Catch of the Day: TK Smith’s Mid-Fifties Stratosphere Twin

Here’s something unusual for your consideration: TK Smith’s Stratosphere Twin (circa 1956 or ’57), an eye-catching oddball of a double-neck guitar for those of you obsessed with the Boogie. This rare beast is, frankly, a little outside of our comfort zone, but, as far as the basics are concerned, we’ve got two steel-reinforced hard maple necks (one 6-string and one 12-string, tuned in minor and major thirds, rather than octaves/unisons) attached to a sunburst gum (yes, gum) wood body, two pickups with separate volume and tone controls and a 3-way toggle switch for each neck and a 3-way toggle to switch between the necks or use both (!) at the same time.

For a little more info, we’re going to let TK tell you its story, via this entry from his (must-read) blog:

For years I thought about, read about, dreamt about this strange looking guitar made famous by the late great Jimmy Bryant. I listened to “Stratosphere Boogie” over and over which he wrote specifically for playing on this guitar. I never thought I would own one, mostly because I had never seen one in person until one day in 1997. I was walking through the Long Beach swap meet, late in the day and saw it laying on the ground in it’s opened case. The owner had found this Stratosphere Guitar at an estate sale two days earlier. Not knowing anything about it, he took it to the swap meet. When I walked up, there were about four guys standing around it, none knowing what it was. (the name tags were missing) One comment was that it was probably made in Japan. Meanwhile, I was hyperventilating while telling the guy I wanted it. (I didn’t care that I needed to figure out how to come up the $$ that I didn’t have)

The Stratosphere guitars were made for a short period between 1954-1958 by two brothers, Russ and Claude Deaver in Springfield, MO. I’m not sure how many  guitars the guys made. I’ve heard different numbers but I think fewer than 200.  The twelve string neck is tuned in major and minor thirds, rather than octaves which requires basically re-learning the guitar. The idea was that one person could play twin guitar licks. Being a small business owner myself, and a guitar player, I’ve always had a soft spot for creative small business ventures.

It took me a while to figure out the tuning. I put in a lot of hours to work it out. Then, I found the catalog with the tuning in it. Figures. The hardest part was dialing in the string gauges to make it playable.

TK has priced the guitar at $9,000 (OBO). You can contact him via his website.

Here’s TK’s nifty looping Instagram demo of the instrument: