The original, vintage Supro guitars are rare and suitably expensive - a true connoisseur's brand that has attracted many lovers of vintage instruments over the years, such as Dan Auerbach and David Bowie (pictured with his Supro Dual Tone, during his In Reality Tour of 2003 - a model now resurrected as the Airline Twin Tone).
The "Supro" history gets mixed - and often confused with - other old American brands you may have heard of, such as Valco, Airline, National, Kay, Harmony and Silvertone. Today, the consumer is more aware of brands than back them, when these names were pretty much interchangeable. After all, they were all made by the same people - namely, Valco.
Most of them were guitar brands based in Chicago in the first half of the 20th Century. Here's their relationship to each other:
This photo shows pretty much the same guitar, but by different brands:
All the different brands (Supro, Airline, National etc) would use parts made by Valco so often the end result would be pretty similar.
No other Supro model is as well-known today as the red "JB Hutto" model, though in fact it was made popular thanks to its Airline version, as used by Jack White. Supro would usually have a Fender-style red headstock, whereas Airline had a white, slanted one.
Our own Airline 59 2P leans more towards the Airline version, of course!
Even though the original Supro, Airline and all other Valco-made guitars were mass produced and sold cheaply - for instance in department stores such as Montgomery Ward - there was one important factor that made them special: then, even more than today, Chicago was a true musical hub, and many of the workers who'd build the guitars were musicians themselves.
One of the reasons so many guitarists - whether American or not - value vintage "Made in the USA" guitars, is that there was a true personal touch to those instruments: the people who made them knew and cared about what they were doing.
They were great instruments which, today, are valuable vintage guitars (though much cheaper than old Gibsons or Fenders!)
The "Supro" brand was created by Valco, and some of their most classic models have been lovingly recreated by us here at Airline, with improvements for the modern players, such as chambered mahogany bodies in models which were originally made of res-o-glass, making the tone more rounded and warmer for the modern players.
Even though the methods of production have changed, we believe that we've really managed to re-create not just the look, but the feel that made the original models so special. When you hold one of our new Supro reissue guitars, you'll know you've got something special... a keeper that'll last you ages. A "new vintage", perhaps? You betcha!
Here's a look at some other iconic Supro guitars... and the new Airline versions.
The Dual-Tone was Supro's flagship guitar, and often seen as a more affordable alternative to a Gibson Les Paul. One guitarist above all helped to popularise this model - Link Wray:
The Dual-Tone was an important guitar for Wray, who used it to create his seminal, fuzzy guitar tone. Besides the Airline Twin Tone reissue, we've also paid homage to the genius guitarist, with our Twin Tone Link Wray Tribute guitar:
Since Wray, other guitarists have also played a Dual Tone, such as David Bowie as mentioned before, and an young Frank Zappa (his earliest known photo with a guitar features him playing a Dual Tone!)
The new Airline Twin Tone carries on with the Supro tradition and it's been used by some cool pros such as Cole Alexander (The Black Lips) and Robyn Hitchcock:
The Supro Coronado and Supro Martinique were quite similar models, sharing the same body shape but different specs. The most famous user is without a doubt The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach - pretty much responsible for single-handedly making the prices of an original shoot up!
Our Airline 59 Coronado is a stunning re-creation (or maybe "reinvention"?) of the Supro classics. Instead of Res-O-Glass, it features, as we've mentioned before, a chambered mahogany body, giving it a delicious, resonant sound.
Besides being available in a more traditional-looking black finish, it's also available in beautiful Metallic Blue, which together with upgraded hardware and alnico humbuckers, our Supro Coronado is a more modern and versatile instrument - with a visual that makes many players not think twice before choosing this over a vintage model!
The Supro Folkstar was a very distinctive resonator guitar from the early Sixties, featuring a Res-O-Glass body and red finish. Certainly stood out from the more traditional-looking resonators:
Once again, our version of a Supro classic is not content with simply copying from the past - but, instead, we try to improve on it! The Airline Folkstar is very similar to the Supro original, but with certain upgrades - including a neck mini-humbucker, and a bridge piezzo pickup, making it an even better choice for live performers.
Available in red, black or blue, the beauty of the Folkstar is that it sounds good enough to attract seasoned dobro / resonator players, but is modern enough to attract those new to this type of instrument!
When MusicRadar reviewed it, they nailed it perfectly, saying we matched the mojo of the old Supros with the playability of modern instruments. Yes, that's the idea behind all of our reissue models, perfectly encapsulated by the Supro guitar reissues. They're modern classics - or, maybe, we could even call them "the new vintage"!
The Guitars That Chicago Built, by Premier Guitar
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