THE GUITARS OF JAMES ORMSTON BURNS

REFERENCE & RESOURCE PAGES:

 

SUPERSOUND (1958) - BURNS-WEILL (1959) - FENTON WEILL (1960-65)

ORMSTON BURNS (1960-1965) - AMPEG (1963-64) - BALDWIN (1965-69)

SHERGOLD WOODCRAFTS (1967-69) - ORMSTON (1968) - HAYMAN (1970-75)

BURNS UK (1973-77) - BURNS ACTUALIZERS (1979-82) - SHERGOLD (1975-92)

 

BURNS LONDON

TIMELINE - PUBLICITY - FACTORY

ARTIST - DELUXE - SONIC - BLACK BISON - VISTA

BLACK BISON III - JAZZ - TR-2 - NU-SONIC - MARVIN - DOUBLE 6

BISON - VIBRASLIM - GB65 - GB66 - VIRGINIAN - BABY BISON

AMPLIFIERS - ACCESSORIES - PROTOTYPES

 

 

BURNS GUITARS TIMELINE

 

 

13th Dec '58 SUPERSOUND Short Scale Deluxe advertised Melody Maker
10th Jan 59 "Jim's initial efforts" advertised by Foote's Melody Maker
Feb-May '59 BURNS-WEILL established, Super Streamline with "Oh Boy!" decorations made for/pictured with Marty Wilde.
25th April 1959 Dallas Tuxedo UK Electric Guitar advertised Melody Maker
30th May 59 Foote's advertise Burns-Weill Range in Melody Maker. Final "Oh Boy!" TV show transmitted.
19th Dec 59 (ORMSTON) BURNS LONDON Deluxe Artistes Model advertised MM
May 60 Vibra-Artist introduced (replaces Artiste?) (from MM Besson ads)
Nov 60 Sonic introduced (deduced from MM Besson ads)
17th Dec 60 Sonic Guitar, Sonic Bass, Strings & Tele Amp Advertised MM
Mar 61 MK 7/MK 9 vibrato designs registered
8th July 61 Burns "Master Vibrato Arm MK VII" advertised, along with "New Burns 3-pickup Thinline" in Melody Maker
Oct 61 Split Sound & gear-box truss-rod patented (suggests 4 p/u Black Bison prototypes completed)
28th Oct 61 Price dropped on MK VII Master Vibrato.
Dec 61 Floating cradle bridge patented.
2nd Dec 61 Vibra-Artist guitar/Artist Bass, Sonic Guitar/Bass incorporating the "Superb New MK IX Master Vibrato" & light gauge strings advertised in Melody Maker.
9th Dec 61 4 p/u Black Bison advertised
16th Dec 61 4 p/u Black Bison advertised 'bass to match available shortly'
undated, pre-April '62 Black Bison / Black 3 pickup Thinline Semi Dealer Sheet
Mar 62 Bell catalogue Vista & Split Sonics introduced, stated as replacing previous Vibra- models (ie Vibra-Artist)
28th April 1962 Vibra-Artist Deluxe advertised, guitar-organ patent publicised
April 62 Black Bison 4 p/u & Vibra-Artist Deluxe dealer sheet
30th June 62 Vista-Sonic and Split Sound announced
July - Aug 62 USA trip and Ampeg Deal arranged (Crescendo)
Dec 62 Melody Maker Xmas advert shows weird jazz-derived prototype '6-String Bass'(?)
Dec 62 Crescendo advert has 3 'NEW' models, Vista Guitar, Vista-style 6-string Bass, and Jazz Guitar
5th Jan 63 Short Scale Jazz and 6-String Bass described as 'new' in advert
January 1963 Crescendo Besson advert lists Sonic, Split Sonic & Vista Guitar, Bass, and 6-string Bass with tremolo, plus intriguingly both 4-pickup and (earliest printed reference to) 3-pickup Bisons
early 63 B&M catalogue Sonic, Vista/Split-sonics, 6-String Bass, Bison 3, Jazz 2/3/split
c.1963? Ampeg models & thinline prototypes ???
22nd June 63 Black Bison 3 advertised by Watkins with 2x2 controls
23rd Aug 1963 Orbit amps advertised
6th September 1963 TR2 mentioned in Split Sonic advert
c.Sept 63 Black Bison 3, revised to 4 knobs in line
Oct 63 John Drysdale factory shots show 30 TR2s in production, in-line series 1 Bisons, Vista Basses & Touch-Sensitive Bass prototype
25th Oct 63 TR2 advertised
20th December 1963 Series 2 Vibrato unit advertised
20th March 64 'New' Double 12 advert NME
27th March 64 'New' Stage One PA advert NME
April 64 Nu-Sonic replaces Sonic and Vista/Split Sonics. Kelloggs promotion. Marvin & Double 6 introduced (source?)
22nd May 64 'Singing Strings' Marvin advertised
29th May 64 Nu-Sonic advertised
June 1964 Ormston Burns Mailing Address changes from Cherry Tree Rise to Chesham Close, Crescendo advert
July 64 Beat Monthly TR2 described as 'latest model', Marvin as 'another new model'. Double 6 mentioned.
Sept 64 catalogue Vibraslim replaces TR2. Bison 3 redesigned with segmented plates. Nu-sonic, Jazz, Marvin, Vibraslim, Double-6 offered. Virginian Prototyped
Feb 1965 Crescendo / Spring 1965 Burns catalogue GB65 introduced.
March '65 Frankfurt Trade Fair photo shows GB66s
Summer 65 GB66, GB66 deluxe introduced. Baby Bison intro for export
July-Oct 1965 Baldwin Take-Over "On July 1st 1965 a sale agreement was signed between the American Baldwin company and three of the five Burns directors (Jim Burns, James Farrell and Ike Isaacs), concerning the sale to Baldwin of Ormston Burns Ltd., Burns Electronics Ltd., Burns Precision Cases Ltd., Ormston Burns (Retail) Ltd. and Ormston Burns (Sales) Ltd. This deal was finalised on October 1st 1965, when a new company, Baldwin-Burns Ltd. (established on August 1st 1965) acquired all the associated assets, stock, properties etc. With their share of the sale proceeds the Farrell family emigrated to New Zealand, while Jim stayed with Baldwin for a year before indulging in various ill-fated ventures that included an Alvis car project!" (Paul Day)
1966/7 Baldwin catalogue Nu-Sonic & GB65 withdrawn. Vibraslim redesigned. Virginian offered.
1967/8 Baldwin catalogue 700 series introduced. Bison, Marvin, Double 6, Virginian, Baby Bison & Jazz models offered. Vibraslim, GB66 & Deluxe gone.
1969-1970 "Jim Burns continued to dabble in guitar design during the latter half of the '60s, but as Baldwin now owned the Burns brand, Jim instead used his Ormston name. In 1969 he joined Dallas Arbiter to help develop the new Hayman range, incorporating ideas originally employed on an earlier Ormston semi-solid. By this time Jim had long had no connection to Baldwin, who, faced with ever-dwindling sales, were winding UK production down, which ceased entirely in 1970. Following this closure, remaining stocks of completed instruments were sold off at knockdown prices to various interested parties, likewise all the leftover parts, with the latter prompting the subsequent construction of more than a few 'unofficial' guitars and basses." (Paul Day)

 

While Paul Day authoritatively asserts that Baldwin continued to offer guitars until 1970, I have not yet seen any date-stamped later than 21st March 1967: a trans red Jazz Split Sound, serial number 19590. The highest known serial number is 22096, allocated to an un-dated all-black Bison belonging to former Burns Company Director Ike Isaacs, subsequently owned by Paul Day. From known dates/serial numbers it would appear that during the period 1965-67 Baldwin were producing between 4000-6000 guitars per year, which would place 22096 about 6 months after 19590, inferring a date of September 1967.
1970s, 80s "The next Burns-associated operations (Burns UK, Jim Burns) saw the man himself assume employee-only status, paid to concentrate on design and with no control over vitally important aspects such as manufacture or marketing, while those in charge traded on his past pedigree. Inconsistent build quality of the relevant products is undeniable, likewise the sometimes poor component choice, but... some good ideas were very definitely involved, along with a lot of genuine commitment and undoubted effort. But bad management and inadequate investment played their significant part in the demise of both companies. This left Jack Golder to keep the Burns flag flying during the later '80s, doing a very creditable job catering for those who wanted new examples of the originals, until Barry Gibson got the Burns London ball rolling in 1992." (Paul Day)