This is my expanded version of a short Black Widow history found on the 'net.


In 1969 solid state amp pioneers Acoustic Control Corporation introduced their first and only guitar and bass models: the Black Widow.  They had approached guitar maker Bartell of California, which was the company of Ted Peckels and guitar innovator Paul Barth (who's history included work with Rickenbacker on their first electrics and designing guitars for Magnatone).  Bartell made the first few Widows utilizing designs they were already using for their own instruments.  Information on these early units is very scarce and what we do know is based on a few pics of Black Widows and other Bartell guitars, as well as a couple of appearances in Acoustic catalogs.  Compared to later Black Widows, these early units had smaller cutaways with 20 (bass) or 22 (guitar) frets, longer headstocks, and Bartell's wide single coil pickups.  Basses were apparently available with full- or short-scale necks and a fretless option.  The guitars were also available in a 12-string version.  The rear pad may have been black without the familiar hourglass stitching of the later units.  These units are possibly semi-hollowbodies without f-holes.

Bartell built mainly semi-hollowbody instruments, primarily basses, with much of the same look as the Black Widow, although the Black Widow name was never applied to these non-Acoustic instruments.  The overall shape is the same as the Black Widow, and they have the carved top as well. The major difference is the presence of f-holes on the body.  Also, while Acoustic Black Widow basses are fretted (although an early pricelist lists fretless as an option), the vast majority of basses sold by Bartell under their own and other names were fretless.  They usually have "Hohner", "Lancer", or "Bartell" on the headstock and a label in the bass side f-hole stating "Mfg. by Bartell of California" along with the serial number, but the label is often missing.  For more information on Bartell instruments, check out The Unofficial Bartell Fan Pages.

Back to Acoustic...........

Bartell coudn't keep up with the numbers Acoustic wanted, so the designs were taken to Matsumoku in Japan.  At the time they were producing some of the finest guitars coming out of Asia, ones that still rival the American-made stuff.  The majority of Black Widows out there in the world are Matsumokus. 

For the Japanese production, Acoustic's Harvey Gerst took the original design and revamped it to his specifications.  Gerst made the cutaways deeper and upped the fret count to 24.  The pickups were changed to hotter single coils that still looked like the earlier Bartell units.  The controls were shifted forward a bit so the volume was accessable for volume swells while playing (this appears to have been done on some Bartell units as well, probably near the end of the run).  The bridge rollers were enlarged for more sustain and weight was added to the body for a better balance, possibly by making the guitars as a solidbody instead of Bartell's semi-hollowbody approach.  Gerst has stated that the Japanese Black Widows are the definitive model as they were made exactly the way he had envisioned them.

At some point Acoustic brought production back to the states and put it in the capable hands of Semie Mosley of Mosrite.  The Mosrite versions featured a smaller, single coil-sized humbucker with 2 rows of polepieces on both guitar and bass as well as a more traditional 4 bolt neck attachment.  There have also been some guitars seen with full-sized Mosrite humbuckers and with Maxon humbuckers.  Reportedly, there are only about 200 Mosrite Black Widows.

All in all its thought that no more than 1000 of these guitars were made for Acoustic, with the fewest being Bartells, and no more than a couple hundred being Mosrites. Unfortunately, due to the company changing hands, production changes, etc, its really hard to tell. We are going to start cataloging them here, to see how many there are in the world, and how many variations.