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  The Bill Bartlett 6/12 Mosrite Special
Bill Bartlett sets the record straight on the only known 6/12 Mosrite Special. Bill was with the Lemon Pipers in the 60's and his group Starstruck in the mid-70's. They recorded the Southern Rock classic "Black Betty" which after a major edit and release became the group Ram Jam. Here's Bills Mosrite story and recollections of some of his guitars. The super Mosrite Special 6/12 is impressive to say the least. It turns out that it is not Bill Bartlett holding the guitar in the photo. He has not been identified and the guitars whereabouts is unknown. Bill has never seen the finished guitar. Read the story below.

MOSRITE RECOLECTIONS - by Bill Bartlett

First, about Semie Moseley. In mid 1968 the Mosrite factory (or one of ‘em) was in Bakersfield .

I spent a week there one afternoon!

We (The Lemonpipers ) visited the facility and when we arrived, Semie and some of the guys were jamming. Semie was playing a prototype Ventures model with the bound body and set neck. He then proceeded to show us around the factory. I saw the 12-string neck of the special guitar he was constructing for me: fret slots cut, no name inlayed yet, inlays and binding on the headstock – I was amazed how big the headstock was – to accommodate the Grover's. Saw the body roughed out with beautiful birdseye Maple top and back.

Then while the band wandered about, I sat with Semie in his office. On his desk was the octave neck from Joe Maphis' original double neck (3x3). I held on to that the whole visit, hoping to soak up as much Maphis energy I could. I asked why Joe had the pegheads changed to 3x3 and Semie said “Joe said too many people were asking him where he got the fancy Fender!!”

Next, I noticed Larry Collins” original double neck on a table. It was in shambles! Parts missing from the top and 1/8” Masonite covering the back. I was told Larry left the guitar (in the case) in a bad location. His dad backed the family car over it. OUCH!!

As the visit progressed, Semie recognized my enthusiasm for all things Mosrite, Maphis and Collins kids. He then presented me with an LP Joe recorded for Mosrite Records, and a copy of the Joe and Rose Lee scrapbook (Moseley Pub.) I have and will always treasure those items. But man, he was so kind and generous with his time (we talked for over an hour). He gave me a lot of tips about guitar building and modification that are still with me today. A whole lot of inspiration. That day meant more to me than any of the gigs or anything else I did in those days.

In the fall of 1968, I was informed the Bill Bartlett 6/12 Mosrite Special was nearing completion and would I please send the first of two payments of $1500.00. I called Andy Moseley (who handled the business affairs) and apologized profusely. The band's fortunes were going in the toilet and there was no way I could pay. Mosrite may have sensed the because two week later a brand new stripped down hollow bodied 6/12 was delivered to the Buddha Records office in NYC. I was very pleased the thankful. (the band had an endorsement deal with Mosrite, so they were supplying us with various models. The doubleneck is the one I rebuilt in the photo I sent you.

A footnote to the above Semie story: upon leaving the factory, Semie gave me the spare bodies for the solid body Joe Maphis 6/12 I was using. He wondered what I needed them for. Two nights later and the Whisky-a-Go-Go in LA he found out. I had this stage schtick where at the end of this particularly wild psychedelic song (“Thru with You”), I would take a hatchet painted day-glow orange and chop the shit out of the side of the guitar (kids would eat it up!) When the electronics became exposed, I would switch the necks and parts to a new body.

Semie was in the dressing room that night and about fainted! I think he understood the stage antic aspect of that eventually. I told him I bore no disrespect to his guitars.

Fast forward to 1973 I met a craftsman named Cliff Biltz in Oxford , Ohio who refurbished banjos and built rifle stocks. He had a small workshop and invited me to make use of whatever I needed as I was determined to make the Mosrite over into what would resemble Joe's original 1954 Mosrite. Also I wanted to rebuild my 1954 Gibson Les Paul which had become worn out.

I started with the Les Paul. Using hand-held power tool, I chipped the crappy wood (hidden under the god paint) of the top; with a chisel and fashioned a birdseye plank for the new top. The P-90's went to the octave neck and neck position of the Mosrite I was working on simultaneously. I

Now to the Mosrite. I made new pickup covers (no way to find Carvins even then). I replaced the neck position markers with abalone. Rebuilt the headstock to look remotely like Joe's inline 6. I wanted something close to Joe's 1954 and Larry's until his was changed to 3x3 tuners. I removed the finish, sanded out the German carve, colored the wood with Durkee's food coloring of all things! I rebuilt the 12 string neck into the 6 string neck copying as best I could creating the headstock contour of the originals. Cliff Biltz taught me how to cut inlay pockets with a Case jackknife. So all the diamond inlays on the necks were done that way, installing abalone shapes. I built the octave neck to match using materials supplied by Cliff. Using Cliff's fretboard cutting equipment, I guilt that sucker which was the toughest part, working out the fret spacing long hand with measurements down to 1/128”. It's not perfect but plays better than I thought it would. I made the pickguard; Dremel tooled the inlay pockets and installed the inlay abalone pieces.

Cliff was applying lacquer to some gunstocks one day in mid 1975, Invited me over and the final finish was applied to both guitars. Then the hardware was installed and BAM! Off to work.

In 1980, I put the Mosrite to work in its proper musical genre. I had a rockabilly band called Medicine Wheel. I channeled Joe and Rose Lee with Libby (the lead singer) with “Dim Light, Thick Smoke” With Libby again we did the Collins Kids anthem “Hop Skip and Jump” and with Karen (our fiddle player) we did the Joe Maphis and Margie Warren's “Katy Warren Breakdown”

The modified Les Paul was used to cut “Black Betty” in 1975 with my band “Starstruck”. This original track was edited in a major way to become the well known Ram Jam version. The guitar can be seen in the numerous You Tube videos.

The Telecaster style guitar I built in 1995. It has a body and neck by Warmoth. I made the pickguard and Charlie Christian pickup surround. The pickups are by Joe Barden – Danny Gatton Style. Danny is probably my favorite guitarist of all time. He was a big fan of Joe and Larry too.

I was called out of retirement last summer (2009) to do “Black Betty” at Cincinnati 's “Summer of Love III” A video of that showed up on YouTube titled “Black Betty by Bill Bartlett of Ram Jam” I was a bit rusty but had a load of fun! The above mention Tele is in that video.

For the past ten years or so I have been semi-retired, studying and playing boogie woogie piano (ala Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis) another musical passion of mine. Not playing guitar out much as the fingers don't seem to want to do what the brain dictates . . . the boogie flows today, though.

THEN – 2 weeks ago (the last week of May, 2010) I saw a Shade/Hallmark Deke Dickerson model for sale on eBay and said “I'm having that!” I got it and now I'm whacking out rockabilly and Maphis licks and having a ball. All in the space of about 2 weeks I discover Deke's website and then the TNM site. . . The Players! Brian Lonbeck, TK Smith and the absolutely brilliant Bryan Browne!

AND THEN THE CAPPER! The photo in your News page of the Bill Bartlett 6/12!!! A guitar that never was! That was the first time I ever saw it. I was completely blown away. Now if that guitar ever turns up . .

The events of the previous 2 weeks have been Spooky. It's amazing what one can discover on the internet these days.

Best regards to you all,

Bill Bartlett

Liberty , Indiana

 

NEWS EXTRA

This used to be a 6/12?
Bill remodeled this guitar from a custom 6/12 that was sent to him as a consolation to the Mosrite Special he ordered in 1968. This is not the 6/12 in the story to the left. Bill never forgot how much he admired the doubleneck's Joe Maphis and Larry Collins and decided to try his hand at a remodel to capture the look of those early guitars. Sorry, no photos of the guitar prior to the remodel. Read the full story on the left.
 

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