A History of Broadway Guitars
Broadway Wiring & Pickups
The entire circuitry of the Broadway Plectric range was incorporated into pre-loaded scratchplates, which were imported from Japan. The scratchplates contained the pickups, circuitry,controls for volume and tone and the added rhythm and solo controls for the two pickup models. The Broadway Plectric range of guitars is also associated with Henry Weill.
Weill imported these scratchplates for use in his own factory, established in South West London and were used in his own brand of guitars and in the guitars he made for other companies, such as Hohner and Selmer. The oversized Guyatone pickups are notable on the Fenton-Weill De Luxe, for example. The complete scratchplate assembly also turned up on an imported archtop, marketed as the Bert Weedon Zero One model. Recently a few scratchplates and tremolos turned up on eBay which may have come from Henry Weill’s factory.
Above: Scratchplate from the early Weill years of Broadway cirtuitry involvement, utilising Guyatone pickup covers.
Above: Bass pickups, probably from a 1962 Broadway 1925 model
The photo above was kindly supplied by Geoff Hall. It’s the pre-loaded scratchplate of his Broadway Budget model from around 1962.
Above is the wiring from a Broadway Plectric 1927 featured on eBay (where else?!) and where the three pots are stamped ‘Made in Japan by Kataoka Electric Company Ltd.(which changed its name to ALPS Electric Co.Ltd. in 1964)
Weill, being of German-Jewish extraction, came to live in England from Germany, during the late 1930s, to escape the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich. Essentially, Henry Weill was an electronics expert and helped to found the Burns-Weill company with partner, Jim Burns in 1959. Burns designed the guitar bodies and Weill put his mind to the electronics. Their association was, however, relatively short-lived and within a year they had gone their separate ways, under somewhat acrimonious circumstances. It is heavily rumoured that Weill was dissatisfied with Burns quality control, particularly the poorly routed pickup channels.
The Burns-Weill Fenton and Burns-Weill Super Streamline Bass (see photos below, courtesy of Guy McKenzie) are probably the most interesting guitars emerging from this short-lived partnership.
After the split, Jim Burns continued to make guitars under his own name (Ormston Burns Ltd was founded in 1960 and sold guitars branded as Burns London). Similarly, Henry Weill also continued to make both guitars and amplifiers, initially as Weill-London but soon afterwards the company name changed to that of Fenton-Weill, which was also founded in 1960. Weill based his new company name on the Fenton guitar, being the model name made by the former Burns-Weill company.
So where does Weill fit into the Broadway connection? Weill’s association with Broadway guitars had already begun in 1959 or 1960, when he supplied the electrics to the UK built Broadway BW1 and BW2. Weill’s association with the early Broadway guitars probably ended when the BW1 & BW2 range ceased production in early 1961.
Weill also imported the Guyatone oversized large pickups for use on his own guitars, such as the Fenton-Weill Deluxe from 1960. and the Fenton-Weill Duomaster (See photos below, courtesy of Guy McKenzie):
Weill may have started working out of the basement of his London home at 237, Acton Lane, London W4, which remained his business address but by 1963 he had established a factory at 96 Lots Road, London SW10, employing up to 15 people engaged in the manufacture of guitars and amplifiers.
Whilst involved in building the electronics for a vast array of early British solid electric guitars, Weill was clearly well placed to take on the requirements of the Broadway Plectric range of guitars from around 1962, at the point when Guyatone were clearly looking towards outsourcing their guitar electronics to sub-contractors in the UK.
In the latter stages of the Broadway Plectric production, the guitar bodies and necks continued to be imported from Guyatone’s Tokyo factory and distributed by Rose Morris but the scratchplates were imported by Weill, for use on the Broadway range and for used in his own brand of guitars and in the guitars he made for other companies, such as Hohner and Selmer.
The complete Broadway scratchplate assembly also turned up on an imported 1960s acoustic archtop, with the label Bert Weedon Zero One model, serial number 357 by Boosey and Hawkes. (photo below)
In July 2012, a variety of Broadway parts ended up on eBay (where else?) which has prompted an interesting discussion between myself and Will Twynham, a keen Fenton-Weill collector and who had ‘won’ the bits from the auction. (Photo left)
The bits were from a Broadway Plectric 1927 dated at around 1961, stored in a shed by the original owner and then discarded. After years of damp, the guitar was beyond repair but the hardware was not, hence the sale. The pickups are certainly not typical of those found on guitars in the Broadway range. They do not appear to be replacements, however, as the overall construction is consistent with the early ‘60s. Whilst the rest of the components are clearly British, (with Hunts capacitors etc). the pickups resemble Japanese rather than British, being simple bar magnet types with quite crudely moulded black plastic covers. The screws in the pickup covers serve only to hold the incredibly flimsy plastic covers onto the base.
Whether the pickups were from a genuine 1961 Guyatone Broadway Plectric 1927 model, or have been ‘adapted’ at the hands of Henry Weill, as was the case with later Broadway models, or whether this is an early ‘transition’ model between the two is still the question!