I’m going to kick this one off with some emails kicking around …
From Mike Sat 3/6/2010 6:10 PM:
I came across your email address from a blog I read while searching for info. on a guitar I recently acquired. I googled Winden BJurmark Guitar and the following came up:
Do you still have the guitar? It was made by “Pop” Bjurmark of Long Island, NY probably in the early ’70s. I sent this on to my brother who knows more about it. I you could send me some pictures that would be great. I think I have a picture of my brother playing a Winden in the Bjurmark store, I’ll have to dig it up!
I too have a guitar with the markings Winden BJurmark, also there is a logo stamp which I think is linked somehow with the Thomastik Infeld Co. (string manufacturer). I thinks it’s Jaguar style with “F” hole on top and switches on top & bottom (3) pickups. Inside looks hand drilled & homemade.
I have included some pictures and would appreciate any info. you may have on this guitar or maker.
From Scott Sun 3/7/2010 9:16 AM:
That is a Winden guitar – the “Thomastik Infeld Co” would be the manufacturer of some of the parts used on the guitar. Mr. Bill Bjurmark made these guitars in his music shop in Babylon, L.I., N.Y., He was also a revered steel player, somewhere out there is a book – “Bjurmark Hawaiian guitar system: E-7-tuning.” © Apr. 13, 1939.
My brother Todd used to work for Bjurmark Music, we also took lessons at the store and got our first instruments there too.
Here is Todd on a Winden –
I’ve sent this on to Todd also maybe he could tell you more about the instrument.
From Todd Sun 3/7/2010 10:19 AM:
Mike, I am assuming that you are the fellow that left the message on the cell phone last night. I do not answer calls at work but listened to your voice mail. I get home late and leave early, so usually use email.
Bill’s son wasn’t really involved in the guitar aspect (Mr. or “Pop” Bjurmark was the original owner of Bjurmark Music-a full service “mom and pop” music store in Babylon NY since post WW II and his sons took it over in the 60’s and a second location was opened in North Babylon in the mid 60’s during the great guitar boon of that period. in the late 60’s Pop semi retired and both Babylon stores were closed and moved to the South Shore Mall in Bay Shore in 1970, September to be exact. The operation at that time was run by son II, Warren Bjurmark). Bill left the family business in the late 60’s and went to manage Nelson Varron Organ Studios, also in the South Shore Mall and stayed with them until the late 70’s when he opened a Lowrey Organ store in Orlando FL and upon semi retiring went into the mortgage business. BTW, Warren went on to broker sailing yachts in Florida, Clearwater I believe.
I was the manager of Bjurmark from 1970 to their closing in 1977 and asst mgr at the second location (short lived) in the SunVet Mall in Sayville.
The Winden guitars were made by Pop in his garage at his home in Babylon. He passed away about 10+ years ago and all of the gear and parts have been liquidated by his wife. The only tools he had were his imagination, drill press and sander. Thus the “home made look”.
He built these guitars using Hofner (yes of the Beatle Bass fame) necks (which is the neck on the guitar pictured, Pop didn’t make the necks, they were all made by Hofner in Germany-Pop originally born there with family ties to the old country, specifically Karl Hofner and Helmut Schaller-of the tuning machine fame).
The hardware on your and all of the other guitars (to my knowledge) were all made with Schaller OR Hofner pickups (yours are Schaller). Bodies were “carved” via drill press from Mahogany and Bubinga (sometimes Indian rosewood, or Brazilian rosewood-there was some experimentation with African woods that looked and sounded great but whose sawdust is poisonous and is so hard it would burn up bits). Yours appears to be Bubinga. The switching system is a “lift” from the Fender Jaguar circuit and provided the guitarist 2 separate settings. There was some experimentation with coil tapping and phasing as well. Although not rocket science, this was YEARS ahead of the market and was “new” technology at the time.
The tailpiece is indeed Thomastik (John Connolly and Sons of Centerport LI was the Thomastik distributor at that time, now I think Thomastik or Infeld is a separate entity in the US, distributing AWESOME quality strings-the original Windens had Thomastik flatwounds which remain one of the most highly regarded flatwound strings in the world along with Pyramid of Germany and Dogal of Italy). The tailpiece was a “lift” from violin tailpiece adjusters that Thomastik built for most German violins imported around that time.
Looks like yours has had some rewiring. However, note the “assembly” of the volume and tone control in the lower cavity. They came that way from Germany and, although yours would appear not to) at one point actually used jacks and plugs on that brass harness so that pickups could easily be swapped out. Used about 25 years LATER in EMG pickups. As mentioned Pop was very ahead of this time.
As I recall, these necks were 25.5″ scale and 7.5 radius as they were copies of Fender Strat/Jazzmaster necks.
Only thing odd to me on your specific guitar is the thing that looks to be 3/8″ x 1.5″ and appears reflective or white in the upper cavity. Not sure what that is but looks to be a “choke” which is a notch filter in the midrange (something we experimented with in the later years, “lifted” from the Gibson 355 Stereomaster which had a multi choke switch which was a variable choke/filter). I would need a closer look to be sure.
There were precious few of these guitars made from Hofner CELLI (“cellos” sic in English)!!! He would remove the cello neck, fabricate and neck block, install the electronics, glue the block, and bolt on the same neck you see here. GREAT jazz guitars. HELL to have to hold in your lap.
Miscellany: Pop was a pioneer in teaching his own methodology of “chord/melody” style jazz/pop playing and was an AWESOME guitarist and STRICT teacher. I apprenticed under him and his son Warren in learning stringed instrument repair, later developing my own techniques/inventions for guitar modification and repair**. His background pre WW II was Vaudeville and he played, wait for it…, JAZZ PEDAL STEEL GUITAR (aka “Hawaiian Guitar”) in Big Bands throughout the U.S.A..
That’s all I have time for, but if you have any other questions, please feel free to email me here. I am hardly ever available on the phone as I am a retail mgr and can’t do personal phone at work and when I am home I am usually BEAT or in the recording studio, or working on guitars mods/tech and my new hobby of building high end studio Ribbon microphones.
** I have designed and co-designed several products in my career, most notably my collaboration with Stuart Spector on the Spectorcore Bass. Although I see it as more 50/50, Stuart is a great friend and NEVER one to leave out props when they are due, usually tells folks that I did it.
From Mike Mar 7, 2010, 11:04 AM:
todd thank you so much for getting right back to me. its amazing that scott is your brother and we made the connection at the same time. the silver bullet you see at the top is a lawrence tone filter the guitar still has packs of thomostic infeld strings in the vintage case it came in and also on the guitar it sounds amazing as a jazz guitar but thats not my forte. i have over 50 guitars now and always am looking and swaping this is my passion do you think the 69-1969 is 69th in 1969 i also have a homemade lap steel with a vintage dearmond that i will get you a pitcure of this cool little piece
that i bought from the same estate among several other cool vitage stuff a 1956 gibson banjo a vintage framus acoustic ect..do you think the guitar has any value to an acomplished jazz player? its not my style and probably am goimg to list it. please keep in touch if you kindly could im with a network of musicians on long island and also have a studio at my house and from what you sent me your equipment and work sounds very interesting. todd god bless and thanx again mike
From Todd Mon 3/8/2010 8:47 AM:
Just a couple more thoughts on a Monday morning…
The wood on the top of your guitar might be Brazilian Rosewood (it was legal back then) or Cocobolo. Pop used whatever he could get his hands on that looked good and sounded good. Re: your serial number. It is more than likely #19 made in 1969. There’s no way he could have built more than 50 a year based on his methods (drill press and Forstner bit). Also a bit of miscellany: If you look on the headstock of the guitar that I am playing in the picture Scott sent, you might be able to see the “Label” on the headstock. The label was a piece of bakelite (right at that time “Viscoloid”, which is what some pickguards and picks were made, was being legislated out of existence. Seems that it was quite reactive to the environment. It would shrink and curl. That wasn’t the big problem though, as I had discovered one day when I tossed a broken pick into an ashtray back in the day. It is EXTREMELY flammable!) that had a little rectangle cut into it. A DYMO labeler was used to print the brand/model and then stuck to the headstock and the bakelight badge was affixed atop the label.
Bakelite is also known as a “phenolic” which is another interesting made up word. It’s really recycled newspaper pulp and resin that is formed under pressure and then “baked” to speed up the curing of the resin while under pressure, keeping it flat and uniform. Those bakelite components of the Winden guitar were formed with a handheld jigsaw and a sanding drum mounted to the drill press. Another interesting feature is the lack of phillips head screws used on the guitar. The screws used came from hardware supply stores, the the round head, flat screwdriver type. The screws we use now, phillips, are widely available from guitar supply houses which didn’t exist until the mid 70’s which is when companies like WD Pickguards (one of the first) came to be.
From Mike Mon 3/8/2010 8:29 PM:
hey todd, this is getting interesting… turns out im a north babylon graduate myself 1976. some freinds of mine knew you and your brother. a guy named chuck m and rick g, they lived on m drive and used to jam with you and your brother scott. probably around age 15. small world. anyway, im determined to find more info on this guitar, please be patient… i REALLY APPRECIATE your knowledge. im sending a couple more photos. on the back plate of the guitar, theres a badge with the printed label you mentioned that says “special “on it also two different woods where they meet is smooth and really joined nice. there is also winden and bjurmark sought of stamped or “branded” into the side of the neck at the heel of the guitar. do you know what the “vee” means that is stamped into the neck plate. i don’t know if this is true but the lady i bought it from said her brother paid $5000 for this particular guitar do you think its possible? im also sending a couple of pictures of a homemade lap steel guitar i got from the same lady seems to be pretty old dearmond pickup and some of that bakelite stuff you described covering the neckscrews. also, i was unable to open the photo Scott sent. i think its in a Facebook type file? i would love to see it. do you think it can be resent in a jpeg file? sorry if im rambling on this is my passion. i thank you again, regards mike
Oh yeah…thanks Scott for forwarding my info. to Todd
I googled winden guitars and came up with your interesting comments about Bjurmark and winden stuff.
I grew up around the corner form the NB store, next to Lanes or 2 doors away i think. Spent a LOT of the 68 school year at the music store and the soda fountain. The girls were at Lanes, and the cool people were at Bjurmarks’. Ahh, memories of cutting out of my senior year at NB.
Anyway, i have one of those guitars, been in my closet for 30 years. I got the ‘bug’ again and started to clean up all my old stuff, started in on this thing, realized it was more than met the eye. It is the sweetest playing , HEAVIEST guitar i have ever seen. Blows away my Fender Tele as far as playability. Sound will be upgraded to some serious humbuckers and a body cleanup. Amazingly, the plastic covers , both sides are in great shape.
Dont really know why i sent this, just wanted to see if there was any info, and you had the most. I am showing my age here, but i remember when that sucker was new. Many moons have passed and the poor girl is need of a cleanup. If you are interested, i will send some pics when i get it done. I now have to go out and find a REAL luthier to repair the ugly gash in the neck. I cant believe i have been sitting on this tremendous piece for so long. It aint as ‘slick’ as a gibby or fender, but it has charm and a personality you cant buy.
Thanx for validating my memories.