Description by Dwight Newton, 2006
This is a Wing-Ding plastic guitar by Emenee. It has a predictable thin sound and the strings don't stay tuned well, but is nearly full-size and actually plays in tune. U purchased this on Ebay for a very low price (I'm not a fool) and saw one identical to it (and not is as good condition) sell for about eight times the price a week or so later (the heart wants what it wants). Wing-Ding is a Sears model. Emenee sold the same instrument under it's own brand as the Tiger Guitar.
Emenee had a mission - they wanted to make real musical instruments out of polystyrene plastics. The guru of musical plastique was Mario Maccaferri, who designed numerous instruments including plastic violins and accordions. The connection between Maccaferri and Emenee is not clear, but it seems likely that, at the least, Emenee used Maccaferri's ideas.
What paid the bills were the plastic ukuleles. They came in many models, but what made them popular was the endorsement of Arthur Godfrey. Godfrey was the Oprah Winfrey of the 50s. If he said something was good, everyone bought it. Some of the Godfrey models included an attachment to the neck that allowed the player to push buttons that automatically pressed the strings in the right chord positions for three or four chords -- enough to play 90% of American traditional music. Possibly the simplest stringed instrument ever devised. Most of the ukes had Hawaiian (or at least tropical) themes, like the Flamingo model or the Islander, with ubiquitous palm trees.
Emenee also sold Gene Autry model guitars that are assentially the same as the Wing-Ding, but have a different color scheme with lonhorn skulls, lassos, etc. molded into the top. Similar models were made without the Autry signature and called the Western or Rodeo model. Other celebrity signature instruments by Emenee included Elvis Presley (1957) and Howdy Doody. Jimmy Durante and Sammy Davis, Jr. were celebrity endorsers who appeared at trade shows and in ads for Emenee, but did not have signature instruments. There is a trade ad showing Davis playing the electric Emenee Tiger Guitar with a small amplifier hanging on a strap from his shoulder. (As far as I know, Sammy didn't actually play guitar.)
I have seen pictures, but have no information, that indicate that the Wing-Ding model came with an interesting (optional?) amplifier so it could be played as an electric guitar. It's not clear what kind of pickup these would have had. The amplifier (a combo amp with integrated speaker) had ductwork in the body to add resonant depth to the tiny speaker -- a remarkable concept for a toy guitar.
Other Plastic Instrument Resources:
Catfish's Closet is a site dedicated to the infinite variety of ukuleles.
Dave Palmater has put together some nice pictures of Maccaferri instruments (WARNING! PDF document).
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