmeyer who designed, or "perfected", at least, these very early acoustic-electric instruments.

    The Kay guitars sold by Sears helped nurturing the blues spawned in the Deep South. Thanks to Sears, the musicians who gave America the blues had an axe to grind. If you think of the blues and related Afro-American music as one of the backbones of jazz - I certainly do - then you have to think of Kay (and Harmony, etc.) guitars.

  28. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Ol' Fret View Post
    ...The Kay guitars sold by Sears helped nurturing the blues spawned in the Deep South. Thanks to Sears, the musicians who gave America the blues had an axe to grind. If you think of the blues and related Afro-American music as one of the backbones of jazz - I certainly do - then you have to think of Kay (and Harmony, etc.) guitars.
    I would agree. For all the talk today about the need to spend "x" amount in order to get a good instrument, there sure were many historic players using Stella, Harmony, Kay, etc.

    Here's an interesting time type article I found on the early mail order guitars...
    Department Store Guitar History: The Long Shadow of the Sears Harmony

  29. #28

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    I remember seeing videos of T Bone Burnett playing a cool looking vintage Kay Thin Twin guitar on tour with Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Here's the reissue.


  30. #29

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    Ah, the reissue of the Kay K161 Thin Twin Spanish Electric, the so-called 'Jimmy Reed' model!
    If you look on both sides of the pond you can see the similarities - and I'm not sure at all if Kay was the first to get there (sorry, I couldn't find the German national flag in a hurry!):

    Kay Barney Kessel K6700 ('56-60) - Any info, experience?-roger-electric-blonde-jpg


    As you know, everything is somehow connected to everything. Jimmy Reed … not jazz-related, but the term 'Rough And Rowdy' could relate well to Kay guitars, and at least sometimes, IMO, it should also be part of the jazz DNA.




    I feel sorry for the OP - it seems he can't get first-hand information on the K6700.
    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 06-23-2020 at 06:40 AM.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ol' Fret View Post
    Kay Barney Kessel K6700 ('56-60) - Any info, experience?-roger-electric-blonde-jpg
    Aargh,...those knobs...oh, the horror, the horror...

  32. #31

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    Ok, ok, so what about these knobs - lovely postwar industrial (tank) design?

    Kay Barney Kessel K6700 ('56-60) - Any info, experience?-roger-electric-mit-hohlkammern-blond-d-jpg



    Or industrial look combined with a hint of Höfner finesse (so crazy that the picture has to turn upside down)?

    Kay Barney Kessel K6700 ('56-60) - Any info, experience?-roger-electric-sunburst-mid-1950s-c-jpg

  33. #32

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    Aah, thanks - much better now.