GUITAR
ACQUISITION
SYNDROME

Alamo Fiesta 2568R



Who? San Antonio as in Texas? When? Really?


So what else was in the basement of the Alamo along with Pee Wee's bicycle? A guitar and amplifier manufacturer by the same name of course! Only kidding as we all know the Alamo doesn't have a basement but the Alamo brand was manufactured in San Antonio, Texas. Like many of the 1950-60s manufacturers, I had experience with their lap steel guitar models and tube amps but this marks my first Alamo guitar, a 1965 Fiesta 2568R.

From what I've read, Charles Eilenberg was hired by Milton Fink, a Texas based publisher/distributor who owned Southern Music, to handle production for his company's entry into the phonograph market in 1947. By 1950 Alamo was also manufacturing guitars and amplifiers. In the early '60s Alamo was being distributed by C. Bruno & Son as entry level instruments but never attained any real market share. Pretty tough going up against the likes of Kay, Harmony and Danelectro who dominated the catalog and student market.

The Fiesta was one of their more notable guitar models with its odd (hollow) body shape using birch plywood for the top and back. The bridge appears to be very Danelectro however adds its own spin with a hinge and thumb wheels for adjustment. The single coil pickups look (and sound) like a thinner version of the Kay "speed bump" born from the P-13. Inline open back tuners were pretty standard on low end guitars but at least these are of decent quality. The funky Fiesta truss rod cover is a nice touch and adds  a bit of color to the stark artic white body. The bolt on neck is fat, flat and chunky like many of the era but at the same time comfortable in a weird way. The guitar weighs nothing and actually balances well with a strap on so they must have taken into consideration when the guitar was being designed. Overall an interesting take on a budget instrument that didn't come out of the Chicago music houses. 

Now I'm not going to tell you this is a "vintage find" but another great example of American guitar manufacturing outside of the
Big 3 (Gibson, Fender & Martin). Alamo seemed to follow Danelectro in terms of construction but with an even more radical body design. An entry level instrument its not going to replace your LP, Strat or even your Danelectro U-1 for that matter but nonetheless a very funky little guitar that is perfect for the kitchy collector or one on a budget.

The other side of Alamo was their line of tube amps which have probably received more notoriety than their lap steels and guitars. Although I offer no current example from my collection, many passed through my hands so I feel comfortable stating that they are a vintage bargain. Whether it be their early natural wood cabinet tube powered combo or their venture into "hybrids" using a solid state preamp by the late '60s, they went beyond the low end roots. If you're looking for some nice bluesy Texas tube tone, keep an eye out for one of their pre-hybrid models.

A little bonus this month (no pun intended!) is my son's latest find, a '50s Dixie ukelele. Although a drummer by trade, he has a small collection of ukes and has become quite the little player entertaining us with stuff like Ozzie's Crazy Train. Yes, you can play metal on a metal uke! LOL Anyway, we were visiting Lambertsville, NJ and spied a music store on the second floor of a historic revolutionary war building right on the Main Street.

 
We stepped into a room full of stringed instruments that were primarily used and included some vintage pieces but nothing that really jumped out for me. Lots of budget stuff from the Chicago music houses and just one lonely '90s Gibson ES-175 behind the counter. Very much a mom & pop store that probably survived on lessons and repairs except the owner was closer to my age than the typical old codger.


The owner wasn't there at first but his friend, who was watching the shop, entertained us on an acoustic guitar he was playing. The owner returned and seemed indifferent that we were even there as he sat behind the counter eating lunch. My son had picked up a new Chinese made resonator uke that, of course, he just had to have. I guess the owner smelled a sale so he called my son over and produced an all metal vintage Dixie uke from behind the counter. It looked brand new and actually sounded pretty good since he had just put on new strings. He wanted $100 and I countered with $60 finally settling on $80 after a bit more haggling.

When we returned home I did a quick GOOGLE search and found that Elderly sold one for $295. We did good! Made in the 1950s and probably more of a novelty than anything, its a cool little instrument that has become my son's, "Adventures in Ukelele Collecting"! Of course he has now been bitten by the collecting bug.......U.A.S. = Ukelele Acquisition Syndrome!

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