Mosrite Ventures model II. The "slab body" part 2
So, with the introduction of these little student guitars Mosrite made what was to become one of the most iconic and collectible Mosrites ever. I've written a couple of blogs on my slab body and Johnny model and it's relationship to Johnny Ramone in part 1 so this will be a bit more of a picture fest with some details about the actual guitar for the nerds.
After years of obsessing about and amassing a silly amount of Mosrites I was fortunate enough to end up with two of these extremely rare and sought after little guitars. I own rarer (much rarer) Mosrites but for Ramones fans these are special and I will do stories on other Ramones/Mosrites soon. They don't really feel, or sound like any other Mosrite, or guitar for that matter. They are probably best described as the difference between a Jazzmaster and Mustang, which is pretty much what they were. The Ventures model at the time was more expensive than a Jazzmaster and was prohibitively expensive for working musicians, let alone students.
The Ventures model II was supposed to fill this gap even though it was a lot more expensive than a Mustang at the time. I've collected A LOT of Mosrite literature and sales information over the years and I've never seen this model listed in a catalogue. One person I spoke to who bought one of these new in late '65 said he remembers his dad paying $280 (the Ventures was $400 without HC) with a hardcase for his, which was a lot of money considering a Fender Mustang at the same time was $160 and a Tele was $210.
These are a light, basswood body with a continuous rout under the scratchplate for the pick up and controls, which of course, was cheaper and quicker for assembly. The body actually has an elbow contour front and back making it NOT a slab body but it's easy to see where it gets its nick name, especially compared to other Mosrites.
The vibrato and pick ups are unique to this model and this is the first version of the folded steel vibrato which seems to go up to "about" serial # 50. Successive batches had a rolled over front edge on the pivot, probably to make it look more finished and so there wasn't a sharp edge across that top. There are a handful of German Carve guitars with this vibrato fitted from the factory which would have been to keep sales moving rather than custom order and I have seen 2 slab body Mk II's with the Moseley virbato fitted but I don't know if these were factory, although that unit was certainly being produced, and fitted to German Carve versions at the same time.
It's a simple vibrato, held together by string tension with one centre mounted spring held in place by the standard Moseley vibrato arm. It's very simple and very effective and needs no routs to fit to the body. I actually love the design and functionality of these little vibratos.
The bridge is the standard "non roller" Mosrite bridge as offered on all the models except top of the line which had roller bridges. The Mosrite roller bridge is another piece of beautiful engineering with individual rollers on each saddle. These budget bridges work fine unless you're going crazy with the bar, in which case they do go out of tune anyway, even with rollers.
Pick ups are simple slug bar magnets used in all the Mosrite pick us, wrapped in wire and epoxied into the unique hand formed covers. They're about 6.5-6.8K output with nice frequency response and punch. Most other Mosrites had much higher output pick ups but the more focused flux of these combined with the lower output give them a unique tone I've not heard in other pick ups.
Following the "student" theme these had the cheaper, plastic button Kluson tuners and a smaller headstock and slightly different headstock angle/design than it's bigger brother. The necks were screwed on with 4 large neck screws counter sunk into the body and covered with a thin metal "neck plate" held in place with four small screws, not unlike early bolt neck Ventures models from a year before.
The necks and string guides changed slightly at some point in production mainly to do with fretboard thickness and that neck appears on versions of the German carve model before it was standardized for the II and V, which are essentially the same guitar, although early German carve MK II's had a slightly different shape scratch plate due to different neck/fretboard end. The only other slab body I have played in person (a touring band who came through my shop) was a later version with the different/thicker neck/neck joint, string guide and rolled over vibrato, and had Grover tuners fitted.
I find these incredibly fun to play with their light, smaller bodies (by Mosrite standards) and thin necks. They feel like a student model while still being made by a quality manufacturer using great design and quality materials.
The vibrato is feather touch like all Mosrite units but also like other Mosrite units is not a dive bomber. It's meant for light vibrato use in surf and instrumental music and was the first thing Johnny took off all of his to use in the Ramones.
The smaller headstocks are definitely strange on a Mosrite but suit this shape well I think. One thing Semie had was an eye for design and I personally think this little budget rocket is a great looking, and playing guitar. It feels much better than other brands "budget" or student models except perhaps the great little Gibson Les Paul Jr which is a hell of a lot of guitar for an "entry level" guitar.
This model was quickly superseded by the German carve Mk II (and later Mk V pictured below) which fitted in with Semies idea of what a Mosrite should be. It featured the famous Mosrite German carve, the bigger (almost the same as it's big brother) single coil pick ups and the cast Moseley vibrato. It still lacked any binding but was certainly a "nicer" fitted guitar and sold for slightly more ($298 without hardcase) because of the more upmarket features. This slab body model was available in blue, red, white and sunburst although sunburst seems to be the least common. Solid colours would have been cheaper and left the nicer grain timbers for the more expensive models.
I have been offered 3 more of these since buying these two but passed on them all as it seems ....... greedy to own more. I feel bad owning two of them. Two were completely original and one was refinished and modified and I considered buying that one to make a "Johnny Ramone" without feeling guilty about butchering such a rare and vintage guitar, but then, I make them anyway so it seemed pointless.
Because of it's short life and very limited production numbers it has become a very collectible model by a very collectible, high quality manufacturer. If Semie could have predicted John Cummings walking into Mannys all those years ago and choosing this as his weapon of choice to change the world, maybe he would have made more ? But then maybe Johnny wouldn't have picked it if it was played by more people. To me it's the student model that took on the world and won. Sure, Mustangs and LP Jr's have played a big part in changing music, but this little, very rare, GREAT looking budget model is the sound of a musical movement, and deservedly so. It's a great little guitar.