BURNS LONDON LTD./BURNS U.S.A.
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BURNS LONDON LTD./BURNS U.S.A.
Instruments previously built in Britain during the late 1950s and 1960s and in Boonville, AR by Baldwin between 1965 and 1972. Currently produced in Surrey, England by Burns London Ltd. and in Korea. Currently distributed in the U.S. by Saga Musical Instruments in San Francisco, CA since 2011. Previously distributed in the U.S. by Codel Enterprises of Bethel, CT from 2002-June 2005 and by Crafter USA in Ashland, VA from late 2005-2009.
Jim Burns has been hailed as the British Leo Fender due to his continual electric guitar designs and innovations. Widely accepted in England and Europe, Burns guitars never really caught on in the U.S. market.
James Ormsted Burns was born in 1925. Burns built his first lap steel while still serving in the Royal Air Force in 1944. By 1952, he completed his first solid body electric, and, along with partner Alan Wooten, Burns built his first twenty guitars under the Supersound name in 1958. Burns' first production guitars were built with Henry Weill in 1959 under the Burns-Weill trademark, then later under the Burns logo. The Burns, London company (1960 to 1965) was the watermark of Jim BurnsĀ“ career, as the company stayed very successful producing guitars, basses, amplifiers, and accessories. Even while many popular British artists used Burns instruments, Jim Burns turned to exporting his instruments to the U.S. market briefly under both the Ampeg and Burns trademarks.
In 1965, the Baldwin company lost to CBS in its bid to acquire Fender. Searching for another proven winner, Baldwin bought Burns and began importing the instruments under the Baldwin or Baldwin/Burns trademarks. Jim Burns stayed on as managing director and "idea man" through 1966, then left to pursue other projects. Baldwin eventually began assembling imported parts in Booneville, Arkansas. By 1970, Baldwin decided to concentrate on production of Gretsch guitars and drums (acquired in 1967, the Gretsch operation was also moved down to Arkansas).
In 1969, Jim Burns returned to the musical instrument world as a design consultant to Dallas-Arbiter's Hayman trademark. Along with ex-Vox employee Bob Pearson, Burns was reunited with Jack Golder (ex-Burns mainstay) but only continued his affiliation until 1971. A new Burns organization arose in 1973 as Burns, U.K., but this company met with less success than intended and folded in 1977. A later stab at affairs continued as the Jim Burns Company from 1979 to 1983.
Jim Burns died in 1998, and also served as an acting consultant at Burns, London Ltd. This Surrey, England-based company was established in 1992, and is currently producing authentic reproductions of the desirable 1960s-style Burns models. In 2002, Codel Enterprises began distributing Burns guitars in the U.S. again, and in late 2005, Crafter USA became the exclusive U.S. distributor.
The most collectible Burns instruments would be from the company's heyday between 1960 and 1965. The Burns-Weill models are relatively scarce, and the Ampeg by Burns of London models were only distributed from 1963 to 1964. Baldwin models, while not plentiful, do surface in the U.S. vintage market - and some examples pop up in Elvis Presley's 1960s movies! A Double-Six 12-string model is currently on display in Graceland. Later, Burns' companies probably contributed to smaller guitar productions, although the Burns U.K. Flyte model has a pretty cool jet plane-shaped body design. Jim Burns was the first to pioneer a number of distinct design ideas that are accepted worldwide in guitar production. Burns originated interesting features like the 24-fret fingerboard, the heel-less glued-in neck joint, knife-edge bearing vibrato unit, active electronics, and stacked-coil pickups. Source: Paul Day, The Burns Book.

From Blue Book Publications:


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