Acoustic Black Widow

To be honest, when I bought this guitar many years ago I knew next to nothing about the Acoustic branded guitars. I knew their amps and had worked on many as a repairer but never come across their guitars at all.

As I was scalp deep in my Mosrite obsession the name Acoustic Black Widow had come up a couple of times over the years. I had assumed it was an "acoustic" guitar called a black widow but never delved very deep, as rumour had it Mosrite only made a handful and I hadn't even seen one. This was pre, or very early internet days and these little gems were still the holy grails of collectors and old folks who were there.

One day I was obsessing over Mosrite pics and saw a blurry, black double cutaway in a pic of a guitar show surrounded by Mosrites and was intrigued. After some serious research I discovered that not only was this guitar NOT an acoustic, but and Acoustic, it was very cool ........ and Mosrite did indeed make some in the early 70's after a failed US/Japanese production venture where only a handful were made. Being the nut I was work started straight away to learn more. 

The original design was by Paul Barth, a great guitar designer who was one of the genius pioneers of the solid body electric guitar. He had worked at Ro-Pat-In, that later became Electro String Corp and was integral to the design and development of the Rickenbacker "Frying pan", which can be considered a very close relative of the father of the modern solid body electric guitar. He later worked with Ric on the Capri designs and later designed the beautiful Magnatone guitars and eventually set up Bartell guitars but that's all another story.


I never really obsessively sought out or paid big money for guitars as I was a poor nerd who just loved the idea and looks of this stuff. Back then I would get contacted by other Mosrite nerds who worked at the factory or knew people who did, or were just crazy obsessed like me and most of my Mosrites fell into my lap because of this. This Black Widow was no exception.

Of course, a "non Mosrite" Black Widow was, and is of nearly no interest to me so when this one turned up I was excited as there really weren't many Black Widows made in all their forms (Bartell/Mosrite/Japanese/Hohner) but it appears that less than 200 Mosrite made guitars and basses were produced some time around '71. Of course, I have MUCH rarer Mosrites, but these seem to be hard to come by even by rare Mosrite standards ? 


The Mosrite produced ones are easy to spot as they have typical Mosrite production and hardware. You know instantly when you play them as they have that distinctive feel straight away. 

Hardware giveaways are things like the neck plate, which is the typical "curved" steel plate as used on most Mosrites. Also the bridge is standard Mosrite as apposed to the type used on both the "Bartell" and Japanese production guitars, that used a more "Aria" type of bridge arrangement. The truss rod cover is also the typical plastic cover used on Mosrites at the time. 

The big giveaway however, is the pick ups. These pick ups were used by Mosrite in the Dobro (and Mobro) guitars of the late 60's and early 70's and were a ...... kind of, Ric type chrome surround with, originally a single coil and for the Black Widow, a humbucker fitted. It's a pretty basic, fairly crudely made pick up, like all Mosrite pick ups, but works and sounds great. The Mosrite Dobros, and Californians (a 335 style Celebrity with Dobro cone fitted) mainly had white plastic covering the coil (coils) whereas the Black Widow of course had, black. 


In sales brochures the body material is listed as maple but I'm pretty sure this one is mahogany ? I've never looked that in depth but chips, and inside the control cavities appears to be ? The neck is rock maple with a rosewood fretboard, like most Mosrites and uses the big dots like later 70's Mosrites and features the usual zero fret, which all the Black Widows, regardless of manufacture had.

The controls are typical "Les Paul" set up with two tones, two volumes and three way toggle. nobs varied depending on manufacturer and even, as was common on Mosrites, whether Semie had stock.


The vinyl patch on the back is interesting and reminiscent of Gretsch. The original idea was the same as Gretsch and gave access to the electronics through the back of the hollowed out body and the early Bartell built versions had F holes, as did the later Hohner versions.


They later became infamous as "the guitar that Hendrix played" when pics of Jimi in the studio surfaced with him playing an early left handed Bartell version that he had borrowed, or possibly bought for recording. This guitar, of course may be a Bartell rather than a Acoustic as a few of these were made by Bartell prior to them being branded by Acoustic, or being called a Black Widow. Either way, it has pushed the collectability, and price of these up. 


It's a well made guitar with quite a bit of weight and plays and sounds, like a Mosrite and since I bought it as a "Mosrite" and have only played one Japanese version, which I personally thought felt "cheaper", I can't see me ever owning another one to compare it to. For now it's just an oddball in my collection of oddballs, that I bought for very little and never imagined or contemplated it being worth any more than I paid for it. 


Oct 28 2014 Written By: Tim Brennan