KALAMAZOO | KG

Kalamazoo KG Electric Guitar

The Kalamazoo KG1 and KG2 guitar (1966-69)

Kalamazoo KG2a (blue) and KG1 (red) guitars, both built in 1966

A Kalmazoo KG2a (blue) and KG1 (red) guitars, both built in 1966

Kalamazoo was an American budget guitar brand, created by Gibson to market cheaper guitars than the fine instruments they were already making for professional musicians. This marque had been used by Gibson previously in the 1930s and 1940s, and was resurrected to cope with the massive demand for entry level guitars after the beat boom of 1964/1965. They were made in Kalamazoo, but not at the Parsons street facility (plant I), rather a newer building at 416 E. Ransom Street (plant II).

1966 Kalamazoo catalogue

The KG guitar was a simple solid-body electric, using Gibson parts on a fibre-board body made by a manufacturer in Wisconsin. The neck was reasonable good, solid maple with a rosewood fretboard; bolted on (rather than set as was Gibson's norm). Many of the components used also appeared on other lower-end Gibson solid-bodies: the pickups and scratchplate were straight from the Gibson Melody Maker, whilst the bridge and vibrola were used on the Melody Maker, Gibson SG Special and Gibson SG Junior. Likewise, electronically it was the same as many more expensive Gibsons. Few parts were unique to this guitar - really, just the tuning keys and curved truss rod cover.

Kalamazoo KG vs Gibson Melody Maker

Although the Kalamazoo KG shared much of it's hardware (and latterly body style) with the Gibson Melody Maker, the two instruments were quite different in terms of construction. The Melody Maker, with it's solid mahogany body, glued in mahogany neck and sunburst finish simply exuded Gibson tradition. It required some level of craftsmanship to produce, and was very much a product of the main facility in Kalamazoo (plant I - 225 Parsons street). It was a beautifully crafted guitar with simple electronics. In contrast, the use of a maple bolt-on neck, and new solid colours on the Kalamazoo KG was firmly following Fender's guitar building ethos, doing away with 'craftsmen' in favour of lower-paid assembly line workers. The Kalamazoo KG series were assembled at a second small facility, still in Kalamazoo, known as plant II. This was previously Gibson's electronics plant, that had made pickups and amplifiers, at 416 E. Ransom Street, Kalamazoo. The KG was a simply built guitar, though with the same simple electronics.

Kalamazoo guitars: Mustang style and SG style

The KG was aimed at younger players; primary colours and surf styling. Early models had a Fender Mustang body shape and were available in the same three colours of the Mustang, red, white and blue. This represents the bulk of production through 1965 and 1966. As the sixties wore on, this body style changed to the Gibson SG style, with more-or-less the same dimensions, and no change in hardware. The design had became more fashionable, and was perhaps more appropriate for a guitar named Kalamazoo. However production numbers of SG styled instruments dropped - possibly more due to over-production in 1966 than lower demand in 1967. In any case, SG-style Kalamazoo guitars are seen less often than the Mustang, and are somewhat more desirable, no doubt because they seem more 'Gibsony'.

Despite the fibre-board body, the good quality neck and relatively good components made for pretty decent guitar, all-round. With the Gibson association, components, and a fair price, it is not surprising these guitars sold well. A total of 23994 Kalamazoo KG guitars were shipped between 1965 and 1969, in three colours: Flame Red, Glacier White, Las Vegas Blue. See the Kalamazoo guitar shipping totals.

There were four guitar models: KG-1 (one pickup), KG-1A (one pickup with vibrola), KG-2 (two pickups) and KG-2A (two pickups with vibrola). There was also a Kalamazoo KB bass.

1967 Kalamazoo advert

The advert reproduced here was placed in a 1967 music trade magazine, and was aimed at music dealers, persuading them to stock Kalamazoo. Becoming a Kalamazoo dealer was somewhat easier than becoming a Gibson dealer.

Beginners won't outgrow Kalamazoo right away - which is the problem with most equipment a beginner buys. It doesn't cost much, so it doesn't do much. Pretty soon he can play a lot more than it can. And he feels he was rooked. Or worse, his parents do.
Kalamazoo makes a great save, because it answers everybody's problem.
Beginners get what they want. Brand new equipment with a big time sound.
Parents get what they want. A modest investment while they find out how far the youngster's interest and ability really go.
You get what you want, too. Another customer. Because a beginner will have to be a pretty big talent before he'll outgrow Kalamazoo very fast.

Kalamazoo KG soundclips

The following clips are of a 1966 Kalamazoo KG-2A played through an early seventies WEM Clubman. You can hear more soundclips of this guitar here



The amp is on a fairly clean setting: volume 5/10. Guitar: both pickups, volume 10, tone 10. Played with a pick.


Now with a cranked amp: volume 10/10. Guitar: neck pickup only, volume 10, tone 10. Again played with a pick.


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Kalamazoo guitars for sale

Vintage Original Circa 1934 Kalamazoo KG-11 Original Dark Sunburst Finish

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, 10003, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$1495

Here's a stunning vintage original circa 1934 Kalamazoo KG-11 in original dark Sunburst finish. Stunning small burst finish. All original with a wonderful neck angle and excellent playability and tone. Our tech just did a neck set on it so it's playing great. Nice straight neck. No fret buzz or issues, just smooth playability. A large benefit to the instrument. Tone is out of this world. Nice warm vintage tones. Comes with a soft case. Pedal is exactly as pictured. Buyer pays $65 shipping in the... more

1967 Gibson Kalamazoo USA SG Shape KG-2 Guitar, Blue, ORIGINAL

ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS, 61201, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$675

1967 Gibson Kalamazoo KG-2 USA Guitar, Blue, ORIGINAL hardware and finish. Made by Gibson as a lower cost model, to compete with the imports from the area. These are great players, with Gibson hardware, electronics, and vintage Strat feeling neck. Melody Maker pickups, Original pickguard, that has some cracks around the screws and wear that looks cool. Compensated original Bridge and Tremolo base plate. No tremolo when I acquired it, but they are easy to get online, reproduction or original. ... more

1930's KALAMAZOO KG-11 Acoustic Guitar - Sunburst

ATLANTA, GEORGIA, 30318, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$1099

Great example of these depression-era guitars built by Gibson. Lots of honest play wear and character throughout, with a crisp, dry sound you can only get from an 80 year old guitar. Unlike most of these, this one plays great / the action is pretty good, it is NOT in need an expensive neck reset- I've owned it for about 15 years and the the neck & action has been stable the whole time. If you are not familiar with these, some of their most noticeable features include: ladder bracing under a ... more

Kalamazoo KG-14 Vintage 1930's Acoustic

NORTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS, 01060, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$1500

Built in Kalamazoo, MI, these high quality, superbly made instruments were built right alongside their Gibson siblings and feature many similarities. One characteristic that Kalamazoo acoustics do not share with their Gibson brethren is the high price of admission. Oozing with vintage, Gibson-like mojo, this Kalamazoo isn't just aesthetically pleasing, it delivers big time tone! Constructed with a solid spruce top, mahogany neck, back and sides, rosewood bridge and fingerboard and ladder ... more

Vintage 1965 Gibson Kalamazoo KG-1 Electric Guitar

DOUGLASVILLE, GEORGIA, 30135, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$279

I bought this guitar in the mid 1970's. Some kid had painted and put that goofy "Harmony" pick-up on it. I sanded the body and primed it and never finished it. It is complete with the exception of the 2 knobs. (Volume and tone). I have a really nice piece of plastic to replace the pick-guard, I will include. I have brass knobs, brand new vintage Grover machine heads that we can talk about including (they are going to be on sale separately, so move quickly on this. I will also include a "nut" and... more

Vintage 1960's Gibson Kalamazoo SG Body 1966 1965 1967 Melody Maker KG-2

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, 60657, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$225

Nice 60's Gibson Kalamazoo KG-2-A SG body All original, no issues, works great Original neck plate and screws included Check my Rating Bid with Confidence... more

Gibson Kalamazoo KG-31 Archtop Acoustic Guitar

MORRISON, ILLINOIS, 61270, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$600

Up for sale is a vintage Gibson Kalamazoo KG-31 Archtop Acoustic Guitar Includes padded Gigbag Guitar has a straight neck and low action and is very playable. It sounds great with a rich tone. Frets are solid and upgraded Grover tuners hold nicely. As you can see this guitar originally had pickups- all electronics have been removed and are not included. Body is in solid condition with wear as expected from a guitar this age. See photos for details. Gigbag is in great shape. Smoke free home... more

Kalamazoo KG-2 Refinish White Original 6 String E Guitar Free-Shipping 1965 WH

TOKYO, 95125, JAPAN

$853

Kalamazoo KG-2 Refinish White Original 6 String E Guitar Free-Shipping 1965 WH About Item Condition : Used This has small scratch marks or paint peeling and dent, but not obtrusive much, Nice condition. There is no problem with the playing. ┬ĚThe tremolo has been removed and replaced with a combination bridge, and the matte is refinished. ┬ĚThe internal circuit is as original. The neck is straight. Play condition is excellent. The truss rod works as it should. Fret left : Unknown. Pick Up: SS ... more
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Cameljoe311 Comment left 15th December 2014 21:09:31 reply
Just snagged a kg-1a in glacier white. Sg body style. Got it at goodwill for $10. All original except 1 tuning peg. Am I right in thinking this is a 1968? One of 59 ( based off shipping numbers). Thanks
Vintage Guitar and Bass Comment left 30th December 2015 21:09:33 reply
It's hard to say precisely when the change from Mustang to SG style occurred, but I would say late 1966.. yours could easily have been produced earlier than 1968
brotherX Comment left 24th March 2013 21:09:49 reply
Kalamazoo restoration - I'm looking for a few parts for a vintage Kalamazoo restoration - primarily pickups, but also loom and scratchplate. I would use new pots if I can't find the originals. Can anyone give me a heads up. Also, is there a wiring diagram?
vintageguitarandbass Comment left 24th March 2013 21:09:32 reply
There's a close-up of the wiring (of a two pickup KG-2a) here - will try and get a schematic posted soon
Cory Saiz Comment left 1st February 2013 08:08:52 reply
Looking for a tremolo for a Kalamazoo guitar. Do you have any idea where I can find one or find one that will work. The holes are there but no tremolo. Thank You
tonyice Comment left 3rd March 2012 10:10:09 reply
Would a vintage (1960s) kzoo guitar sound more like a 60s SG junior or SG special than a newly made Gibson? - or what defines sound more, old pickups or same wood?

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