Mary Kaye, Mary Kaye, Mary Mary Mary

A few days of 50s-60s weather semi-justified a few days outside that has resulted in me being even further behind on work and play. Catching up.

For my money, the "Mary Kaye" Fender Stratocaster is the most attractive electric guitar ever produced. In much the same way that vermouth is useless for anything other than a fine martini, the Kaye Strat's key components -- gold hardware and a clear nitrocellulose blonde body finish -- look cheesy and bland [respectively] on anything else. I'm not one for maple fretboards, but they work beautifully for a Kaye; it's one of those rare, perfectly balanced instruments that can't be improved by additions or subtractions. You can add a middle pickup to a Gibson Les Paul, you can replace a Fender Telecaster's neck pickup with a humbucker, you can strip off the fretboard gloss and add a compressor circuit to a Rickenbacker 360-12, you can even switch out a D'Angelico New Yorker's hardtail bridge and install a Bigsby tremelo in its place, but what can you do to improve a Mary Kaye Strat? Maybe some rewiring and upgrading the electronics, but that's about it.

I was looking at a weird/rare vinyl-record gallery site [already lost the link, sorry] and came across a cover jpeg and mp3 excerpt from Johnny Cucci & Jody Carver's album THE HOT CLUB OF AMERICA IN HI-FI, which was one of my first Salvation Army finds when I started shopping at the Salvo as a young [anti]hipster. I don't remember if the HCOA cover or the rehearsal scenes in the Chuck Berry documentary HAIL! HAIL! ROCK & ROLL! was my first exposure to the Mary Kaye Strat, although they had to have occurred almost on top of each other, one cementing the other.

So, I googled the Hot Club, and found Mr. Carver's site, which in addition to some nice mp3 excerpts from the album also offers some sweet links: to a place that has the album on CD, to an informative fansite about the album and to an article from VINTAGE GUITAR magazine detailing the mindbogglingly complex history of the original 1956 Kaye Strat used on the HCOA album [and Kaye's performance in the movie CHA CHA CHA BOOM!, the Aerosmith album ROCK IN A HARD PLACE and possibly The Who's second farewell tour].

Of course, I drool like this as a guy who hasn't owned a Mary Kaye Strat or listened to the entire HCOA LP in years and will probably blow his allowance on this Kaye-finished Limited Edition Epiphone Wildkat Deluxe long before a MK Strat. It's cheap, it's elegantly cluttered and it's cheap. I'd rather save up and build my own Mary Kaye anyway, probably a semi-hollow one.


Tim O'Neil said...

Jesus Christ you're a nerd.

Says the guy who posts about Superman.

Milo George said...

Superman, Jesus and you have never made me any money or gotten me laid. Mary Kaye wins.