Cowboy Guitars

Article by Steve Evans
Illustrations by Toby Isbell

America's youth were very keen on cowboy movies and cowboy radio programs in the 1930's and 40's, and in the 50's joyfully watched their cowboy heroes on television. During that period, there were some guitars produced with stenciled cowboy paintings. Illustrated here are several of the different cowboy guitars that were available. The models in these illustrations were "real" guitars, made of wood, as opposed to the toy-like variety made of fiberboard (cardboard) or plastic.
Jerry the Cowboy and Western Rex

In the fall of 1932, Sears & Roebuck introduced their first stencil painted cowboy guitar, the Gene Autry "Round-Up" guitar. This was before Autry had started his movie career, but he did have a popular radio program on station WLS out of Chicago. This station was owned by Sears & Roebuck; the call letters W.L.S. stood for World's Largest Store.
The Gene Autry "Round-Up" guitar was available from 1932 through 1938 and then was subtly changed to the Gene Autry "Melody Ranch" model, produced 1941 through 1955. The same stencil was also used on a small Silvertone guitar in '58 & '59, but with no Gene Autry signature.
Rodeo and Gene Autry guitars

Gene Autry, "The Singing Cowboy", had a box-office rival known as the "King of the Cowboys", a.k.a. Roy Rogers. Both of these men presented so well the attributes of valour, intelligence, and honesty. Gene, Roy and many of the cowboy movie stars were great role models. Their movies would show the main character fighting for what is right and morally correct while providing exciting entertainment. The "Roy Rogers" guitar was sold by Sears & Roebuck from 1954 through 1958. The "Roy Rogers" -- and all wooden cowboy models sold by Sears -- were manufactured by the Harmony Company of Chicago. Roy Rogers and Singing Cowboy guitars

The "Buck Jones" guitar (Montgomery Ward, 1940 - 1943) had a particularly attractive painting featuring Buck Jones and Silver in a prairie scene with a background of billowy clouds. Buck Jones died a real-life hero trying to save people's lives in a nightclub fire in 1942. Buck Jones and Pioneer Days guitars

The "Plainsman" (Montgomery Ward, 1938-1943) had a painting resembling a scene right out of the 1936 Gary Cooper movie called "The Plainsman". During the war years of 1942 and '43, an unusual variety of "Plainsman" was produced with no metal parts. It had a wooden bridge, violin style tuning pegs and wooden maple frets. The Plainsman and Prairie Rambler guitars

More Cowboy guitars...

Black Stallion and Texan guitars

Corral Scene and Lariat guitars

Home on the Range and Buckeye guitars

The Lone Ranger and Red Foley guitars

Old Kraftsman and Del Oro guitars

Rhythm of the Range and Wilf Carter guitars

Vaquero and Rancher guitars

A large collection of cowboy guitars are on display in the guitar museum at Jacksonville Guitar Center, 1105 Burman Drive, Jacksonville Arkansas 72076. Steve and the guys invite you to come see the display of well over 100 cowboy guitars!

Or- call with your cowboy guitar questions at 501-982-4933

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(c) 1997 Steve Evans