Mosrite. Built in soul.
One nerds obsession with the greatest guitars ever made, and the genius who made them. Semie Moseley (June 13, 1935 – August 7, 1992)
Southern California in the late 1940's/early 1950's was the epicenter of people and companies working to bring this new idea of an electrified guitar to players and eventually the masses. Within a small area centered in LA, early developments by Rickenbacher, Dobro (who Mosrite would later own from '65-69) and the Ro-Pat-In Corporation in the 30's were perfecting the electromagnetic pickup design and by the mid 40's, Paul Bigsby, Les Paul (who had been working on it for over a decade) and Leo Fender, all of whom knew each other and hung out at Les Paul's house/studio in Hollywood, were all working on the idea of attaching this pickup to a wooden solid body electric guitar. While established companies like Gibson and Epiphone electrified traditional archtops, these 3 guys (and a couple of others) were developing what would become the modern electric solid body guitar as we know it today. Semie Moseley was a natural designer, ingenious inventor and skilled craftsman who was in a prime position as a teenager to take advantage of all of this and was hungry to learn and develop his own mark on this new technology.
In the beginning
Semie's family had moved to Bakersfield, California in 1940 after leaving Durant, Oklahoma in 1938. Semie had been obsessed with guitars as a young teenager and started repairing, and later building them because he could not find one that felt or sounded quite right. Semie moved to LA around 1952 after he and his older brother Andy had worked as musicians in the gospel music scene and in '54 Semie Moseley started Mosrite of California with the financial help of a friend, LA minister Rev. Ray Boatwright, who bought Semie woodworking tools and let him set up a workshop in his garage. The name would be a mixture of the 2 men's last names, MOS-RITE to show his appreciation to the man who helped him realise his dream of designing and building guitars.
By '54 he had already done custom inlay and neck work for Paul Bigsby and had worked at Rickenbacker for Paul Barth under the tutelage of Roger Rossmeisl, where he learnt and perfected his German Carve. He was subsequently asked to leave Rickenbacker when they learnt he was making his own guitars. By the age of 19 Semie had designed and built his first triple-neck guitar for himself and repaired guitars for local guitarists like Merle Travis. Early models he built included a double neck for Joe " king of the strings " Maphis.
Maphis's double neck was originally a natural finish solid body with 6 a side headstock necks but would soon morph into the sunburst, 3 a side with all the "gingerbread" we know today as Joe showed it off live and on album covers. These early double necks were the bulkier, more flamboyant designs also used by Larry Collins whose double neck was finished in late 1955/early 56, unlike the smoother double necks made slightly later in the early 60's for people like Brian Lonbeck and most would go through "upgrades" over the years including new necks, finishes and hardware.
Between '56 and '59 it was all custom re-necking, scratchplates and inlay work and quite a few handmade single, double and triple neck guitars, built wherever Semie and Andy Moseley could put equipment in garages or storage sheds. Andy would soon move to Nashville to help promote and sell the new Mosrite guitars. Semie set up workshops in places like a friend's barn outside LA in Granada Hills. The first "Tele" shaped single cutaway guitars were built here using Carvin pickups and knobs with mainly hand made parts.
Semie starts making his own pickups based on a P-90 around '59 after using Carvin AP-6 pickups and early examples have slot head screws with a crude tin foil covering a plastic cover. Around 1960 he makes some simple solid bodies with these pickups or the pole screws coming through the scratchplate. A few of these have surfaced over the years including the red one that has been cited as the first Mosrite. Despite custom single and double necks for country and gospel players Semie had no money and wanted to start a productive guitar company but could not get finance, and in very late '59/early '60 moved to Panama lane (on the way to Arvin) in the Bakersfield area north of LA.
Apart from a few very ornate custom guitars, most "production" guitars around this time (1960-61) can be very primitive and simple, almost going backwards in quality, as Semie was struggling financially and moved several times in the Oildale area and tried to get a foothold and more permanent premises to start manufacturing. By '62 guitars were getting back to late LA area quality with single and double necks for preachers and professional musicians. There are also versions of these Tele like single necks with Standel on the headstock. Standel was a local LA company started in the early 50's and it's owner Bob Crooks had been approached by Paul Bigsby to make an amplifier for a new steel guitar he was working on, and Bob wanted a guitar to market with his amps. Standel would go on to become famous for their amplifiers with players like Joe Maphis. Semie struggles a lot during this time and, as he does for his entire life, tours Gospel music to help pay the bills.
Also around this time Semie approached Guild guitars in NY to offer advice on guitar finishing and try to sell his new vibrato/bridge/mute design he had been working on. The cast aluminium Vibramute, as Semie called it, is a piece of engineering and design brilliance and I consider it to be the best vibrato ever made. Unfortunately Guild deemed them to be "too crude" and passed on the product which Semie took back home and ground the Guild name off and used on his guitars. He also obtained a stock of Guild knobs at this stage which would appear on most Mosrites up to and including the early Ventures models in late '63.
Here's where Mosrite history starts for a lot of people and there's A LOT of misconceptions and exaggerations (or just simply challenging memories) around these early Bakersfield area (pre factory) Mosrites and what was to become the Ventures model, which of course Mosrite is most famous for.
While several reputable publications (Nov '94 Vintage Guitar) list the offset German carve solid body guitar we now know as the Ventures model being made as early as 1959, I, and other nerds believe this guitar was not designed and made until very late '62, possibly even early '63 after Semie had moved from Oildale, to a bigger workshop on Panama in Bakersfield, and although it's long believed that this shape/design was originally for Standel, no Standel branded prototypes or guitars in this shape have ever turned up.
The first time we "see" this guitar is in a flyer for the "Joe Maphis model by Mosrite" and an ad in a Bakerfield paper promoting the "new Joe Maphis model" from mid '63. The guitar (and double neck) being advertised is a very early example of this guitar with features like wooden covered "hi-fi" pickups (made by Semie with coils epoxied into non height adjustable wooden covers possibly influenced/made by Bill Gruggett) and primitive aluminium and bearing (later "Guild" Vibramute) vibratos with mistake plates. Semie had set the neck angle too shallow to use up his unwanted Guild Vibramutes and needed to recess the vibrato unit (about 10mm deep) into the body, necessitating a plate to hide the mistake. These guitars also had a straight neck end with no binding at the body end with the angled neck pickup with versions leading up to the Ventures model slowly getting the full angled neck end to match the pickup.
The symmetrical headstock says "Joe Maphis model (in script) by Mosrite of California" and is the first time we see the "M" in a serrated circle logo that we all know Mosrite for. Where earlier Mosrites initially had 6 a side "Bigsbyesque" headstocks which evolved into 3 a side symmetrical with the now famous but more ornate M cut into the end, these new headstocks were a more flowing shape and showed Semies great eye for design early on. Some of these also have a painted on type binding on the headstock.
Semie had built a very similar guitar for local friend and recording guitarist Gene Moles, who knew and had recorded with Nokie Edwards back in Washington but recently moved back to Bakersfield, who mentioned Semie to Nokie after he wanted some neck work done on his guitar. Nokie bought a guitar similar to Gene's to use on some recording sessions. This was to change everything. The Ventures were soon to be the biggest instrumental band in the US and had the financial backing to work with, and propel Semie to the manufacturing business he'd dreamed of and within months the distribution deal with the Ventures would start Mosrite on becoming a player in the guitar market worldwide.
There are several early versions with only the Mosrite of California name and no model name on the headstock like Gene Moles guitar which I think were made concurrently with the run of Joe Maphis models, not predecessors to the named version. There is also the famous "black prototype" with the sawed off headstock end which has slightly later appointments like the early aluminium Vibramute but still with mistake plate. These all have features scattered in amongst guitars branded as Joe Maphis models like the new plastic dog ear covers, still with slot head screws, and most of the features of the upcoming Ventures models.
The Joe Maphis model in this form ran from very early, almost crude versions of this guitar as shown in the original flyer promotion with wooden pickup covers, straight neck and headstock ends, bulky bearing vibrato with mistake plate and unbranded Guild knobs to what essentially turned into the Ventures model with early aluminium Vibramute (without mute) without mistake plate, slanted neck and headstock ends, early production pickups with surrounds (and now Phillips Fillister head screws) and early spun knobs. Unfortunately for Joe Maphis, his signature model would now be the Ventures signature model and his name was removed from the headstock and a big "The Ventures model" logo was screened on instead.
It was Nokie Edwards, and the Ventures who initially made the Mosrite name famous outside of southern California. After working with country and gospel players for several years the Ventures had enough clout to bring Mosrite to the masses and in late 1963 signed a distribution deal with Mosrite where the Ventures would soon be the exclusive distributors for these guitars, and guaranteed to buy 100 guitars (at a wholesale price of $130 ea) a month as they set up a new office in Hollywood to take on the job.
Starting with Ventures in Space (my favourite Ventures LP) they had Mosrites on the covers of their LPs, and listed on the back was "Guitars courtesy of Mosrite Distributing Corporation". That was enough to start the ball rolling and soon they had orders from dealers. This was the start of Mosrites heyday. Initially building 20 or 30 guitars a month, the orders kept coming in from more dealers all over the country and soon necessitated a bigger factory. By the mid 60's Mosrites were sought after, despite their high prices, especially in Japan where the Ventures were bigger than the Beatles. The Ventures had first toured Japan in 1962, pre Mosrite but when they returned in early '65 (Live in Japan '65 is another great album) with 3 white Mosrites (that were sold to fans at the end of the tour) they were music royalty returning again in July to even an even bigger reception. Mosrites were the guitar to own and eventually Mosrite was well on the way to being a credible American guitar manufacturer.
The Ventures Models
Legend has it that Bob Crooks had asked Semie to "flip a Strat over and trace around it" to make the new Standel model, which was to become the Joe Maphis model, however the Ventures shape is a lot more elaborate and pleasing than an upside down Strat. In fact Semie's eye for design would prove itself again and again over the years.
After working on this model with Bill Gruggett and Joe Hall, the first "official Ventures" guitar was available in late 1963. The primitive wooden pickups had gone through several changes including a "dog ear" style cover made with wooden molds in an oven, to a similar still oven pressed cover with cast epoxy surrounds similar to what the production versions would end up with later in '64.
Other features had morphed into more professional production features too. Gone were the "mistake plates" and wooden string guides (the first batch of Ventures models still retained this feature) and all the headstocks now had an angled M cut in the end that followed the angle of the body offset and the neck pickup. This feature had appeared on the last of the Joe Maphis models which also had early Ventures features like the polished cast "Guild" Vibramute and early spun knobs, although some very early Ventures models do still have the Guild knobs as used on most Mosrites from around mid '60 onward, with the G scratched off the top.
The first Ventures model guitar officially left the factory on 12th December 1963 and had a bound, rosewood fretboard including zero fret (soon with half round metal string guide) and small dot markers set into a multiply celluloid bound body with a large "The Ventures model" logo on the headstock. They were available in red or sunburst only. The jack was on the side of the guitar and these are referred to today as side jack models.
The necks were very thin and had extremely low frets known at Mosrite as speed frets. The vibrato unit on these early models quickly changed to a plated, cast brass version of the Vibramute replacing the polished cast aluminium version with Bigsby style bridge and flip up mute. Bridges are now a 6 saddle roller bridge with flat bottom and tall post height adjusters. All Mosrite numbers are sketchy but probably only about the first 10 Ventures models had this older version of the vibrato before switching to the more easily/consistently produced cast brass version. Several promotional flyers from this time show the "new Ventures model" with the guitar photographed having these earlier features.
After less than 200 guitars in July/August 1964 the jack was moved on to the scratch plate and the body binding was dropped. The neck joint was changed to the bolt on type but the screw heads were covered by a metal plate and then eventually went to a standard type bolt on neck through the peanut shaped plates. There are a few transition models made with body binding but with a bolt on neck made to use up parts but they are RARE.
All of these changes suggest economy in manufacturing as the "original" design would have been very expensive and time consuming to manufacture and the distribution deal with the Ventures meant Semie now needed more room, and more people to keep up with demand. The Mosrite logo changed slightly and the Ventures logo became smaller in late '64 and the pickups changed to show the Mosrite of California logo embossed on them, but with no ® for registered trade mark yet.
During this period in the early to mid '60's Mosrite began to do extremely well and started working on more models of guitars, effects pedals and amps. Some of these included such things as reintroducing twin neck guitars known as the Joe Maphis twin neck model (originally listed as the Ventures Mark XVIII), although this differed considerably from the original 50's Joe Maphis double neck. Through the 60's Mosrite were building Ventures models guitars and basses, semi acoustic Celebrity models in three different versions of guitars and bass with bodies imported from Germany. There was also a semi solid body with an F hole, known as a combo (the body was made from a hollowed out solid top attached to a hollowed out solid back, kind of like a Ric). This idea was also released as the new Joe Maphis model with a spruce top and walnut back.
Around Oct '65 the vibrato unit was changed to a Moseley type, which is essentially the same unit but now being die cast out of alloy and with Moseley embossed into it. The mute mechanism had long since disappeared and all top end models now have an individual saddle roller bridge with curved bottom to match the fretboard radius. All of these features already mentioned along with the new die cast vibratos and die cast plastic pickup covers (now with ®) and surrounds made the guitars cheaper and faster to make although Mosrites in general were not cheap guitars, partly due to the Ventures distribution deal and partly due to the amount of work that was still done by hand, and the high quality of that work.
Volume and tone knobs are changed to a "hat type" with an "M" embossed on top and are numbered from 1 to 5 with V and T. In '66 the knobs are changed again to something very similar but taller and without the V and T embossed in them. Also around this time the string guide is changed to a 1/4 round unit.
Necks are made from one, two or three pieces of rock maple but are still very thin with extremely small and low frets installed. Most Mosrites have had truss rod adjustment at the headstock end since early to mid '65 but in mid to late '66 the truss rod adjustment is moved to the headstock end of all models inc the Ventures model and a plastic rod cover installed.
More guitars and more
By late '65 the Ventures models now cover several different models including the original and most collectible The Ventures model in 6, 12 string and bass, the very small run of "slab body" Ventures model II with no German carve, and the German carve MK II which morphed into the Mark V. The slab body Mk II was a very short lived model with only approx. 65 being made in mid '65. These had two distinct pieces of hardware only seen on that particular model (and a couple of early German carve Mk IIs and a "New Life" and Ventures solid body probably made in '69/70). The vibrato unit is made of folded chrome steel (1st batch was a flat top plate with the 2nd batch being slightly rolled over) with the arm coming out between the D and G strings and the other unique feature is the thinner pickups with no pole pieces. After the slab body Mk II was dropped (apparently Semie thought it looked too cheap) the Mark II with the German carve was offered as a replacement which in very early '66 became the Mark V.
The German carve Mk II and Mk V are "almost" identical guitars with different headstock logos with serial numbers up to around B700 being Mk II's and after Mk V's. The neck joint and scratchplate changed slightly around the time of the model's name change. These guitars had cheaper appointments although most of the hardware was the same as the Ventures model making them almost as expensive to produce. The pickups were cheaper to manufacture without pole pieces, the German carve is less elaborate and the necks had no binding with cheaper plastic button Kluson tuners. Interestingly these MK II/V models were not offered in 12 string or bass (a few guitar scale basses were made) making them one of the only Mosrite models not done so. Mosrite starts shipping more than 500 guitars a week to dealers across the US and Asuka trade co. of Japan (later Firstman) starts importing guitars (and later FUZZrites) directly from Mosrite Distributing Corporation.
In early '66 Mosrite released the FUZZrite effects pedal which is one of the first commercially available floor fuzz units. Designed by Ed Sanner who joined Mosrite in late '65 and would later design the last series of Mosrite Electronics amplifiers before moving onto Rosac (initially Sierra) electronics after Mosrite closed in '69 and then in '71 started Sangil electronics (closed '78) and later made small runs of Sanner Fuzzrites in the early 2000's. The initial FUZZrite had germanium transistors and while several slightly different versions exist, within a year it was redesigned to use silicon transistors for more consistency. These early versions were also sold to Guild as the Foxey Lady in '67 with production of these eventually taken over by Mike Mathews at EH in '68, replacing the circuit with the 2 knob Axis fuzztone. The silicon version (my favourite) was more consistent and sold well. So well that Mosrite contracted the Sprague Electric Company, who made capacitors and had just opened a brand-new facility in Worcester, MA dedicated to semiconductor and integrated circuit fabrication, to make a drop in "module" with the circuit sealed in orange plastic resin similar to their caps with wires sticking out to improve and speed up manufacturing. Semie also made new FUZZrites in the 70's from leftover parts bought from the auction in '69.
Late 60's downturn
Semie had recently bought Dobro (in late 1965) and according to some employees there were soon Dobro parts everywhere at the factory. Some people from Dobro had come over to work at Mosrite and not really fitted in with the culture there, causing at least Gene Moles to leave to go and work with Joe Hall, who had also left to start Hallmark guitars.
By this stage Mosrite had also ventured (no pun intended) into accessories (picks, cables, straps, microphones and strings) as well as Mosrite records that Semie ran with his brother and vice president, Andy, to record and release mostly country and gospel artists which were, by now taking a (very) back seat to rock, pop and instrumental music. They were also involved in a very costly and ultimately poorly devised and executed journey into amplifiers headed by ex-Ventures Distribution company exec Bob Bogle. Bogle wanted to market a line of amps with the Ventures name on them and contracted a small electronics company in LA to design and manufacture the amp line. After a couple of false starts that should have indicated what was to come, disaster struck. The line of big solid-state amps called "Award" amps with Mosrite and Ventures branding were manufactured by Waters-Connelly of Rochester, MI who made home entertainment products and after initial sales reliability issues forced many to be returned. These Award amps were not designed or made by Mosrite but Semie was responsible for some of the warranties due to it being a "Mosrite product" after he sold the rights to use the Mosrite and FUZZrite names on the amps. The losses would start to cripple Mosrite and start the demise of Mosrite in the late 60's.
In 1967 the Ventures distribution deal finished and the logo disappeared off all headstocks. This end in contract came at a volatile time for Semie and the guitar world in general. The boom that had started in the US with 4 boys from Liverpool playing on TV to millions of people was starting to show its limits. The market was absolutely flooded and sales were slowing down as the growth of the early and mid 60's in America started to grind down slowly. Even the big names were struggling, most of whom had also expanded during the dream time and now had to cut corners where they could.
Around the same time as the ill-fated Award amps, Semie had contracted the talents of Howard Dumble to make a Mosrite amp which led to a few valve prototype amps being made. Ed Sanner, who designed and built the original FUZZrites, and who was the electronics department at Mosrite then built a few more valve amps but the line didn't go far.
Mosrite tried one more time to market a successful amp, this time with their own Ed Sanner at the helm and branded Mosrite Electronics (no Ventures connection) solid state amps. The Sanner designed amps were a clear improvement on previous efforts and units were shipped but it was all too late. The damage done from the unreliable Award amps and the decline of guitar sales in general by late '67/68 would mean they never got the recognition they deserved. A few 400 amps were made with the Gospel name on the face plate. The Mosrite Electronics amps are much rarer and are actually great sounding and reliable amps (and they look great) but unfortunately overshadowed by the issues with the Award series.
By the mid/late 60's Mosrite was making so many models including the Mk I, the Mk V and Mk X bass and XII 12 strings (these all became the "Mark" series in '66 when the MkV was listed before the Ventures logo was dropped). The semi solid Combo (CO) and Joe Maphis models in guitar, bass and 12 string, the semi acoustic Celebrity (CE I, II and III) in 6 and 12 string guitar and bass, the Gospel guitar, bass and 12 string along with the Joe Maphis twin neck model with 6/12 configuration. After the deal fell through in '67 the "Mark" series was identical in construction to the Ventures guitars except for the logo on the headstock and a serial number soon after losing the logo starting with a "V" prefix.
Other interesting guitars of the mid to late 60's included three different acoustic models called the Balladeer I and II and the Serenade. These were (mostly) spruce top small and large body acoustics with a bolt on neck. Also offered was four different Dobro's including a Celebrity semi acoustic with a resonator cone called the Californian in 6 and 12 string, the Richmond (with or without pickups) and the Uncle Josh (with or without pickups) along with steel bodied versions named the 3/4 size Monterey, the Columbia (also available in 12 string) and a 5 string banjo but Mosrite lost this Dobro name with the company in '69 and some of these would turn up later made up of leftover parts called a Mobro. In '68 a new guitar tuner with a shallow pyramid back appeared in production after Semie couldn't get Klusons due to an unpaid account. These are made by Gotoh in Japan.
At the peak of production in 1968, Semie, his brother Andy and their crew of approx. 107 employees were making about 1000 guitars a month - acoustics, standard electrics, double necks, triple necks, basses, effects pedals, amplifiers, Dobros and Melobar slide guitars. Of course, the Mk I model was the flagship of the company and still bought in the most orders despite no longer being an official Ventures model. These are the guitars that Mosrite are best remembered for.
Although Mosrites were still selling reasonably well in both America and Japan, everything fell apart in late 1968 around the time Mosrite signed a deal with the Thomas Organ Company, who distributed Vox guitars, after turning down a substantial offer from Sears and Roebuck Co. Mosrite filed for bankruptcy on February 14th, Valentine's day 1969, and an auction for all tools, machinery, stock and unfinished product occurred on Tuesday April, 15th with a valuation of $175,000 including test equipment, metal machinery, office furniture and 116 new finished guitars, and things were never the same again.
The late 60's and early 70's was a hard time for Semie compared to the mid 60's. After losing his names and trademarks, Semie made guitars under the name Gospel and models that were available as Mosrites could be bought as these or sometimes with Moseley (with the "M" in a square), or no name on them. The Moseleys continued to make guitars and tried to sell them directly to stores after the auction, but times were tough.
Into the 70's.
Semie was mostly making custom guitars for old friends and endorsers around this time ('69/70) and bought the Mosrite rights back around early '71 and started fresh with many new ideas and old favorites mainly using parts Andy had purchased at the auction in '69.
Semie opened back up in the original P street factory in Bakersfield in mid '72 and now owned the Mosrite names with the new Mk I and Mk X (Ventures shapes) and Celebrities now sporting the original Mosrite names again, albeit with "By Semie Moseley" added to the headstock. The early 70's was a very experimental time for him working on old favourites and new ideas.
Available from late '72 was the 300 mono and 350 mono and stereo models. These were the same shape (a single cutaway almost Tele solid body with the bottom horn flipped) and for the first time by Mosrite, most were made with mahogany necks and bodies. The 300 mono model had a single pick up and the stereo had two pickups and stereo outputs. The Celebrity was still being made in the form of the Celebrity II and III with small numbers of Celebrity I full depth body guitars being made to order, some with 2 humbuckers and 4 knobs with push phase/coil switches (like the Bluesbender) and the standard hollow Joe Maphis model (no F hole) was offered probably using up leftover bodies. Semie also made Mosrite by Semie Moseley/ FUZZley by Moseley FUZZrites with leftover parts during this early 70's period.
These guitars had mainly standard Mosrite hardware bought over from the 60's except with a major difference being some pickups. Probably due to the success of humbuckers in the 60's Semie introduced humbuckers available on nearly everything. These were made in the original single coil covers and had two rows of pole pieces, one being drilled right through the Mosrite of California embossing.
In '73 Semie made some Acoustic Black Widows for the Acoustic guitar and amp company. Although most were produced in Japan, Semie made about 200 of this model and Mosrite ones are easy to identify by having mainly Mosrite parts/hardware including the Dobro chrome surround pickups, and very Mosrite looking/feeling necks. These were all black and had a large red "pad" on the back. They were produced in guitar and bass but there was at least one Celebrity body version made.
Interestingly Semie shared (or neighbored depending on who you talk to) manufacturing space with Zane Beck, who had worked for Sho-Bud and started his own pedal steel company ZB Music (later BMI) who had moved from Phoenix, AZ to Bakersfield in about '74. As well as making steel guitars there were also ZB branded amplifiers made by Bob Rissi who had worked for Leo Fender in the early 60's and then Rickenbacker and then set up Risson amplifiers. The only physical connection left from this acquaintance seems to be some FUZZrites branded as ZB Custom which Mosrite may have made for them, or they made from parts left over when Semie moved in late '76.
By '76, with Bill Gruggett back, Semie was making models like the Brassrail which literally had a brass rail running in the fingerboard from the nut connecting all the frets together. This was an attempt to make a guitar with superior sustain. The deluxe version had a changeable electronics package that would change the sound of the guitar, accessed through a brass plate on the back of the guitar. The Bluesbender, introduced a couple of years earlier, was similar to the Brassrail but with a standard bolt on neck without the rail. These guitars were very Les Paul in shape with a thicker neck and carve top solid body and (mostly) stop tailpiece featuring 2 Mosrite humbuckers with 2 push/push mini phase or coil split switches. The Bluesbender is still one of my favorite Mosrites to play.
The 300 and 350 models sold reasonably well and Semie was back employing people and running a small guitar company. Sales catalogues also show Celebrity guitars with flame maple tops with humbuckers and also Dobro style guitars available throughout the mid 70's and in '76 Mosrite started making a few bicentennial (US 1776-1976) Celebrity models with red, white and blue accents but few are finished before a fire destroys the factory. Other models were offered in the Bluesbender/Brassrail shape with slab bodies and "The NEW Mosrite of California" logos on the headstock, and a bizarre blob of a guitar turned up named the Sooner model, but few were finished. Semie continued on through the 70's with innovative and brilliant designs but people kept waiting for the Ventures model to come back. Semie did make small numbers of Ventures shaped models, especially in the early 70's but was trying to make a name for himself as a luthier/designer who had more to offer, and he did.
The 70's were lean years for Semie and Mosrite, with time taken off for gospel tours and recordings. It was a chance meeting in the early 80's that would bring Mosrite back to the world of guitars.
In the 80's.
After several moves in the late 70's Semie moved the factory from Oklahoma City to an old school building in Jonas Ridge, NC in 1981. The new building is branded the "Gospel Encounters Music Hall" and Semie had intended to play and promote Gospel music while making custom guitars on the side. New production includes Ventures reissues, Gospel models and some other new models being introduced. Mosrite production picked up again thanks to orders from a Japanese interest. A chance meeting with a Japanese Mosrite enthusiast at a guitar show insured that Mosrite could start making bigger runs again, thanks to some financial input for (unofficial) Ventures model reproductions.
In 1983 Semie and Loretta had a car accident on a trip to California to secure finances to produce larger numbers of guitars which damaged Semies leg, which was rebuilt but he had a long recovery. Then, after building 300 guitars of 700 guitar order, in November 1983 the factory burned down. Semie had little insurance on the building so production had to shut down yet again.
In 1985 Semie was diagnosed and needed colon surgery which took more time to recuperate. During this period in the early/mid 80's Mosrite made runs of Ventures model "reissues" including copies of the '63/64 side jacks, set neck guitars and other Ventures shaped guitars being made with and without German carves and scratch plates like the VII and VIII carve top models with no scratch plate which were made from around '84. Semie tried to keep Mosrite going during this period while he recovered from several surgeries but was reportedly unhappy with the quality of some guitars while he was not at the helm.
The new factory was set up back in Jonas Ridge, NC in late 1986 and production started back up again with Ventures reissues and the 25th Anniversary Ventures model for 1988. This was a set neck (with neck plate) Ventures reproduction with a metallic silver body and "sunburst" black and silver scratch plate with "Mosrite "M" 25th The Ventures" printed into it. There were only ever 12 of the original 25 finished.
The V88's were Ventures/Mk I reissues with Mosrite 1988 on the headstock and like most Mosrites throughout this period were signed by Semie either on the back of the headstock or the back of the neck, sometimes both. As was the M88 which was a Ventures shape with no scratch plate or German carve.
Mosrite moved again due to financial difficulties and local government regulations. Mosrite was making a number of models with Vibramute vibratos back on most Ventures shaped models with a rarer Semie Moseley labeled Vibramute, and cast neck plate appearing on some guitars throughout the 80's and early 90's.
Semie continued to build Mosrites on a custom basis at a building in Morganton, NC but had struggled all through the 80's to build anything of real significance back up again, going broke several times through the decade due to fires, health problems and lack of real distribution. Semie had given finished and partly finished guitars and stock to pay off debts several times during this period, careful not to lose the Mosrite names again. Most of these have been sold off over the years with a shop in Stockholm, Sweden in the early 2000's listing a bunch of NOS 1984 Mosrites from an investor, a big online auction in the early 2000's with 37 brand new Mosrites made in 1987 in Jonas Ridge being sold for Semie's main investor at that time and slightly later a pile of "seconds" (some thirds, some unusable parts) and buckets full of hardware came up for sale also from an investor from Canada who had been paid in parts for another failed investment attempt. In 2009, 4 of Semie's personal guitars (2 Gospel guitars, 1 Gospel bass and a side jack Ventures) all made in '89/90 turned up donated to the Southern Gospel Music association by the owner who was an investor paid with these guitars by Semie.
In early 1991 the new factory was set up in an old Wal-Mart building in Boonville, Ark that started operations on March 9,1991 as Unified Sound Association, Inc.
Things were going well with the business and thanks to financial input from several interested parties including local government funding and incentives, and the factory was in full swing with some old Gretsch employees (Gretsch had just closed nearby) working at the new factory. There were quite a few "new" models in the works during the early 90's including a slab body Ventures shape guitar with the timber/aluminium hard tailpiece and the Equalizer both aimed at a cheaper market. Also back in production were the '63/64 side jacks (which Semie was calling the Joe Maphis single neck claiming to have been designed and made originally in 1952) and '64/65 Ventures reissues using the Ventures logos as well as an official Nokie Edwards model that has become quite collectible now due to the association with the Ventures and the very small production run.
Semie had also stated they were starting production on a new Ramones model ("played and endorsed by the Ramones"?) which was a simple slab body Ventures shape with 1 pickup, but not like any of the "official" Ramones models of a couple of years earlier. Also being produced was the new Gospel model.
Production had started on a 40th anniversary model (40 made for the Japanese market) and the 30th Anniversary Nokie models to be made in 1993. These were both set neck, fully bound Ventures reissues based on the '63/64 Ventures models celebrating Semie starting date of 1952 and 1963 for the Ventures model, along with Commemorative Ventures models, Yuzo Kayama model and Built in Soul models, which were made after Semies death.
Six months after moving to Arkansas, Semie became very ill with multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) and died in August 1992. Semie's dreams were carried on for a while with the help of his staff and his wife Loretta but within a couple of years in early 1994 everything was shut down for the last time. Official USA made Mosrites were sold with certificate of authenticity (with embossed notarized seal from Logan County, Arkansas) from Unified Sound and signed by Loretta into 1995.