Fascinating Instruments from Our Collection: Peavey T-60 Guitar

For those of us old enough to remember the dark age of guitars, leisure suits, and Harleys (the hideous ‘70s), one glimmer of light was the Peavey USA-made T-60.  Why do I call it obscure? Why do I call it a glimmer of light in the dark times? Why were the ‘70s so hideous? Read on, buddy, read on.

First of all, if you’ve never seen or had to wear a leisure suit, don’t bother to Google it. Trust me; you can’t un-see it. Some of them were even powder blue. I had one. The ‘70s economy was tough. There was the gas crisis, the energy crisis, and Disco. CBS was destroying Fender, Norlin was destroying Gibson, Baldwin was destroying Gretsch, AMF was destroying Harley Davidson, Nixon was destroying himself, and KISS made a Disco album.

Fender Strats were not cheap in 1977. The MSRP was $595.99. If you calculate 1977 money to today’s inflated value, that’s $2,400.00. For your money, you got a guitar with a neck pocket that was so poorly made that you could fit about three credit cards between the neck pocket and the neck. The Les Paul was even more expensive, and arguably, not the best manufacturing years for Gibson either. Heavy, pancake bodies and shallow headstock & neck angles. Mini humbuckers anyone?

There were not a lot of choices back then, especially if you wanted an American-made guitar at an affordable price. There was no made-in-Mexico Strat, and there was no Epiphone Les Paul or SG. You could go buy what we called a “Strat copy” or “Les Paul copy”. They were known by many names (remind you of someone evil?) like Memphis, Lori, Matao, Univox, Lotus, and the list goes on and on. They were very affordable (about $100.00 or less). Some were even pretty good, but they were not USA-made and not authentic. Today, we don’t even think about what we are buying or where it is made, when it comes to most items. We do still like to know where our guitars are built. For the most part, the world loves an American-made electric guitar the most, and some vintage American-made guitars cost close to 7 figures.

So what did a fella do if he wanted a new, USA-made guitar that offered both quality and affordability? Hartley Peavey, with help from Chip Todd (the “T” in T-60), gave us one of the only choices we had. The T-60 featured the world’s first mass produced neck on the first CNC-cut body. It also employed the first electrically-charged spray booth production method. It also boasted the first tone circuit/coil-splitting electronics package. The T-60 had a shape that was so ahead of its time. People still don’t see its beauty (or maybe it is kind of ugly). THE PEAVEY T-60!

A lot of corners were cut to keep the price down, but on this model, the right corners were cut. It was not sloppily made and it didn’t use cheap components. For instance, the first few had a sharp looking decal that outlined the headstock and truss rod cover. Due to the difficulty in applying it on straight, it was decided that they would leave it off. The body was cut by a computer (sort of), and the guitar was easily mass produced. The necks were made 4 at a time by machine, and they were all identical. Production was fast, furious, and cheap. The electronics were ahead of their time, utilizing coil-splitting to take you from that single-coil twang to that full humbucker sound for snotty rock and roll tones. The T-60s were offered in natural, some sunburst variations, and some solid colors too including black, red, and white. The finish was applied with a revolutionary process as well. The guitar was positively charged so that the paint would be attracted to the guitar and coat it evenly. Many of T-60’s revolutionary production techniques are commonplace today. The T-60 had a truly groundbreaking design, revolutionary production methods, and an innovative final product. At 1/3 the cost of a Strat, if you wanted a quality guitar that boasted an American-made pedigree, this was one helluva good choice to make. It even came in a case that looked more suitable for a Husqvarna or Stihl chainsaw, and was equally as tough.

The T-60 (and the T-40 bass) ran from 1977 until 1988, and although so revolutionary, the models only enjoyed modest success. In fact, after production ended, they were as talked about as David Caruso after he left NYPD Blue. Today, the T-60 is still a great guitar and a great bargain. It enjoys more than a simple cult following. There is even an owner’s and appreciator’s web group known as the T-60 Mafia.

If not recognized by name, the T-60 is at least known by sight by nearly everyone who ever seriously plays, but the guitar was not seriously played by many. Its time is still to come. As for now, it’s an almost has been—a nearly forgotten gem. Why, it’s Obscure Du Jour.

This Peavey T-60 Guitar is currently on display at our Sam Ash Music Store located in Madison, Tennessee. To make a purchase or to learn more about this exact guitar, please visit the Peavey T-60 page on our dedicated Sam Ash Used Gear Website.