Friday, February 6, 2009

Kay Value Leader

I acquired this guitar in September 2008 and because of the modifications it only has a market value of $100.00. It's a 1960-1961 vintage single pickup Kay Value Leader electric guitar. Looks similar to some Kay, Airline, Old Craftsman guitars from the era. The original finish has been removed from the front and back and neck. As far as I can tell, this guitar is all original and complete except for the finish and pickguard.

The Kay Value Leader thinline guitars are from the late 1950s/early 1960s. This guitar features a metal "checkerboard" style pickguard and a sunburst finish. It has a 15' wide single cutaway, flat top semi hollow maple body with 2 pickups. It has a laminated maple top and maple fingerboard

This guitar is one of the "Thin Lone" family of guitars produced by Kay based around the same basic body style, that includes the Style Leader range and the famous K-161 Thin Twin Jimmy Reed or Howlin Wolf model. The pick ups on this guitar are single coil De Armond "hot" pickups, with the coil wound directly onto the magnet and in fact are a bar magnet under the strings.

This guitar is a good player and a cousin to the classic Kay K-161 that features in many photos in the hands of the legendary Jimmy Reed.

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Here's what a Kay Value Leader should look with the original pickguard and finish.

kay value leader

And here's a video to someone playing a single pickup version.


Belsarius said...

Interesting looking guitar. it reminds me of a Gibson Les Paul. Actually It's more like a Fernandes Monterey. I don't know if you are familiar with those since they are from a smaller brand. (It's from the same people that make the Ravelle..)

The guitar looks sorta beat up, I wonder how it sounds with new strings.

Guitar Hunter said...

Looks can be deceiving, in fact the "relic" look is really popular with some guitar players.

Anonymous said...

I just bought one last Dec. 2008 and it was dirty with some old strings. I took it apart and cleaned it up (fret board, body, and polished the P/Us) and it looks beautiful. Better yet when I plugged it in it came it like. It has a vintage sound that I can't discribe but is so awesome!!! Wish I could send you pics but don't know how. It's a keeper!!! It's also maple with 2 P/Us and 2 checker board metal pickguards on eack side of the strings. I wish I knew what year it was

Guitar Hunter said...

You could send pictures to me at and if you take some good closeups of the tuners I might be able to get you a date for manufacturer.

GuitarSeb123 said...

I recently bought a similar model off ebay called Kay Style Leader from 1961. It very simalar to yours, except that is has a rosewood fretboard, two copper pickup covers and two copper pickguards. Its orginal finish has also been removed. It should come any day now, i can't wait for it>

Guitar Hunter said...

Those are very cool guitars too. If you want to send me some pictures I can post them for other readers.

Anonymous said...

guitarseb123 outbid for the style leader on ebay but i found one in great condition on craigslist in san fran a few days later. awesome guitars with great vintage tone.

Guitar Hunter said...

Craigslist is a great site to find vintage guitars sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I have that style leader in San Fancisco, and it is an awesome guitar (and I'm glad nobody bought it, because I don't need the money any more and I can keep it).

Guitar Hunter said...

I thought the other guy in SF bought your guitar when he posted his comment. Regardless, I'm glad you still have your guitar since it seems you wanted to keep it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I have one but didn't know what the specific model was.

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Stacy said...

I realize this is an old post, but we recently came across my husbands grandma's ol electric Kay. I've been trying to figure out what it is exactly. Looks similar to the one above. Could I try to send you pics to get your opinion?

jackie said...

who knew??? found this guitar in basement storage!! Exact same as the video above...put it on a local bidding site for 5.00....its up to 45.00 dollars...just did not know..sad in alberta canada!!!

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