Michael Kelly 1957
Price: $875 (list)
Michael Kelly Guitars has steadily gained a reputation for offering big bang for the buck. The Michael Kelly 1957 model solidbody extends this continuum, representing that meeting point between thoughtful design and quality execution, where modern guitar-manufacturing techniques deliver on their promise.
The 1957 abounds with design details, including a bookmatched quilted maple top veneer with flamed maple binding, highlighted by a pearloid pickguard and an attractive amber finish. The 1957’s body is swamp ash, like many of the original ’57 classics that inspired its moniker, and a slim bolt-on maple neck with a bone nut, a 10.5″ radius, and 25.5″ scale length is topped with a maple fingerboard with 22 medium-jumbo frets and black dot inlays. The headstock is faced with a birdseye maple veneer, capping off the picturesque presentation.
The fit and finish matches the aesthetic, with a flawless glossy body and a tight neck joint. Hardware includes a fully adjustable six-saddle bridge, Grover tuners, push/pull potentiometers, and a Rockfield SWV humbucker complemented by a Seymour Duncan Little ’59.
But does the Michael Kelly 1957 deliver the goods suggested by its upscale appearance? Even before plugging into a Fender Blues Junior, the guitar exhibited a present, ringing acoustic tone. Setup was on the money, with good intonation and no buzz issues from the lightly polished frets.
Plugged in, the volume, tone, and selector switch arrangement was familiar, but the push/pull, coil-splitting pots were secret weapons, offering a tasty sonic versatility via eight pickup combinations. Selecting the skinnier sounds by pulling up the pots produced good choices for rhythm playing that were also capable of overdriving the Blues Junior when cranked. The crystalline sound of the single-coils alone or in combination was particularly audible through a solidstate acoustic amp kicked in with an A/B box.
The guitar’s versatility became apparent as soon as the full-strength humbuckers were brought into play. The neck-position Rockfield helped channel our inner Ed Bickert – and if the chops were there to channel an inner Danny Gatton, we could have it in any position, humbucking or single-coil.
The Michael Kelly 1957 is just plain fun to work out on and fun to look at, too, but that wouldn’t mean a thing if it didn’t play well and sound good!
This article originally appeared in VG October 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.