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Author Topic:  History of the Emmons Guitar Company
John McGuire


From:
Swansea,Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 24 Dec 2008 7:18 am    
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Just what is the history of this one time premier builder. I read about Buddy meeting Ron Sr. and the first Prototye guitar. What about later,Appears someone owned the company after Ron Sr. died. A little history about some of the employees, like Brian Adams. I don't want this thread to be a bashing just a little documentry of how and when things transpired. perhaps we can also do this with other builders, Bigsby, Sho Bud etc. A lot of younger players should learn some history of this instrument and the milestones achieved by the premier manufactures imo. Bobbe Seymour I am sure could rattle this info off for probably every builder past / present.

Merry Christmas
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Marlin Smoot


From:
Kansas
Post  Posted 24 Dec 2008 9:52 am     Ptg
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I don't think I've ever seen in print anything about the first Emmons guitar made. I know there is one but who has it? We've all seen the first Sho-Bud on the Porter Wagoner Show but where is the first Emmons?
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Roger Crawford


From:
McDonough, GA USA
Post  Posted 24 Dec 2008 10:20 am    
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Per Buddy's site. Maybe someone can pick it up from here.

The Emmons Guitar

The Emmons guitar originated from two changes I wanted on the Sho~Bud pedal steel we were manufacturing: a smaller cabinet and aluminum necks. I had designed the original Sho~Bud cabinet, but the more I became accustomed to the mechanics of pedal mechanisms, the more I saw in the way of overkill in cabinet size.

Shot Jackson didn't want to "rock the boat," as he put it, so he nixed the suggestions along with a few others I'd throw in from time to time. Eventually I logged enough features to design a totally new and different pedal steel. After two years of putting my thoughts on paper, the plans for the Emmons guitar were completed in 1961.

Bigsby was the benchmark design for cosmetics, but the cabinet was bulky and the one piece cast aluminum neck created tuning problems from temperature change.

I still revere the Bigsby, but at a time when we traveled in cars three fourths of the year, a bigger cabinet meant a bigger case, more weight, and more space taken up in a trunk.

My first step was to design a cabinet no larger than it took to house the mechanics. Next was a two piece aluminum neck with a bridge that mounted on the cabinet. The keyhead would have rollers to keep the strings from sawing across the nut, as it did with the Sho~Buds.

Cigarette burns on my personal guitar gave me cause to think the world could use a cabinet with a burn resistant finish, so I threw that in.

The Sho~Bud fretboard scale was 24 ½ inches with black frets on a white background. My fretboard would have a 24 ¼ inch scale with chrome frets and atom symbols on a black background. Three quarter inch maple was the standard for cabinets so I chose one half-inch.

I made wooden patterns for a keyhead, beveled foot pedal, and a lightweight volume pedal that mounted on the pedal bar. That idea came from my Bigsby volume pedal sliding off the top of my guitar when rushing to work an Opry spot.

A silk screen company in Nashville made fifty fretboards and fifty Emmons Stereo Guitar decals from drawings I submitted to them.

For the push-pull changer, I drew from Shot Jackson's system: a random array of bell cranks and reverse pulleys permanently welded to the undercarriage. A changeable mechanism was necessary, so I integrated his method into two changer fingers for each string, one to pull, and one to push. My reverse pulleys would be on the cross shafts of the guitar.

The Sho~Bud permanent raised or lowered a string but never the same string. To achieve that, I used springs of various lengths that butted against collars on the push/pull rods. When properly sized, the spring was strong enough to pull a finger to pitch and weak enough to override when pushed for a lower.

My father had the dies for the push-pull fingers made at Bendix in South Bend, Indiana. The rest of the design: cabinet¾ end plates¾ bell cranks¾ tone bypass switch¾ and neck with a stereo pickup configuration, was drawn to scale on graph paper.

While touring with Ernest Tubb, I met a fellow named Ron Lashley. Ron invited me out to his car to show me a Sho~Bud clone he built and wanted my opinion on. Outside of a pitted lacquer finish, the overall workmanship looked very good.

I learned that Ron had a major in physics, so I showed him a few of my drawings and gave a brief description of what I had in mind. He offered to work on a prototype and a month later, made a trip to Nashville to pick up my patterns, dies, fretboards, and decals.

We tried a burn resistant finish called Mica Glass, but the process was tedious and time consuming, leaving Formica as the only alternative. I couldn't picture wood grain Formica on a cabinet so I chose a glossy black sample that matched the fretboards. Once the black and aluminum theme came together, polished aluminum strips became the obvious choice for the trim.

The first prototype was brought to me at a show date with Ray Price in North Carolina, and it was gorgeous. More importantly, it was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. The only setback was the pedal action, which was stiff, so Ron took the guitar back to Burlington and modified the raise fingers for better leverage. The next prototype was on the money.

After a couple post-production models, we found that the stereo pickup created more assembly problems than it was worth. I wanted two five pole pickups that allowed the use of two amps, something not popular at the time. Rotary controls for balance and tone stuck out through slots in the back side of the neck and rotated with the thumb. It would have been a nightmare to service, so we went to the conventional single coil pickup.

After some minor tweaking, the Emmons push-pull was ready for production. Through Nashville recordings, show dates, and players like Jimmy Crawford, Hal Rugg, Ben Keith, and Weldon Myrick, the demand for the guitar took off.

For two years, I had control over any changes Ron thought necessary for production. Then I heard about a "bolt-on" guitar and called to ask about it. Ron told me he thought mounting the bridge on the neck might improve the sound. My concern was that it would defeat the purpose of the wraparound design and his response was, "We'll offer both models and they'll have a choice."

I knew that temperature would affect tuning in some way but gave him the benefit of the doubt and said okay. Later, I played a bolt-on that sounded great, but not without tuning problems. As for its acceptance, it was discontinued two years later.

After that, the split-tail neck was introduced, consisting of a cutout at the end of the neck with an aluminum insert to replace the cutout. To this day, I only guess as to why it was done.

In the eighties, the mechanical advantages of the all-pull guitar made it necessary to offer that type of changer. Ron came up with a system and I added the integration of a split tune feature that allowed you to raise and lower the same string and tune the note between the two pitches. I dubbed the new model Legrande; a name I had originally considered for the push-pull guitar.

After years of fixing things that weren't broke, I felt that the sound of the Emmons Original was lost forever. The demise of the push-pull mechanism and a year of legal wrangling with the company left me with little incentive to stay. By 1990, I was gone.

I've been blessed by being able to work with the best in the business, but I'll always hold designing the Emmons guitar above anything I've ever accomplished as a musician.

Buddy Emmons
January 20, 2002
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Sam White


From:
Coventry, RI 02816
Post  Posted 24 Dec 2008 11:21 am    
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I don't know where #1 or #2 Push Pull Emmons Steels are but I do know where # 3 is and that use to be Buddy Emmons Push Pull.All I will say is it is in Up State N.Y. and I may be seeing it again this comming Sunday at Our Mini Steel Guitar Jamboree.It looks great and sounds great.It belongs to one of our members and proud to have him and the #3 Emmons Steel with us.
Sam White
NESGA Pres.
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A. J. Schobert


From:
Cincinnati, Ohio,
Post  Posted 24 Dec 2008 11:25 am    
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Billy cooper's has #1, go down and check it out.
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Chris Lucker


From:
Los Angeles, California USA
Post  Posted 24 Dec 2008 12:48 pm     Emmons
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Billy Cooper has Number One.
I have Number Two, in its original condition. It is the oldest all original Emmons. All original and made from some of the parts off the original Number One, according to Ron Lashley Sr. It may have a January 1964 date (ES130002.) I believe Cooper's is April 1964 464001
Number Three is not in upstate New York. It is in Tennessee.
Number Four is in Minnesota.
I have Number Five. 764005
Number Six is in Canada.
Number Seven is in Japan.
I have Number Eight.1164008W
I have no clue where Number Nine is.
Number Ten belongs to TC Furlong.


Last edited by Chris Lucker on 9 Feb 2012 3:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Don Brown, Sr.


From:
New Jersey
Post  Posted 24 Dec 2008 11:21 pm    
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Wow Chris, Interesting! I'm wondering who's claiming their's to be #3 in NY?

Just a thought, since there can't be two #3's, with one in Tennessee, and one in New York..

Thanks for the interesting read.

Merry Christmas,
Don
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Jussi Huhtakangas


From:
Helsinki, Finland
Post  Posted 25 Dec 2008 1:54 am    
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Just curious, are all first ten guitars black?
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Drew Howard


From:
48854
Post  Posted 25 Dec 2008 5:40 am    
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Click to see Number One
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Sam White


From:
Coventry, RI 02816
Post  Posted 25 Dec 2008 7:43 am    
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Number 3 was sold to a Minister in Coggleskill N.Y buy the person in Tennessee and was told if he ever went to sell it to make sure he sold it back to him. I will not mention the name in Tennessee.Chris you may not know where #3 is and if you know who in Tennessee had it don't let it out.The #3 is in the original condition and the one that has it wanted to put a new Emmons Emblem on it and was told not to as it would drop the price of the Steel.The one that sold it is a good Buddie of mine and I think the world of this Great man.
Sam White
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Ron Brennan


From:
Orlando, Florida, USA; Formerly, Edison, NJ
Post  Posted 25 Dec 2008 9:21 am    
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Concerning the History of the Great Emmons Pedal Steel Guitar, what happend with the company after Mr. Emmons left?

How did the Emmons Steel Guitar Co. continue and prosper going forward? Question

What happend after the venerable Mr. Lashley,Sr. passed on? Question

What other milestones occured, etc? Question

No speculation please, just the facts...TX

Rgds,


Ron
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Nick Reed


From:
Russellville, KY USA
Post  Posted 25 Dec 2008 8:27 pm    
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Heres whatz supposed to be the very first Emmons production guitar built in 1964. The serial # says 464001 (thanks Bob). I assume that would have made it being assembled in April of '64. In Mike's post, his guitar has the (ES) prefix in the serial # which would stand for (Emmons Stereo). Bob Knight's picture doesn't show a ES on the casted serial number.
* Buddy E. . . .feel free to chime in here. Somebody has restored this one. The guitar is located at Billy Cooper's Shop in Virginia.


Neil Flanz supposedly had one of the early generation Emmons Stereo Wraparounds. Maybe he can be of some help in tracing this out.
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Last edited by Nick Reed on 26 Dec 2008 4:11 pm; edited 13 times in total
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Mike Cass


From:
Nashville,Tn. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 26 Dec 2008 10:56 am    
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Im looking at Emmons guitar ser#ES764003. Im not sure what guitar Sammie's friend has, but Ive heard of the same # showing up on guitars before. This one however, is documented and was originally owned by Sonny Curtis. As for the one in Nick's post, Ive never seen that particular instrument on legs and playable, to the best of my knowledge. When I was @ Billy's shop maybe 8 years ago he had what was said to be Emmons Stereo #1 hanging on his wall, but certainely not in such a condition as the one in the pic.
MC


Last edited by Mike Cass on 26 Dec 2008 11:35 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bob Knight


From:
Bowling Green KY
Post  Posted 26 Dec 2008 11:04 am    
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I took the picture in Nick's post at Billy Cooper's about 8 or 9 years ago. Here's the serial #
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Mike Cass


From:
Nashville,Tn. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 26 Dec 2008 11:30 am    
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It appears then that Billy has had #1 at least partially restored since Ive last seen it(and it could've been longer than 8 years)but its not my work.
I remember being dissappointed that it was mounted to the wall in a vertical fashion and not accessible to be played, and that the stereo wiring harness appeared to be missing, ie; the dials, etc.
Additionally, the pickups in Nick's pic dont seem to be stereo, but single coil. Its always good to see one playable again though. They are sharp looking!
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Brett Day


From:
Pickens, SC
Post  Posted 26 Dec 2008 12:27 pm    
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I think Wanda Cooper told me in e-mail that there's an Emmons guitar on the wall at Billy Cooper's Steel Guitars.

Brett
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A. J. Schobert


From:
Cincinnati, Ohio,
Post  Posted 26 Dec 2008 5:55 pm    
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When I was down their yes it was #1 and on the wall, it was their to be admirred as well as other steels that are on the wall, I wish I had the time ask them the history of each guitar their was a miller that was very vintage on the wall.

If I had #1 I would not have it out to be played I would do what billy is doing and have it on the wall or in a glass case, all to enjoy doesn't mean play at your own will! This is a very important guitar and should be respected, also I have pictures of it from last year and if my memory serves me all the electronics are hooked up,I don't know if it works, I was told they have pedals rods and case put away, I don't blame them. But that is second to the importance of this guitar. I didn't care if it worked I just looked at it and I could see how we came to where we are today, that is the true weight of this guitar, I am glad it is somewhere safe.

You owe it to yourself to make a pilgrimage.
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Roger Rettig


From:
Naples, FL
Post  Posted 26 Dec 2008 6:27 pm    
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A 'pilgrimage'? It's a noteworthy steel guitar, but that might be going a bit far.... ('though that would depend on where you live, I suppose Very Happy !)
_________________
RR
Emmons LG3 D-10, Zum Encore
(Real men play 'Day'!)


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Last edited by Roger Rettig on 27 Dec 2008 2:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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A. J. Schobert


From:
Cincinnati, Ohio,
Post  Posted 26 Dec 2008 6:54 pm    
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Well it sounded good!
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Chris Lucker


From:
Los Angeles, California USA
Post  Posted 27 Dec 2008 7:32 pm    
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Here is my Emmons Number Two ES130002.

A few of the rare features include:
Bellcrank shape -- they are also not plated.
Very shallow rear apron -- notice the cross shafts are supported by what appears to be Marlen brackets.
Cross shafts are closer to the body.
Pickups are not suspended from the neck, but screwed to the top decks of the cabinet.
Non-Stereo -- never was a Stereo guitar.
Pickup coils are 0.250" taller than a "standard" Emmons single coil.
Those aluminum plates under the lower return springs cover the cutouts in the cabinet for the control pots which are mounted in the necks -- see dials.
Originally, the pull rods were connected to the fingers by springs -- not hooks. The 1964 Emmons brochure states that these springs soften the jerk on the strings --"Each string has a spring shock absorber to prevent initial snap when pushing pedals, minimizing string breakage." (page two, Emmons brochure 1964)

Chris
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John McGuire


From:
Swansea,Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 28 Dec 2008 10:37 am    
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I really like seeing all of these Emmons originals but the topic of this post when I started it was not history of guitars but of the company. I read everything that Roger Crawford posted from Buddy"s website, that's all I know about the history. I was looking for answers to questions like Ron Brennan had in his post. Thanks to everyone who responded.
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robert kramer


From:
Nashville TN
Post  Posted 28 Dec 2008 12:09 pm    
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Hats off to Mr. Chris Lucker and all those who have the foresight to collect and preserve these historical instruments! Great photos of ES 130002.
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Willis Vanderberg


From:
Petoskey Mi
Post  Posted 28 Dec 2008 12:25 pm    
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John:
When I inquired as to the date of manufacture of my LeGrande LLL I was told by the Emmons Company that those records were not available.
Through some research I determined that the info on my guitar was in the posession of Jim Aycloth.
Maybe someone who knows the history of Jim's involvement with Emmons will contribute that information. There is a lot of heresay about this time in the company history and if I had any real fact I would contribute that info. I will say, from my experience with the LeGrande guitars that quality control was much better during Mr. Aycloths tenure with the company.I believe this time period was 1998 to 2001 or there about.
I would add that I have nothing but respect for the folks at Emmons. They have always responded to my inquires and orders were always shipped timely.
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Herb Steiner


From:
Spicewood TX 78669
Post  Posted 28 Dec 2008 1:15 pm    
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Unfortunately, Jim Aycoth has passed away.
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My rig: Infinity and Telonics.

Son, we live in a world with walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with steel guitars. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg?
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Roger Rettig


From:
Naples, FL
Post  Posted 28 Dec 2008 2:00 pm    
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Jim Aycoth passed away in May, 2007.

Bud, you are correct regarding Jim's tenure with the Emmons Co. He commenced in early 1998, 'though I'm not sure on what date. I called Emmons from the United Kingdom on April 27th and Jim answered the 'phone. He took my order for an SD-10 in sapphire blue and we discussed my preferences.

In regard to the quality control issues, delivery on my guitar was delayed for that very reason; he'd quoted an 8-10 week wait, but the guitar wasn't ready when I needed it for a job in Roanoke that Summer. Jim told me that he was having problems with pitting on the aluminium necks and needed to find a new supplier. Once I got to the US, I drove to Burlington from Roanoke wondering what the real story was....

At the factory Jim greeted me and took me into the back to show me over twenty half-finished steels - mine was in amongst them, and so was a D-10 body with John Hughey's name on the tag. That confirmed their story - I'd suspected that, as an 'unknown', I'd been shuffled down the line and spun a yarn, but Jim proved to be an honourable man in all aspects - I was always treated with respect and consideration by him and Jo Ann.

While this is not strictly 'history', I will also say that I have continued to be well and fairly treated by Ron Jr and Rebecca. My experiences with Emmons have always been positive and I trust they will continue to thrive.
_________________
RR
Emmons LG3 D-10, Zum Encore
(Real men play 'Day'!)


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