GUILD | BASS GUITARS | STARFIRE

Guild Starfire

Hollow bodied bass guitar

1968 Guild Starfire bass I

The Guild Starfire is one of the more desirable vintage bass guitars of the 1960s, and gained recognition by its high profile users of the decade such as Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane, and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead. It was a very well built thinline semi-acoustic bass, with a short (30") scale, and a rich woody tone - though with far less of the muddiness of the Gibson and Epiphone bass models from which it was derived. The Starfire bass stood up well against hollow body rivals such as the Epiphone Rivoli, Gibson EB2 and Fender Coronado bass. There were two Guild Starfire models, the single pickup Starfire I, launched in 1965, and a dual pickup Starfire II debuting in 1967.

The Starfire pickups of the 1960s were made by Hagstrom (Bi-Sonic), and were very highly regarded. In fact it was the clarity of response of these pickups that meant Alembic kept these in place when modifying the circuitry of the Casady / Lesh basses of the late 1960s. The Hagstrom Bi-sonic was a single coil unit, with a very unique design. Hagstrom had been fitting them to their Coronado solid body bass from 1963, but by 1966 had moved on to a new smaller unit. The Bi-sonics continued to be fitted to Guild Starfire (and JS) basses until 1970, when Guild finally replaced them with their own brand new humbuckers. These are really great pickups, but for some reason, instruments fitted with these humbuckers are not as desired by collectors as older examples fitted with Bi-sonics.

The earliest single pickup Starfire basses had a single pickup in the bridge position, with finger rests positioned above and below the strings in the neck position. Later (1966), these were reversed, with the pickup moving to the neck position (see a 1968 Starfire Bass I, also left).

The Starfire's bridge was also made by Hagstrom, and consisted of a metal baseplate with rosewood saddles. It remained a feature of the Starfire throughout it's production run, with only a slight shape change in 1968.

1966 Guild Starfire bass

1966 Guild Starfire bass with single Hagstrom Bi-sonic pickup Image Heritage auctions

1975 Guild Starfire bass

1975 Guild Starfire bass with dual Guild humbucking pickups Image Heritage auctions

The main features of the Starfire bass are summarised in the table below.

Guild Starfire bass specifications

ModelStarfire SF-IStarfire SF-II
Available1965-19751967-1977
PickupsHagstrom Bi-sonic pickups, replaced by Guild humbuckers in 1970
Scale30 3/4"
Width at nut1 1/2"
BodyBound Maple (Sunburst and Blonde finishes) or Mahogany (all other finishes). Width 16 3/8", 1 7/8" thin, length 20 1/4" (1968) 18" (1975). Overall length 46 3/4"
NeckInitially one-piece (later three piece) Peruvian Mahogany, rosewood 21 fret fingerboard with pearl dot position markers
HardwareHagstrom bridge, Guild tuners, volume and tone control, hand restsHagstrom bridge, Guild tuners, 2 volume and 2 tone controls, master volume, pickup selector. Push-button bass boost, replaced by a tone switch in 1970
FinishesSunburst, Cherry, Emerald Green, Ebony Grain, Amber, Brown, Black, Walnut, Blonde, Natural Mahogany
OptionsFretlessFretless and or stereo circuitry

Some of the different variations of the Guild Starfire bass taken from catalog images over the period 1966-1975.

Guild Starfire bass-II - cover of the 1969 catalogue Guild Starfire bass-I - taken from the 1965 Guild catalogue Guild Starfire bass-II - taken from the 1969 and 1971 Guild catalogues From left to right

i) The Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh on the cover of the 1969 Guild catalogue; Cherry red Starfire bass II

ii) 1965 Starfire I, with Hagstrom Bi-sonic pickup in the bridge position

iii) 1969 Starfire bass II in custom Emerald Green finish

iv) 1975 Starfire II in Cherry finish. Taken from the 1975 catalogue. Note the new Guild humbuckers and larger headstock

Guild Starfire bass catalog appearances

Click through to have a look at each vintage Guild catalog.

Guild 1969 catalog
1969 Guild catalogue 30 1/2" scale and long slender Starfire neck. Double pickup model with master volume.
Guild 1970 catalog
1970 Guild catalogue New, wider neck. Larger headpiece. SF-bass I an SF-bass II available with fretless fingerboard
Guild 1973 catalog
1971 Guild catalogue 2 new Guild anti-hum pickups, for tighter, harder sound.
Guild 1975 catalog
1975 Guild catalogue Think of the Starfire bass as an altogether different bass and you'll fully appreciate the musical potential of its acoustic body in the hands of a creative player.

Vintage Guild Starfire bass advertisements

Electric bass advertisements originally published from 1965 onwards. Click on the images for larger copies. Check out other vintage Guild advertisements

Guild Starfire - When we unwrapped it we were knocked-out

Guild Starfire - When we unwrapped it we were knocked-out (1965)
This very early Starfire bass advert (mid 1965) from British music magazine Beat Instrumental shows the single pickup Starfire bass with the Hagstrom bisonic pickup in the bridge position. The doub...
[more]

Guild Starfire - New Thunderbass amplifier

Guild Starfire - New Thunderbass amplifier (1966)
Half-page advert for the Thunderbass amplifier, also featuring Allan Montoya (Brooks Brothers) with a Starfire bass
[more]

Guild Starfire - Guild Quantum Bass Amplifier

Guild Starfire - Guild Quantum Bass Amplifier (1967)
Delivers that hard-driving, up-front, "Motown"-type sound - without going through the engineers control board
1967 add showing two members of the Blues Project; Steve Katz playing a Guild Starfi...
[more]

Guild Starfire - Guitars Amplifiers Strings

Guild Starfire - Guitars Amplifiers Strings (1970)
Features the Starfire V guitar, the Starfire bass II, Thunderstar bass amp, and the F-47 Bluegrass flat top
[more]

Guild Starfire - Buddy Guy Blues Band

Guild Starfire - Buddy Guy Blues Band (1970)
1970 Guitar Player advert featuring Buddy Guy's band - Buddy uses a Starfire SF IV through a Thunderbird guitar amp. The bass player uses a Starefire SF bass through a Quantum X amplifier
[more]

Guild Starfire - Maybe its time you played a different bass!

Guild Starfire - Maybe its time you played a different bass! (1972)
Black and white advert for the solid body JS II (fretted and fretless) and M-85 II basses, and the hollow body Starfire SF-bass II
[more]


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John Yuknalis Comment left 24th October 2014 21:09:56 reply
Thank you for preserving history. I need your help!!!!: My Guild Starfire II Bass ( 1969-72?) model was stolen from me when I lived in Buffalo NY and was a member of the band, Pharmacy Jones, later named Saint Hill -yes, after the SCIENTOLOGY Saint Hill. I know who stole it. Do you know the guitar...it's lineage since then. Believe it was on eBay in mid 2005-2006. Starburst Color. What a guitar. The law is on my side. Or call 724 875 7235
Bruce Terrell Comment left 26th September 2018 13:01:17 reply
When listing players, don't forget Chris Hillman in the Byrds.
wiz Comment left 24th June 2012 16:04:55 reply
I'm looking for original circuit schematics for Jack Casady's modified starfire basses. Is anything like this online anywhere

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