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Vintage Guitars - The Charvel Surfcaster

The Charvel Surfcaster
The Charvel Surfcaster is a model of electric guitar designed in the early 1990s, and manufactured from 1992 to 2005 by the Charvel/Jackson guitar company. The Surfcaster has been considered a boutique style guitar that employs many retro styles from leading

manufacturers of the fifties and sixties. These design aspects make it significantly different then other models from Charvel/Jackson that focused mainly on the hard rock guitarist. The Surfcaster was picked as a "Pawn Shop Prize" by Guitar Player magazine in July 2003.

Sound and playability
The Surfcaster sound is known for its "Jangle" or "Twang" similar to a Fender Telecaster but with more high end frequencies and overtones.

Originally available only in the two lipstick pickup configuration, later models would include a humbucking pickup in the bridge position. Later solid body 3 lipstick pickup variations were also produced. A twelve string and four string bass version were also created and are highly collectible. In later years the Surfcaster was released under the Jackson brand name and production facilities changed from Japan to India. Quality & cosmetics suffered. When Charvel/Jackson was purchased by Fender in 2002 they dropped the Surfcaster because of its similarity to guitars sold under the Fender brand.

Notable Surfcaster players
Scott Ian of Anthrax
Bruce Cockburn
Tommy Victor of Prong (Cleansing era)
Belinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine
Mark Collins (musician) of The Charlatans (UK band)

Vintage Guitars - The Mosrite Story

The Mosrite Story
The Mosrite company was started in 1952 by Semie Moseley with the financial help of a friend, Rev. Ray Boatwright, who bought Semie his first band saw in the early '50s. Semie had been obsessed by guitars as a teenager and started repairing, and later building them, because he could not find one that felt or sounded quite right.
By the time he was 19-years-old, Semie had not only built his first triple-neck guitar, he was repairing guitars for local artists like Merle Travis. These early guitars were almost completely handmade by Semie from 1952 to '58/'59, using primitive hand-tools and carving the aluminum vibratos by hand. He also went through the time consuming process of forming the pickup covers over a mold in his oven and winding the bobbins by hand.
Early models he built included a double-neck for Joe "King of the Strings" Maphis. "It was a beautiful instrument" said Gene Moles, an assembly line inspector for Mosrite guitars, a session musician from Bakersfield, and a member of Jimmy Thompson's TV band. This double-neck was one of the slightly bulkier designs, also used by Larry Collins whose double neck was finished in 1956, unlike the smoother double-necks made a little later in the 1950s for people like Brian Lonbeck.
At first, it was all custom, handmade guitars, built wherever the Moseleys could put equipment - in garages or storage sheds. Semie even set up shop in a friend's barn outside of Los Angeles, rent free. This infamous "tin shed" in Oildale, California, is still standing and is about the size of a two car garage.
The first Mosrite Ventures model prototypes were built here, as were several double-necks and more standard "Tele"-shaped single-necks, still with mainly hand-made parts as in the beginning Semie did everything himself. He would later move to a cement block building on Kern Street in Oildale and then to Bakersfield, California. The Bakersfield location would give rise to his association with the now famous honky tonk, "Bakersfield Sound", known for its country western twangers.
These were challenging times for Semie. In the winter is was bitterly cold and he would burn wood cuts and shavings from guitar remnants in a 44-gallon drum to keep warm. He had no money and wanted to start a guitar manufacturing company but could not get financed.
This is one of the Ventures prototypes from the late '50s with bound body and set neck. As you can see, the guitar is close to the final early "production" model, but with a few small exceptions. The symmetrical headstock says "Joe Maphis model by Mosrite of California" as the Ventures deal hadn't been worked out yet. This guitar also has what was to become known as the "mistake plate" around the vibrato. Semie had set the neck too shallow and needed to recess the unit into the body, necessitating a plate to hide the mistake.

Enter the Ventures
Semie had built a guitar that he lent to Nokie Edwards of the Ventures to use on some recording sessions. This was to change everything! Nokie bought a guitar from Semie and, within a year, an endorsement deal with the Ventures would make Mosrite a household name, at least in the surf/instrumental guitar world.
It was probably Nokie who made the Mosrite name famous. Nokie was the lead guitarist for the Ventures, an instrumental group, and by 1962 the entire band was playing Mosrites on songs like "Walk Don't Run" and the theme from "Hawaii 5-O". The back of one of their albums read, "Guitars courtesy of Mosrite Distributing Corporation". That was enough to start the ball rolling and soon Mosrite had substantial orders from dealers, which signaled the start of Mosrite's heyday. Initially building 20-30 guitars a month, the orders kept coming in and Mosrite was on its way to becoming a credible American guitar manufacturer.
At the peak of production in 1968, Semie, his brother Andy and their crew of 107 employees, were making about 600 guitars a month - acoustics, standard electrics, double-necks, triple-necks, and basses. They were also producing effects pedals, amplifiers, Dobros (which Mosrite bought in 1966), and Melobar slide guitars, which Semie was making for the Melobar company. The most popular Mosrites were the Ventures models and today, when guitarists talk about Mosrites, they are usually referring to the models shown on Ventures' albums.

The Mosrite Ventures Model
Semie had been working with Bob Crooks of the Standel guitar company who wanted Semie to design a guitar for him "like a Fender". This guitar eventually became the basis for the Mosrite Ventures model. Early examples of these guitars have "Joe Maphis Model", or, simply, "Mosrite" on the headstock.
Legend has it that Semie flipped over a Stratocaster and traced around it to produce the now-classic Mosrite body design. However, the shape of the Mosrite Ventures model is more elaborate, more curvaceous, and, in the opinion of many, more pleasing to the eye than an upside down Strat. In fact, Semie's innate talent for original guitar design would prove itself again and again over the years.
After working on a prototype with guitar artisan Bill Gruggett, the first "official Ventures" guitar became available in 1963. The first model had a set neck and a celluloid-bound body, with a large "The Ventures" logo on the headstock. They were available in red or sunburst only. The amplifier jack was on the side of the guitar and these are referred to as the "side jack models".

The necks were very thin and had extremely low frets known at Mosrite as "speed frets". They had a zero fret and semi-circular-type metal string guide (nut). The vibrato unit on these early models was called a "Vibramute" and had a special muting mechanism near the bridge. All Mosrite production numbers are sketchy, but it's believed approximately 200 of these guitars were built. The Ventures used this model on their January, 1965, tour.
In 1964, the amplifier jack was moved on to the pickguard and the body binding was dropped. The neck joint was changed to the bolt-on type but the screw heads were covered by a metal plate, which was subsequently changed to a more standard type bolt-on neckplate with exposed screw heads.
All of these changes suggest economy in manufacturing as the "original" design would have been very expensive to produce. The Ventures logo became smaller in mid '64 and the pickups changed to show the "Mosrite of California" logo embossed on them, but with no "R" for registered trade mark.
In the next installment of the Mosrite Story, we'll take a close look at the company during the 1960s and '70s - and have more to say about the Mosrite Ventures models.

The '60s and '70s
During the early to mid '60s, the Mosrite company began to do extremely well and started experimenting with different types of guitars, effects pedals and amps. One owner Semie Moseley's experiments included: reintroducing twin neck guitars, known as the Joe Maphis twin neck model, although it differed considerably from the original '50s Joe Maphis double-neck.
During the '60s, Mosrite built various Ventures model guitars and basses, semi-acoustic Celebrity models in three different versions , a bass model, and a "fake" semi-solid body known as a "combo." The body of the guitar was made from solid wood and had the front hollowed out and another piece of wood glued on, like a Rickenbacker guitar. These "combos" were released later as a Joe Maphis model, but without F-shaped sound holes.
Around this same time, guitarists began to use Mosrite's new Fuzzrite effects pedal designed by Semie's friend Ed Sanner and solid state amplifiers. Later, Jimi Hendrix would artistically craft his music using a Fuzzrite pedal.
By 1965, the Vibramute vibrato unit was modified to a die cast with the name Moseley embossed on it with a serial number. The mute mechanism had long since disappeared. Volume and tone knobs were changed to a "hat type" with an "M" stamped on top and are numbered from 1 to 5 and lettered with a T and V, for tone and volume, respectively.
In '66 the knobs were changed again to something very similar, but taller and without the V and T lettering embossed on them. Also around this time the string guide was changed to a 1/4 round unit.
Mosrite necks were very thin and made from two or three pieces of rock maple. Semie insisted on sanding down the frets to make them extremely small and low calling it "speed fretting". Most early Mosrites have a truss rod adjustment at the headstock, but by late '66 all models featured this trait, along with a plastic truss rod cover.
At this time, there were three different models. The original and most collectable Ventures model, the Ventures model II, like the one Johnny Ramone played with a slab body and no German carve, and the Mark V.
The slab body Mark II was a very short lived model with production figures estimated at somewhere between 140 and 180 being made in mid-1965. These had two distinct features seen only on that particular model (and a couple of crossover German carve guitars). One was the tremolo unit of folded chrome steel with the arm coming out between the D and G strings and the other was the use of thinner pickups with no pole pieces. After the slab body Mark II was dropped (apparently Semie thought it looked too cheap) the Mark V with the German carve was offered as a Mark II with the later headstock decal applied.
The German carve Mark II and Mark V are identical guitars that were offered at the same time, although the serial numbering up to around B700 seem to be Mark IIs and after that Mark Vs. These guitars had less expensive appointments although most of the hardware was identical to the higher end Ventures model.
In 1967 the Ventures distribution deal ended and the Ventures logo disappeared from all headstocks. This was the first nail in the Mosrite coffin. Although their guitars were selling well in both America and Japan, things started to go wrong and within two years Mosrite would suffer the first of many closures.
Having turned down a deal with Sears and Roebuck, Co., Semie signed a deal with the Thomas Organ Company. Then everything seemed to fall apart, with Mosrite filing for bankruptcy on Valentine's day 1969 - things were never the same again.

Into the '70s
By the late '60s Mosrite was making many models including the Ventures model, the Ventures II and V, and a Ventures model bass. All of the models became "Mark" series guitars after the endorsement deal with the Ventures terminated in 1967.
Mosrite also offered the semi-solid Combo and Joe Maphis models as a six-string and a bass, the semi-acoustic Celebrity in guitar and bass and the Joe Maphis twin neck model with 6/12 stringed configurations. After the deal with the Ventures collapsed in '67 the "Mark" series was identical in construction to the Ventures guitars, except for the logo on the headstock and a serial number starting without a "V" prefix soon after the Ventures logo stopped being applied. All six string guitars were offered in twelve string.
Other interesting guitars of the mid to late '60s included three different acoustic models and four different Dobro's that included a Celebrity semi-acoustic with a resonator cone called the Californian. Moseley lost the rights to the Californian name when he lost the company in 1969.
The late '60s and early '70s were bad times for the company compared to its heydays of the early and mid '60s. Misfortune resulted in Semie losing the Mosrite name and the rights to his guitars. Always driven, Semie began to make his guitars under the "Gospel" name. In fact, in some cases Mosrites have turned up with Mosrite logos under the Gospel plate screwed to the headstock! Models that were available as Mosrites could be bought as Gospels.
Semie bought the name Mosrite back in late 1970 and started fresh with many new ideas and old favorites. Mosrites like the Bluesbender and 350 had been prototyped in the late '60s before Mosrite closed, but it wasn't until Semie opened back up in Bakersfield, California in early '71 that these models were produced.
The 1970s was an experimental era for Semie when he introduced models like the Brassrail which literally had a brass rail running down the fretboard from the nut connecting the frets together, all the way to the bridge. The brassrail idea was Semie's innovative attempt to make a guitar with superior sustain. A deluxe version was also offered and had a unique changeable electronics package that would alter the sound of the guitar, accessed through a brass plate on the back of the guitar.
The Bluesbender was similar to the Brassrail but had a bolt on neck without the rail. The models were very Les Paul in shape with a carved top and stop tailpiece. The Bluesbender is a remarkable guitar to play even today.
At this time, Semie also offered the 300 mono and 350 mono and stereo models. They had the same body shape, similar to the single cutaway Fender Telecaster, with the 300 mono a single pickup guitar and the 350 having two pickups and stereo outputs.
The Celebrity was still being made in the form of the Celebrity II and III with small numbers of Celebrity I full depth body guitars being made to order. The Combo was changed to the Joe Maphis model with no F-hole. Both guitars offered standard Mosrite hardware bought over from the '60s, except the firm now offered humbuckers on all models. The pickups were encased in the original single coil covers, but had two rows of pole pieces, one drilled right through the Mosrite of California embossing!
Also seen for the first time on production models was phase switching and very complicated electronics built into the Brassrail Deluxe.
In '73 Semie made some Acoustic Black Widows for the Acoustic guitar and amp company. Most were produced in Japan, except for the last 200 or so. The homegrown Black Widows are easy to identify as they're adorned with many Mosrite parts and very Mosrite-type necks. As the name suggests, the Black Widows were all black, except for a large red pad on the back. The Widows were offered as both six-strings and basses, but since Semie never kept detailed records, the number of Black Widows built is unknown.
As luck would have it, the 300 and 350 models sold reasonably well and Semie was able to recruit employees and begin to run a newer, yet smaller guitar company. Sales catalogues also show Celebrity guitars with flame maple tops and humbuckers and also Dobro style guitars available throughout the '70s.
Semie continued on through the '70s with innovative and brilliant designs, but people kept longing for the return of his popular Ventures model to make a comeback. Semie did make small numbers of Ventures shaped models, especially in the early '70s but was trying to make a name for himself as both a luthier and guitar designer who had more to offer the guitar world, and he did.
The 1970s were very lean years for Semie and Mosrite and he took some time off from guitar building to record and head out on gospel tours. It was a chance meeting in the early 1980s that would recharge Moseley and bring Mosrite back to the world of guitars.

Into the '80s
Mosrite at Jonas Ridge, NCAfter moving the factory from Oklahoma City in ’76 to Yuba City, California in ’77, then to Carson City, Nevada in ’79 and later to an old school building in Jonas Ridge, North Carolina in 1981, Mosrite production picked up again thanks to orders from Japan.
A chance meeting with a Japanese Mosrite enthusiast at a guitar show insured that owner of Mosrite guitars, Semie Moseley, could start making bigger production runs again, thanks to the financial input for (unofficial) Ventures model reproductions. However, after building 300 guitars of the 700 guitar order, in November 1983 the factory burned down. Semie had little insurance on the building, so production had to shut down yet again. Above is a photo of the Mosrite factory at Jonas Ridge, NC, as it stands today.
Details around this time are sketchy, but Semie continued to build Mosrites on a custom basis at a building in Morganton, North Carolina. Production was fairly small through the ‘80s until the new factory was eventually set up in an old Wal-Mart building in Boonville, Arkansas on March 9, 1991.

V88During this period in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s Semie made Venture model “reissues”, including copies of the early ’63 sidejack, set neck guitars and the new V88 and M88. The V88’s were Ventures reissues with Mosrite 1988 on the headstock and like most Mosrites throughout the ‘80s were signed by Semie either on the back of the headstock or the back of the neck – sometimes both. As was the M88 which was a Ventures model shape with no scratch plate or German carve. In 1987, Mosrite also built the 25th Anniversary Ventures model. This was a Ventures reproduction with a metallic silver body and “sunburst” black and silver scratchplate with an “M” embossed into it. Only 7 were finished of the originally planned 25 guitars.
Mosrite was back and the number of models were increasing quickly. Vibramute vibratos were back on most Ventures shaped models with a rarer Semie Moselely labeled Vibramute appearing on some guitars thoughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, as shown below.
During the 1980s, there were quite a few Ventures shaped guitars being made with and without German carves and scratch plates. The VII and VIII carve top models with no scratch plate were made around 1984 until the end of the ‘80s.

V88 VibramuteOne guitar was made in 1989 when the State of Arkansas helped Semie move to Leachville, Arkansas. But then political action by unbelievers in Arkansas failed to follow through with financing. Semie returned to Jonas Ridge, North Carolina.
In 1991 the State of Arkansas put money up for Semie to relocate Mosrite to Boonvile, Arkansas. There Semie would have been very successful, even though he had recently had a car accident that took his leg (It was reattached!), but things were looking up for the business. He had 15 employees that had built Gretsch guitars.

V88 HeadstockUnfortunately, tragedy struck again three months after the move when Semie was diagnosed with multiple myaloma cancer of the bone.
Andy Moselely, Semie’s brother, went to the factory to help out after Semie died, but Loretta (Semie’s widow) had already taken charge and informed Andy that she could keep things going by herself.
There were many “new” models in the works during the early ‘90s, including a slab body Ventures shape Mosrite with the timber and aluminum hard tailpiece aimed at a cheaper market.

Mosrite Ventures ModelAlso in full production were the ’63 sidejacks, as well as ’64 and ’64 reissues using the Ventures logos. A Nokie (Nokie Edwards – Lead Guitarist, Ventures) model was made in small numbers that has become quite collectible now due to the Ventures association and the very small production run.
The last Mosrite production run to be made was in 1993 and was made up of the 30th Anniversary Nokie models. These were set neck, fully bound Ventures re-issues based on the early ’63 sidejack models.
Semie had died in August 1992. His dreams were carried on for awhile with the help of his staff and Loretta, but in 1994 everything shut down for what was maybe – hopefully not! – the last time.
[Editor's Note: Fact or urban legend? Modern Guitars confirmed with John Rutledge, Semie's General Manager during the '50s and '60s and Noke Edwards, lead guitarist for the Ventures, the story that Semie flipped a Fender Stratocaster on to its back and outlined it to arrive at the signature Mosrite Ventures model guitar.]

by Tim Brennan and Rick Landers

The Ventures
Around mid-'60s, a marriage between "mosrite", a Rolls-Royce of electric guitars, and The Ventures, the world's greatest instrumental group, swept the whole country of Japan.The long-time dream of "electric guitar ('eleki')" kids who then were junior or senior high school boys now has come true and they are just having fun playing "The Ventures" tunes with their "mosrite". It's a genuine "mosrite" sound that "Guyatone" or "Teisco" back in those days or "Japan mosrite" could not produce.

Ventures Trivia
The Ventures have written over 1000 tunes, and recorded over 3000 songs altogether! If they ever decide to play all of the songs that they've ever recorded, it would take almost 5 days - without a break - to play them all.

· The Ventures have released over 250 albums including compilations! 37 of these have hit the US charts. Over 150 albums have been released in Japan.

· Walk, Don't Run was kept from hitting #1 by several different records, including the immortal Itsy Bittsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. The Ventures became the first act in the history of the music industry to hit the top ten with two different versions of the same song when Walk Don’t Run '64 hit #8. (Neil Sedaka achieved it later with a second version of Breaking Up Is Hard To Do).

· The Ventures have been together as a group for 49 years and have never taken a year off from concerts or recording.

· In addition to recording the hit version of Hawaii Five-O, The Ventures also contributed some of the incidental music heard in the background of the TV show.

· In the early 60's, the band would record 4 to 6 albums a year. At one time, they had 5 albums in the top 100 simultaneously (1963).

· In 1993 the band received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from Guitar Player Magazine.

· Walk, Don't Run, had already been named one of 20 Essential Rock Albums for guitarists, by Guitar Player Magazine, in 1987.

· In 1970 and 1971, the Ventures were the #1 composers in Japan. Five of their compositions hit #1 on the Japanese charts. They usually released an instrumental version of the song, while a Japanese artist would release a vocal version.

· In 1958, The Ventures released their first single, Cookies and Coke/ The Real McCoy. Despite Don Wilson's superb imitation of Walter Brennan, the record flopped. There are only two copies of this record known to exist. It took Bob and Don four or five months to save up the money to record their next record, Walk, Don't Run.

· During the 60's, The Ventures outsold the Beatles in Japan two to one.

· For the year 1965, The Ventures had five of the top ten singles in Japan, per Billboard magazine (January 1966)

· The McCoys ( of Hang on Sloopy fame) got their name from The McCoy, a Ventures original tune on the Walk Don’t Run album, although their old name, Rick (Derringer) and the Raiders, was still on their bass drum when they recorded Sloopy.

· Artists who have publicly acknowledged their musical debt to The Ventures include John Fogerty, Jimmy Page, Stanley Clarke, Steve Miller, George Harrison, the Ramones, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Larry Carleton, Dire Straits, Davie Allan, Aerosmith, Marshall Crenshaw, Sir Elton John and many more.

· In September, 1962, the band released their most controversial recording, Lolita Ya-Ya, the theme from the movie Lolita. It peaked at #61 in the US. Later that year, they released The 2,000 Pound Bee, the first single recording to use a fuzz-box guitar. This song was played at (Killer Bee) John Belushi's funeral.

· Primarily known for their album success, the band had 14 top 100 singles in the 60's.

· Every LP released by the Ventures from 1961-1972 sold at least 100,000 copies. Even though Liberty Records had many hit artists (including Ricky Nelson, Bobby Vee, Sandy Nelson, Johnny Rivers, the Fifth Dimension, Cher, the Hollies, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Chipmunks, Jan and Dean, and numerous others), the company publicized the fact that The Ventures were responsible for over 25% of their business throughout the 60's.

· The first release in the Play Guitar with the Ventures series was the first and perhaps only musical instrument instructional album to chart. Countless young guitarists learned to play by listening to this series of albums and by playing along with regular Ventures albums.

· After surpassing 40,000,000 in record sales there, the Ventures became the first foreign members of Japan's Conservatory of Music.

· The Ventures have also placed their handprints in the Hollywood Rock Walk.

· The drummer on Walk, Don't Run was Skip Moore, not Howie Johnson as many assume. Skip was given the choice of $25 or 1/4 of the money the record would make for playing on the session. He took the 25 bucks! Another early drummer, George Babbitt, retired as a 4-star Air Force general.

· Nokie Edwards real first name is Nole. He is from Lahoma, Oklahoma, hence the "Nokie". He turned professional at 11 and was on the radio at 13! That’s it . . . Nole from Okie.

· Keyboardist John Durrill, who joined the group in the late 60's, formerly played with The Five Americans. He later wrote three hits for Cher. Dark Lady went to #1 for him and Cher in 1974.

· Drummer Howie Johnson left the group after a bad auto accident made travel too painful. Howie passed away in 1989.

· Drummer Mel Taylor believed that he was the first drummer ever to play bluegrass music. He also played the Hollywood Bowl the first time Country music was played there. He did session work with Gary Paxton (Alley Oop, Cherry Pie, Monster Mash, etc.), Herb Alpert, Buck Owens and others before joining the Ventures.

· Don Wilson considers himself a "guitar flogger". He also played lead fire extinguisher on Telstar.

· Gerry McGee played on the first two Monkees albums. The opening guitar chords on the Monkees theme song are his, as is the famous intro on Last Train to Clarksville. He has also played with Bobby Darin, Delany and Bonnie, Kris Kristofferson, Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Ricky Nelson, Sandy Nelson, and Jerry Lee Lewis. His father, Denus, was a pioneering Cajun fiddle player. · Bob Bogle played lead guitar on Walk Don't Run, Perfidia, Lullaby of the Leaves, Blue Moon, and a number of cuts on the first several albums. He still plays some lead, especially in the studio. The first time Bob played bass guitar was live on stage!

· Bob Reisdorf, their first producer, was in such a hurry to get their first album out, that he used some Liberty Records stockroom employees in sunglasses on the first album cover. That cover was later parodied, using the actual band members, on Walk Don't Run, Vol. 2.