History of The Kay Guitar Company

The Kay Guitar Story.... In it's entirety!

The Kay guitar company's origins date back to the 1890's, starting with the Groeschel Mandolin Company of Chicago, Illinois.
The company's name was changed to "Stromberg-Voisinet" in 1921, and shortlyafterwards, in 1923, Henry Kay "Hank" Kuhrmeyer (the origin of the name "Kay") joined the company and quickly worked his way up to the top.
By 1928, Kuhrmeyer had bought the company and that same year the company started producing electric guitars and amps.

Kay was indeed one of the earliest American manufacturers of electric guitars. Things progressed, and by 1934, the company was officially known as the "Kay Musical Instrument Company". The company became larger and more successful over the years, leading to the addition of a new factory in Elk Grove Village, Illinois in 1964. But somehow by 1965, the company had hit rough times and was bought by Seeburg, a jukebox manufacturer that sold Kay to Valco in 1967.

Kay/Valco went out of business soon afterwards, and in 1969 its assets were auctioned off. Syl Weindling and Barry Hornstein of W.M.I. (the main importer of Teisco Del Rey products) purchased the Kay brand name during this time. As a result of this, the names "Teisco" and "Kay" were used on Teisco Del Rey guitars for a while in the early 70's. In 1980 the Kay Guitar Company was purchased by Tony Blair and is currently active selling Kay brand and Santa Rosa brand guitars, Chicago Blues harmonicas and accessories and of course the Kay Vintage Reissue line of professional guitars and basses.


Kay manufactured guitars under several different brandnames, so for those interested here is our best attempt to match some of the more common brandnames to the stores that distributed them:

       - Airline - distributed by Montgomery Wards
       - Barclay - Unity Buying Service
       - Beltone - distributed by Monroe or P&H
       - Custom Kraft - St. Louis Music
       - Holiday - distributed by Aldens
       - Old Kraftsmen - distributed by Spiegel
       - Orpheum - distributed by Wards Catalogue
       - Penncrest - distributed by J.C. Penney
       - Sherwood Deluxe - Montgomery Wards
       - Silvertone - Sears & Roebuck
       - Supertone - Sears & Roebuck
       - Suprema - distributed by Eaton's Canada
       - Truetone - distributed by Western Auto

Copyright 2006, Kay Guitar Company