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Wurlitzer, Kansas connection?

Q: I am seeking guidance on the refurbishing of an electric 12 string guitar.
It is a Wurlitzer, made around 1966, in Neodesha, Kansas. It is in dire
need of cosmetic repair, and of course new strings and fine tuning.
As a teacher at Neodesha High School, I have collected local memorabilia
for years. Since I can't read music, let alone play a guitar, my purpose
is to get the 12 string in shape so that kids can see a piece of local
history. Also, NHS offers "Guitar" as a class. It would be great for the
kids in that class to play a 12 string electric.
Anyway, any suggestions or direction you might have would be appreciated.


A: The first rule of guitar collecting is that you never refinish a
guitar! A finish can be patched or touched up, but a new finish removes
most of the collector value of an instrument. Parts replacement is also to
be avoided. If an old part is completely shot it can be replaced, but the
old part should be kept nearby. Nobody ever reinstalls the broken parts,
but they like to look at them, and the instrument, as a collectors item, is
not considered complete without them. Wood changes shape every time the
weather changes, wires come loose through abuse, not to mention chips and
dents. There is nothing that can go wrong with a guitar that can't be
fixed. Your guitar may just be badly out of adjustment.
I am fascinated to hear of a Wurlitzer/Neodesha connection. I would
love to see the guitar and hear more about it. Every Wurlitzer I have ever
seen came from Echo in Italy. Could it have been made by a guy named
Wurlitzer with no connection to the Wurlitzer company? Was there a guitar
factory in Neodesha, Kansas? What became of the factory workers? Are there
more Wurlitzers around town? Electric guitars are never made in a
vertically consolidated factory. The woodwork is done here the pickups are
made there and the tuners, pots, frets etc. come from all over. We are
probably looking for a woodworking factory that made the bodies and necks
and installed parts made elsewhere. Or, Neodesha could have had a parts
factory. I'd love to know.
It is hard to not be skeptical. The guitar making/selling business
is rife with deception and out right lies concerning the source of
instruments. There are many hundreds of Spanish and American sounding brand
names that are made by a few dozen manufacturers worldwide. An American
pedigree adds a lot to the price, and perceived value, of an instrument. We
have, however, also tracked previously unknown, truly local instruments,
forgotten by accidents of the market. In the 1960s lots of stuff was still
manufactured in towns in America, like Neodesha. Sleuth on!

Everything you ever wanted to know about Neodesha, Kansas guitar making.

Steve Mason