Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Futuristic 50s “Touch Guitar”

Wait a dagblasted second!   How come I never heard of Dave Bunker or stumbled across his radical 1950s “Duo-Lectar” in all my musical readings until just now?

On this 1958 clip from Jubilee USA, we learn that this modernistic musical machine took eight years to put together (with his father’s assistance) — check out the beautiful steel guitar-like chording he emulates with his right hand:

 Dave Bunker playing his “Duo-Lectar”     Jubilee USA    1958

What synchronicity – just one month ago, Christopher Scapelliti wrote an appreciation of the Duo-Lectar Double-Neck “Touch Guitar” for Guitar World:

“In 1958, Bunker patented the guitar as the Duo-Lectar and subsequently showed it at NAMM when the show was still held in Chicago’s Palmer House hotel.  He recalls sharing space at the Standel amps booth with a young Barbara Mandrell and entertaining guitar greats like Chet Atkins, Mel Bay and Joe Maphis with his Duo-Lectar.

Bunker says Leo Fender approached him with an offer to buy the guitar and Bunker’s related innovations.  Leo offered $20,000 and a three percent royalty—“which at the time was like a million dollars,” Bunker notes.  But he turned down Fender and continued refining the guitar on his own.”

As Dave Bunker himself notes about his very first instrument on the Bunker Guitars website:

“This is the very first Double Neck touch type musical instrument ever patented.  Notice the date in the script below the photo (1956).  This first Touch Guitar which I patented as the Duo-Lectar™ was made by my Father Joe Bunker and I in 1955.  We didn’t have money to buy fret wire so we made the frets out of an old chain saw stinger (blade).”


Bunker’s designs have evolved notably since the 1950s – and not all of his instruments are “touch guitars,” either.  And with regard to the whole “two-handed double tapping” issue, Bunker has a few things to say:

“Lots of controversy exist over who did what and when on the Touch/Tap method of play, well here it is and this is right.  Actually, Merle Travis was one of the first artists to play using two hands on the fingerboard.  The first artist to really bring it out and do something with was Jimmie Webster, who wrote the first touch system method book for a single neck type electric guitar played with two hand tapping.”

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