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Deluxe Mark lll (Paul Bigsby designed) Guitars

1957 Magnatone Deluxe Mark lll (Paul Bigsby designed)

Color: Dark Cherry, Rating: 8.75, $7,500.00 (ID# 02262)
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"Designed by America's Leading Guitar Authority, Paul Bigsby"

 

1957 Magnatone Deluxe Mark lll (Paul Bigsby designed)

 

This super rare, sixty-five year old Paul Bigsby designed 11 1/4 inch-wide, 1 5/8 inch deep, electric solid body guitar weighs just 6.50 lbs. Solid mahogany body (contoured on bass-edge) with original dark cherry finish. One-piece mahogany neck (thru body design) with a nut width of just over 1 5/8 inches, a scale length of 25 1/4 inches and a wonderful, really thick 'baseball-bat' profile. Unbound Brazilian 'slab' rosewood fretboard with 20 original? medium-thin frets and inlaid silver dot markers. Headstock with 'shield-shaped' black plastic plate secured by four metal pins with "Magnatone / Deluxe / Mark / lll" in gold. Single-layer 'shield-shaped' black plastic truss-rod cover with four screws. Three-in-a-line, closed-back Kluson Deluxe 'single-line' strip tuners with white plastic oval buttons. Oval brass plate with engraved serial number "53698", affixed to the back of the headstock with two brass pins. Specific 'short' single-layer black formica pichguard with nine screws and a small black, rectangular formica neck-plate with two screws. Two Alnico Vl single-coil pickups with metal covers and metal surrounds. The potentiometers are stamped "137 724" (CTS, June 1957. Original black plastic, ribbed side control knobs. Magnatone 'pre compensated' height-adjustable metal bridge and specific Magnatone tailpiece with "M" cut-out, secured to bottom edge of body by three screws and strap pin. There is some belt-buckle scarring on the back and some wear mainly on the edges of the body and some good old playing wear on the back of the neck. Overall this super rare little guitar is in all-original and excellent plus (8.75) condition. Housed in a late fifties, sligthtly larger (13 inch) three-latch brown 'aligator' soft-shell case with  brown plush lining (9.00). This is the first Deluxe Mark III that we have ever seen.

This is one of the last of the Deluxe Mark IIIs that were produced. We know of two 1957 Mark lV (double-cutaway) with the serial numbers "52149" and "53267" (with a 'German-carved' top) which in fact is not long before our guitar "53698" was shipped from the factory. The potentiometers in our guitar are stamped "137 724" (CTS, June 1957) so June 1957 must have been when the change from the Mark III 'single-cut' to the Mark IV 'double-cut' occurred. The Mark IV was a radically different guitar with the 'Alnico VI' adjustable pole-piece pickups, different controls, control knobs, pickguard etc., and a totally different bridge and tailpiece assembly.

Around 1955, Magnatone engaged Paul Bigsby, a famous guitar maker and the inventor of the Bigsby 'Vibrato', who was based in Bakersfield California, to create a line of guitars for the brand. In 1956 Magnatone had come out with it's first Spanish Electric guitar, the Mark III. By the next year, 1957, the Mark had been redesigned, and was joined by the two pickup Mark III Deluxe. The powerful Alnico VI pickups have  magnificent tone and clarity. They can be very sweet and they can bark and bite with the very best. The opportunity to own an all original Bigsby is near impossible, and owning a Mark III Deluxe is nearly as difficult as so few were made and they hardly ever surface on the vintage guitar market.   

"Magnatone takes great pride in presenting two exciting new models shown below. For the pattern and design of these models, Magnatone is indebted to America's Leading Guitar Authority, Paul Bigsby. The standards of these guitars will meet the most exacting requirements of the finest professional performer and their modest price will permit even the guitar "enthusiast" to enjoy ownership. Here is an entirely New guitar. Because of the unique size, this guitar can be used equally well as a three quarter or a full size guitar. Many of the custom features listed below are usually found only on the most expensive guitars. Magnatone's engineering ingenuity and manufacturing skill give you these outstanding quality features in a moderately priced guitar –– the MARK III. This is the first time that a guitar in the low priced field has been offered with an offset bridge that is completely adjustable all four ways to suit individual demands. The Mark III Deluxe is the same as the Mark III and contains all of its features plus the added versatility of two powerful Alnico VI pick-ups for solo or accompaniment and Magnatone's simplified volume and tone system which allows the player to instantly effect either or both pick-ups at the touch of a finger. Finished in a rich natural Mahogany." (Andy Babiuk. The story of Paul Bigsby. p. 133 showing the 1957 Magnatone catalog).

The 1956-1957 Paul Bigsby Era.
"In 1956, Magna President Art Duhammel hired Paul Bigsby to design some electric Spanish style guitars to be sold along side the steel guitars and amplifiers in the Magnatone catalog. Bigsby and Duhammel already had a working relationship with some the Magnatone steel guitar design and consulting work, so collaboration for the new MARK series guitars was natural progression. Electric Spanish guitars were still somewhat of a new invention by 1956. Leo Fender's first electric guitar had hit the market in 1950, and Les Paul's Gibson offering had followed in 1952. Duhammel had the right guy with Bigsby, too. Bigsby was as much of a pioneer as Leo or Les with his one-off guitars built for guys like Merle Travis and Grady Martin. Designing the guitars was one thing, and production of them was another. Bigsby had no interest in monitoring the production of these guitars, and furthermore, by all accounts, it seems that by 1957 or so, he was completely burnt-out on building or designing electric guitars for anyone. After designing these guitars for Magna, he shifted his focus to his own company's production of the Bigsby Vibrato Arm, which was sold as a boxed unit, for individuals or manufacturers to install on their guitars. The Vibrato was a simple assembly that was made of cast and stamped steel parts, and was easily assembled. There was no finicky wood to expand, absorb moisture, and crack. As for the Magnatone electric Spanish guitars, by all accounts, Bigsby only designed the guitars. All production details were left up to Magna. There were two guitars designed and sold in 1956 and 1957. The first guitar was the Mark III [single pickup] and the Mark III Deluxe [double pickup], and the second guitar, which appeared in Magnatone catalogs about 1957, was the Mark IV and Mark V. Not many of either of these guitars were built, and both were offered concurrently in the 1957 catalog, with production lasting into mid to late 1957. (http://www.magnatoneamps.com/guitars50s.html).

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