Back from the Dead: Top 5 Airline Reissues

Here's a look at some of our most popular Airline reissue guitars - models we've brought back to life from the distant past, but with modern improvements. As we'll show, it's nothing to be scared of...

Vintage Airline guitar

Back in the late 50's and 60's, Airline guitars (and other similar brands such as Harmony and Kay) were more affordable models for the aspiring players who couldn't afford "the real deal" ie. bigger brands such as Fender, Gibson or Gretsch. However, after the initial boom of rock music, when Rock'n'Roll became more serious in the seventies, those cheaper brands fizzled out as there was no more demand for them, and they were left for dead.

That is - until the early 21st Century, when artists such Jack White of The White Stripes and Dan Auerback of The Black Keys starting old those old, unloved guitars again.

However, when Eastwood Guitars decided to resurrect the models you're going to read about, one thing was clear - to bring them back to live, they would need to have a modern heart. Today, all of these models are alive and well - and even better than before!

1) Airline 59 2p

Airline 2P

The Airline 59 2P is one of our leading models. This guitar has been made popular by Jack White, who played a vintage original in The White Stripes. What some people don't realise, is that Jack White actually didn't think much of his guitar - he liked to play it because he thought it wasn't very good, so it'd challenge him to play better. It was part of the White Stripes magic, but, unfortunately, it wouldn't be commercially viable to build a new version to the same (low) standards. 

That's why the modern version showcases some considerable improvements: Tune-O-Matic bridge instead of wood bridge, tone-chambered mahogany body rather than Res-O-Glass, improved neck, better action and great-sounding pickups. For the untrained eyes, both versions are pretty close, but the modern one is the one you can safely take on the road.

2) Airline Twin Tone

Airline Twin Tone and Supro Dual Tone

The Airline Twin Tone remains one of our best-sellers, and it's hard (or should we say nearly impossible?) to find a guitarist who played one and didn't love it. It looks very close to the original Supro Dual Tone, which was used by Link Wray in classic recordings such as 'Rumble', and David Bowie.

Both guitars have basswood bodies. However, we've opted for a different tailpiece and a more useable Tune-O-Matic bridge, besides using Hot-Rail Humbuckers instead of the humbucker-sized single-coils of the original. The result is a guitar with a more balanced tone which also can rock harder - but with all the clarity you'll need.

3) Airline Tuxedo

Airline Tuxedo and vintage Kay Barney Kessel

Our Airline Tuxedo looks very close to the Kay/Airline Barney Kessel model which inspired it. But, once again, we made slight improvements to make it more appealing to today's players. Namely, a Tune-O-Matic bridge instead of wood. And, instead of the "kleenex box" pickups, we've added a pair of hot P-90's.

Those small changes paid off, as this model totally retains the vintage vibes of the original, but with a tone and quality that pleases everyone who plays this model.

4) Airline Bighorn

Airline Bighorn - new and vintage

Talk about bringing back the dead. The original Bighorn was one of the most obscure of the vintage Airlines, and you wouldn't find even Jack White or Dan Auerbach playing one. But we thought it was a great design, and revived it with some marked improvements: instead of the thick, baseball-like neck, we gave it a slimmer and much more comfortable one.

Gone is the covered, wooden bridge, replaced by a Tele-style adjustable bridge. And, finally, we replaced the original pickups for our Argyle Vintage-Style single-coils. The result? The Airline Bighorn sounds and plays better than ever, fulfilling the twangy-ness the original only hinted at. 

5) Airline H78

Airlien H78 and vintage

The Airline H78 is one of our best-selling semi-acoustics, a great choice for those looking for an alternative to the usual 335-style semis. The original Harmony H78 is not as popular, but is a very well-regarded and sought-after model today, after being used by players such as Dan Auerbach and Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre).

There's something magical about those DeArmond pickups... which we didn't try to reproduce in the new H78. Instead, we've used our custom Argyle Vintage-Style Single Coils, which are also excellent.

While both guitars sound great, those who've played an original will tell you they sound quite different - each one good in their own way. One definite improvement was the use of a Tune-O-Matic in the new one, which gives it much better intonation than a vintage Harmony.

Curious note: on the current Airline H78, you flick the individual pickup switches UP to activate the respective pickup, whereas with the vintage Harmony you flick the switches DOWN to active a pickup.

 View Airline guitars


1 comment

  • Could you put the two pickup Kay Sizzler on your to do list?

    hugh crawford

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