Kay also produced a high end guitar that today is extremely collectable. In 1957 president Sydney Katz introduced the Gold K line of archtop and solid body electric guitars to compete with major manufacturers like Fender, Gibson, and Gretsch. Valued among collectors, the headstocks from 1957-1960 featured a reverse painted plastic overlay similar to the Kelvinator logo. The guitars featured art deco patterns. It was difficult to get players to take Kay's high end entry seriously, and the Gold line was discontinued in 1962. The company was sold to Valco in 1967 and driven out of business two years later by low cost Asian imports.
Kay’s current line includes low priced acoustic, electric and bass guitars, and moderately priced banjos, ukuleles, mandolins, and resonators. They also sell the Chicago Blues line of inexpensive harmonicas.
Kay manufactured guitars under different names: 'Old Kraftsman' guitars for Spiegel, 'Sherwood' and 'Airline' for Montgomery Wards, and 'Silvertone' for Sears. Also, Kay produced a line of Archtop Acuostics called Kamico, which have become rather rare.
The gold K Line featured the Jazz Special, Artist, Pro, Upbeat, Jazz II, and Jazz Special Bass. Gold K guitars used the same hardware as top manufacturers. There were truss rod and neck issues. Gold models had single coil pickups with clear silver plastic covers and phillips head bolt adjustable pole pieces. The Upbeat model came with an optional transparent black plastic cover. These pickups appeared on Kay instruments through the late 1960's and are sometimes referred to as Kessel or Kleenex Box pickups. The Jazz Special Bass has a single coil chrome pickup.
Notable Kay guitar players have included Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Jack White, Sarah McLachlan, Ry Cooder, and Howlin' Wolf.
GuitarsBarney Kessel Artist
Barney Kessel Pro
K21 Jazz Special
K45 Travel Guitar
K161 Thin Twin Jimmy Reed
K300 Double Cutaway Solid Electric
K571-3 Speed Demon
K775 Jazz II
K797 Acoustic Archtop
K1982/K1984 Style Leader (Jimmy Reed)
K3500 Student Concert
K5113 Plains Special
K6116 Super Auditorium
K6533/K6535 Value Leader
K8127 Solo Special
Wood Amplifying Guitar
Bass GuitarsC1 Concert String Bass
K180 Jimmy Reed Bass
K5970 Jazz Special Electric Bass
M-1 Maestro String Bass
M-5 Maestro String Bass