Burns Baby Bison
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
In 1967-68 I mowed grass (which I loathed) for 2 summers to get the money to buy an electric guitar. I was about 13 years old. I had a Gibson catalog and fantasized about owning an SG. I didn't have even close enough money for that but my parents, taking pity, helped me buy a Burns guitar.
Our next-door neighbor was a Baldwin piano dealer and we purchased this guitar for me along with a Kustom 100 guitar amp in about 1968 from him - it was my first electric guitar and at least it kind of looked like an SG.
Burns London is a British guitar company that manufactured guitars during the '60's.
In 1965, the company was sold to the Baldwin Piano and Organ Company - thus the Baldwin logo plate. That also explains why a Baldwin piano dealer in Kansas City was selling British-made guitars.
There have been many famous guitarists that have used Burns guitars but the ones I was aware of during the time I used mine was Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers fame, and Roy Clark. I remember seeing Roy use one on Hee-Haw.
This was my one-and-only electric guitar for almost ten years. It was instrumental (pun intended!) to everything I learned in that time frame - which was my seminal development as a player and performer.
It had a cherry polyester finish, a sycamore body and a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard.
The most advanced feature was the simple-looking but deceptively elaborate two-pickup circuit. The pickups looked identical from the outside, but the neck pickup was a stacked double coil unit with the second coil blended in via the middle "presence" control knob. The tone control and presence control only worked on this forward pickup, while the bridge unit was wired straight out, like a Stratocaster.
My guitar was one of the very first batch of the early style Baby Bison model with a split "V" headstock, full long "Rezo-Tube" tailpiece, and only two small pick guard segments. All these features would be changed by Baldwin before the summer of 1966. A fairly large batch of these Baby Bison models were built in late '65 and sent over to the US as Baldwin's first salvo in their new guitar marketing campaign, but that seems to have been the only production run for this initial version.
I didn't know any of this technical stuff about the guitar at the time, I've only looked it up for this article! I just played it - a lot!
Any early '70's photo of me playing shows my Burns guitar in use:
In 1977 I bought a Gibson 175 and basically quit playing the Burns. The last photo I have of me playing the Burns was a gig in 1982:
I paid $125.00 for it in 1968 and sold it to one of my students in 1983 for $250.00 - and I have regretted it ever since.
I feel sick just thinking about it because it's now somewhat of a collectors item and I've seen them going for over $2,000. Not that I would sell it if I still had it. In part because of my experience with this guitar I generally don't get rid of instruments. If I buy it I keep it.
Seller's remorse is a bitch!
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