Sonora Gypsy Guitars - a visual model guide.



  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 958

    The Falcone

    I have nothing to add here except I note again one photo has what I would call Italian bridge and tailpiece, the other more likely using French parts. Interesting too that they came with the 12 fret neck, so whoever was marketing the Sonora range knew there was a demand for the different types. Hard to tell from photos but I would guess these had a shorter scale length, maybe 640mm aimed at the rhythm players?

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    edited January 25 Posts: 958

    And re the 'Larmes' model; this was almost certainly made by Joseph Di Mauro. I have seen others the same branded with his mark. Although I have seen that tailpiece used on Busatos too, I have seen it more often on Di Mauros from both Antoine and Joseph.

    Here is another similar

    but that tailpiece is often seen on Antoine Di Mauro's guitars, especially the Boogie Woogie model

    Back with more tomorrow..........

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 958

    A couple more of the 'Larmes' style.

    Obviously the 'moustache' ends have been added later but otherwise looking like another Joseph Di Mauro.

    And another with that same curious tailpiece.

    Some comments on the others:

    La Ronde - Yes it does rather have the look of Busato in both the decoration on the pickguards and the style of the flat brass tailpieces but Busato was employing many different craftsmen by the mid-fifties and I think I read somewhere on here the name of whoever specialised in engraving the pickguards? Similarly, I remember reading a suggestion that style of tailpiece, rather crudely shaped piece of flat brass, was the best they could do during the war years when materials were hard to come by. Also the one at the top of the group, and the one bottom left, both have the wider rosewood spline in the three-piece neck which I have found common to the Sicilians, Di Mauro etc in Paris, and Carmelo Catania and the Leone Musikalia guitars for example. Also the bridges of both the bottom two have the typical Italian decoration.

    As does the one on the left of the two with the 'Lyre' type decoration.

    Note the one at the top also has a 9th fret dot marker instead of the 10th (as does one of the 'Larmes' further up) which would be unusual for any Italian/Sicilian maker but it may have been offered as an option, or more likely was changed later by a player who - like many - do not like the distraction of the 10th.

    Here are three more similar I had filed.

    Again a mix of wartime Busato like tailpiece and Italian bridge.

    And I find the profile of these very close to many by A. Di Mauro, the slope of the upper bout and the outline of the cutaway particularly.

    Another rather tired one with the same pickguard.

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 958

    And two more with the Lyre decorated pickguard.

    Back tomorrow with more.

  • AndyWAndyW Glasgow Scotland UK✭✭✭ Clarinets & Saxes- Selmer, Conn, Buescher, Leblanc // Guitars: Gerome, Caponnetto, Napoli, Musicalia, Bucolo et. al.
    edited January 27 Posts: 546

    A quick run through my thoughts on these Sonora models.


    Chris - I’d love to know the scale length on the ‘clef’ model you previously owned, if you have it. 

    And was it 13 or 13.5 frets to the body?


    The one that looks the most “Sicilian” to me (hence my nickname for it), stylistically speaking. Your mileage may vary.

    If you said “Silvestri”, “Carmelo” or “Olivieri”, I’d shrug my shoulders noncommittally, like they do in Catania.


    Great to see your posited Di Mauro connection, Chris. I’ve added the scale length at 645mm, which I found in a sale listing somewhere. Don’t know if that is the same scale length as other contemporary Di Mauro models.

    “La Ronde”

    Thanks for the additional pictures - that looks like a ‘Sonora’ marque au fer on one of the “lyre pick guard” guitars, too, which helps strengthen the connection.

    Again, there are some construction elements which make me think “Sicily” - the tuners, 3 piece necks, the wide-grain yellow-pine tops, that Lyre inlay… but the flat tailpiece and black engraved inlay seem very Parisian

    (I nearly bought one of these from Palm guitars for €250, needing work. Wish I had, now. It later turned up for sale, with a new painted tailpiece, asking 10 times the price:- )

    Glad you agree the other brass tailpiece style is Busato-related, I’ll just add that the ornate pickguards are inset flush into the tops, so it seems unlikely they were added to already-completed guitars and perhaps they point to some involvement of a Busato related luthier or workshop during the instruments’ construction/finishing.

    Some sale listings describe this as the round-hole Sonora model use by Hono W in concert, but I don’t think our “La Ronde” is the same model of guitar as the “Hono” at all.


    I know little of Busato history & model range, but the “Hono”, more particularly the one I’ve christened “Hono petite bouche”, does seem to me to bear the closest visual resemblance of all the “Sonoras” to some Busato guitar models I’ve seen. So if anyone wants to make a Sonora-Busato connection, I’ll just post these two, side by side:


  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 958

    The 'Clef' I had a few years ago and I can not remember the specifics of the scale length but it had the neck joint at the 13 -and-a-half fret point, see photo.

    I have seen many of these usually with the joint anywhere between the 13th and the 14th. This leads me to think there was either never any need for real accuracy with these 'assembled' guitars and another clue that necks came from different sources? Now this brings up another question; I am sure a top quality luthier would have his own theory on how exactly the bridge needs to be placed in relation to any braces under the top, but if you fit the same body with a neck of slightly different scale length and then set the bridge position accordingly would a difference of a couple of millimetres matter?

    'Falcone' - agreed I guess Sicilian more than French but it is only a guess, I have nothing else to compare it with. The shape and angle of the cutaway, the shape of the soundhole and the pickguard design are usually all clues, but so far I have found nothing.

    'Larmes' - Yes, I have seen enough others of this exact this type with the J DI MAURO marque au fer that I can attribute this one to him. They always seem to be 12 fret guitars too.

    Taken from a French auction site and this is the headstock of that same guitar.

    The 'La Ronde' and 'Lyre' models as with any others I have posted here are all supposedly Sonoras whether the marque au fer is visible or not. I have collected and filed photos for years and all those in the folder named Sonora were named as such wherever they were found whether branded or not, so while it is possible I filed some that someone had erroneously identified I expect in most cases they are what they say they are.

    'Hono' - Agreed it is not the same as 'La Ronde' but I also question any connection between the two you posted here, the one on the left clearly has a Busato style headstock, and the one on the right has the Sonora mark, but the body shapes look different to me too. Maybe a trick of the light but the curve of the upper bout, the angle of the cutaway and the roundness of the point of the cutaway all suggest the bodies came from different moulds.

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    edited January 28 Posts: 958

    Ok, here is another possible idea to conjour with.

    According to some on various French guitar forums Sonora was just another brand distributed by Paul Beuscher, either through their French shops, or possibly further afield into Italy. We do know that the Beuscher chain was one of the biggest in France and from my earlier research into my SML resonator which was assembled from parts from Selmer and David Enesa to be sold through shops in the French colonies in Africa (previously explained in another thread on here) we know that Beuscher was indeed far reaching.

    That would explain the fact that there seem to be many Sonora guitars out there and yet we have found no other reference to any shops or distributors. I am still digging...........

    I also found many of the usual confusion of guesses involving any combination of Busato, Carmelo Catania, Di Mauro (both A & J) and the rest. One other guess, although the clef type is often called a Busato, it has neither the Busato type pickguard and a Catania style headstock, BUT..... the body shape is very close to the common Castelluccia Grande Bouche, many of which were also sold with the Beuscher label.

    Sorry, I didn't want to add to the confusion further but if we investigate the possibility of Sonora being a Beuscher brand we may find more links? And I still get distracted by looking for info about the Jose Sanchez guitars sold by Gaillard and Loiselet which we know so far came from Jacobacci and Musikalia at least, so if the practice was common maybe there was a lot more co-operation and mix and match going on. Also, as Pierre Fontaine was said to have made more guitars than anyone during the '50s and early '60s, for Busato, Beuscher and others yet it was only much later that he made a few with his own label can we include him in the list of suspects? Fontaine was said to always be paid with cash, and in turn paid his suppliers in cash so if this was all done 'off the books' there is not going to be much of a paper trail left for us to unravel.

    Meanwhile here is another Sonora found with a definite Busato look to the pickguard and tailpiece, I will let AndyW give this type a name too.

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