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Acoustic Black Widow Spider

 
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westtexasred
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:02 pm    Post subject: Acoustic Black Widow Spider Reply with quote

$699BIN(click picture)





From Vintage Guitar Magazine

The Acoustic
Black Widow

By: Michael Wright
Posted On: 3/31/2003


In the late '60s, when Domino guitars were fading away, tube amplifiers were out of vogue. Old technology, man! Cool bands played through solidstate amps that delivered lots of clean power with none of that awful tube distortion. Cool bands played through Standels and tuck-and-rolled Kustoms. Entire bands were run through a single 350-watt Mosrite monster.

Coming out of the late-'60s affection for transistors was the Acoustic Control Corporation, which specialized in what were, for the times, pretty advanced solidstate amps. However, in '72, Acoustic introduced its one and only guitar and bass design, the Acoustic Black Widow, which represented a fascinating foray into the world of guitar manufacturing.

The Acoustic Black Widows were particularly interesting because they really went in the face of trends of the times. Black Widows were likely designed in the U.S., but the majority were built in Japan (though Semie Moseley said he built the final 200). The Black Widow shown here is Japanese, and I have personally held a Black Widow guitar with slightly different features and a feel that is unmistakably Mosrite. What made these so curious was that, while most American importers and manufacturers were rushing headlong toward the copy syndrome, the Acoustic Black Widows were unique, designed with certain technological objectives in mind.

Guitars and basses were equal double-cutaway solidbodies looking like an enlarged Les Paul Junior. Cutaway horns were flared, the wide lower bout was oval-shaped. Bodies were black-lacquered maple, with a German carve around the edges. The black-finished maple neck was bolted on, with a wide, triple-bound center-peaked headstock that was kind of a cross between a Kay and a Gibson. The logo was all lower case. The neck had a zero fret followed by two octaves of frets in a rosewood fingerboard on the guitar, 20 frets on the bass. Position markers were mini-dots. Strings passed over a fine-tune bridge to a large tailblock placed further back, designed to increase sustain. These were not instruments for the timid. The guitar had a whopping 27" scale, while the bass logged in at 31." The guitar had two humbuckers with chrome sides and a black plastic insert, with 12 poles, a three-way select, and two volume and two tone controls. The bass had one humbucker with eight poles in the center position, with volume and tone. Jack was front-mounted, and they came with a plush-lined hardshell case. The guitar was equipped with Grover Rotomatic tuners, while the bass came with Grover bass tuners. By '74, the bass tuners had been changed to Schallers. Knobs were brushed aluminum. The most striking feature of the Black Widows was a red leather pad on the back of the guitar, attached with snap-on fasteners, stitched with a "black widow" pattern.

Toward the end of the run, the Black Widow guitar got an endorsement from jazz fusion great Larry Coryell, the only big name player to align himself with these guitars.

The Black Widows exhibit a surprising quality for their time, far in advance of comparable Japanese guitars. The pickups were fairly high-output for the time, hovering around seven ohms resistance. While they look unprepossessing, when you pick one up you feel in the presence of a solid guitar worthy of respect. The guitar and bass were still offered in the '74 Acoustic catalog, but disappeared by '75 as the copy era finally triumphed. Acoustic would continue to make amplifiers, but would never return to the guitar business. Acoustic Black Widows were not produced in enormous quantities, so they are relatively rare, but they turn up with some regularity if you keep your eyes open, mostly because few people pay attention to them. Expect to pay much more for a Moseley version, if the seller knows what he's got. Most folks don't know what they are, and they shouldn't cost you a fortune, even though they represent an interesting punctuation point in American guitar history.

The Acoustic Black Widow Story by Mark Schlipper - July 2004

Here's the story as Ive pieced it together. Ill edit as needed to make sure I have the most accurate story. The majority of this can be credited to Harvey Gerst, a former Acoustic employee.

In 1972, solid state amp pioneers Acoustic Control Corporation introduced thier first and only guitar and bass models, the Black Widow. Guitar maker Paul Barth, whos history includes work with Rickenbacker on thier first electrics, did the original designs for the Black Widow. Barths company Bartell made the first few Widows. They had smaller cutaways, a normal neck join, 20 or 22 fret neck, and normal humbuckers.

Acoustic's Harvey Gerst then took that original design and revamped it, essentially taking it up a notch to a whole new kind of guitar. Gerst deepend the cutaways, and upped the fret count to 24. The pickups were changed to hotter, lap steel style single coils with lots of wire and lots of magnet. The controls were shifted up a bit so the volume was accessable while playing for swells. The bridge rollers were enlarged for more sustain. Weight was added to the body for a better balance. And the novel neck design was introduced.

Barth coudnt keep up with the numbers Acoustic wanted, so the designs were taken to Matsumoto Moko in Japan. At the time, they were producing some of the finest guitars coming out of Asia, that still rival the American made stuff. The majority of Black Widows out there in the world are Matsumokus.

Then at some point (after Harvey left, so details are missing) Acoustic brought production back to the states, and put it in the capable hands of Semie Mosley, whose Mosrite guitars already shared some design elements with the Widow. The fact that Paul and Semie both worked together at Rickenbacker is no surprise. Its my understanding that a few things changed back to a more normal design after this transition, namely the neck join. Shortly after Mosley took on the Widows, he stopped.

At some other point, Paul Barth took his design to Hohner. To date, Ive only seen Hohner Widow basses. The overall shape is the same as the Acoustic, and they have the carved top like them as well. The major differences are f-holes on a chambered body, two pickups (on the bass), and an option to have it in natural maple finish with a maple fretboard. Also, while (to my knowledge) Acoustic only made fretted basses, the Hohners were primarily fretless (with one fretted one seen). Smaller differences are the black pad on the back, and bridge/tailpiece design. They have "Hohner" on the headstock and a label in the f-hole stating "Mfg. by Bartell of California".

All in all its "wildly guessed" that no more than 1000 of these guitars were made for Acoustic. With the fewest being Barths, and no more than a couple hundred being Mosleys. But due to company hand changes, production hand changes, etc, its really hard to tell. We may start cataloging them here, see how many there are in the world, and how many variations.


Last edited by westtexasred on Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:14 pm; edited 4 times in total
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jcyphe
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul Barth is one of the coolest people in the history of the guitar industry and not many people know about him.
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Richard
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those look sweet, I'd love a chance to play one.
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westtexasred
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a photo of the back of an Acoustic Black Widow Spider.

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the isaac eaton
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

westtexasred wrote:
Here is a photo of the back of an Acoustic Black Widow Spider.




Thats disappointing, i really hate those scratch protectors on the back. Yeah there's no scratches but now there is a disgustingly huge pillow drilled onto your guitar.
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Josh
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the isaac eaton wrote:
westtexasred wrote:
Here is a photo of the back of an Acoustic Black Widow Spider.




Thats disappointing, i really hate those scratch protectors on the back. Yeah there's no scratches but now there is a disgustingly huge pillow drilled onto your guitar.

Can't you just take them off? I find them pretty cool to tell you the truth.
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westtexasred
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Joined: 26 Apr 2006
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Location: Minneapolis

PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the_dude wrote:
the isaac eaton wrote:
westtexasred wrote:
Here is a photo of the back of an Acoustic Black Widow Spider.




Thats disappointing, i really hate those scratch protectors on the back. Yeah there's no scratches but now there is a disgustingly huge pillow drilled onto your guitar.

Can't you just take them off? I find them pretty cool to tell you the truth.


The one for sale on ebay has had the back cover removed.I think they just snap off anyway.I think they are cool because that hour glass design is the distinctive feature of the Black Widow Spider.

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Josh
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

westtexasred wrote:
The one for sale on ebay has had the back cover removed.I think they just snap off anyway.I think they are cool because that hour glass design is the distinctive feature of the Black Widow Spider.


On gretsch's and I think even vox guitars they just button on and off.
But I really dig the hourglass design.
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bone
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 7:29 pm    Post subject: Frank Zappa Acoustic Black Widow Guitar Spider Reply with quote

The Acoustic Black Widow did not make its debut in 1972 as stated above but earlier.

Paul barth working with Bartell started making them in 1968 and Acoustic Released its first known catalog in 1969 advertising the Acoustic Black Widow
Jimmy Hendrix was photographed with one as well as Frank Zappa as early as 1969/1970

More on the Frank Zappa Acoustic Black Widow Guitar:

Frank Zappa's Black Widow Guitar

Acoustic Control Corporation Black Widow Electric Guitar by Bartell of California, designed by Paul Barth. Modified by Frank Zappa with Gibson style black vol/tone knobs and EMG pick ups. Used by Frank in the studio to record tracks on Shut Up And Play Your Guitar. (i.e, liner notes specifically mention the Black Widow with EMG modifications) This Guitar can be seen in a photo c. 1969-1970 in the infamous Mothers of Invention Era. (prior to modifications)

Lowell George (little Feat) replaced Ray Collins in 1968 as rhythm Guitar for the Mothers of Invention and he can be seen on stage in 1968-1969 playing the guitar.

It is well Known among gear heads that Frank Zappa owned two Black Widows this one as seen in the photo c. 1969-1970 and a fretless.
The fretted one is also photographed in the book Zappas's Gear, and is described as "FZ's Black Widow still in the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen in 2012" (UMRK-Franks Home Recording Studio)
Jimmy Hendrix a friend of Frank also had a left handed version of this guitar.
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bone
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 7:33 pm    Post subject: 1969 catalog for Acoustic Black Widow Guitar Reply with quote

[img]http://blackwidow.vintageusaguitars.com/index.php/acoustic-catalog-pages/[/img]
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stewart
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 7:44 pm    Post subject: Re: 1969 catalog for Acoustic Black Widow Guitar Reply with quote

bone wrote:
[img]http://blackwidow.vintageusaguitars.com/index.php/acoustic-catalog-pages/[/img]


http://blackwidow.vintageusaguitars.com/index.php/acoustic-catalog-pages


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bone
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:00 pm    Post subject: Frank Zappa in 1969-1970 with Black Widow guitar Reply with quote

Frank Zappa in 1969-1970 with Black Widow guitar

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/06/41/ad/0641ad5e1bf05083bdb9e0adb039e8d9.jpg

not sure how to get this image in the post
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dezb1
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

These look cool like if a yamaha sg and a 335 had a kid
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Doog
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just because I haven't seen it mentioned:


http://www.eastwoodguitars.com/black-widow-black/
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benecol
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 10:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fucking cocking Eastwood - take one of my favourite ever guitars (I so, so want one) and then really fuck it up by ignoring the scale length. The main thing that made it unique.

Classic funny-shaped-Epiphone ploy.
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NickS
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2016 5:05 pm    Post subject: Re: Frank Zappa in 1969-1970 with Black Widow guitar Reply with quote

> not sure how to get this image in the post

1. Make sure BBcode is not disabled when you post (tick box under the text box when composing).
2. Make sure URL doesn't include any fancy .asp stuff like question marks.
3. use the [img] tag before the URL and the [/img] tag at the end like this:
[img]https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/06/41/ad/0641ad5e1bf05083bdb9e0adb039e8d9.jpg[/img]
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NickS
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2016 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

...et viola...
bone wrote:
Frank Zappa in 1969-1970 with Black Widow guitar



not sure how to get this image in the post
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dots
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2016 7:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks for the assist, nick!
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But the people need that wiggle stick.
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