Kay Musical Instrument Company was a prolific American manufacturer of musical instruments that operated from the 1930s through the 1960s. Although Kay's first electric guitar was offered in 1936 (the same year as Gibson ES-150, five years after the Frying pan), Kay is known as an electric guitar pioneer because their past company Stromberg-Voisinet produced the first commercial electric guitar, the Stromberg Electro, in 1928.
At the end of 1920 Kay contracted Stromberg-Voisinet a violin maker to build a deluxe arch top acoustic instrument with an adjustable neck. The resulting Kay bolt on neck system is simple and effective and uses a inside the body wing nut to adjust the neck. The bolt on neck system is simple, effective and works. Just loosen the strings, reach inside, loosen the giant wing nut, adjust the neck how you want it and retighten, done! This was a very innovative design which unfortunately, as very often, did not find its way in modern acoustic guitar production. The bolt on neck would be used later by Rickenbacher and Fender.
There were different version of this guitar ranging from a non cutaway design to the most famous the double Venetian cutaway model known as the "Kay Kraft" which was also sold in limited numbers as the more rare "Kay Recording King". They came with and without the fancy decal work and some came with a large arch top style pick-guard and in a 14 and 12 fret configuration. This later aspect had an impact on the inner construction of the guitar and of the sound resulting. The 12 fret model has the bridge plate farther back toward the but end and an X bracing pattern The notable difference of the 14 fret is the bracing pattern not being an X but a cross brace and the bridge plate is much farther forward toward the sound hole. It also has a longer trapeze tailpiece to compensate. Which one sounds better is not the issue, but they have distinctive voices.
As far as tone and playability these guitars play better and have more volume than many modern guitars. The guitar was used by numerous blues musicians in the 1930's. Modern artists such as Ry Cooder and others have used these guitars for recordings.
The one in our collection is a 14 fret Kay Kraft double Venetian cutaway. Style B produced between 1931 and 1935. It has still the original rope strap delivered with the guitar.