A History of Broadway Guitars
Broadway Plectric 1921 & 1922 (circa 1961)
1st Generation models without vibrato
A totally different style of Broadway solid bodied guitars appeared in the Rose-Morris catalogue, dated February 1961. Using their in-house brand name, the Broadway Plectric range of solid electric guitars made their debut appearance to the British market!
These guitars were pictured in various guitar catalogues of the time (in glorious black and white!) alongside other guitars available via mail order or from outlets like Bell Music, in Epsom. These catalogues included the early Swedish manufactured Hagstrom sparkle solids, the Burns Vibra Artist and the Japanese-made Star branded solid electrics, all aimed at British aspiring musicians . Both the Star solids and the Broadway Plectric solids were made by Guyatone, a Japanese company based near Tokyo. They were modelled on the single-cutaway examples of a guitar that Hank B. Marvin of The Shadows played at the time. Before Hank's eventual conversion to Burns (and eventually the Fender Stratocaster), he played an Antoria, which was also manufactured by Guyatone in Tokyo. Antoria and Broadway were merely labels used for the UK market.
The late 1950s and early 1960s were certainly the Golden Years for Guyatone guitars. The company was keen to keep up with the ever-growing market but were under severe competition from other manufacturers. It was usually a 'safer bet' to make their products as 'close to' other best sellers, whether looks-wise or function-wise, or both. The Broadway Plectric range clearly emulated the Fender Stratocaster design in many ways and as a result, Guyatone penetrated the overseas market. To meet soaring demands, they built a new factory in the Tokyo suburbs. However, with the craze for electric guitars subsiding by the mid-1960s, Guyatone's sales gradually fell until August 1969, when they finally went broke. However, the importance of Guyatone's influence on the British guitar market cannot be underestimated. Their styling and price proved to be popular in the UK , where the price tag attached to a Gibson, Fender or Gretsch was well beyond the reach of most teenagers.
The Broadway Plectric 1921 was the single pickup model, whilst the Broadway Plectric 1922 had two pickups. The main clue to their Guyatone origins are the fabulous, oversized, oval-ended chrome single-coil pickups, with a chrome pickup surround; the Guyatone LG40 also having this type of pickup configuration. The chrome covers and surrounds certainly gave the guitar a contemporary 'Space Age' look, in keeping with the times.The guitars were solid bodied, made from one piece of mahogany, including a set neck and a large 'Fender-style' headstock. There was no truss rod fitted within the neck, so any adjustment due to warping or bowing was difficult to achieve. However, the removal of the fingerboard on some Broadway Plectrics has revealed an 1/8th" steel rod installed, running the length of the neck. Whilst not adjustable, the steel bracing provides some degree of resistance to warpage.
My thanks go to Rob Cloke, who provided the photos of his own Broadway Plectric (below), after the fingerboard had been removed during renovation.
The Broadway Plectric range of guitars were finished in a deep maroon, nitro-cellulose clear finish, which showed off the mahogany wood grain and which remained a characteristic of the Plectrics. There was no primer coat and the paint was sprayed directly onto the wood. This finish often fades to a tan brown. The mahogany neck was fitted with an unbound rosewood fingerboard, with simple dot position markers. These markers also have a 'unique' arrangement, not seen on other guitars.
The images of the Broadway Plectric 1921 were kindly supplied by Glen Preece and Chris Doree
In keeping with other Broadway guitars in the range, the Broadway Plectric 1921single pickup model had a volume and tone control knob, whilst the Plectric 1922 had a tone and two volume controls, with rhythm and solo controls for each pickup. Both the 1921 and 1922 had 'pre-loaded scratchplates, in other words, the whole scratchplate came with pickups, controls and circuitry. The guitar was fitted with a mono 3.5mm 'mini-jack', which requires conversion to accept modern, standard 1/4" jack leads. The guitar's bridge is a rather primitive affair; a two-piece metal saddle bridge, with two thumb wheels to raise or lower the string height. The guitar's intonation was adjusted by moving the bridge up or down the guitar's body, until the correct string length was found.
Strings were attached by theior barrel ends into a chrome plate, screwed into the guitar's body. Although resembling the Fender Telecaster, the strings on the Broadway Plectric never passed through the guitar. The whole assembly was concealed by a removable chrome cover. This cover is frequently missing from Broadway guitars available on the second hand market. At the time, many found an alternate use as a convenient ashtray for the smoking musician!
All Broadway guitars in the Plectric range of models were characterised by an embossed white plastic Broadway logo, now appearing on the large headstock and not as a stencil painted on the body of the guitar, (sometimes seen on the BW1 and BW2). However, the glued-on plastic logo is rarely found intact on surviving guitars from the period! The plastic has often become brittle with age and simply snapped off.
The guitar's machine heads are an open-backed type, six in all, running down one side of the headstock, with white plastic tuner buttons. Each tuner is stamped 'Japan' on the rear. There were no ferrules for the tuning posts. A white plastic 'truss rod' cover, which was purely decorative, completed the headstock adornment.
The 1921 single pickup model was marketed by Bell Musical Instruments of Surbiton, in Surrey. Although other retailers also sold the Broadway Plectric, Bells sold the guitar for £16.10s .3d (£16.52 in today's decimal currency). The 1922 two pickup model sold for £20. 4s 9d (£20.34). Both have now become a small piece of British R n' R history and are becoming quite collectable items.
To add confusion to the Broadway guitar collector, a slightly earlier Bell catalogue (possibly from 1961) describes the Broadway Plectric 1921 and 1922 models as The Broadway Solid No. 1 and The Broadway Solid No. respectively. The section on Bell Music's catalogues on this website clearly illustrates this point.
The secondhand value of Broadway Plectric 1921 and 1922 guitars fluctuates but there is certainly an upward trend. The Broadway 1922 shown in the photos (above) came onto the eBay auction site in November 2012. Apart from a few slight scratches to show for it's 50+ years of existence, it was in perfect working order and complete in every way, including the original case and leather strap. It sold for £200.
Another Broadway 1922, with missing headstock logo, a missing tone knob and several marks to the entire body fetched only £68.60 on eBay, ten months earlier in January 2012. (Photo below, left).
Another beautifully restored Broadway Plectric 1921(below right and far right) reached the
reserved price of £250.
The new Broadway Plectric range clearly tips it's hat to another Guyatone model, the Guyatone LG-70, from around 1959 and made in Japan by Matsuki Seisakujo, Mitsuo Matsuki and Atsuo Kaneko.
The Broadway body shape was identical, although the LG-70 was clearly a better guitar all round, with a bound neck, superior pickups and controls. The neck headstock and tuners, however, were much the same (although the LG-70 tuners had ferrules) but both models possessed the chrome 'ashtray' bridge to hide the plate for string attachment.
Instructions for use!
Every new guitar in the Broadway Plectric range came with an instruction sheet, to guide the player through the complexity of settings found!
Remember, electric guitars were still something of a novelty in 1961 and the configuration of volume and tone knobs and the rhythm selectors could be daunting to the novice player!
Many thanks to Geoff Everett for supplying the photo. There are probably not many originals to be found.