The Michael Kelly Guitar Company started in 1999 building mandolins and acoustic bass guitars. The company’s founders noticed a lack of affordable, quality options in these markets and seized the opportunity. Known as the Dragonfly series, both models quickly earned rave reviews. This early success encouraged the Michael Kelly team to explore an expansion into other areas, using the same concept of providing musicians with more for less.
As the early prototypes of the first Michael Kelly electric guitars were complete, the mission of the company became obvious. The Michael Kelly name would put boutique within reach of all guitar players. From incredible tone, to uniquely striking finishes, to cutting edge technology, Michael Kelly designs are meant to break all the traditional barriers to owning an amazing, high-quality instrument.
Michael Kelly 1950’s Series Guitars
Specific to the 1950s line of guitars is the T-Style body shape. While this shape is associated with twang and brightness, the MK 50’s models are designed to offer a bit more versatility. It’s easy to dive right in and play any of these models, what with the familiarity of the 3-way pickup selector, master volume/tone knobs, and the comfortable contoured arm cut. Nearly all 1950s models offer unique exotic finishes including Blue Jean Wash, Caramel Burst, Black Vapor, and more. Coil-tapping and various electronic modifications make the 50s Series even more impressive and solidify the “Boutique within Reach” moniker.
Lets learn about some of the most popular models in the 50s series.
Nothing is more timeless than two single coils. The 1953 model is built to sound just like classic T-style instruments you hear on old records. The recognizable sonic attack is driven by Rockfield TexPlus single-coil pickups in the neck and bridge. To make this guitar truly unique, it’s offered in a beautiful flame maple top, with your choice of a Caramel Burst or Blue Jean Wash finish. There’s also a 53OP Open Pore model, which features a Tobacco Burst finish over Sungkai body. Each 53 is pairs an Ebony fingerboard and a maple neck with a cozy modern “C” profile. As for the tone, these guitars come equipped with the Michael Kelly Quad Mod, so you can get the pickups to play in series –a rare feature not seen on your average T-Style guitar.
Perhaps you love the shape and feel of the 1953, but prefer humbuckers. That’s perfectly fine (promise we won’t judge). If that’s the case, you should consider getting the Michael Kelly 53DB! The DB models substitute Rockfield single-coil pickups for two Rockfield SWC humbucking pickups. However, thanks to the Great 8 Mod, just pull on a knob or two, and you can get single-coil tones on your 53DB. The 1953DB features a flame maple top and is available in brilliant Cherry Sunburst and the more mysterious Dark Tiger Eye.
The Michael Kelly 54OP avoids tradition in favor of a bolder look and tone. It has classic T-shape and vintage influence, but sports an open pore Faded Black finish on it’s Sungkai body. It’s designed to provide an overall natural aesthetic. The finely crafted neck is topped with a 10″ radius premium Ebony fretboard to compliment the finish. As for the electronics, this guitar features a powerful Rockfield SWC humbucker, which can be coil-split via the push/pull tone knob to deliver single-coil tone.
The 1955 takes everything you love about the 1953 and gives it a little extra flair. First, the 55 features quilt maple top rather than the 1953’s flame maple top. However, for that boutique touch, flame maple binding adorns the guitar’s Swamp Ash body. The compound radius fingerboard is perfect for solos! The 1955’s pickup configuration includes a Rockfield Mini Humbucker in the neck and Rockfield SWC Humbucker in the bridge. This gives you a range of different tones when using any neck pickup selections. The 1955 also rocks the Great 8 Mod allowing you to choose if the pickups behave as single coil or humbucker, and whether the pickups are in series or parallel.
Love the 1955 but hoping for something a little lighter to hold? It’s worth checking out the Enlightened 55. Electronically, it’s identical to the 1955 model but its construction methods and materials make all the difference. To lighten up the weight on the guitar, they replace the swamp ash body with red cedar. If you have a penchant for exotic looking guitars, the 1955 Custom Collection offers Striped Ebony Tops. These beautiful guitars are truly unique with each individual guitar displaying slight variations in the pattern of the wood grain and the shade of the finish. If you’re loyal to a specific brand of pickups, you can still experience the incredible feel and playability of the 1955 thanks to the The Mod Shop 55.
Mod Shop 55 Ebony Custom Fralin
The Mod Shop 55 Fralin model features a Fralin Mini Humbucker for a rounder sound out of the higher strings in the bridge, you get a Fralin Pure PAF pickup for that crunchy attack. The knobs are designed as “partial-tap” which means only 50% of the output is cut when the push/pull knob is activated to help maintain gain.
Mod Shop 55 Ebony Custom Duncan
The Mod Shop 55 Duncan model features a Seymourized Mini Humbucker for a lovely midrange with exceptional clarity for both overdrive and clean tones. The Seymour Duncan Stag Mag bridge pickup delivers high output that’s fat and smooth. Switch to single coil mode to get a lovely bright and bouncy tone.
The beautifully designed T-shape guitar boasts a luscious natural-looking top, cut from either Quilt Maple or Burl, on a Korina or Swamp Ash body. The 25.5″ roasted maple neck is cut into Modern “C” profile and complimented by a roasted maple fingerboard. The Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound pickups are wired with the Quad Mod, which gives you the traditional three-position tonal performance, while adding a valuable 4th pickup setting.
The Triple 50 takes the beloved classic two single-coil pickup configuration and adds a third single-coil. While still retaining the true sounds of the Michael Kelly 1950s line, the Super Six wiring mod offers players a wider variety of tones, with the mini-toggle switch which activates the middle pickup. The fusion of vintage and modern goes further than the electronics. The traditional bridge brings a classic look, while the compound radius fingerboard offers comfortable, modern playability. The thoroughly modern look of the Black Burl finish features an ebony fretboard while the classic Gloss Black finish is beautifully paired with an elegant maple fretboard.
Custom Collection 50 Fralin
With all this talk of Custom Collection guitars and Fralin pickups, wouldn’t it be nice to have the best of both worlds? Lucky for you, Michael Kelly has the Custom Collection 50 Fralin guitar! The guitar is constructed with a striped ebony top on an alder body, wrapped with maple binding along with a maple neck and pau ferro fingerboard. Equipped with Fralin Steel Poled 43 pickups the CC50 Fralin offers a dynamic tone that can emulate both T-Style and P90 sounds. A bonus feature is the Phase Reverse Mod, which gives a mid-range, boosts that cuts through the mix.
Burl 50 Ultra
Want something that stands out from the rest? Look no further than the Burl 50 Ultra from the Custom Collection. It’s equipped with black hardware (exclusive to this model) and 3 high-class finishes that accentuate its exotic, Burl wood top. The lightweight all-Korina body gives this guitar a tone that shines on higher strings for superior clarity, but is still capable of holding a bold, low-end tone for solid rhythms. Topping it off is the Rockfield combination of pickups that maintain the classic T-style tones, while the added Quad Mod gives you an added option for fatter tone.
Michael Kelly 1960s Series Electric Guitars
The 60s were all about love and the Michael Kelly’s 60s series of electrics has garnered tons of love from the guitar playing community! The recognizable S-Style body makes it highly playable while Michael Kelly technology and design methods put it over the top.
The S1 Custom is a modern-designed vintage beauty. The Swamp Ash double-cutaway body features a lovely quilt maple top, and is adorned with flame maple binding. The 25.5″ maple neck induces incredible comfort and style, and is topped with a Pau Ferro fingerboard. Michael Kelly loaded the S1 with their Rockfield Fat Stack single-coil pickups, which bring you that humbucker tone in a single-coil design. They also enhanced the electronics with their Epic 11 boutique mod, which gives you more tonal options to broaden your musical spectrum, thanks to a push/pull volume knob that lets you coil-tap the bridge pickup.
Resonant and powerful, this luxuriously designed guitar is built with Swamp Ash, with the option for a quilted maple or striped ebony top. Equipped with Seymour Duncan ’59 pickups, the Mod Shop 60 S2 Duncan is chock-full of bold and attention-grabbing tone. The 211 Mod wiring modification gives you access to 11 different tones for a plethora of options. The Mod Shop 60 S2 Duncan is primed for endless enjoyment. An MK Twin-Edge two-point floating tremolo bridge and Grover locking tuners complete this axe.
Available in Blue Jean Wash, Tobacco Burst, and open pore finishes Trans Red and Faded Black, the 1963 model offers a HSS pickup selection featuring an MK Vintage Plus humbucker in the bridge, an MK Classic Center Single Coil in the middle, and an MK Fat Single Coil pickup in the neck. Depending on your combination of pickups, you’ll be able to activate sweet screaming leads in the bridge, bluesy riffs in the neck, and more nuanced tones when you combine the different pickups. You also get a lovely flame maple top that will catch everyone’s eye.
The 1967 is a truly stunning guitar that plays and sounds like a dream! The quilt maple top is combined with a swamp ash body and exotic flame maple binding for some serious style points. Michael Kelly even took it one step further by incorporating bird’s eye maple on the headstock. Featuring the Michael Kelly Quad Mod circuitry, you have an HSS setup stocked with a USA Seymour Duncan 59/Custom Hybrid Humbucker in the bridge, a Rockfield SSC Single-Coil in the middle and a Rockfield Fat Stacked Single-Coil in the neck. The gold chrome hardware is the perfect final touch that solidifies the beauty of the 1967!
With some unique upgrades, this Michael Kelly beast takes things a step further. It has a Swamp Ash body with Quilt Maple to and scale roasted maple neck. This axe is packed with Seymour Duncan 59/Classic stack Plus pickups. The Seymour Duncan ’59 pickup succeeds in achieving clarity and defined attack – perfect for your bridge pickup. In the middle and neck position, the Classic Stack Plus single-coil are noiseless and excel at nailing that twangy sound, without the annoying hum. The Epic Eleven Mod electronics extend the tonal range of the pickups so you can let the Mod Shop 67 truly shine.
Burl 60 Ultra
From the Custom Collection, the Burl 60 Ultra exudes a level of beauty and striking imagery that is unmatched. There are 3 different Birdseye Burl Maple tops to choose from, accompanied by beautiful gold hardware that contrasts perfectly against a black pickguard on the body. The Burl top and Korina body provide a natural and full sound in the lows and mids, while maintaining resonant and crisp highs. For the complete control of your tones’ arsenal, the Epic Eleven Mod takes the traditional 5-way switch and adds a mini-toggle and push-pull pot on the master volume for an endless amount of single-coil sounds, from both the neck and bridge Rockfield pickups.
Michael Kelly Patriot Series Electric Guitars
The Michael Kelly Patriot series stand up to most guitars on the market due to their elegant craftsmanship and detailed appointments. All the guitars feature an archtop, a comfortable cutaway a neck heel for easier playing in the higher frets, two humbuckers with push/pull knobs and a string-through body for easier string changes and some additional visual appeal.
Chosen as a Guitar Player Editors’ Pick in 2009, the Decree is renowned for its incredible playability. Its beauty is in its simplicity, but this guitar definitely gives you some serious bang for your buck! It’s available in a unique Coral Blue or a more classic Caramel Burst. The Decree is also stocked with MK PAF-Plus pickups for those nice, fat tones in the neck and bright screaming leads in the bridge, all with killer sustain! Best of all, it features the Great 8 Mod so you can take those humbuckers and switch between 8 different settings to find what suits you best!
Another beneficiary of the Enlightened Design, this Patriot offers incredible playability without sacrificing tone. You get a beautiful quilt maple top with the ergonomic red cedar body to keep the resonance and sustain you desire. As far as electronics are concerned, you have Rockfield SWC-L pickups in the bridge and neck with Great 8 Mod so you can split either or both humbuckers to be single coil.
The Patriot Instinct Bold is without a doubt one of the most beautiful sounding and looking guitars in it is price range! Its gorgeous quilt maple top is enhanced with a striking pearl/abalone binding that goes through the middle of the body and more subtle cream binding around the body. Thanks to a set of Rockfield SWC pickups with Great 8 Mod technology, you’ll be discovering new sounds every time you pick it up. The scorched finish is like sunburst on steroids.
Mod Shop Patriot Instinct
The Mod Shop Patriot models take all your favorite appointments from the Patriot Instinct Bold-Custom Collection and add one specific upgrade: pickups! Seymour Duncan has been a trusted name in pickup manufacturing and Bare Knuckle is soon to be just as familiar of a name in the industry. Both companies make a variety of fantastic, sought-after pickups and lucky for you Michael Kelly has models that feature both brands!
Mod Shop Patriot Instinct Duncan
The neck and bridge both feature a Seymour Duncan Triple Shot P-Rails with Triple Shot switching. These incredibly versatile pickups allow you to make them sound like P90’s, single coil, or humbucking pickups; allow for coil splitting, and last but not least can be in series or parallel. If you do the math, that’s 24 different types of sounds! If there’s a sound you can’t find on this guitar, you’re not looking hard enough!
Mod Shop Patriot Instinct Bare Knuckle
In the neck and bridge, this guitar is stocked with Bare Knuckle “The Mule” pickups, winner of the Gold award from Guitarist Magazine. These pickups are great for nearly any genre of music due to their “PAF” inspired sound and nice even tone. Combined with the Great 8 Mod, you’ll be able to unlock various extra tones.
Michael Kelly Hybrid Series Electric Guitars
Many guitarists love playing both acoustic and electric guitar. Those same guitarists may not have the space to carry both instruments to the gig or simply don’t have the ability to switch between them easily. Michael Kelly has fixed that problem with their Hybrid series. Each guitar has the capability to sound like an electric but can also transition to acoustic duties thanks to the Fishman Powerbridge installed underneath the bridge. One of the coolest features about this instrument is that you can use a special Y-cable so you can connect the guitar to both an acoustic and electric amplifier. You can also send the separate signals directly into a mixer thanks to the two distinct outputs! This is a fantastic feature for people who want to record or play the same guitar part to two different sources in one go!
The Hybrid Special has an uncanny ability to emulate acoustic tone thanks to its semi-hollow design. An eye catching Spalted maple top is placed on a chambered mahogany body for a splendid feel and appearance. The abalone blocks on top of the fretboard help add a beautiful touch of color while wood pickup covers drive home the acoustic vibe.
The Hybrid 55 looks more like a traditional electric. In fact, at first glance, it looks, feels and operates more or less like a standard 1955 model. However, due to the bonus Fishman Powerbridge system hidden underneath the saddle, you can unlock the acoustic tones from this guitar! Also, just like the 1955 model, it has the Great 8 Mod so you can play electric, acoustic, or both. You can also split the humbuckers for even mire electric tones.
With a firm sense of what Michael Kelly was going to represent for guitar players, the next step was to design instruments that pushed the boundaries of what an affordable instrument could offer. Being working musicians, the Michael Kelly design team quickly came to a consensus; options, more tonal possibilities within the instrument would make all guitarists lives easier and more fun. So the team got to work tinkering with circuits until they solidified various new electronics concepts. The Quad Mod, the Great 8 Mod, the Epic Eleven mod, and the unbelievable 12 Tone Mod. Lets explore what each mod provides so you can start deciding which Michael Kelly electric you will eventually add to your collection
Quad Mod adds an extra pickup setting to the traditional 3 positions you would see on most T-Style guitars with two single coil pickups. Usually you’re only able to activate the bridge pickup only, the neck pickup only, or both pickups in parallel. With the Quad Mod, you get a fourth option so you can use both pickups in series!
Great 8 Mod
Great 8 Mod is a killer feature on select Michael Kelly guitars that have two humbucking pickups. Rather than the usual 3 options (neck only, neck and bridge, and bridge only) you’re now able to choose from 8 different tonal options! Thanks to the push/pull knobs on both the Master Volume and Master Tone knob, you’re able to split the neck and bridge pickups. This gives you 5 new unique options that you simply don’t get on guitars from most “boutique “brands. Below is a full rundown on the different settings of the “Great 8”
- Neck only
- Neck and Bridge
- Bridge only
- Neck only (split coil)
- Neck and Bridge (Neck is split coil)
- Neck and Bridge (Bridge is split coil)
- Neck and Bridge (both of split coil)
- Bridge only (split coil)
12 Tone Mod
The 12-tone mod is available on select Michael Kelly instruments that feature a 4-way selector switch (yes, you read that right!) While most solid body guitars only feature a 3-way selector switch, the 4th position lets you put both pickups in series with each other. If that wasn’t enough, you can split each pickup with the help of two push/pull knobs. Below are the 12 options created by this mod.
- Neck only
- Neck only (Split Coil)
- Neck and Bridge (Parallel)
- Neck and Bridge (Series)
- Neck and Bridge (Neck is Split)
- Neck and Bridge (Bridge is Split)
- Neck and Bridge (Bridge is Split and pickups are in series)
- Neck and Bridge (Neck is Split and pickups are in series)
- Neck and Bridge (Both pickups are split)
- Neck and Bridge (Both pickups are split and in series)
- Bridge only
- Bridge only (Split Coil)
Epic Eleven Mod
The Epic Eleven Mod is available on Michael Kelly guitars with HSS pickup configurations. Just as the name suggests, you have 11 different settings that you can activate using a mini toggle switch and push/pull coil taps. With all of these settings, you’re sure to find a sound to satisfy any mood or genre. Below are the epic options of this mod.
- Neck only
- Neck and Middle
- Middle only
- Middle and Bridge
- Bridge only
- Neck and Bridge
- Neck, Middle and Bridge
- Bridge (Split Coil)
- Neck and Bridge (Split Coil)
- Neck, Middle and Bridge (Split Coil)
- Middle And Bridge (Split Coil)
Heavy guitars have their own sonic benefits. Mainly increased resonance and sustain. However, one of the downsides to heavier guitars is the strain it can put on your neck and back. To compensate for that, Michael Kelly developed a line of guitars that offer improved comfort without sacrificing tone. This is achieved by using unique tone woods like red cedar. This incredible sounding wood is from the same family as mahogany so you get much of the same sonic character at a lighter weight. Other strategic design adjustments include carefully placed small ports at the butt end of the body and a thinner overall body profile to further enhance weight relief. Additionally, replacing the traditional steel bridge and control plates with an aluminum version reduces the weight of Michael Kelly Enlightened series guitars even more. A traditional pitfall of lighter guitars is they tend to be neck heavy, which can lead to annoying neck dives when you play upright. The Enlightened series combats this issue by placing the strap buttons on an offset angle for improved balance. Coming in at an average weight of under 6 pounds, Enlightened Series guitars are 30% lighter than traditional modern solid body electrics.
Michael Kelly offers a wide selection of Custom Collection, or “CC”, models to choose from. Custom Collection models are designed with unique, select woods, which deliver dynamic tone and striking aesthetics. Some of the most common tone woods used in Custom Collection instruments include Burl Maple, Striped Ebony, and Flame Maple. Nearly all Custom Collection releases are considered “limited runs” so when you fall in love with a member of the Custom Collection you need to act fast. In fact, the design process on “CC” models always originates from feedback and requests for current Michael Kelly Guitar owners like you.
Perhaps you love the essence of vintage guitars with a more modern sensibility. If that’s the case, you’ll have to browse the Michael Kelly Mod Shop collection. When a standard Michael Kelly Electric starts to gain notoriety, the MK design team brings it into the Mod Shop to see how they can make it that much more special. The most popular “Mods” include upgraded pickups from names like Seymour Duncan and Fralin and new tops with custom finishes and binding. Other Mods include chrome hardware, different electronic options and more.
All Michael Kelly guitars feature one of five trusted brands in pickup design: Rockfield, Fralin, Bareknuckle, Seymour Duncan, and Fishman. Each brand offers unique voicings for the pickups whether smooth and subtle or high-gain output, allowing you to find the perfect tone. Lets explore some of these great pickups a bit more.
Rockfield pickups come standard on most Michael Kelly Electric Guitars. When designing pickups, Rockfield always look at the goal of what tone the instruments needs to achieve and meticulously test with various modern and vintage pedals and amplifiers.
Lindy Fralin has been making his own pickups since the early 90s and has become famous for what many consider to be some of the finest single coil pickups in the industry. Michael Kelly has proudly featured various Fralin pickups including the Blues Special, Vintage Hot, Mini Humbucker, and Pure PAF.
Relatively new on the scene, Bareknuckle has made a huge name for themselves in a short amount of time. Started by UK guitarist Tim Mills, Bareknuckle models have won multiple NAMM awards and have been adopted as the pickup of choice for a bevy of artists including Johnny Marr of The Smiths, Matt Bellamy of Muse, Misha Mansoor of Periphery and many others. Michael Kelly models have featured some incredible Bareknuckle releases including the Slow Hand, Black Dog, and the award-winning “The Mule”.
Without a doubt, Seymour Duncan has to be one of the most recognizable names in pickups. Seymour has been making after market pickups for 40+ years and has worked with countless artists and guitar manufacturers on some legendary collaborations. Michael Kelly models feature Seymour Duncan pickups like the 59/Custom Hybrid Humbucker, Vintage “T-Style” STL-1B, Little ’59, P-Rails with Triple Shot, Seymourized Mini-Humbucker, Stag Mag, and Classic Stack Plus just to name a few!
Nobody electrifies acoustics quite like the team at Fishman Electronics. In addition to being featured on Michael Kelly’s Port series of Acoustic/Electric guitars, select members of Michael Kelly’s Hybrid series Electric guitar feature Fishman Power bridge pickups.
Sam Ash and Michael Kelly
At Sam Ash Music, we have been buying and selling electric guitars since the 1950s. In that time, we have seen many models and brands come and go. However, with Michael Kelly, we see a value proposition we can get behind. “Boutique Within Reach” is about offering high quality instruments at affordable price points. That is why all Sam Ash Music Stores feature the full line of Michael Kelly Instruments both in store and online. So be sure to Come in and Play or speak to one of our experts to learn more about these amazing instruments. We hope to see you in the Michael Kelly Players Club soon.