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This great old guitar just came out of an estate here in San Francisco. I’m not a guitarist, and I don’t even know much about them, so I sent pictures to someone I know who collects and plays vintage guitars. I’ll copy and paste his entire reply here.
”What you’ve got therr is a cherry red Kay Speed Demon. These were made by Kay from 61 to 65, IIRC. It’s a thinline hollowbody or semi-acoustic kind of like a Gibson ES335, but with f-holes that were cut in 4 sections.
Clapton played one of these in his first band the Roosters. (actually it was a Red Devil, but the only difference between the Red Devil and the Speed Demon was that the RD was a double-cutaway and the SD was a single.) Alexis Korner from Blues Inc. played one too. I had a Red Devil back in the 70s and stupdly sold it.
These guitars were a cut above most Kay guitars and a lot of the Harmony, Valco and Danelecto hollowbodies since the bodies were arched/shaped (not just flat) and they have celluloid binding around the body. Most of the Speed Demons I’ve seen didn’t come with the trem tailpiece (Clapton’s guitar had a Bigsby kinda like this). It could have been ordered that way or added later, but either way it’s a plus. The pickguards missing ,but they’re all missing, they were almost always tossed as soon as they were sold. The fretboards on these are rosewood and the necks are beefy. They’re graet for the blues, for slide, or rhythm rock-n-roll.
Kay stopped making guitars at all in 1967 I think it was, and the name was bought by some businessmen who imported Japanese guitars with the Kay name on tehm. But this one is def US-made. Hope this info helps. Le tme know what you want for it, I’d be interested."
So, that is the extent of what I know about the guitar’s design and historical context. As for the condition: Cosmetically, the guitar is very nice looking, and it looks to me to be original. I couldn’t find any cracks, chips, dents or any other damage to it, other than some very faint marks on the back of the neck; I would guess, from use. I can’t see any signs of repairs either. The rosewood part on the front of the neck has very little wear, nor do the little metal dividers. The tuning knobs all work. There are some faint clear splotches to the finish on the body, like something dripped or splashed on it (I thought at first it might be candle wax, but I don't think it is). It’s not in the wood, just the clear coating or on top of the coating. I presume it would clean off.
I borrowed a friend’s amplifier and cord and plugged the guitar in. It sounds strong and loud, and I surprised myself by actually making some sounds that were pretty nice! I fiddled around with the arm of the tremolo thing and got it to make the note higher or make it vibrate. The knobs work. It’s really a beautiful guitar, and it’s in amazing condition for something that’s nearly 50 years old. I’ll pack it carefully for shipping. If you use “buy-it-now”, I’ll even pay for shipping within the continental US. Make it yours!
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