The last decade saw an increased interest in what previous eras might have
called “pawnshop prize” guitars, with
players such as Jack White and Marc
Ribot favoring the original versions of
these formerly cheapo specials for their
offbeat tones. The bad news is that the
astronomical prices of vintage Fenders
and Gibsons led to a second tier of collectors
jacking up the price of those quirky
Kays, Silvertones, Harmonys, etc. The
good news is that this situation helped
create companies like Eastwood, who reissue
this type of garage guitar with much
better build quality at prices even nonfamous
musicians can afford. Eastwood’s
AirLine Tux Deluxe model fits securely
in this category.
An upgrade of the company’s Airline
Tuxedo, the Tux Deluxe is patterned on
the mid-1950s Barney Kessel, the original
model sold under the brands Kay and Airline.
Working with Randy Bachman (Bachman
Turner Overdrive, the Guess Who), Eastwood
added features like a zero-fret, custom
coil-tapped pickups, and push-pull tone pots
that allow you to choose 100 percent or 70
percent of each pickup’s output.
Opening the truly deluxe hard case, the
flame maple top appeared more butterscotch
than “natural,” which I prefer. Multiple-layer
body binding that extends to the headstock,
a bound neck, and frets that are nicely finished
over the binding add touches of class
to this funky guitar’s styling.
Players whose fingers rest on the guitar’s
body may want to remove the period-style
pickguard, but I got used to it quickly and
prefer the look with it in place. The action
came in very low with minimal buzzing
(none audible when plugged in). I raised it
for more comfortable bending, and also to
facilitate the kind of slide work for which
this guitar cries out. Even with the action
taller, the Tux still played easily and had an
even tonal response.
I tested the Tux Deluxe through an Egnater
Rebel 30, an Orange Tiny Terror, and a ZT
Ghost. Regardless of which amp it drove,
the Tux Deluxe delivered tons of character,
courtesy of its hollowed out body and overwound
P-90s. In full winding mode the
pickups pushed the 35-watt Ghost and
the Orange set for 7-watts into the kind
of dark, muddy, distortion you hear on
early blues or jump swing records. The
clarity of the Egnater’s clean channel tamed
the low end some. Pulling out the push-pull
tone pots to cut the windings back 30 percent,
I found that the Tux retained plenty of
punch, while offering up a more modern
low end. Being able to tap each pickup
individually made for a surprisingly
wide range of available tones.
Granted these tones reside within
a certain roots music range, but it
is a sound that is being applied to
more and more pop records as well.
If it is the kind of sound you seek,
the Airline Tux Deluxe will deliver
it for a fraction of the cost of an original,
in a pro-quality form that will
likely play better to boot.
CONTACT Eastwood Guitars,
AIRLINE TUX DELUXE
PRICE $1,399 List (includes deluxe
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
NECK Maple, set
FRETBOARD Bound rosewood with block
SCALE 25 1/2"
BODY Hollow body, flamed maple
top and back, mahogany
PICKUPS Two coil-tapped P-90s
CONTROLS Two Volume, two push-pull
Tone, 3-way selector
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic w/ trapeze tail
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario .010-.046
WEIGHT 6.9 lbs
KUDOS Gobs of rootsy goodness.
Excellent playability. P-90
punch. Excellent fit and
CONCERNS Not for all musical styles or