Mosrite, The Ventures Guitar, 1966 - Elvis Presley/J.D. Sumner


The Ventures Guitar
Serial Number: 
Two high-output single-coil pickups
The Story Behind


About the Builder (from Wikipedia):

Mosrite is an American guitar manufacturing company, based in Bakersfield, California, from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. Founded by Semie Moseley, Mosrite guitars were played by many rock and roll and country artists.

Mosrite guitars were known for innovative design, high quality engineering, very thin, low-fretted and narrow necks, and extremely hot (high output) pickups. Moseley's design for The Ventures, known as the "Ventures Model" (later known as the "Mark I"), was generally considered to be the flagship of the line.

During their first years (1958–1963), the Ventures played Fender guitars (typically a Jazzmaster, a Stratocaster, and a Precision Bass) for both their live performances and their recording sessions. These instruments are prominently visible on the covers of three early albums: The Ventures, Bobby Vee Meets the Ventures, and The Colorful Ventures. Then in early 1963, California guitar manufacturer Mosrite re-branded their uniquely styled, futuristic-looking Mark 1 electric guitar model for the Ventures by applying decals that stated "The Ventures Model" on the headstock. The band adopted these guitars (which included a bass model) and first used them on The Ventures in Space (1963), one of their most influential albums because of the unique, unworldly guitar sounds it contained. From 1963 through 1968, a statement on their album covers announced that The Ventures used Mosrite guitars "exclusively" (The Ventures and designer Semie Moseley were partners in the distribution of these instruments). After the expiration of their contract with Moseley, the Ventures returned to playing mainly Fender guitars. Only rarely have they used Mosrite guitars since that contract ended.

In the 60's a Mosrite was priced at approximately double of a Fender Stratocaster.  The cost of all the integral parts of the Mosrite forced the price up. The Vibramute tremolo is far superior to the Bigsby or the less expensive units that most companies like Vox or Rickenbacker were using at the time. Jimi Hendrix had two Mosrites. Jimi would commonly smash and burn his easily replaceable Fenders but the Mosrite's were treasured and well taken care of.

The doubleneck from Spanish Castle Magic is today on display at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

Moseley was an innovator and was constantly coming up with improvements and upgrades, the competition simply produced the same products over and over. Due to Moseley's lack of focus the company was never as profitable as his cookie cutter competitors. Semie was a visionary and he liked to get involved with the design and production of new models. Some of his ideas like the Brass Rail model never got off the ground simply because it was too expensive to manufacture, it was not competitive.

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About the Guitar:

This guitar was given by Elvis Presley to J.D. Sumner on a visit to Graceland during the 1970's. According to the stories told by J.D. Sumner Elvis stated that it had been gifted to him by a member of the Ventures. It's not clear if this story is true and at least Nokie Edwards, in a recent interview, made it very clear that he never gave a Mosrite or any other guitar to Elvis. So this part of the story remains unclear. 

The guitar remained in the possession of J.D. Sumner all those years, except for a short time, where the guitar was on loan to a Nashville museum.

In 1999, shortly after J.D. Sumner passed away, the guitar was part of an exhibit at Graceland, celebrating the life of J.D. Sumner.

The Ventures MK I featured a bolt-on maple neck, rosewood fretboard, two high-output single-coil pickups—with the neck position being slanted—a Vibramute tremolo, and a Roller Matic bridge. The headstock features both the company logo and that of the famous instrumental band that endorsed the guitar.

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