Kay bass guitars

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Precision345, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. Precision345


    Feb 19, 2013
    Hi TB,

    I've been looking around on ebay and have come across several different Kay basses that go for very cheap. From what I have read, Kay is an early America. Guitar manufacturer and produced from 1930 to 1960 as well as producing the very first commercial electric guitar.

    Has any one played a Kay bass or know any info about them? Do they play or sound any good?
  2. bluesblaster


    Jan 2, 2008
    my first bass was a kay, and yes I wish I still had it. They generally have a fairly narrow neck so if thats an issue for you then they'll make great wallhangers or conversation pieces. A cool old bass for sure.
  3. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    They were still selling new electric basses under the Kay name into the 80's at least. I know because my first bass was a Kay electric. Piece of total junk. The upgrade from that was a Squier Bullet Bass that actually wasn't much better. I'd stay away from the 80's models at least unless you just feel some nostalgia. Their uprights from an earlier time are a different beast altogether and are very sought after. And one more story: the Kay electric guitar models were very much in favor with reggae players because of their horrible non-existant sustain. The reggae guys liked that because it made it easier for the 2 and 4 hits.
  4. GlennW

    GlennW Inactive

    Sep 6, 2006
    The MIA hollow bodies are pretty good.

    The MIJ solid bodies are more like Teiscos.
  5. bwbass


    May 6, 2002
    I had '65 hollowbody Kay that sounded amazing, but it got stolen two weeks after I bought it. One "speed bump" pickup, a floating bridge (like and archtop), and a 31" scale, the only one I've ever seen.

    This is the only recording I ever made with it, straight into the board and cut directly onto a record:

  6. I bought a Kay Flying V guitar(!!) back in 1982, I think. Yeah, it was junk.

    Traded it for my first bass, if that makes it better.
  7. gary m

    gary m

    Jan 17, 2011
    Mid -Atlantic
    The American made Kays weren't bad instruments...kind of on a par with Harmony or Danelectro. Their Barney Kessel guitars were very well made, and their original single-cut basses from the 50s were good utility instruments. It wasn't until the Kay name was sold to foreign interests in the late 60s that the build quality went down as production shifted offshore.
  8. I cut my teeth in 1964 on an "Old Kraftsman" made by Kay. Apparently, Kay made batches of very similar instruments, and named them differently - according to where you bought them. I bought mine out of the Spiegel catalog, including a two channel bass amp for $179 which I understand was exclusive for the "Old Kraftsman" brand.

    Not my exact bass but the same model is here:


    I understand that the "Old Kraftsman" name has been resurrected in some form, but I have not had an opportunity to play or see any close up.
  9. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    The few kay basses I saw in the 70's all had no ability to have low action. Cheap isntruments overall that somehow have since become collectors items for some reason. As I remember Kmart sold some back then.
  10. Precision345


    Feb 19, 2013
    Thanks for everyones input. Now I know why they're priced so low. Vintage junk. Going to pass on anything in the Kay bass category.
  11. bdywzbrian


    Mar 16, 2012
    NW Illinois
    Just sold my Kay on TB for a handsome price. It's in Nashville being played in demos. You can't beat the short scale tone.
  12. Lowbrow

    Lowbrow Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2008
    Allentown, PA!
    This Kay 592 I'm playing below was found at Waldo's in Hollywood... it was great and I can't forgive myself for selling it - never been able to find a decent/affordable one to replace it.

  13. bwbass


    May 6, 2002
    Yep, here's my (long lost) '65 with "Kay" script logo, which I think is the same one they used on their upright bass tailpieces.

    Attached Files:

  14. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    "Vintage junk"? I'd say, "Awesome vintage junk!"
    bass-flyer likes this.
  15. GlennW

    GlennW Inactive

    Sep 6, 2006
    Here's a couple Kay pickup pics. One is of the speed bump (on the right) with the cover removed, the other is the one used on the Howlin' Wolf bass.
  16. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    A friend of mine has this. Crazy. George Jetson bass. ImageUploadedByTalkBass1373456992.555978.jpg ImageUploadedByTalkBass1373457004.603781.jpg
  17. Immigrant

    Immigrant In Memoriam

    Just like any bass of that era, they're hit or miss.

    Bass Player mag did a feature on a new Kay bass two months ago. It was really cool except for the leftover linoleum from a mobile home pickguard.
  18. I had a 1969 Kay SG like this one the action was okay and it stayed in tune. I purchased in 1972 later traded in towards the price of my Gibson Ripper

  19. jbossolo


    Sep 22, 2011
    I actually kinda liked that PG. Go figure. I'd probably just modify it a bit, take it off and dremmel off the corners, make it a bit more rounded?:


    This one is my favorite, though:

  20. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Fascinating that anyone sober would relate a pg of that shape to a body of that shape!?!