Wednesday, July 20, 2011

St. George Guitars....A Sainted Name For a Badge

Well, as you may have guessed over the past few weeks the Torchman has been busy.  Checked out a few concerts in my area and enjoyed the stylings of Steely Dan and the ever-talented Peter Frampton.  But I noticed as I was hanging around Detroit a guy playing one of those old St. George basses from the 1960's. 

You may recall some St. George guitars were made in Japan, although a few originated in the sunny state of California.  Japanese MIJ St. George guitars were manufactured by the Shiro Musical Instrument Manufacturing company, although I've seen them listed as a Kawai Teisco product.  My thought is that perhaps Teisco outsourced the manufacture of the badge to this small company.  What is known is that St. George guitars were made between 63-67 by Shiro.  I gotta admit, the guitar sure does look like a Teisco.  Perhaps someone out there can enlighten me. 

St. George guitars came in electrics and bass models with the funky white St. George shield badge to remind us that it was named for a saint.  Well, actually, it was named for a store with the moniker St. George.  St. George guitars were sold in New York and California, although I've seen them elsewhere.  Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, plays a St. George guitar he bought in a pawnshop in Canada.  Is that cool or what? 

The St. George badge was also slapped on a few amps, which are apparently sought-after because they were made by the infamous amp master Ray Massie, who struck out after working for Fender to create his own company in California in the late 1950's early 1960's.  Which means that the amps aren't Japanese.  Isn't this fun?

A few St. George guitars (very few) were made by master luthier Paul Barth in Riverside, California.  These guitars were made by his company, Bartell.   They're extremely sought-after because of the high-quality woods used in construction and come in both 6 and 12 string models, both bass and electrics.  The Bartell St. George's have only a script signature "St. George" on the guitar instead of a shield badge like you find on the Japanese-made St. George guitars.  It's rare to find them for sale and when they do come up, they sell for thousands of dollars.

On the whole, St. George is a well-loved, easy to play badge which is appreciated by guitarists everywhere.  You can find Japanese St. George guitars for as little as $100 here and there.  A great buy for a decent guitar!

St. George.  Named for a Saint.  Still awesome after all these years!


  1. i have a st, george acustic guitar it is a classical guitar but i cant find information on it anywere . can you help me find info on it

  2. I own a St. George 6 string bass with the cut out in the body that could be used as a handle(?). I cannot find any info on it...

  3. Hi My name is Paul jr. of St. George music supply Hollywood, Ca division. My grandfather owned the Troy New York store and I was raised in the Western Ave. California store until the Watts riots in 67 when the store and warehouses were burned down. I have a few guitars and a bass and love playing them all.

  4. I have a Bartell XK-150. If anyone knows about this please let me know.