This is a very rare original example of a unique variation of the famous British made Burns Black Bison electric guitar from 1964.
James Ormston Burns’ solo foray into the electric-guitar market began at the start of 1960. He had briefly partnered with builders Henry Weil and Alan Wooten, but from this point on, the instruments would bear only his name.
By the middle of 1961, the line had proved commercially viable and Jim Burns, no stranger to gambling, must have felt ready to up the ante. The Burns models in production at the time were good instruments with many innovative, if quirky, design features, but not really in league with the Fender and Gibson guitars being imported to the UK.
The next Burns guitar would be a major creative departure, intended to be the equal of these American imports. The Burns Bison would rank as one of the most visually striking electrics of the ’60s, and it would have a wealth of original concepts.
The anecdotal story is that Jim’s old cohort, Ike Isaacs, when seeing the swooping cutaway curves of the prototype, remarked “looks like a bloody bison.” Burns must have been taken by the idea … the finished guitar carried not only the name Black Bison, but a tiny cartoon bison head on the vibrato handle and cover plate.
When the first Black Bison appeared in 1961 there was nothing even close to it, both in looks and electronics. The offset horns themselves were quite unique - if you lay the guitar on a flat surface, the horns are actually pointing upwards, like a bison’s horns.
When the model was first introduced in 1961, it featured 4 pickups, was finished in all black, and only around 50 guitars were ever made. Jim Burns simplified the design to a 3-pickup guitar which was produced from early ’63 to ’64. It featured low impedance pickups which were paired to 3 individual transformers that modified the signal in order to meet the wiring design.
Early Burns Bisons are exceptional examples of high quality guitar building, with features such as the bound ebony fretboard and an impressive tremolo unit, which in itself is quite a feat of engineering. So simple and yet effective, incredibly responsive … it will truly surprise any player who’s never encountered one before.
This guitar is a Burns Black Bison in the unique colour of Transparent Red - Serial Number 52xx, dating it to early 1964.
It is an outstanding all-original 3-pickup 'Black Bison', one of the last and most refined examples of this iconic guitar, made just before the Bison re-design in September 1964. Our research shows that this very special Black Bison is one of perhaps only six custom-ordered in Transparent Red.
One of these Transparent Red Bison guitars was showcased in a double-page spread in Tony Bacon's The Ultimate Guitar Book (1991). And it has even appeared as a Hard Rock Cafe metal pin. See pics
in 2013 MUSICGROUND offered one of these guitars for sale with the following description -
"This guitar is one of the most published/famous Burns instruments and has been featured in many of the world’s leading guitar publications, including THE ULTIMATE GUITAR BOOK. The instrument itself is one of the most desirable Burns models and based on colour rarity, will be in high demand from many collectors who require one of the world’s rarest, most desired vintage instruments.
Rarity: One of a limited number (only 2-3 examples are known) to have been produced in Transparent Red.
Price guide £8,995 GBP ($12,000 USD)"
This guitar was bought in Sydney by a collector who has had it in his possession for over 30 years. It has not been changed, altered or modified in any way.
It is in excellent vintage condition, showing some natural striations in the finish but no dings, dents or blemishes of any note. The neck is straight, truss rod works fine, electronics function perfectly. Some fret wear showing in the lower neck area but playing fine. Original tuners are in place and hold tuning well.
The neck is comfortable and easy to play in all positions, with a medium low action and good intonation.
The fabulous tremolo system works wonderfully well, and if treated with respect will add some elusive shimmer to that unique vintage Burns tone.
The early 60s Burns Bison guitars are becoming some of the most collectable guitars on the market today and increase in value & stature every year, and especially the very rare Transparent Reds. It is an unmistakable, slightly unconventional guitar, and a testament to the vision of its brilliantly eccentric designer.
Comes in what looks to be an original Australian made Stamford hard case in very good condition.