Mosrite Bluesbender deluxe
Since I'm on a bit of a Mosrite kick lately I thought I'd share one of my all time favourite guitars from my personal ......... obsession.
This is a mid seventies Mosrite Bluesbender deluxe and it is VERY rare indeed. Of course "rare" in Mosrite terms is pretty rare as their production numbers were usually quite small and Semie made a lot of custom and one-off stuff for friends and customers over the years. I'm a huge fan of these Bluesbenders and actually really like most of Semies seventies output at a time when he was trying to, unsuccessfully shed the Ventures connection and show how forward thinking he could be with some brilliant ideas like the Bluesbender, the 300 and 350, and the amazing Brassrail, which was this body with, quite literally a "brass rail" running down the neck from the zero fret and connecting all the frets together in an attempt to get more sustain. The seventies and eighties were big on brass for sustain but I've done plenty of research and found I prefer aluminium for this and I plan to one day make an aluminium rail version, as the original Mosrite prototype was out of a spare NOS Brassrail deluxe body I have here, but that's another story.
The Bluesbender was Semies "attempt" at a Les Paul style guitar except in typical Semie fashion, he used the same materials he'd always used which is a basswood body and rock maple neck with a rosewood fretboard. Of course the 300/350 was "mostly" all mahogany but that was more of an "SG" style guitar with a slab body.
The big difference between this one and my other one, and all others I've seen is, this one has factory on board active electronics. At first I thought this was an aftermarket, or retro fit but after getting this guitar, and pulling it to pieces (as I do) it became clear that all the electronics, switches, pots, holes etc were all factory and the electronics are hand built on the same board as the later Fuzzrites.
Mosrite around this time (and pretty much in general) were inconsistent with continuity and I'm assuming this guitar was built around '74-76 when Brassrail deluxes were being built with (and without) active electronics. There appear to be some later Brassrail deluxes without the active electronics fitted with modified bodies and scratchplates to make them non active. Maybe someone wanted a Bluesbender (ie: NOT a Brassrail) but with the active electronics ? That's the great thing about Mosrite for me. It's always a mystery.
The active circuit is, I must say, amazing. I'm not usually into active electronics on guitars and I usually avoid them if possible as they tend to either sound too sterile, or too "gainy" for my liking. This is a simple active treble and bass cut and boost and has an amazing sweep in frequencies. I haven't traced the circuit yet and when I opened the large round back plate up for these photos (and to put a fresh battery in) I found the board is temporarily inaccessible as it has the same foam used by vintage MXR for insulation, which means it's all turned to that bizarre "wet" foam that falls apart as you touch it. You know the one.
I'm assuming it's a pre amp/tone circuit based on an LM741 (or maybe the newly introduced TL072) and can set the tone from very thin, "plucky" (Fender Mustang) to thin and sharp (Tele) to trebley with body (Gibson SG) to fat and thick (Les Paul) to crazy amounts of bottom end while keeping the treble intact and clear. It really is the most usable active tone circuit I've used on a guitar.
The active circuit is switched on with the two way toggle just under the Bigsby (which is a later addition) and between (and below) the two active tone controls. The guitar is either active or passive and the tone controls do not effect the signal when in passive mode. The three way switch just beside (and behind) the active/passive switch is the passive tone switch. This has a setting for full freq output, tone choke which takes a slight amount of top end off and a kill switch. This switch makes sense in passive mode when you realize that the two knobs are volumes for each pick up, no rotary tone control.
The three way switch ahead of the knobs is a standard three way pick up selector with the middle position being out of phase. I'm not a huge fan of out of phase sounds but this works well with the active circuit and with both pick ups on you can wind back one pick up to give more body to the tone. It's a great way of mixing pick ups. The small push/push switch between the bridge and the tailpiece is a single coil/humbucker switch which just ups the ante on tone options even more. It really does do an amazing array of tones and while initially all those knobs and switches look a little daunting, they actually make perfect sense and are well positioned although the active knobs would make more sense with the original Mosrite hardtail that this guitar was equipped with at the factory.
When I bought it it wasn't strung up and was missing the tailpiece but had had at least three different types fitted, including a Bigsby, so when I put it back together I fitted the Bigsby as I thought a vibrato would compliment the versatility of the guitar well, and I didn't have to drill holes in it.
The neck is wider and fatter than "most" Mosrites but is VERY comfortable to play, and this is from someone who LOVES thin necks. It's the same neck as my other Bluesbender and similar to one of my 350's and was obviously made for playing other things than bar chords all night.
The rock maple is superb and the fretboard shows real signs of being played. a lot. I actually really like these symmetrical Mosrite headstocks too.
These guitars show just how advanced Semie was in a pretty unsympathetic guitar world. Semie was never considered cool or advanced by the bigger names but these seventies guitars, where he was designing and building new ideas really are quite amazing and the fact that they are quite rare should make them much more sought after in the guitar collector world. I personally haven't seen another one of these guitars in this form. Apart from the fact that it looks to be all original, and when I used to speak to people who worked for Semie throughout the years who mentioned and told stories of "Mosrites made for people using this and that", and Mosrites surfacing every now and then with similar anomalies, it could seem like a mish mash of bits and pieces, but I believe it is all original Mosrite (except the Bigsby).
All in all I don't really know why I love this particular guitar so much. It has active electronics, which I'm not a huge fan of, although this particular circuit is very well designed and executed. It has a slightly bigger neck than I'm used to, although it's instantly playable and comfortable. It is a Mosrite and I do love this shape a lot. I really like the colour scheme of the dark red to light red burst. It gets SO MANY sounds and tones it's amazing. OK, I know why I love it so much.