Vintage Guitar Scene: Maton Alver

Where do guitar names originate? It’s generally known in guitar circles that the founder of the Australian guitar company Maton was Melbourne-born jazz musician, woodwork teacher and luthier Bill May, and that he came up with the name as a derivative of the words “May” and “Tone”. What’s less well-known is the origin of the Alver brand that was used on a range of Maton student guitars between 1952 and 1971. I had heard that Bill May’s wife Vera was the reason for the ‘ver’ part of the name, but was unsure of the origin of the ‘Al’. Dr Google was unable to come up with an answer for me, so I asked Neville Kitchen, Maton Managing Director and Bill’s son-in-law. Neville confirmed to me that Bill May came up with the Alver name as a combination of the names Alma (his brother’s wife) and Vera (his wife).

As my first guitar was an Alver I’ve maintained in interest in these guitars, and have collected a few over the years. I recently rediscovered the receipt for my first Alver – purchased by my father and myself at Allans in Melbourne in 1962. The guitar cost 21 pounds, 19 shillings and sixpence (approx. $44), which was a lot of money for a schoolboy in 1962. I had earned the money by pruning on the family vineyard after school and at weekends over the winter. I traded my first Alver to buy an electric guitar a few years later, but the guitar pictured is an identical model that I bought in Perth in the 1980s for around $120. There’s no serial number – Alver guitars were made in batches of 30 and identified only by batch numbers (This one is from batch B88). Although only a budget priced plywood guitar, the Alver was a well made and structurally sound instrument, and there are many surviving examples still in good repair. Alma and Vera would be proud.

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About Ben Rogers 18 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.

7 Comments

  1. I have just purchased a Maton cft 175 acoustic guitar serial no.153
    I can find very little on these guitars I have emailed Maton but no response as yet!

    Sean ( I have taken a load of pic’s and done a short video)

    • Re comment from Sean Daly 19/9/15: Check out matonmuseum.com.au – there’s a copy of the sales brochure for the Maton Coolabah Flat Top (CFT) 175.

      • Hi Brian
        I have cft maton also serial 169
        Have you found out anymore info as I have also tried to know avail

  2. G’day Ben,

    I was just wondering, what type of strings would you reccomend for the Alver 2C – as I have the electric version. Also, while on the topic of Alvers, mine has a wedge knob as a replacement to the original volume knob. Any ideas as to where one could track down an original knob (if not a replica).

    Thanks in advance,

    Dave

  3. Hi Dave, re strings for your Alver 2C – It depends on what sort of sound you’re looking for, and whether you like lighter or heavier gauge. If you want a warm mellow sound I suggest flat wounds such as D’Addario ECG-24 (11-50). For a brighter sound any round wound electrics will work. Heavier gauge will give a stronger sound, but 10-46 would be fine. I don’t know of any sources for original parts, but the Facebook group “Vintage Maton Guitar Appreciation Society” would be able to help. Cheers, Ben

  4. Hi Ben and Alver Afficionados,
    Back in the 70s in SA I had a dark red burst “Stradivarius” labelled Alver. I believe these were branded for the Adelaide College of Music who sold them to their students. I’ve also seen a 1950s Moody Lap Steel with the Stradivarius decal and its original Adelaide College of Music receipts etc inside the case.
    Regarding serial numbers I know of two acoustic Alvers with a 4 digit number stamped on the top edge of the headstock. One was #4010 and the other #5111. These also had the small Maton label inside with no batch number pencil mark. I also have a 2 pickup electric Alver with no serial number but with batch number B.200 on the internal label. I’m going to check in with Maton about this and will post any info I get from them.
    These are interesting lightweight guitars as virtually no internal bracing and nice neck shape, cool players when set up correctly. Cheers, Ian

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