This remarkable instrument was manufactured in England by Burns of London. Started in 1960 as Ormston Burns Ltd. by James Ormston Burns, Burns of London would go on to produce iconic guitars for the next decade, before selling off to the Baldwin Piano and Organ Company of Cincinnati. While Jim Burns would go on to create guitars under other names over the next few decades, Burns Guitars would not return full force until 1992, when the company would be restarted under Barry Gibson. Gibson employed Jim Burns as a consultant to the company, and set out, originally, to make handmade replicas of iconic Burns guitars. This would evolve in to a full line of guitars which are offered to this day by Burns London Ltd.
Ampeg by Burns of London
The guitars themselves owe their iconic status to the Dr. Frankenstein like methods of Jim Burns. Burns who was often referred to as the "British Leo Fender" had set out in his initial venture to create what he termed "mass-produced one-offs". By combining various guitar pieces from various manufacturers, including many experimental and unorthodox parts, he was able to cobble together guitars that, while drawing in style from the more conservative Fender Stratocaster, blew their Fender rivals out of the water in personality and tonal flexibility.
The model this page is dedicated to, along with 3 or 4 other models, was manufactured from 1963-1964 (according to the Burns Guitar Museum, 1965 according to Barry Gibson) by Burns of London under contract from the American manufacturer Ampeg, who desired to sell it on the American market to compete with other manufacturers like Gibson and Fender. The guitar were renamed and rebranded under "Ampeg by Burns of London". This particular model, sold as the Wild Dog guitar in America, was sold in England as the Burns of London Jazz Split Sound guitar. Ultimately the Ampeg line would end in unprofitability, as the cost of importing caused the prices to be too high compared to equivalent Gibson and Fender instruments.
In looking for more information on the guitar, I sought to inquire about the existence of wiring diagrams or other schematics for the guitar. I sent an e-mail off to Burns London Ltd. In hoped they might have carried information over about the classic Burns guitar. I received a response from Barry Gibson himself, which is as follows:
Those guitars were produced in 1965 for the USA market only.
They are quite rare now, we do not have any old records of the production or wiring diagrams.
Phone:+44 (0) 208 7833 638
Fax: +44 (0) 208 7833 651
BURNS LONDON LTD
There are also a series of patent numbers on the neck bolt cover, just below the serial number. Inquiries in to these are still pending, but as of yet have not returned any information.
About the Instrument
The body of this guitar is solid maple featuing double offset cutaways that curve inward, and a baby blue finish. The pick guard is grey with the "Ampeg by Burns of London" brand inscription and knob labels in black.
The maple bolt-on neck is 23.375 inches in scale and has a geared truss-rod adjustment. There is a plate on the back which can be removed to offer access to the truss rod adjustment. A special wrench was provided with the guitar for this purpose. It has a 22 fret, rosewood fretboard with white dot inlays.
The head is arranged with a 6-on-a-side tuner configuration, and has chrome, non-locking tuners.
The bridge/tremolo unit is chrome an is a floating bridge design. The floating bridge on this model is comprised of a plate to which the bridge saddles are attached. The saddles themselves alow both sharp/flat and vertical adjustment. This piece sits on an alluminum roller. When using the vibrato, the whole bridge block glides on top of the roller bearing. With this design there is no moving of the string within the saddles, so the guitar stays in tune.
The Wild Dog guitar uses 3 Burns Split-Sonic pickups, adjustable by a volume control, a tone control, and 4-way selector switch, with the options: split-sound, Jazz, Treble, and Wild Dog. The split sonic pickups are wired in individual haves (bass and treble), functioning as two separate pickups in each unit. This allowed for uniquie combinations of sounds that other guitars couldn't produce. For instance, the split-sound setting activates the treble half of the bridge pickup and the bass half of the neck pickup. The wild-dog setting is a snarling, surfer twang.
The guitar is still in its original case, complete with Ampeg's blue-check tolex covering and red velvet padded lining. I also have the original guitar tool kit, complete with truss rod adjustment wrench.
Historical information collected from: http://www.burnsguitarmuseum.com/