Inspired by a recent post on reverb.com, I jumped down an Internet rabbit hole of vintage guitar ads. Naturally, there’s a ton of wonderful stuff to be found, and I was surprised, despite how niche a market these ads were trying to reach, at how little they differ in look and tone from any other ads of their times. ‘50s ads tended to be bland product shots surrounded by expository text, by the mid-‘60s ads started getting more creative, and ‘70s ads were often rainbow-hued blowouts executed by illustrators who owed their livelihoods to Milton Glaser. Which is basically to say that a lot of them could just as easily have been ads for cars or small appliances. Why this surprised me, I don’t know—they were crafted by the same agencies, using the same broad theories as to what worked, as all other ads. (And if those cultural transitions interest you, I cannot recommend Thomas Frank’s The Conquest of Cool
What follows is culled from countless online sources. I’ve tried to keep them roughly in chronological order, but not all of them were possible to date. Of particular interest—the Vox and Domino ads below boast the most out-there instrument designs, but due to their vintage they’re the most conservative ad designs, and Fender ads from the ‘70s were especially lysergic, in a study-hall kinda way.
Domino, early ‘60s
Fender, 1965, interesting to compare to the 1958 ad below.
Silvertone, mid ‘60s. I had one of these! For hardboard bound with wallpaper, it sounded great, and the amp-in-case worked perfectly. I got it for $85 in the early ‘90s (Nancy Sinatra not included), probably sold it for about the same a year or two later. Current values can reach $600. That rhythmic sound you’re hearing is me repeatedly head-butting my wall.
Harmony, mid ‘60s, and we’re guessing that amp isn’t quite to scale.
Epiphone, 1967. Interesting how the more stolid Epiphone company has the psych ad while the more experimental Vox company ran an ad the same year that, apart from the model’s sartorial hipness, would have been at home in an earlier decade.
Gibson, 1973. Five’ll get you ten that moustache is glued on.
Fender, early-mid ‘70s
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Vintage ads of rock and rollers selling stuff other than their souls
Evolution: Psychedelic Levis commercial from early 70s
Vintage flashback-inducing psychedelic ads from the 60s and 70s that will give you a contact high