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Kay "Old Kraftsman" - Any Experts?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BassHappy, Nov 28, 2017.

  1. Hey Good Folks of the TB

    In the summer of 1964, I had saved a little money, and my father helped me buy my first bass. We ordered the bass brand new from the Spiegel Catalog out of Chicago. It came with a two channel bass amp for a cool $179.00.

    We learned that Kay made a variety of very similar basses, but branded them differently, based on the store that was selling them. In addition to the Spiegel/Old Kraftsman, they apparently made basses for Montgomery Ward and possibly others. The differences seem subtle in most cases, but they are definitely there. I guess it had everything to do with the store wanting their models to be "exclusive".

    I have done some searches, but I haven't been able to stumble onto much of the Kay history about these. I am wondering if there are any experts here who might be able to fill in the blanks or point me somewhere.

    Until today, I had never seen the exact model which I had. But this is the one:


    Wondering if the binding had an effect on Rickenbacker at the time too? Also a bit of a hoot about the truss rod cover obscuring part of their logo.

    Thanks in advance, for any info you can provide....
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
    Will_White, reddog, Bass V and 11 others like this.
  2. mrb327


    Mar 6, 2013
    Nobody Knows
    All I can tell you is I had one exactly like it except the headstock only said “Kay”.

    Sadly it was stolen from me years ago.
    Along for the ride and all the neat stories
    Winoman, dukeorock and BassHappy like this.
  3. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I'm not completely conversant with the electric bass line, but this one was commonly called the Value Leader in Kay sales literature, and was available for quite a few years with an evolving set of features. Old Kraftsman was the OEM marque for Spiegel, right.
    BassHappy likes this.
  4. georgiagoodie

    georgiagoodie It's all fun&games 'til the winged monkeys show up Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2008
    Atlanta, GA
  5. Steven is the Kay guru for TB, especially on the DB side, but when dealing with Kay electrics you have to navigate among the Kay, Old Kraftsman, and Truetone badges.
    BassHappy likes this.
  6. There also is an f-hole Speed Demon body cut for either one or three pickups. These come up on eBay for a not-unreasonable price and are infinitely modifiable. A good way to get a light hollowbody instrument.
    Winoman likes this.
  7. JIO

    JIO Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    Oceana (Pacifica) CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    Old Kraftsman also made the Solo King guitar - one of the most ungainly designs ever made.


    1. Sporting the Old Kraftsman brand, the Solo King model was made by Kay from 1958 to 1960. Because of its shape, the guitar is also known as the “Map of Ohio” model. 2. Tonewood? The Solo King is constructed with Masonite—a material consisting of steamed and pressure-molded wood fibers. But don’t scoff: Vintage Danelectros were also made of Masonite, and they still play a role in rootsy music today. 3. The Solo King’s asymmetrical headstock leaves plenty of room for the Old Kraftsman logo. 4. Wired to simple volume and tone knobs, the Solo King’s single “pancake” pickup sounds surprisingly cool.
    M.R. Ogle, Winoman and dukeorock like this.
  8. cdef


    Jul 18, 2003
    In the late '60s Kay also made the Custom Kraft brand, distributed by St. Louis Music. This was after the company had been sold to Seeburg (the jukebox manufacturer) and then on to Valco. Here is a 1968 Bonebuzzer bass:

    daveman50, Winoman, dukeorock and 2 others like this.
  9. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I've usually seen that rendered "cake pan pickup."
    dukeorock and JIO like this.
  10. JIO

    JIO Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    Oceana (Pacifica) CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
  11. JIO

    JIO Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    Oceana (Pacifica) CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    Good call - yes, doesn't look anything like a pancake!
    Shamiri On Bass and dukeorock like this.
  12. I did manage to find some additional details about the brands/stores thing. Pretty fascinating how many different lines they crafted:

    Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 5.38.52 PM.

    Kay made some pretty cool basses methinks:


    Kay bass 162.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
    RSBBass, M.R. Ogle, JIO and 4 others like this.
  13. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    Marque/model variety was essential to Kay marketing from the beginning, when Henry Kuhrmeyer bought out Stromberg-Voisinet. In a shade over thirty years of production Kay produced at least 62 and perhaps as many as 70 models of upright bass alone, which I'm in the process of documenting.
    RSBBass, JIO, Winoman and 4 others like this.
  14. FiddleFixr

    FiddleFixr Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2016
    Luthier - Jan's Fiddle Farm
    If your speedbump pickup gives you too much trouble with "microphonics", you can remedy by filling the pup with bees wax. Does great job of eliminating the unwanted sounds.
    Old Kays are so cool. They used same pickup on some guitars as well. The one here on the right, Kays answer to Gibson's L5ces has 2 speedbump pickups and the controls are set in a circuit board (like the newer Les Pauls). Made in mid 1950s.

    georgiagoodie, Winoman and mrb327 like this.
  15. I was thinking of asking if it's the same company that made the famous double basses. Sounds like it is from your post.
  16. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Love those old Kay’s. David Sutton bassist for Lucinda Williams plays a Kay old kraftsman bass live.
    BassHappy and dukeorock like this.
  17. Picton


    Aug 16, 2017
    Reading, MA

    $179 in the summer of ‘64 is $1424 now.

    No disrespect, OP, but that’s USA RI pricing there... how good is the amp?
    BassHappy likes this.
  18. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    best name ever.
    JIO likes this.
  19. JIO

    JIO Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    Oceana (Pacifica) CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    It is a good name, but this is another vying for "best name ever" -

  20. Hey Picton

    Yeah, it turned into quite a deal for me. I was in a band the day I got the bass and my guitar player, who was very "Mel Bay" schooled took me aside and showed me the bass-ics. I took to it well but the action was horrible and it was hard to play. I knew nothing about dialing it in and neither did he. Of course, that is just what the doctor ordered, as it strengthened my hands and wrists up nicely. But after a time, the band kind of decided it wasn't "rockin" enough - and the guitar player loaned me his Kalamazoo.

    That is a whole different story - but I ended up selling the Old Krafsman and buying his Kalamazoo. The amp was a hoot. It was a two channel with a 15" speaker but the two channels were virtually identical. After slinging it around a lot the cabinet got pretty chipped and chewed up. My father owned a body shop which we rehearsed in - and I was showing him some of the Kustom amps. He told me he could get some similar rolled naugahyde and we could recover it to look like the Kustom and to make it look brand new. So that is what we did.

    I finally saved enough for my first Fender Bassman, and decided to sell the amp. A cute female guitarist had a stereo hollow body Gibson and she wanted a two channel amp. She came over and checked it out - and It sounded great - it shimmered, thick and rich - and it looked great too. She bought it for $200 on the spot - so we did alright on our original investment.

    Here is a pic of me with the Kalamazoo at rehearsal in 1968 or so. You can see the amp behind the keyboard player. I also made a matching extension cabinet for the amp which I kept.

    1968 or 1969.

    Those who look closely can see that my left foot is in a cast from breaking it. It got wedged between the back bumper of my guitar players VW and a cement porch step. Ouch.

    While I do regret selling it for sentimental reasons, I have no real desire to replace the "Old Kraftsman" - although this really infatuates me, especially the stark simplicity of it:

    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
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