1956/57 Stratosphere Twin Guitar

The Stratosphere Guitar

For years I thought about, read about, dreamt about this strange looking guitar made famous by the late great Jimmy Bryant. I listened to “Stratosphere Boogie” over and over which he wrote specifically for playing on this guitar. I never thought I would own one, mostly because I had never seen one in person until one day in 1997. I was walking through the Long Beach swap meet, late in the day and saw it laying on the ground in it’s opened case. The owner had found this Stratosphere Guitar at an estate sale two days earlier. Not knowing anything about it, he took it to the swap meet. When I walked up, there were about four guys standing around it, none knowing what it was. (the name tags were missing) One comment was that it was probably made in Japan. Meanwhile, I was hyperventilating while telling the guy I wanted it. (I didn’t care that I needed to figure out how to come up the $$ that I didn’t have)

The Stratosphere Guitar was made for a short period between 1954-1958 by two brothers, Russ and Claude Deaver in Springfield, MO. I’m not sure how many  guitars the guys made. I’ve heard different numbers but I think fewer than 200.  The twelve string neck is tuned in major and minor thirds, rather than octaves which requires basically re-learning the guitar. The idea was that one person could play twin guitar licks. For a more complete history, click here. Being a small business owner myself, and a guitar player, I’ve always had a soft spot for creative small business ventures.

It took me a while to figure out the tuning. I put in a lot of hours to work it out. Then, I found the catalog with the tuning in it. Figures. The hardest part was dialing in the string gauges to make it playable.

To hear Jimmy Bryant’s completely insane Stratosphere Boogie, click here.