KAY
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KAY
Amplifiers currently produced in Asia. Distributed in the U.S. by the Kay Guitar Company in Newport Beach, CA. Amplifiers previously in Chicago, IL between the 1930s and the 1960s.
The Kay Musical Instrument Company roots go way back to 1890, when the Groeschel Company of Chicago started building bowl-back mandolins. In 1918, the Groeschel name was changed to the Stromberg-Voisenet Company, and incorporated in 1921. C.G. Stromberg was the vice-president, and the company started to produce guitars and banjos under the Mayflower trademark. Henry Kay Kuhrmeyer offered to use his middle name on the instruments, and Kay Kraft was born. Kuhrmeyer bought the company in 1928, and changed the name of the company to Kay Musical Instruments in 1931. At this time they started to mass-produce stringed instruments. At this point the company became a "house brand" company.
Early guitar amplification for the Stromberg company (before Kay) is thought to go way back to 1928. Electric amplification was just being explored and the quest for portable amplification was under development in the mid 1920s. The first Stromberg amplifier is thought to have a 12 in. Jensen speaker driven by old tubes (71A power tubes), and put out 3W. These amps were very basic and little is known about them.
When the economy rebounded in the mid-1930s, Kay (previously Stromberg), went back to developing a guitar amplifier. The depression had halted this research, but many advances had come to surface by 1939. When lap steels and electric guitars became popular and newer technology became available, Kay started to produce amplifiers again. In 1940, Sears, Roebuck, and Company placed its first order with Kay, signifying its entry into supplying large distributors. The first line of Kay amplifiers was introduced in 1952 and they produced tube amps consistently through 1962. In 1962, a new line of amps was introduced with transitorized chassis. The company was sold to Sydney Katz in 1955. B 1965, the guitar market was super-saturated and Kay was feeling the pinch of too much supply with not enough demand. Katz sold the company to Seeburg, a large jukebox manufacture in Chicago. They owned the company for two years and sold to Valco guitars. Kay wanted to buy Valco but Bob Keyworth suggested the opposite; that they sell to Valco. Like many guitar manufacturers of this era, Kay fizzled towards the end of the 1960s, and Kay (and Valco) were out of business by 1970. However, the Kay name did not go away forever. The brand has been reintroduced several times since 1970 and all instruments and amplifiers are currently built in Asia. Kay produces one practice guitar the GA20K (MSR $80) and one practice bass amp GB12K (MSR $120). Kay history and model information courtesy: Michael Wright, Guitar Stories: Volume 2.

From Blue Book Publications:


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