Airline was a store brand of consumer electronics and musical instruments originally marketed and sold by American retailer Montgomery Ward via their catalog and brick and mortar stores. Products included radios, televisions, record players, guitars and amplifiers, similar to the way Sears branded their competing line of consumer electronics and instruments Silvertone. In the early 2000s, the Eastwood Guitar Co. acquired the rights to use the "Airline" brand-name.
The Airline brand was used by Montgomery Ward on a range of electric and acoustic guitars from 1958-68. These were made in Chicago, Illinois, by the Valco Manufacturing Co., Kay Musical Instrument Company, and Harmony Company. Valco was notable for its flagship National and budget Supro guitar brands, which were in production until the company's demise in 1968. Valco Airline guitars have been played by a wide array of bands and artists including: J. B. Hutto, David Bowie, The Cure, PJ Harvey, Calexico and Jack White.
Airline-branded amplifiers were also marketed. These were manufactured by Valco and Danelectro.
Eastwood Guitars reissue
The early 1960s JB Hutto Montgomery Airline model was reissued by Eastwood Guitars in the early 2000s under the name of the Airline DLX, after the company purchased the rights to the Airline brand. The Eastwood reissued guitars are built with chambered mahogany bodies as opposed to the hollow fiberglass (Res-O-Glas) bodies used for the original made by Valco. This difference in body material gives the reissue a more traditional electric guitar feel and tone, whereas the original Airline is noted for its unconventional playing feel and response. The reissue also has an adjustable truss rod, accessible from the headstock, while the original had a non-adjustable steel reinforced neck. The aesthetic differences between the original and the reissue include: different tuning heads, (the newer model having greenish knobs, as opposed to the original white knobs), different pickups (original pickups were single coils, often mistaken for humbuckers, whereas Eastwood reissues have actual humbuckers; although Eastwood now offers "vintage-voiced single-coil" (VVSC) units, with large Gibson-style mounting rings), a slightly different shaped pickguard (the original pickguard extended further into the center of the body between the pickups and always included a black stripe along the edge), Gibson-type block inlays on the fingerboard (original inlays were smaller and more rectangular), and finally, original Airlines were usually equipped with white volume and tone knobs, not black like the reissues.
To attempt to further approximate the look of the original JB Hutto Airline beyond the first reissue, Eastwood Guitars released the "Airline '59 Custom" two and three pickup models in December 2008, which come with striped pickguards and rubber bound bodies, in the spirit of the originals.
- Kay Musical Instrument Company
- Harmony Company
- Eastwood Guitars
- Electric Guitars: the Illustrated Encyclopedia Edited by Tony Bacon. San Diego: Thunder Bay, 2000. Pp. 18 & 242.
- Robinson, Mike (April 14, 2014). MyRareGuitars.com. Retrieved October 7, 2014
- Electric Guitars: the Illustrated Encyclopedia Edited by Tony Bacon. San Diego: Thunder Bay, 2000. Pp. 18 & 243.
- "White Heat: the White Stripes' 21st Century Blues" by Darrin Fox. Guitar Player Magazine, edited by Michael Molenda, June 2003, Pp.72.
- "The House That Jack Built" by Christopher Scapelliti. Guitar World Magazine, edited by Brad Tolinski, May 2004, Pp.150.
Media related to Airline Guitars at Wikimedia Commons