The S-60 is the entry-level into the Guild electric guitars of the era and if you’ve read my other reviews you’ll know that I have a thing for high-end Guilds, but as you’ll read I have a soft spot for these guitars as well. Let’s take a look and see if this 1977 Guild S-60 holds up to my fond memories.
The S-60 was the entry level model of these guitars and if you look at the one in this review you’ll see that it has a number of differences from the S-300 including the most obvious fact that the S-60 has only one pickup.
One-pickup guitars are sort of an anomaly in the world of rock music because most of them were designed to be entry-level or beginner guitars, much like the S-60 itself. Consider the Gibson Les Paul Junior. With its non-bound fretboard, single P90 pickup and utterly simple operation, it was basically a Les Paul stripped down to its bare necessities. The reason I call them anomolies is because the low-cost beginner level guitars make some of the most iconic hard-rock sounds in the history of the genre. They are absolute tone monsters in a simple inexpensive package and have been favored by some of the most popular rock bands in history. So it is with the S-60, you know, except for the part about being favored by famous people.
Some of the parts are the same, though. The Guild HB-1 pickup is the same model used in the S-300, as is the bridge and tailpiece. The build quality of the guitar (covered later) is also at the same level as the pricier S-300. It plays damn-near as well, too! It doesn’t have things like fancy phase switches or high-end headstock laminates, but you know what? Headstock laminates don’t make guitars sound better.
Just as I have a soft spot for Guild S-300s, I have thing for these lower-prices S-60s, too, because my first nice guitar was a sunburst S-60 that I bought from a friend back around 1979. That guitar is the reason I love Guilds. It is also the reason that I lusted for years after the beautiful Guild S300A-D hanging in Mikes’ Music that I finally bought and kept as my only instrument for over 20 years. The Guild S-60, though, was my first.
That first S-60 came in a terrible chipboard case that more or less protected the guitar from something, I guess. Man, how I hated that case, but it did the job for years until I gave the guitar to my cousin. The chipboard case was another means of keeping the price of the guitar down, and it worked because it was probably worth about twelve dollars, though to be fair, those were twelve 1977 dollars and not the recession-riddled psuedobucks of today.
That original Guild S-60 served me well, and it was my main guitar through much of high school and was the guitar on which I learned the seminal rock song of the time: Locomotive Breath by Jethro Tull. One of my favorite memories (aside from the great overdriven tape deck distortion via coily cord one illustrated here) comes from my days in the high school stage band. Allow me to digress.
There were two jazz bands in high school. The first, called the Jazz Band, was for the kids who could do things like read music. The kids who couldn’t make the Jazz Band but who sill wanted to play ended up in the Stage Band, and of course that’s where I ended up. It was the Jazz Band for losers, and I was their lead guitar king.
Yes, my mother was a saint.
At any rate, one day for Stage Band practice I pulled one of those columns out of the back seat of my 1969 Ford Torino and proceeded to haul it into the band room, hook it up to the head, and plug in the Big Muff Pi. I then sat down, and when the conductor gave the queue I blew away not only the solo to Caroline And Her Magic Cello Enter The World Of Jazz Rock, but also all of the sheet music from all of the music stands in the room. Hey, it’s not like any of us could read those charts, anyway. I’m sure I’m a legend to this day, though I still doubt the veracity of the comment given me by a Jazz Band judge some time later that year who told me that, “You have a good feel for the Rock idiom.”, which I always assumed meant, “please stop playing jazz.”
What can I say? This is simply not a jazz guitar. That’s why I was stuck in the stage band; I blamed the guitar instead of practicing more. Hey, why practice when you can just buy more speakers? Did I mention how loud it was?
I found this guitar on eBay with some less than stellar pictures and a description that included the following: “The color is a stained red, wood grain can be seen through the stain.” Um… what? Did someone strip this guitar and then stain it red? I’ve seen some wacky things in my day, but this guitar looked like it might be original, and since the S-60 originally came in cherry, black, walnut, natural, or white, I took a chance that this was the original cherry finish. Score! The guitar was much better than expected. Let that be a lesson to all you eBayers out there: Take good pictures and describe the guitar well! This guitar would have likely sold for hundreds more with better pics and an accurate description.
This guitar does have a bit of what looks like finish cracks at the nut which runs for a fret or two and follows the fretboard. I didn’t even notice this while playing it, and they only became obvious after very close examination. Examination with a UV light shows no signs of repair, though it does show a bit of wear that’s not obvious in regular light. This is a forty year old entry-level guitar after all, so it can be forgiven the odd wrinkle.
Fretboard and Neck
The neck’s width at the nut is 1 21/32 which is halfway between 1 5/8″ and 1 11/16″. The neck is actually *just* a bit wider on this guitar that it is on my S300 but it’s not something anyone would notice unless they’re as nutty about neck widths as me. The neck is one-piece maple 24 3/4″ scale and came to me as straight as could be. It is also a 24-fret neck just like all the S-series from this era, so there are lots of notes to be had way up high if you dare.
After my fingers hurt I turned up the light again and measured once more with my magnifier and I have to say that this guitar has a 7.25″ fretboard. This is the first Guild electric I’ve measured with such a curved board, and since the prevailing Internet wisdom is that a rounder board will fret out when bending strings, I had a hard time believing it. That’s when I remembered that a well set-up guitar will not fret out, and this guitar is set up remarkably well.
The guitar is amazingly resonant, the neck joint is beautiful (just like my S300), and the fretwork is very nice with no rough spots or snags anywhere to be found.
One of the things I dislike about the Strats I’ve played is that the pickguard feels hollow to me and that makes the guitar feel cheep. I have an American Deluxe Strat from 2008 that feels like this and for the $1200 I paid for it back then, it’s really a very disappointing experience every time I play it. With the large pickguard on the Guild S-60, I was a bit worried that I would have the same experience, but there is nothing like that going on with this guitar. That could be due to the roughly 384 (16) screws holding that pickguard onto the guitar or it could be the fact that there is no additional routes under the guard. Either way, I love the way it feels.
Why anyone would replace the chimey articulate Guild HB-1 with the most generic of “I wish I was a real PAF” Gibson wannabe pickups is beyond me, but the original pickups is back where it belongs. Thank you to whoever decided to keep the original in the case. People like me really appreciate stuff like that.
The HB-1 in this guitar measures 6.76k Ω which is nicely in the low-wind range but a bit lower than I’m used to seeing in a bridge HB-1. Since there is only one pickup, the guitar nerd part of my brain is doing all sorts of machinations insisting that the guitar should sound better because there’s no neck pickup pulling on the strings. Is it true? I don’t know, and I don’t care. All I know is that this guitar rocks. Notice how I didn’t say that this guitar jazzes? That’s the lack of practice talking. Hang on while I make it louder…
Since everything is mounted to the pick guard it’s very easy to examine the components, which of course I did with gusto. The tone pot is marked 004029 3047441 and measures 179k Ω making it a 200k Ω pot (pots are generally sourced with +/- 20% accuracy.
The volume pot is marked 004020 3047149 and measures 458k Ω making it a 500k Ω pot. The capacitor is a green polyester film cap marked as 100v and .047pF. Again, note the conspicuous lack of giant snake oil super-caps in Guild electric guitars.
There is no shielding in the cavity of this guitar which is another difference from the high-end S300 which had its control cavity completely shielded in copper. My guess is that this to reduce costs for an entry-level instrument, though maybe the beginner would complain about buzzing and want to step up to a nice 300! I’ve seen marketing do stranger things, but in this case I’ll follow Occam’s lead and believe the simpler answer.
The strap pegs are typical of this era Guilds and the end strap peg is like the one on my S300 and M75 in that it is press-fitted into the guitar. This one appears to be quite snug, but in the low humidity winters of NJ it wouldn’t surprise me to have it pop out like all the others I’ve owned.
That actually brings up a point I’ve made before, which is the fact that during the ’70s damn-near everything in the US was declining in quality, but even this, the lowest end of the Guild electric line circa 1977, exudes quality in almost every way. Yes, the tuners are a weak spot, but the guitar is still great. In fact, the rest of the guitar is so well made that it makes the tuners seem worse than they probably are.
Later examples did include the iconic G-shield knobs, but the early S-60s had these sort of Fenderish knobs while the early S-300s actually came with odd-looking knobs as well. I think it was around 1979 that they both changed to the G-shield knobs, but don’t quote me on that as I have absolutely zero proof other than the fact that I owned a ’79 S300A-D that had the newer knobs.
As I recorded the sound samples I noticed a lack of oomph while trying to push a high-gain amp which may be why the previous owner swapped out the pickup for something more substantial (The Classic ’57 I removed measured at 8.5k Ω). I like my bridge HB-1s to be very close to the strings and this helped a great deal, but this guitar doesn’t quite have… something… that my S300 has. I felt like I had to work a little harder to get this guitar to sing whereas my S-300 makes that absolutely effortless.
A very observant member (Zelja) of the Let’s Talk Guild forum noticed that the bridge pickup seemed to be closer to the bridge on the S-300 than it is on the S-60, so I pulled them both out and measured. I found that the S-60’s pickup is indeed 1/3″ farther from the bridge than it is on the S-300 which could have a fair bit to do with the difference in tone and feel between the two guitars.
Open Chords #1
Open Chords #2
A Barre Chords
Since this guitar has no switches, I did something a little bit different. For this guitar I recorded each selection with the tone set to 10, then 7, then 0. I chose 7 as the middle because the majority of the tone change happens between 5-10 so 7 is the real middle of the sweep. This test reminded me why I rarely use the tone knobs on my guitars. I love the tone on ten, I’m more or less ambivalent about the tone on seven, and I flat out dislike the tone on zero.
I’ll be honest and say that while I like the tone, I’m not wowed by it though an overdriven amp, but I do like it a lot when played through a clean amp. The chimey nature of the HB-1 really shines through on the Tiny Tweed and the same is true when I play it through my clone home-built tweed Champ. When I try and push an amp, though, the guitar seems to fight me a bit and the effortless sustain I’m used to from my S300 seems to be lacking. That could be due to the lower mass in this guitar or maybe because the pickup has lower output. I’m not really sure, but I think this particular guitar may be more suited to clean or edge-of-breakup tones instead of the higher-gain stuff.
Remember, this is the lowest resistance I’ve ever measured on an HB-1, so that could have a lot to do with it. This is also the lightest of the similar type Guilds I’ve played, so that could also have an impact. Hell, the two factors together could be the reason for the lack of power.
Remember, too, that I’m being super critical as a guy who’s owned scores of Guilds and has meticulously analyzed all of them. This is not a boutique instrument. Like I wrote above: this is not a guitar for measuring. It’s a guitar for playing, and it does that well because it’s still a tremendously well-made instrument.
This guitar is a pound lighter than my S300, so it’s more comfortable to play for long periods. The shape, while odd looking to some, is actually really well designed for standing or sitting and with it’s long neck and thin body is just a joy to play. With it’s very curved fretboard there is no fatigue while playing and with its excellent setup there is no fretting out.
With its single pickup there’s plenty of room for me to abuse the strings without hitting anything I shouldn’t, and with a lack of controls to get in the way, I can wail on this thing like nobody’s business, which I do. A lot.
I like this guitar, and though it’s not the equal of the high-end S300, it wasn’t meant to be. To be honest, there is a fair bit of nostalgia in these models for me, but the fact remains that they are still great guitars. They are also very simple guitars and that can have a charm of its own. There’s no high-end bling to distract you from the fact that you should probably practice more.
My only real complaint is the tuners. I really don’t like them and I remember not liking them as a teen who barely knew any better. I even like the simple headstock with its lack of veneer or sexy inlays because it matches the color of the body. The guitar is simple, honest, and delivers, though depending on your musical style you might want a pickup with more output. For me, the jangly character of the HB-1 is everything I need in a guitar and while I won’t be using this one for my George Lynch impressions (he was the guitarist for the hair-band Dokken for those not obsessed with the genre), it definitely has its place where less power and more character is the order of the day.
The only problem I see in buying one of these is that too many people want too much money for them. In 2017 I bought a mint Guild S-300 for $1000. If an S-300 is $1000, then an S-60 shouldn’t be $1200 – I don’t care how good it looks or what condition it’s in.
One More Time!
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17 thoughts on “1977 Guild S-60”
Ibreally appreciated your articles on the Guild S300 and Guild S60 as well…
I bought a Guild S60d at a pawn shop in my early 20’s for $300.00 in tiny payments and played it through a Randall Alpha II which had “Crimson & Clover” (vibrato feature). The amp waa also a whoppung $300.00 from, I believe, Prudential loan on 6th Street in SF…
Thirty Several years later I have that once pristine and now well worn and chipped S60Dimarzio (2 single coils) and Three (3) Black S300s – (2 are D’s) and a S300AD that somebody just has to paint blue… And I’m looking at an S60d same as my first guitar (but not thrashed) as I have the same nostalgic feelings about S60D’s with dual single coill Super DistortionvDimarzios that you have about yours with the sungle HB1…
The new acquisistions are running about three to four times what I paid for my Pawn Shop special. I bought it because it looked different maybe even sort of “Punk” it was early 80s and that was the thing. I learned toplay on a Guild – switched to Gibson Les Pauls – and now I have Guilds by choice – on purpose… Marshalls too. Again I truly loved your articles with all my heart and soul. We love the same Axes. Thats so absolutely cool. Have fun. Doug
Hey Gary, Great post about the Guild S60! I’ve got a white 1978 Guild S60 that I bought used in 1980 for $125. Hands down, it’s the best electric guitar I’ve ever played–great playablility and awesome sound, even with just the single humbucker–or perhaps I should say because it’s just got the single humbucker. I’ve owned Strats, Les Pauls, etc., but this “entry level” Guild is my favorite in every way.
There’s a photo of my S60 on my SoundCloud page, and the S60 is featured on pretty much all the songs (particularly featured on “About You.”) I just can’t get this sound from any other guitar!
I’ve also got a 1980 S60D–two single coil pickups–and a 1966 Guild Starfire XII, which, in my opinion, is the best electric twelve string ever made. This is the secret known only by the select few: Guild electrics are the best!!
p.s., I’m also originally from New Jersey
I bought one around 1980, put a Seymour Duncan JB in it and it was a smokin’ hot guitar. I got it for $200.00. The original pickup had feedback issues, which is why I replaced it.
I joined a classic rock cover band back in ’95 after a 15 year hiatus from performing. I had sold my ’76 SG and Marshall 100 watt combo years before and kept my 12 string acoustic for personal entertainment. After my first gig with the band, the guys gave me an old ’78 S60 in lieu of my cut of the gig pay (which was around $45 or so). I’ll call that the best deal of my life, because after a little work, it has turned out to be my favorite. I now also have a Strat and a Les Paul. I’ve bought and sold quite a few guitars since then, and do all my own maintenance, and I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of this S60. It plays so well. Someone did add a Kahler tremolo so the body is routed out for it, which pretty much ruins any chance of restoring to original condition. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t available that way. They did a decent job though. It’s white’ which has aged to almost a TV Yellow. The original tuners don’t agree very well with tremolo, but since I only use tremolo gently, haven’t yet opted for better tuners. Really a nice guitar. You mentioned yours had a maple neck? Mine is most definitely a mahogany neck and according to the s/n is a ’78 model year.
Saw James McMurtry playing one last night through a 63 Vibroverb in Bloomington Ind.
Oh Gary, our Guild affair continues…..
Bought a white one new in 1978 I believe. It’s on its third pickguard, fourth pickup, and I stripped the paint off in the 80’s so it’s natural mahogany. I still have the original pickup, it’s in a 1980 Fender Bronco that I got for my 18th birthday – all my friends chipped in and got it for me.
My X60 still plays like a dream. I don’t know if I’ve ever touched the truss rod. So many gigs, so many lessons, so many songs learned on it. My oldest remaining companion!
Great writeup on a classic Guild, enjoyed reading that! I have a ’77 S-60 in cherry finish identical to the one you have. I bought mine off of a failed guitarist buddy in college back in the late 80s. It was basically mint, case-kept since he got it as a kid. He charged me $20 for it. I felt guilty, so he also let me buy him a calzone and split a pitcher of beer for his trouble. Best money I’ve ever spent. Still love that guitar and I play it to this day. In fact, I just uploaded a video to my youtube channel where I used it in a Misfits cover song I did with my son. Take a look if you care to check it out:
Very cool and thanks for sharing! $20, calzone and half a pitcher of beer is a damn good price!
Haha, I know right? I still joke my buddy about that especially considering the current $1200 price tag at Norm’s.
Actually, here is the live recording where the Guild is iso’d before we layered in additional tracks.
My first electric guitar was a Guild S-60D, the model with two single coil pickups. Purchased from Sam Goody’s in Philadelphia in ’78. Like a dolt, I sold it to a friend back in ’93 or so. He really wanted it, I wasn’t playing guitar, my first-ex-wife encouraged the sale, etc. Long story short, it’s on its way back! Basically for the cost of shipping plus new case to ship it in.
It’s not pristine — my pal installed a Bigsby and pulled all the electronics (he ran it with a single Hot Rail in the bridge position). I know that the original tailpiece is coming back, and I know where one of the original pickups is, but I’ll likely have to replace the knobs, switch, & pots. Still, it’s a swell Christmas present.
Love it – congrats.
I managed to acquire a short scale Guild S-60 3/4
I’ve never seen one before, never even knew they existed until a family friend asked if i wanted “an old beat up guitar” that had been sitting in her living room for nearly 30 years.
It needed a whole lotta love to restore (which I’m putting into a YouTube vid someday when I’m not lazy) but everything you said in this article about its big brother rings true for the 3/4 sized one. Yes those tuners are garbage!
Have you ever encountered the 3/4 model?
Not only have I encountered one – I have one! And not only do I have one, but it’s one of the next reviews I’ll be publishing! Stay tuned. 🙂
I bought an S-300D a few years ago in part to match my B-301 bass. I know this isn’t a bass blog but I had a B-301 in high school (purchased in ’78), foolishly sold it in college and finally got another 37 years later (don’t do the math). Truly one of the best basses out there. I became obsessed with all things late 70’s Guild solid body. I loved the S300D but honestly the DiMarzios were just too hot for my tastes. I really wanted the real Guild humbuckers. I sold the S300D…hated myself … had the opportunity to buy it back…didn’t…hated myself anew…. but just got a ’77 S-60 (arrived today). Hell yeah! This is the sound I remembered and wanted. As noted, the tuners kinda suck but basically work and the rosewood fretboard, while nice, isn’t as nice as the ebony on the S-300D but otherwise it is every bit as well put together. I love the simplicity of a single pickup. I’m selling my ’95 S-100 on Reverb as well. Another super nice guitar but the cream of real deal Guild humbuckers can’t be beat. I’d love an S-300 (non D) but these are few and far between. Plus, since I have a B-301, the matching single pickup and pickguard shape of the S-60 is making me smile unreasonably. Thanks GAD for all the helpful knowledge over the past few years. I hope you and the Newfies are well.
Thanks for the great comment! I have a small collection of Guild basses including a B-301, so don’t be surprised if you see a review of one someday (hopefully but probably not) soon!
This made me laugh. This guy on craigslist pretty much sums it up for the S-60D. The best guitar ad copy so far this year. Enjoy.
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