Vintage Guitar Scene: 1963 Guild Thunderbird S-200

1963 Guild Thunderbird S-200

Serial No. 26363

A guitar with a built-in stand – How cool is that? Guild’s first attempt at a solid body back in 1963 probably has the distinction of being the only guitar with a kickstand in the back. When I acquired this Guild Thunderbird 45 years ago I knew little about electric guitars – don’t think I’d even seen a Fender Strat! My first guitar was a Maton Alver acoustic, eventually traded up to an Eko solid body, and then a Fender Mustang. I’d heard of Gretsch and Guild, and Japanese imports such as Tiesco and Canora, but that was about the extent of my brand knowledge in 1970. I spotted this Guild solid body guitar in the window of a music store in Albury (NSW), and knowing Guild to be a reputable brand, I decided to buy the odd looking instrument. The price was $170, which was about 3 weeks’ wages, and so I put it on lay-by and took delivery a couple of months later. For the next 5 years or so this was my only electric guitar, and it served me well.

In the mid 1970s I still had no idea that an old guitar could become collectible, and I must confess that when a music store in Mildura (Vic) offered me $400 for the Guild as a trade in on a brand new Gibson Les Paul Signature, I accepted the offer. So once again the Guild sat on its built-in stand in a shop window, until eventually a fellow musician purchased it. By this time I was beginning to regret losing the Thunderbird, and fortunately for me the new owner was disappointed with the sound of the guitar. After some encouragement he agreed to sell it back to me for $200, so I was reunited with the guitar and $200 better off after the whole process.

The Guild has never been re-fretted and although the frets are worn, it’s still quite playable. The factory fitted tremolo arm – made by the Swedish company Hagstrom – works well and doesn’t put the guitar out of tune, if used moderately as intended.

The controls can be a bit confusing at first, but they’re similar to a Fender Jaguar, with a master “rhythm” or “lead” switch, two pickup switches and “strangle switch” to cut out bass frequencies. There’s separate tone and volume knobs for the rhythm (small knobs) and lead circuits (large knobs). Simple really!

The stand is a chrome leg that folds out from the back, forming a tripod with the bottom of the guitar body (Patent Pending!). When not in use the stand is held in place by a magnet in the back of the body.

The Guild mini-humbuckers deliver a unique sound, especially in the 2 pickup setting, and the guitar has a distinctive look, with its asymmetrical headstock and body. Although I don’t take it out to gigs much these days, it’s still handy for that special sound in the studio.

This is a relatively rare guitar, with only about 150 built from 1963 to 1968. Notable Guild Thunderbird players have included Muddy Waters, Ross Hannaford (Daddy Cool), Zal Yanovsky (The Lovin’ Spoonful) Fred Cole (Dead Moon, Pierced Arrows), and Dan Auerbach (Black Keys).

 

 

About Ben Rogers 14 Articles
Ben Rogers has played guitar for a long time, and has accumulated an odd assortment of guitars over the years. He plays around Melbourne with Instrumental Asylum – a surf/spy/guitar-noir group, and also with his gypsy-jazz combo The Ben Rogers Trio.

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