Ask a Luthier Codabows Instruments Links Pi Guitar String Band Contact
Return to questions listing:

J. S. Kansas Guitars

Q: I have enjoyed your website. I have a question about a guitar I own.

I purchased a J. S. Kansas flattop 6-string in Minneapolis, about 1975. It was used, and I paid $200 for it. The label inside states that it was handmade in Overland Park, Kansas. My guitar carries a model number: DS-125, serial number: 130310-3.

This guitar has a good-sized body. The neck trussrod adjusts through the soundhole. I recently had the frets trued and a little neck adjustment, and it plays nicely.

I have seen only one other J. S. Kansas guitar, also in Minneapolis. I have Googled for it, but only found my own entry, on a forum where I was talking about my Yamaha 12-string, and I had mentioned the Kansas gutar.

I would like to know if you have ever heard of these guitars, and are they really handmade. I won't be offended, whether it is handmade or not, because I feel I have gotten my money's worth out of this one, and I enjoy playing it.

Thanks for your time and consideration.
Steve Siebenaler, Tulsa, Oklahoma

A: I had a response to your inquiry almost composed and I lost it in a power failure. So here I am, starting over again.

When the J. S. Kansas Guitars appeared I was working for the Mossman guitar company in southern Kansas. We were very interested in rumors of another guitar builder from Kansas. We were disappointed to find that guitars were Kansan in name only and were actually imported from Japan.

Now, people have gotten used to the idea of import guitars, but back then importers would go to great lengths to imply that their guitars were made in the States. When a guitar was branded Kansas or Washburn or Alvarez or if it said Martin somewhere on it, people assumed it was American. Some importers skirted the issue by saying nothing. Some would be deceptive and some would out and out lie. At the time, most import guitars were being made by three factories in Japan. Your guitar was made at one of these. Anyone could walk into any of these factories and order guitars made to their specifications. Minimum order was about 100 guitars. I don't think J.S. Kansas imported more than one minimum order. Your guitar was hand made. But, it was handmade in Japan using laminated woods. The Japanese guitars of that period were quite well made and sounded pretty good. They were very important in the explosive growth of the popularity of the guitar. Their low price made it just that much easier to get your first guitar and join the craze. I would not be surprised to see them accrue some collector value, although it hasn't happened yet.

I could tell you more about your guitar if I could see it. I will have my workbench set up at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas September 15-19, 2004. That's a lot closer to Tulsa than Lawrence Kansas and it's a fine weekend of entertainment and pickin'.

Steve Mason