The founder of the short-lived Bakersfield-area Hallmark Guitars, Joe Hall, died February 11 after an extended battle with liver disease. He was 72.
Hall’s foray into the electric guitar market in the mid ’60s is part of the intriguing and nebulous Bakersfield guitar scene, which also included such brands as Mosrite, Gruggett, and Standel. Hall had worked with Semie Moseley’s Mosrite company, starting in the late ’50s, and eventually started up his own company in nearby Arvin. One of his earlier efforts was a series of Standel-branded instruments that were built to accompany the respected amplifier company, but that affiliation did not last. Some legitimate/fully-original "double-branded" instruments seen in the vintage guitar market are sporting a Hallmark logo on the headstock but a pickup mounting plate on the body that has a snake-like Standel "S" logo.
Hallmark’s most unique instrument was the Swept-Wing, which was a modern-looking, radically-contoured solidbody instrument. It was offered in six-string, twelve-string, and double-neck guitar models, as well as in a bass configuration (a hyper-rare ’67 Hallmark semi-hollow Swept-Wing bass was featured in the August ’09 issue of <em>VG</em>).
Hallmark also made other body configurations, as well as a few models of other brands that never got off the ground. The company closed its doors in 1968. Hall estimated that less than 1000 Hallmark instruments were ever made. He worked in the oil industry overseas, and garnered a petroleum engineering degree, continuing work as a consultant.
The Hallmark brand was resurrected around the turn of the century by Maryland luthier Bob Shade, who acquired the rights to the Hallmark name and logo, and Hall agreed to serve as a consultant for the new venture.
"When I finally approached Joe about my wanting to continue building Hallmark guitars, he was both delighted and surprisingly excited," Shade commented. "Joe gave me a shot of moral support over the years, and was the kind of guy who would help you with anything, if he was able."
The new company’s frontline model is the Swept-Wing, but the lineup has expanded to include other famous Bakersfield-associated guitar designs, as well as a series of guitars based on custom auto designs by legendary builder George Barris.
"Joe was a good man, a good friend, and I will sorely miss his companionship and help here at Hallmark Guitars," said Shade.
A feature on Hallmark instruments appeared in the June ’04 issue of <em>VG</em>.