The Museum's Sneek'Peek is part of our museum collection that is featured at our store front at Heirlooms Music. From time to time, we would like to exhibit some historical and interesting guitars that has impacted the development of music historically.


This effort is part of our mission to eventually have all these instruments of interest exhibited collectively when our museum is established. We would like to encourage questions and thoughts about such things that hopefully would tell a complete story and bring people back to the roots of music one day. 


That day would be a day of rejoicing for we believe a higher order has established this purpose of a museum to spread words and songs of love, strength and compassion within our community. This can only happen when we open our hearts to learn and experience art, music and it's culture from within and around us. We do think, when we have such a place to share, teach and just make music, we can cartainly make the world a better place. We imagine John Lennon wouldn't be too far off in agreement too.

1928 National Tenor Tri-Cone Resonator owned by Steve Earle.

A special instrument this is, as it is a pre-war tenor at that. But, played and owned by American rock, country and folk hero Steve Earl is something else. We imagine Steve (3 times Grammy Award winner and a known advocate for peace and life), must have spent countless hours in close proximity to this veteran, in forging songs that inspired nations.

The Merrill Guitar, advertised during the 1900s as "The Greatest Invention of the Age". I guess the use of solid aluminum for a guitar was cutting-edge technology then. Touted as almost "indestructible", well that too, might have meant having the guitar in tact as a whole. Flawless and not destructible, this is not. As the spruce top and reworked bridge of this example certainly wouldn't stand up to too much beating of any sorts. But, still a unique historical progress unto how technology played apart towards the modern guitar. Maybe a prelude or at least an inspiration towards the metal bodied resonator guitars? 

KeyKord Model Tenor Guitar, made by Stromberg-Voisinet, c. 1928, made in Chicago, natural lacquer finish, mahogany body and neck, ebonized fingerboard, original black hard shell case. "Somebody paid a lot of money back in the late 1920's in order to avoid learning how to play the thing" is the classic KeyKord quote about this instrument from Tom Wheeler's AMERICAN GUITARS, and it still about sums up the story! The KeyKord series out of Chicago were a specialty contract for Stromberg-Voisinet, who later became Kay. They came with unfretted necks fitted with elaborate chord-fingering machinery mounted in a metal box above the fingerboard. The idea was instead of actually fingering chords, the player pressed a little illustrated tab with the chord symbol on it, strummed and voila!-the instrument played the chord for you! This instrument was called a tenor guitar but is tuned to baritone uke tuning, and the chord symbols match those from the popular ukulele sheet music of the day although in practice it is playing in a different key! While this general idea would be revived more than once (as by Maccaferri in the 1950's) the keyKord was the most elaborate and ambitious exercise of the idea. Despite the ingenuity involved, these remain more of an amusing novelty than fully functional instrument...after all the "Guitar Hero" style video games are really the modern equivalent! This tenor guitar was a fairly elaborate creation with a full 21 chord tabs, a pearloid headstock with "KeyKord" incised and tabbed Grover tuners. An interesting piece of 1920's musical ingenuity and playable Americana.Overall length is 31 1/2 in. (80 cm.), 11 1/8 in. (28.3 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 1/8 in. (7.9 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 20 in. (508 mm.). Width of nut is 1 7/16 in. (36 mm.). Some average light wear overall, there are a few small crack repairs to the top and back but nothing serious. The chord mechanism works about as well as these ever did-it "plays" with the occasional squeak or buzz, but you can make the correct chord sounds with the appropriate keys. A neat playable novelty from the 1920's, an era of endless invention! ( write-up courtesy of Folkway, we just cut & paste this one. They have done such a fine job describing this instrument that we felt we couldn't do better. That's efficiency and not laziness, hey it kinda represent what these instruments were about, right?)

First would be a Vintage a Gibson L-1 guitars from the 1920s.

Such a guitar would have been used by Robert Johnson.

He is only one of the most important guy in guitar and music history.

The infamous story of how he sold his soul to the devil at a "Crossroads", was made into a movie of the same name that featured guitar maestro asteve Vai and also the actor from karate kid.


Truth be told, Ezekiel a friend of mine whom spent years researching about Johnson has his take on what really happened. It wasn't a deal with the devil as much as it was a metaphor for his decision in life when he saw his beloved died during childbirth. He would have thought such a day would see someone calling out to God instead. And indeed through this ordeal he found himself focused in music that brought him fame and recognition singing soulful blues. Johnson has indeed been the idol for many of the music beats such as Jimi Hendrix, Mike Bloomfield, Bob Dylan and many other musicians.

Our second piece is also a very rare vintage from the league of great American guitars. Almcrantz though not a well known name would have been one of many Chicago based builders irking a living in the early 1900s in America. The beautiful appointments on this guitar would most likely be catered to a higher end client then, it was rumored that Almcrantz made instruments for some European Monarchy. Such workmanship and artful carving are of a bygone era. Holding such a relic of an instrument is easy to conjur up imagination of a life gone by of parlor session of songs and dances. Maybe the people back then has it better than us, boy, they sure know a thing or two about fancy indulgence.

Last piece would be a harpguitar. A harp guitarist is a whole different kettle of fish so as to speak. You maybe able to play a six string but 10, 12 or more, let's just say it ain't for everyone. This likely European made harp guitar has seen its fair share of playing and uses. Harp guitar has extra course of strings most times in the bass regions. And rightfully named as the added strings gives an almost soothing appeal of a harp.


Current renowned players of such grace like Muriel Anderson is a good example of how such an instrument would sound in expert hands.

Vintage Wappen Duo


A pair of 1900s Wappen style (German) 6-string Lute and Mandolin. A peek into the evolution of such regional strings instruments with their distinctive designs from Europe. These are predecessors to the modern Vienna styled guitars. A rare sight these days.

1935 Honolulu Master (Hawaiian)


Built with a chunky squared neck for slide play. This full bling guitar with abalone rosette and bindings would be the equivalent D45s of a Martin for a slide guitar. Extremely rare and sought after is also it's beautiful Brazilian rosewood back and sides. A unique prewar hero!

1890s Wolfram Triumph Parlor


Built before the Golden Era of perfecting the modern guitar. The maker from Ohio experimented with the use of a solid piece of aluminum board as the fret board! It was thought that Aluminum would make the instrument sound louder. Back then it was cutting edge technology! Less than 300 of these rare birds are said to be made and even less survived.

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