IN THE EARLY 1960S, MANY OF EUROPE’S accordion manufacturers, acknowledging the explosion of beat groups and rock bands, started making electric guitars. So the Italian-based Welson factory tooled-up for their own electric guitars, and also made instruments for EKO, Wurlitzer, Vox, Elle, and Diamond.
Not surprisingly, Welson’s experience making accordions drove the company to offer its guitars in many accordion-inspired finishes, such as boat sparkle, mother of toilet seat, and pearloid in different shades and colors. But even those garish appointments pale somewhat when compared to the crazy-ass, safari-inspired, freak-show plastic finish of the Stallion. According to the company’s 1969 catalog, Welson offered many guitars of this shape with awesome names such as the Jazz Vedette and the Golden Arrow, and boasted that their “universally superior” guitar line featured “The World’s Most Perfected Guitars” with “miracle necks.” The more expensive models came with nicer inlays, bound necks, more pickup variations, and other aesthetic add-ons.
PLAYABILITY & SOUND
The Stallion’s bolt-on, 21-fret maple neck (with rosewood fretboard) is much like the old Fender “A-Style” necks, which are super skinny at the first fret and then gradually fan out to a greater width around the seventh or eighth frets. The vibrato is similar to a Fender Jazzmaster. But that’s where any Fender similarities stop, because this thing sounds freaky! The bridge and middle toaster-style pickups are screechy (in a cool way) and microphonic as hell. Bring on the distortion, and the Stallion produces a sound that is a cross between a low-budget sci-fi soundtrack and a Velociraptor fight. And here’s a surprise—the neck pickup is super warm, musical, and jazzy sounding. Then, there’s the push-button switching matrix—which works quite nicely—as well as master roll knobs for Tone and Volume and a kill switch. By holding down more than one button, you can select combinations to find your own far-out sounds.
The plainer sparkle versions of these guitars sell for between $300 and $800. But it’s hard to say precisely what this example is worth, because its owner has had several people (including me) offer him big bucks for what he calls, “a three-hundred dollar guitar.”
WHY IT RULES
I love this “Italian Stallion” so much. It looks unusual, sounds unusual, and even plays relatively well. I might take a more conventional standby guitar along if I planned to play an entire gig with the Stallion, but I think it would probably stay in its case. This baby is that cool.
Thanks to Gary Wineroth of Guitar Showcase in San Jose, California, for lending us his awesome axe.