Old Supro guitars have proven themselves to be favorites for years now, primarily by collectors and players with a taste for the offbeat and unusual. Collectible value is slowly rising, and most likely will continue to do so as guitarists discover the quirky charm of these lower end instruments from the golden days of the American guitar industry. Supro instruments were never huge sellers in their day because they were generally overshadowed by their competitors: Danelectro, Harmony, and Kay, and later, by low cost Japanese imports.
The Supro “60” is a real oddball. In fact, I have never seen one before. It uses the same body shape as the Belmont and Dual Tone, but what makes it special is the single string-thru lap steel pickup you see in the photo. These pickups are highly prized by players like Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Joe Perry, and others. Joe Perry told this writer that his favorite slide guitar is a Supro Ozark with a string-thru pickup such as the one found on this guitar. On this “60,” the pickup is mounted on a rectangular steel plate that also anchors the strings. The volume control is the larger knob on the left; the tone control the smaller. Both work as they should with no crackling, as is so common with these older budget guitars. The wooden bridge is functional but expectedly inaccurate in terms of spot-on intonation.
This particular example of a Supro “60” is all original and is short scale, featuring a chunky nineteen fret bolt-on neck with Kluson tuners that is painted black, like most Supros from this era, and has the standard pointed Supro headstock with an Art Deco gold colored nameplate. The fretboard is rosewood. One surprising and disturbing feature was a very poorly cut neck pocket that left quite a bit of space between the body and neck that appeared to have been done at the factory, not a snug fit at all. This caused the neck to move just a bit from side to side, a problem that could possibly be rectified by a talented luthier, but this issue seemed to have no real effect on the playability of the instrument under normal use.
In terms of looks, one can’t help but notice the black pinstriping and the “60” in quotation marks on the body that boldly announces the name of the guitar for the entire world to see. Some may find it gaudy and kitschy, but that depends on your taste in ornamentation.
This writer came away from the experience of playing this Supro “60” feeling as if he was actually playing a lap steel with a standard guitar body. It would make an outstanding, funky, open-tuned slide guitar for a blues player. It’s no wonder guys like Ry Cooder and Joe Perry have gravitated to Supros with this lap steel pickup. This Supro “60” is priced at $1395.
Once again, many thanks to Buzzy Levine of Lark Street Music in Teaneck, New Jersey for his cooperation in supplying this guitar for analysis.