Here's a wonderfully unique piece of history here: a vintage Melobar, one of only 300 made in the Rosac factory. It's a rare bird. We see a lot of instruments walking through the front door here, and this one is surely one of the most interesting! The Melobar is a cross between a lap steel and "Spanish style" electric guitar - essentially it's a 10 string lap steel that can be played standing up, due to the neck being attached at an angle approximately 45 degrees to the body. It's surprisingly comfortable and light (this one is 8.6 lbs).
We just took this one in and were thrilled to find it in such good condition, with a perfectly fitting case. Typically these are not all that well kept, and cases are hard to come by, due to its unique shape. It's been vetted and setup to play perfectly by the techs in our repair shop. As far as we can tell, all of the parts are original. This is a really special instrument, and for anyone that knows what it is (or is about to find out), it's an amazing find!
There's a long & storied history of the Melobar, as recently featured in Vintage Guitar magazine (February '22 issue). It's way too long to include here, but we'd encourage anyone that's interested to check it out on their website - it's a great read. Here's the the very condensed version:
In the mid 1950's Walt Smith, a rancher in California, developed the idea for a steel guitar that could be played standing upright. He actualapped ideas with Leo Fender and others, and by the mid 1960's, he had developed a working instrument. Smith took the idea to the Mosrite company, who agreed to build the Melobar in it's factory. Some of the prototypes made their way to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and into the hands of bands such as the Grateful Dead, the Mamas and Papas, and Jefferson Airplane, who used it on a couple of albums. Even Brian Jones and Jimmy Page made use of one. Interestingly, a chance encounter with Pat Boone resulted in an endorsement project with him, and it started to gain notoriety.
In early 1969, the Mosrite factory suddenly shut down due to financial issues within the company. Only 300 Melobars had been made. Smith wasn't ready to give up, so he and a team of Mosrite employees just shifted product to the Rosac Electronics & Manufacturing company. That's where this particular one was made. Only 300 were made by Rosac, from 1969 to 1970. By the end of that year, Smith left California for Idaho, beginning a new era for Melobar. It's the Rosac versions that are the most iconic and sought after, and this one in particular is a great example of the work that they did.