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)
OVERVIEW - FIRST EFFORTS - FENTON - RP1G/B - RP2G/B
Burns-Weill Advert, Melody Maker, 20th February 1960
Of course, we all want a genuine Burns-Weill Solid Body Electric Guitar!
However, chances are slim since it appears that only a dozen or so of each model were ever made, and perhaps now only half of that number still survive.
There are currently seven or so known RP1G Guitars, with only one RP1 bass spotted. Conversely, there are seven or so known RP2 Basses, but only one or two RP2G guitars.
Recently Pete River discovered an RP2G in excellent original condition.
1959 Burns-Weill RP2G Super Streamline guitar:
1960 'Weill London' RP2G Super Streamline guitar
The one pictured above has had 'Burns' clipped from nameplate, leaving only the name 'Weill London' displayed, indicating it was produced after Jim Burns quite the partnership circa December 1959. This example was bought from Peter Farrell by Per Gjorde.
Frustratingly tiny thumbnails of a another all-black (possibly refiinished?) clipped-badge "Weill London" RP2G in original case, spotted by Will Twynham years ago:
A Blonde RP2B:
A surprisingly consistant example in Red-Black Sunburst, but with bridge pickup further back, and smaller secondary pickguard. Also, note an early BURNS string packet in case:
Mark Griffiths' Burns Weill RP2B:
Refinished, changed knobs and pickup covers. Only 8-screws on the pickguard
Burns-Weill Badged RP2B, subtly refined headstock & body shapes, 22 frets
After renovation, with different knobs, tuners, lost 2nd guard.
Billy Kuy, The Stormers/The Outlaws/Joe Meek house band 1960-61:
Ray Liffen interviewed Billy Kuy for a special feature on the 2013 Pipeline Convention DVD, in which Billy described the guitars that he used on early recordings.
"Billy told me that the guitar that he used for The Outlaws' album "Dream Of The West" was a Burns-Weil Super Streamilne RP2G, the 'Martian Cricket Bat'. He recalled that The Outlaws were auditioned by Mike Berry in Billy's front room and Mike was 'very impressed' by the 'Martian Cricket Bat'. Now if Billy had it then (late 1960) and he was still using it for recording Dream Of the West (released December 1961), then it would have been in use for Mike's Tribute To Buddy Holly (Sept 61) as well as The Outlaws' singles Swingin' Low/Spring Is Near (March '61) and Valley Of The Sioux/Crazy Drums (Sept 61). Later singles (Last Stage West/Ku-Pow, Feb '62 and Sioux Serenade/Fort Knox, Oct '62) came after Dream Of The West so I can't be certain if the MCB was used for those, but the next guitar that Billy mentioned in the interview was a Maton, which he bought for his time with The Innocents, after he had left The Outlaws."
The Outlaws, 1961
Jim Clegg, The Dominators, c.1960
Note 'Atlas' style (Adeson terminology) pickups, and added vibrato unit.
Jim Clegg of The Dominators, c.1959-62
The Heartbeats, Cardiff 1960
The Midnighters with RP2B c.1959/60?
Prog band Egg's bassist, c.1967 judging from the velvet pants! Relocated jack socket.
What is the Roger connection?
Roger guitar catalogue, circa 1962/3
'Roger' was a German guitar brand specialising in Archtop Guitars, established by jazz guitarist Wenzel Rossmeisl in the 1930s. Around 1962-63 this advert appeared offering a solid-bodied 'Electric Guitar', unmistakably featuring the Roy Plummer Streamline body shape, and yet Paul Day states that he interviewed Weill at length in the 1970s, and Weill never mentioned any dealings with Roger. Paul also recently double-checked with widow Betty Weill, who also denied any connection to Roger. Yet, the sharp body edge on the base behind the vibrato plate indicates that the body was milled for a wraparound tailpiece... which is not a feature of the vibrato-equipped Roger 1963. The headstock shape and 2-dot octave inlays suggest Wenzel Rossmeisl made his own necks, but this also raises the questions: why stick with the 23 3/8" scale with red dot inlays when there's a lot of room to position the bridge on the unrouted body blanks, and no other obviously red elements on the Roger model's body?
The bodies must have come to Roger from another source somehow, and it seems the newly-formed EKO company is the missing link. EKO were acting as distributor for Roger, and the catalogue photo of the '1963' features electronics and vibrato by EKO, who at that time were supplying electronics for Fenton-Weill's Twister series:
(Left to right:) Wenzel Rossmeisl, Tom LoDuca (USA Eko importer), Ennio Uncini (Export general manager Eko), Marianne Rorarius (Wenzel's wife), the last, I am not sure, Guy Lo Duca or Marino Pigini (Pigini's uncle and partner in business). Thanks for Stefano Aria for the photos and identifications.
Just to make things even more complicated, a Roger 1963 model bass recently appeared on ebay, featuring a slightly modified Streamline bass body shape, unique Roger headtsock and... Weill pickups and wraparound tailpiece!!!
Melody Maker 20th Feb 1960
Melody Maker 19th March 1960
"The various Burns-Weill models continued to be advertised by dealers throughout 1959, until the first Ormston Burns ad appeared in the Dec 19 MM, with the ‘new’ Burns solid then being listed during early 1960. As you say, that anachronistic Burns-Weill ad in the Feb 20 1960 issue seems odd, but I really don’t think Henry was thinking about such niceties as ‘smoothing the transition’. After the very acrimonious parting with Jim, he simply wouldn’t countenance including his competitor’s name, so instead I would say this ad might’ve been scheduled before the split and Henry simply forgot about it in the aftermath of Jim’s sudden departure, or else the mistake concerning the now obsolete brandname wasn’t noticed until it was too late. My reasoning is based on the fact that this very same ad appeared a month afterwards, identical except for the appropriate name change to Fenton-Weill, which also provided speedy public confirmation of Henry’s decision to soldier on alone." - Paul Day
Two BURNS-WEILL RP2G Recreations made by me from ROGER factory closure stock:
Around 2010 I was fortunate to locate four original but incomplete Roger 1963 matching bodies and necks 'in the white', bought from Hoyer/AMC who had in turn bought them at the factory sale when Roger went bust in 1970. I have been slowly finishing them up as Burns-Weill RP2G Super Streamline Deluxe Guitars.
The bodies are quite expertly machined, and yet it is known that Jim Burns did not to have any power tools at this stage... so were they milled to order from a UK (or German?) tonewood supplier? Were they supplied by Jim Burns to Henry Weill only to be abandoned and off-loaded onto Roger as the Fenton-Weill models evolved into a different shape in late 1961?