Are Kay Guitars Any Good? – 2023

When it comes to guitars, there are countless brands and models to choose from. But when you’re in the market for a new instrument, one brand that you might come across is Kay. Founded in the early 20th century, Kay has a long history of producing guitars.

The company was started by Henry Kay Kuhrmeyer in the early 1900s, and they quickly became known for producing affordable instruments that were accessible to players of all skill levels. Over the years, Kay has produced a wide variety of instruments.

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So, are Kay guitars any good? The answer is that it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re a beginner or a player on a budget, Kay guitars can be a great option. However, if you’re a professional player, you may want to look elsewhere.

About Kay Guitars

What else is there to say besides Kay guitars are simply awesome! The “Kelvinator” headstock, which is renowned and instantly recognized, as well as the “Blade” and “Kleenex Box” pickups, are just a few examples of how Kay guitars pay homage to an “art-deco” era when refinement and style were equally vital to sound and playability.

In addition to being superb musical instruments and works of art, Kay Vintage Reissue guitars have a distinctive tone and feel that you won’t find in any other guitar.

Some of the most well-known performers in the world have played Kay guitars. The list continues with Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Dwayne Eddy, Barney Kessel, and more. Here are some of Kay’s noteworthy players and artists from the past and today.

kay guitars

Henry “Kay” Kuhrmeyer founded the Kay Musical Instrument Company, also known simply as Kay, an American musical instrument maker with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, in 1931. Kuhrmeyer acquired his financial backers in the instrument manufacturer Stromberg-Voisinet, which led to the formation of the company.

Kay company made ukuleles, guitars, mandolins, and other musical instruments. They were renowned for using lamination in the production of instruments with arching tops.

The Best Kay Guitar

No doubt kay has always been producing amazing instruments that included all the guitar types, from an electric guitar to a vintage kay guitar. Besides this, kay has also produced other musical items such as kay amplifiers, copies of old guitars, adjustable truss rods in guitars, and different headstock designs.

The exceptional performance of the stringed instruments such as “Kay Speed Demons” produced by kay increased its guitar sales. Many companies started to copy the Kay brand names. Though some companies import guitars from the kay company, most of the companies make fake copies and sold them.

Old Kay guitars are famous for their construction and quality, the same way as the latest guitars are. Here we will briefly discuss some of the Kay Guitars to get an overview of the products.

Thin Twin – K161V

The body of the famous Thin Twin-K161V has a Single-cutaway, tone-chambered, Hollowbody acoustic with special feedback-resistant bracing. These features all together give an enhanced quality of sound.

The Back of this cool guitar is Parabolic arched maple which provides the guitar with a handy body.


The top is 3-ply flamed maple. Purfling is  Multi-ply black and white checkerboard celluloid binding, and the neck has a Set dovetail one-piece, straight-grained Canadian maple with single-ply binding.

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The Inlays are six-block pearled, which gives it an attractive appearance. The fingerboard is a 26″ scale rosewood fingerboard with a 12″ radius. Tuning Machines is Vintage-style, 3 per side, Chrome with White Buttons. The adjustable truss rod stabilizes the curvature of the neck joint.

The bridge and Tailpiece are Chrome individual saddle-style mounted bridges with height adjustment thumbwheels and chrome trapeze tailpiece. Bone and Headstock is an Original gold chevron displaying a 3-D raised “Kel-von-a-tor” style emblem. Moreover, the finishing Coat is a High-gloss polyester protective polymer that increases its durability.


  • pickups: 2 chrome Twin-coil Blade pickups that are slim
  • Controls: Two volume, two-tone, and a toggle selector with the distinctive Kay baseball bat design.
  • Output Side-mounted Jack

Other Products of the Kay company

In addition to experimenting with electric guitars, Kay produced stringed folk instruments such as upright basses, guitars, violins, cellos, and banjos.

These guitars included solid body electrics, acoustic guitars, semi-acoustic electric guitars, lap steel guitars, and classical guitars. Many of Kay’s instruments were made to be sold by retail establishments and catalog businesses under their own house brands. As a result, numerous names are used to refer to Kay instruments.

Even though Kay may have started off making amplifiers, after the business was established, it subcontracted Valco to produce its amplifiers. This is intriguing because, in the 1950s, Valco/National was a competitor of theirs.

Some Initial and Best Productions Of Kay company

The best Kay guitars were made from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. Kay produced some outstanding instruments during this time, including the Thin Twin (1954), Speed Demon (1956), Barney Kessel and Barney Kessel Pro, and Swing Master (1959).

Also created was a Barney Kessel model. Despite permitting Kay to use his name, it is said that he was not a great guitar aficionado. However, it is a superbly made and high-demand instrument.

The Kay Pro, which had a more Les Paul-like vibe, and the Thin Line electric models debuted in the same year quickly became favorites among student guitarists.

neck joint

The Solo King was one of the unique guitars Kay offered in 1960. Besides the upper cutaway, the upper half of the body was left uncarved. A cutaway and a carving on the lower portion allowed the player to rest the instrument on their leg. There were either one or two pickups available. Eastwood Guitars momentarily revived this instrument.

The firm was overshadowed by other USA companies producing better products during the peak years for Kay, including Gibson, Fender, Guild, Gretsch, and Martin. However, several Kay models, including the electric and acoustic archtops, were great guitars and are now selling for a lot of money on the vintage market. Simply put, they weren’t given enough credit back then.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we will answer a few FAQs to clear your mind further.

In what time period did Kay company produce its best guitars?

The 1950s through the early 1960s were when Kay produced its best guitars. During this time, Kay manufactured some exceptional instruments, such as the Thin Twin (1954), Speed Demon (1956), Barney Kessel and Barney Kessel Pro, and Swing Master (1959).

A Barney Kessel model was also made. Despite permitting Kay to use his name, it is stated that he was not a big fan of the guitar. However, it is a beautifully constructed and highly sought-after instrument.

What are some best Kay Guitars?

Some best guitars with Exclusive features include; Pro Bass – K162V, Pro Bass (Left Handed) – K162VHS-LH, Jazz Special Bass – K5970V, and the list goes on. There are other guitar companies as well such as Groeschel company and Valco company, famous for their guitars.

The famous artists who use The Kay company guitars are?

The famous guitarists who use the Kay Company Guitars include Louis Allen, Phil Alvin, (The Blasters), Chet Atkins, Beck, Bill Black, (Elvis Presley), Francis, Hillman “Scrapper” Blackwell, and T Bone Burnett. Moreover, Bob Casale, (Devo), Eric Clapton, Anne Erin, “Annie” Clark, (St. Vincent), Ry Cooder, and, Elvis Costello are also famous Kay lovers artists.

Is Kay Company only restricted to Guitars?

Along with playing around with electronic guitars, Kay also made stringed folk instruments such as upright basses, guitars, violins, cellos, and banjos. These guitars came in a variety of styles, including lap steel guitars, classical guitars, acoustic guitars, and semi-acoustic electric guitars.

A large number of Kay’s instruments were designed to be sold by shops and catalog companies under their own house names. Because of this, Kay instruments go by many different names. Kay may have begun by creating amplifiers, but once the company was established, it hired Valco to produce its amplifiers.

Final Words

In conclusion, Kay guitars have a long history of producing affordable instruments that are accessible to players of all skill levels. They are good for beginner and budget-friendly players but may not be the best option for professional players.

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Hope you found the answer to the question “Are Kay guitars any good?” But as always, it’s important to try out the instrument yourself and see if it feels and sounds good to you. After all, the most important thing is that you’re happy with the instrument you choose.

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