Mosrite and the Ramones.


A marriage made in heaven. Pt 1.
by Tim from Tym Guitars

Mosrite of California is a brand I hold very dear to my heart. Unlike a lot of players my age and older, I got into Mosrite through the Ramones, not the Ventures who had the most famous signature model Mosrite made. When I started playing guitar, I wanted whatever it was that Johnny was playing. I didn’t know just how rare that guitar was.

By mid 1965 Mosrite was expanding at an extraordinary rate thanks to the deal signed with the Ventures in ’63 essentially allowing the band to be the exclusive distributor for Mosrite guitars. Semie had set up the factory in Bakersfield in mid ’63 with the money from the Ventures deal and had started production of the Ventures model guitars and basses. Guitar sales were exploding thanks to bands like the Ventures and of course a bunch of young boys from Liverpool who played on the Ed sulivan show and started a revolution quite literally the next day.

The original Ventures model was a progression of the Joe Maphis model in the now famous “reverse” shape body with German carve with a set neck and bound body which first appeared around early/mid ‘62. It’s a very popular misconception that most or all bound body, set neck Ventures are ‘63’s. In fact, less than 20 of these guitars left the factory that year with the bulk of around 200 being made in early to mid ’64. The Ventures model was selling well and production was streamlined by using faster manufacturing techniques like bolt on necks and no body binding. Hardware was also updated to die cast vibratos and knobs.


It was in early ’65 that Mosrite first considered a “student” model guitar like the Les Paul Jr or Fender Mustang. Ventures models were expensive and their price was prohibitive to younger players. Andy Moseley, Semie’s brother suggested and designed a “slab body” student model with no binding, simple pick ups and hardware like a folded steel vibrato only seen on this model and no German carve. This guitar was named the Ventures model II.



This model seems to have been introduced in around June ’65 and Semie was almost instantly disappointed with the model as a Mosrite. It had none of the hallmarks of a prestige brand like Mosrite and Semie pulled the pin on production. The number of these guitars made vary from 25 to 250 throughout Mosrite experts. In my opinion there are most likely approx 60 to 65 of these made before it was replaced by a German carve version with improved pick ups and standard Ventures hardware like the fantastic Moseley vibrato.


I have a couple of reasons why I have come to this conclusion. First, I have a Mosrite serial number listing of over 2000 Mosrites and I know of 12 of these slab body guitars, in the world. Second, my serial number listing shows most of these slab body serial numbers falling in the first 40 with German carve models from mid to late 40’s onwards. There are patches of slab body Mk II serial numbers inter dispersed above this with 2 (so far) having serial numbers between 125 to 150. Personally I think one or two batches were made before the German carve model was introduced with a batch being made, probably to use up leftover parts, slightly later around serial numbers 125 to 150. I also believe most of the original batch was sent to Texas to be sold in local guitar shops. A few, including the 2 I own were from Texas and had been bought new in small shops in the area. I think Semie sent these guitars away from strong Mosrite markets to “dump” them so as not to ruin the Mosrite name. One of the serial numbers around 125 was purchased new in the san Fernando valley in late ’65 so this last batch may have been sold to more local shops in with the new German carve model?

So, with approx 60 of these guitars out there, John Cummings, a New York construction worker walks into Manny’s guitar shop with his friend Douglas Colvin in late 1973 to buy a US made guitar that no-body else was using and walks out with a blue slab body Mosrite model II for $50. Johnny and Dee Dee, as they were to become were going to start a band, record an album, and go back to construction work and mail delivery. Of course, that didn’t happen.


The Ramones went on to be one of the most influential bands to ever walk this earth and Johnny’s use of a Mosrite Mk II became stuff of legend. What’s even more incredible is that when Johnny’s blue Mk II was stolen in 1977 he went out and bought ANOTHER Mosrite Ventures model II in white !!!!! The rarest production model of a rare brand and he finds 2 of them.


After owning 2 of these slab body Mk II’s, and making exact clones of them I realized that the Ramones would not have sounded the same without this guitar. You plug one of these into an old Marshall, try (and I mean try) and strum with fierce downstrokes at a frightening rate and you hear those early Ramones albums and live bootlegs. This guitar IS the Ramones sound. That together with just how insanely easy they are to play makes me believe that Johnny never would have developed his speed downstroke style with a guitar he had to wrestle with.

Tym Wosrite Mark II

These guitars really are “toys” compared to most other Mosrites so I can see why they weren’t Semies favourite model. They are very light, have very thin necks (even for a Mosrite) and have no binding of carves anywhere. The pick-ups are so simple it’s ridiculous, but they sound great.

Semie eventually honoured Johnny’s undying love of his Mosrites by making an official “the Ramone’s model” in the early 90’s and this will be the next part of this story. Stay tuned.