Vintage Guitar Scene: Songsters, Alvers and Tuners

Songsters – the term will be familiar to those of a certain age with an interest in popular music of the day.  Songsters were pocket sized booklets of song lyrics produced in Australia by the music publishing companies, with the most well-known being the Boomerang Songster published by Alberts. Other songsters of the sixties included Top Pop (Leeds Music), Hit Parade (Chappell-Morris), Spotlight (Essex Music), and the Mighty Rock ‘N’ Roll Souvenir Songster published by Boosey & Hawkes. A few photos of the pop stars were usually included – generally standard cheesy publicity shots, or stills from movies if the singer was also a film star such as Elvis Presley.

In the days before cassette players were available to copy a song from the radio and transcribe the lyrics, songsters were a valuable resource for singers and young music fans.  At 15 cents per copy (equivalent to around $2 in 2015) they were an affordable means of obtaining the words of the latest hit records.

What do songsters have to do with this month’s featured guitar? Well, when I purchased this old Maton Alver acoustic in 1988, the case contained an unexpected bonus – a stack of fifties and sixties songsters including Boomerang, Top Pop and various others. At the time my musical activities included a sixties cover band, so the collection of songsters was put to good use.

The guitar is in original condition except for the machine heads, which had been replaced with better quality tuners. I recently showed the instrument to a guitar enthusiast, and after a cursory inspection his interest focused on the machine heads. He commented that they were vintage Ibanez “Star” tuners, which would be worth more than the guitar. Apparently he’s not a Maton enthusiast…

I’ve mentioned in a previous article that Alver guitars were made in batches of 30 and identified only by batch numbers.  This instrument is a Model 2C from Batch 181, which I understand dates it as having been produced in March 1967.

Whilst this is not a guitar that I use on gigs, it has featured on quite a few of my recordings – it has a bright chiming tone that’s great for acoustic melody lines.

I buy guitars out of love for the instruments and the joy of playing them rather than as potential investments. However if I were to consider the value per dollar for any of my guitars, the $65 I paid for this Alver would have to be my top investment.

Songsters are now collectible, with many similar to my “Alver guitar case collection” on offer for between five and ten dollars each, so I guess the set would be worth more than I paid for the guitar. They may even be worth as much as the tuners…

About Ben Rogers 19 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.

1 Comment

  1. Hi, I actually have a maton Alver, in absolute mint condition, except for the headstock is a bit hard… pretty sure it’s the original headstock. My dad gave it to me for my 30th birthday, 11 years ago.. he was going to paint it with flames and put it up on the wall in his 50’s room, but had a change of heart, and thought to give it to me, as I’ve played guitar most of my life, and have an Australian series maton also.
    Just thought you’d like to know that there are very good conditions maton Alver’s still floating around.
    I’ve never wanted to sell it, as it looks beautiful, but have always wondered what they would value at..
    And I have thought of taking it to Maton, to see if they could get the headstock working better for me, so I can play and tune it properly.
    I’m based in South Australia

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