In his day, Jimmy Reed was a huge influence on everyone from Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield to the Rolling Stones and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Among its reissues, Kay Guitar has included the K161 Thin Twin, the guitar irrevocably associated with the legendary Chicago bluesman.
Strapped on, the Thin Twin is a hefty axe for a hollowbody, weighing in at roughly eight pounds, thanks in large part to the all-maple construction – three-ply flamed and bound top; sides, neck, and arched back; and internal parallel braces to reduce feedback.
The 20-fret bound rosewood fingerboard sports pearloid block inlays, while the headstock features the original outsized “Kel-von-a-tor” emblem – certainly an attention-getter. The one-piece set neck has an unusual 26″ scale and 12″ radius, and the guitar features a chrome saddle-mount bridge, trapeze tailpiece, and vintage-style tuners. Available finishes are natural golden flame, red ’burst, and black.
The Thin Twin gets its name from its dual single-coil blade pickups. Only a small part of each pickup is visible above the pickguard. A large bobbin sits under the pickguard and the whole unit is mounted to the bracing and pickguard with screws and grommets.
Made in China, the guitar exhibits nice workmanship and a beautiful finish, though the three-way pickup selector seemed rather frail. The pickups are fine for dark, bluesy cleans, but also on the noisy side when set to bridge or neck positions (add overdrive at your own risk). If you want to play old-school blues like Reed, or even some Chet- or Merle-style fingerpicking, there are punchy clean textures in here. If you don’t want any noise, set the selector in the middle for hum-canceling operation and big, fat tone.
The K161 Thin Twin has lots of offer, primarily as a stage guitar that will look great under the bright lights while delivering real vintage tones for postwar blues aficionados.
This article originally appeared in VG December 2016 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.