1964 Mosrite Ventures model
This beautiful example of an early Mosrite Ventures is owned by a good friend of mine who has a couple of Mosrites and got this one recently to quench his thirst for a 60's Ventures and boy, does it quench it.
If you're interested in the timeline of the Mosrite Ventures model check my Mosrite section which should fill in any queries you have. I'll just mention some key points here in case you don't want to get buried in (too much) nerddom. (There's still plenty of nerddom)
The shape we know as the Mosrite Ventures model started out life in early '63 as the Joe Maphis model, Joe was a well known player with a fast picking style who had played a Mosrite Semie hand made for him back in 1954. After Semie worked on some new single and double neck guitars with the Joe Maphis name on the headstock, in late '63 he met Nokie Edwards, guitarist with the Seattle instrumental group the Ventures, who bought an early version of this guitar to record with after playing his good friend Gene Moles Mosrite.
Fast forward a few months and the Ventures have struck up a deal to distribute the guitars, now sporting a big The Ventures logo on the headstock. The Ventures were making waves in the music world with hits on the pop charts and their prolific output was getting the name recognized around the country and starting with Ventures in Space, released in Jan '64 their album covers would have Mosrites plastered all over them as they were also selling these guitars to dealers via their distribution company.
The first Ventures models had full body binding, a set neck and the output jack on the side of the body. After about 200 of these were made from Dec '63 to about Aug '64 the production was streamlined as demand increased so the jack was moved to the scratchplate and the set neck was now bolted on. This guitar here is one of those early "post sidejack" models with features carried over from those earlier guitars before production ramped up in very late '64 and then more so in mid '65. Both of these periods had changes that made the guitars more economical and faster to make to keep up with the ever growing demand from the US and then Japan.
These deleted early features include a dropping of the body binding and slight change in the German carve and back relief making the bodies easier and quicker to make. Around this period when this guitar was made in late '64 there were approx 200 made with this softer German carve and some of these used a light timber (possibly Primavera) for the body. Semie had apparently bought a large quantity of this timber cheap and used it on Ventures models around this time but went back to using primarily basswood after finishing issues with the Primavera. This one is a basswood body like most Ventures models.
There are also a lot of guitars around this serial number with white logos on clear headstocks which wasn't really done much before or after this short period. White printed logos tended to be mainly used on sunburst/black or custom colour headstocks. This guitar features the 2nd generation finer printed logo but still with the large Ventures logo like the original set neck versions.
Other features of this particular guitar that shows it's an early production model is the smooth pickup covers and cast surrounds. These pickup covers, like early set neck versions were made by heating plastic in an oven and forming them over wooden molds. This process would be dropped soon after this guitar was made in favour of die cast plastic pickup covers with Mosrite of California embossed into the top surface. These new die cast covers are "squarer" and more consistent and after about 6 months will be changed again to include the ® symbol.
This guitar also has the early production Vibramute vibrato which was plated sand cast brass based on Semie's amazing design which was originally sand cast aluminium, and the individual saddle roller bridge with high post adjusters which were also dropped soon after to a lower slotted sections above the bridge.
The knobs are the spun plated type knobs with a small dot drilled in the skirt which had been used since around mid '64 and would change again to the top hat knob with the move to faster production in '65. By this stage all the scratchplates are now 3 ply celluloid and around this time are held on with 8 screws after the original set necks used acrylic or celluloid and were attached using only 3 screws.
The rock maple neck is bolted in with 4 flathead screws countersunk into the body with the classic peanut shaped plate held on with 4 small screws covering the neck screws. This method was only used for a short time after the set neck was dropped and in early '65 necks were attached through the shapely metal plate like the more common method (Fender) with the initial batches using flat head screws like these which moved to countersunk Phillips head shortly after. The rosewood fretboard is bound and these Mosrites have very small and low frets from the factory including a zero fret and half round metal string guide. Tuners on this model were double line Kluson SAFETI deluxe tuners which became standard in early '64.
Mosrite made all their own hardware in house and these guitars still had a high degree of being hand made and were not cheap at the time due to this, and the Ventures distribution deal with the list price of a Ventures model around this time being $398 plus $54 for a hardcase at a time when the Fender Jazzmaster cost $349.50. Custom colours had been available since the inception with metallic finishes like this at an extra $30. The best grain bodies were kept for see through and sunburst finishes with the rest getting a white sealer coat, which you can see through the buckle rash here, before the solid colour was applied.
This guitar has a serial in the high 400's which was a sequential number used starting at "0" back in Dec '63 for the Ventures guitars so it's within the first 500 made. While most Mosrites had a date and production number ink stamped in the neck pocket and neck end from around this time, this one does not, but it was probably made in about Oct/Nov 1964. The pot dates are 31st week 64 but Ventures models from about serial number 400 up to around 900 have these same pots.
All in all this is a special guitar being an early production version of a very sought after model showing many signs of that transition between early set neck, fully hand made versions and the slightly later full production versions. The original set neck version ran until about Aug '64 with this guitar being made in about Oct, making it within a few of months, and less than 300 guitars of this "new" production version which changed again soon after this guitar was made.
With the popularity of the Ventures, and Mosrite really taking off in Japan in '65 the factory could barely keep up with demand so changes had to be made but Mosrite, unlike a lot of other guitar makers at the time was not taken over by accountants and corporate experts, in some ways to it's detriment. Semie was probably a little naive to the workings of big business, which his little company had now turned into, but he was also a very unlucky man and while production ramped up considerably during the mid 60's with an incredible array of guitar and bass models, pedals, amps and accessories being manufactured, this part of the Mosrite story finished in early '69 when the factory in Bakersfield closed down.
While Ventures models, and especially early versions like this are the most collectible, and some say the best ones made, I personally think Mosrite made some pretty impressive guitars throughout the 60's including in '68 before closing, and Semies output in the 70's and 80's produced some of my personal favourite Mosrites.
There's no doubting this is a spectacular example of a spectacular guitar. Even with the changes in production from the set neck to this it's still an impressive guitar made by a small factory of dedicated workers run by a genius who still had time to carefully watch over these high end guitars with his name on them.