Sunburst, Serial # 6881.
The Guild company was founded in 1952 by Alfred Dronge, a music store owner and accordion distributor. He had been approached by former Epiphone sales manager George Mann to start a guitar company using the ex-Epiphone workers who had stayed in New York when Epiphone moved its manufacturing facilities to a factory in Philadelphia. A small second floor loft in Manhattan became the original Guild factory. Guild’s early guitars consisted of large acoustic and electric archtops with clear-cut Epiphone lineage. Dronge had made many professional jazz contacts during his time as a professional guitarist and music store owner, so he was able to draw luminary supporters from the jazz scene (one early endorsee was Johnny Smith). By 1956 Guild moved to a bigger building in Hoboken New Jersey. The new factory took up a 6,000 square foot space on the sixth floor of the Neumann Leather Building. The new location was still an easy commute for the employees living in Manhattan’s “Little Italy”.
The guitar spotlighted this month was the first in the Guild line that was not the progeny of an earlier Epiphone model. The Aristocrat M-75 was Guild’s version of the compact Gibson Les Paul, but with hollowbody type construction. The 1954 Guild catalog stated: “The use of an exclusively developed lighter semi-solid body construction gives the Guild Aristocrat a magnificence of tone never before achieved in a guitar this size.”
The characteristics of this 1958 Aristocrat are typical of others made that year. These consist of : A spruce top, mahogany back and sides, a 24 and ¾” scale 2-piece mahogany neck with maple center, rosewood fingerboard with block inlays, “lip top” headstock (changed to “center raised” by 1962) with pearloid Guild logo and “Chesterfield” inlay. The hardware was gold, including the Kluson tuners and harp tailpiece. The single coil pickups, while resembling Gibson P-90s, were made by an Astoria New York based company called Franz.