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Whack Job! Hallmark Swept-Wing

August 7, 2014
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THANKS TO THE DEEP INTEREST IN some of the weirder retro guitars of the 1960s, there are now a number of companies that make wonderful versions of some of the more infamous models from that golden era of unbridled guitar making. After all, we love our Phantoms, Rockets, Modernes, Breadwinners, and Teardrops, and the more unique and unusual the guitar looks, the more we want it.

One of the stranger 6-strings from the mid ’60s was the Hallmark Swept-Wing. Company founder Joe Hall designed this whack job along with Ventures’ bassist Bob Bogle, and he used it as the flagship model to launch his new guitar company in 1966. As an apprentice under the tutelage of Semie Moseley, Hall’s guitars were obviously inspired by certain Mosrite designs, and that is a very good thing for lovers of vintage bizarre. Sadly, less than a hundred of these guitars were made before the short-lived company folded in 1968. Recently, Bob Shade of Maryland reintroduced the entire Hallmark line with the guidance and endorsement of Joe Hall and fellow Mosrite/Hallmark designer, Bill Gruggette.

WEIRDO FACTOR

This looks like something Batman might have played (if one of his many talents had been playing guitar). But I felt that there was something, um, normal about the Swept-Wing. From a distance, the stark, white pickguard atop the silver sparkle finish seemed to neutralize the Swept-Wing’s unique shape. So I contacted the folks at Greasy Groove Pickguards in Canada hoping to weirdify the guitar’s look with the custom “Luna Mayhem” design they offer. As a finishing touch, I added the red chicken-head knobs.

PLAYABILITY & SOUND

The Swept-Wing plays like a dream and sounds even better. I use mine in my surf band all the time. It looks terrific and unique, and it gets more compliments than my playing does. It has a zero fret, 23 medium frets, a bolt-on maple neck, and a rosewood fretboard. Although this is a large guitar, the mahogany body is pretty shallow, and the whole hot mess ends up weighing just over 7.5 pounds. The Hallmark 67 Hi-Fi pickups have a healthy output and are full of usable tone.

VALUE

I usually have to speculate about what any given Whack Job might be worth, as they are typically vintage pieces with “seek me out” pricing (meaning, “What have previous near-identical models been sold for?”). Both the Swept Wing and pickguard, however, are currently available. The direct price for a new Hallmark Swept Wing is $895, and the custom Greasy Groove pickguard cost only 60 bucks!

WHY IT RULES

This is a new guitar made to exacting modern standards, but it looks like a vintage weirdo. And while I’d never slam my “conventionally beautiful” Les Paul or Strat, sometimes ya just gotta go for something strange and exotic.

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