Wandre Polyphon Beta Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1964)

Wandre  Polyphon Beta Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar  (1964)

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Item # 8047
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Wandre Polyphon Beta Model Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1964), made in Milan, Italy, woodgrain top, black back and sides finish, wood and plastic body, plastic sheathed aluminum neck with rosewood fingerboard, black hard shell case.

"What are those guitars…man we don't have those in the STATES!" So spoke Bob Dylan in 1965, captured on film looking into the window of an English music store full of Wandre guitars. These amazingly futuristic and completely original instruments (sold under several brand names in Europe and imported in very small numbers into the US) have fascinated electric guitar fans since the '60s, but many players have still never seen or handled one. All Wandres are eccentric to the extreme -- this one has the best of this Italian artist/engineer Wandre Pioli's concepts wedded to a somewhat more functional semi-hollow guitar superstructure than some.

The full Wandre story is a book-length epic tale of creativity and commerce, and indeed there is a book available for the curious! This very rare guitar is the three-pickup version of the "Polyphon" model, one of the more varied series in the extensive Wandre line. Polyphon models were offered in a full line of pickup and neck variations, all built on this semi-hollow plastic-sheathed body, in this case veneered with a wood face. One even had an internal reverb system!

This particular instrument is unusual in mounting three of the trapezoidal Davoli pickups Pioli favored in a two-stage pickguard/pickup/bridge assembly floating over the body. These are controlled by a single master volume and a tone knob, with a bank of three accordion-style selector switches below turning any pickup on or off.

The Polyphon body is 16" wide but thin at the rim, built of plywood and plastic with an arched back, flat top, and soft cutaway on the treble side. Wandre's proprietary plastic-sheathed aluminum neck is fitted here with a single-sided headstock; this style was designated the Polyphon "Beta". The "Alpha" models had the more standard 2-sided tuner arrangement. This guitar is unlike any other in both sound and feel; the three pickups can be combined in any way desired, and the range of tones is greater then most Wandre offerings. We particularly like the slightly strangled twang of the two back pickups together! This Polyphon Beta offers all the best playing and engineering features of the Wandre line combined with this extra sonic versatility.

In recent times Wandre guitars are most associated with Buddy Miller, who has exploited their unique sonic signature for many years. If not for his patronage, most American players at least would likely never have seen one! While a limited line was imported to the US by Noble around 1963, these guitars are mostly only found in Europe unless an American collector has brought one to our shores. We are always on the lookout for the multi-pickup models with vibrato, and this Polyphon is one of the coolest and best-sounding we have found.
 
Overall length is 44 1/4 in. (112.4 cm.), 16 in. (40.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 7/8 in. (4.8 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 5/8 in. (41 mm.).

Overall this guitar is in fine playing condition, with no major damage or repair, just a couple of parts substitutions. As is typical, the plastic sheathing on the body has some long checking lines but is fully intact, not peeling or separating anywhere. The neck sheath shows no aging distress at all, just a few small nicks and dings and one area where it looks like a small spot fill-in repair was neatly done. The natural top finish shows small nicks and dings, but no major wear. An original "Polyphon Beta" decal is partially lost from the face, with only the "Beta" and top part of the "P" remaining.

The original bridge on this model was a very complicated affair that involved individual saddles that hung downwards, with the strings passing through v-shaped apertures underneath. This has been replaced with a fixed saddle made of a simple flat machined bar of brass, not as aesthetic perhaps, but in some ways more functional, as the stock design made palm-muting nearly impossible.

The tailpiece cover is in the correct style and era plastic but is a different style from what is usually seen; we can't be sure it is original, but it looks at least period. The 1/4" jack also appears period but may be an old replacement; the original was often a proprietary small-plug European style and a real headache in use. Apart from these minor alterations the guitar is all original, and sounds great. Excellent - Condition.