Kalamazoo is, of course, a city famous for it's guitars. It was the hometown of Gibson for most of the twentieth century, until 1984; many people would say the best Gibson guitars ever built were the Kalamazoo-built models. But Gibson also produced a US-built budget line in the 1930s, and again in the mid-late 1960s, and these guitars were branded Kalamazoo - in honour of the town in which they were produced. Most were good quality guitars, especially the higher end 1930s and 40s models, but even the 60s guitars were fitted with quality Gibson components. Kalamazoo guitars typically had a KG model prefix.
In the years before and during the second world war, the Kalamazoo line consisted of acoustic guitars, banjos and mandolins; relatively well-built with quality woods, but definitely a cut below Gibsons of the same period, most obviously in having no adjustable truss rod, and little ornamentation, e.g. silk-screened rather than inlaid logo. The first run of Kalamazoo instruments was available between 1933 and 1942.
1940s Kalamazoo KG-32 archtop Image Heritage auctions
The 1960s solid body Kalamazoo KG guitars and Kalamazoo KB basses came in two body body styles; Fender Mustang-style, then later SG-style; from top to bottom 1966 Kalamazoo KG2a, 1966 KB bass, 1967 KB bass (SG style).
In the mid-1960s, guitar sales increased dramatically; though many of these sales were to new players, inspired by the rock and roll and beat booms of the previous years. A high-end Gibson was out of the question to these players, so Gibson re-introduced the Kalamazoo line, with great sucess.
|Kalamazoo KG1a||1||Maestro vibrola|
|Kalamazoo KG2a||2||Maestro vibrola|
To keep the solid bodies cheap, Gibson used inexpensive, easy to work with woods and easy non-skilled construction. The bodies were actually some sort of compressed chipboard/fibreboard, outsourced to a 'toilet seat' manufacturer in Wisconsin. Necks were bolt-on and actually quite nice maple/rosewood, whilst the electronics were assembled on the pickguard, remote from the guitar and simply screwed into place. They did have the foresight to use all Gibson hardware - admittedly some of it was obsolete, having been replaced on Gibson models, but it was still quality hardware none the less. Another nod to Fender came in the Fender Mustang style body of the early KG guitar and KB bass. This was fairly quickly updated to a more appropriate SG style. Kalamazoo KG guitar shipping figures do not show body styles, but the Mustang body shape seems to be more abundant.