Back in the Swinging ’60s, one of the coolest things hip companies could do was own a guitar company.After all, guitar-driven pop music was red hot, especially after the success of the Beatles in ’64.The most detailed source for information on Burns guitars is The Burns Book (The Bold Strummer, 1990) by Paul Day.If you want to know about a Burns-built guitar, you need this book.However, new product development ground to a halt as Baldwin adjusted to the shock of inheriting a product line targeted at an entirely new market.Upon leaving Burns/Baldwin in ’66, Jim Burns continued to make guitars carrying the Ormston brand name.
Coincidentally, Leo Fender was having health problems and decided to put Fender Musical Instruments on the block.) bought Guild, Gulf and Western (oil) bought Merson/Unicord (Univox), King Korn Stamp Company (trading stamps) bought Westheimer Sales (Teisco, Kingston). At least Baldwin made musical instruments, although, as it would turn out, that didn’t make much difference in the final outcome.Even new guitar importing companies were fueled by money from elsewhere: Strum & Drum (Norma) came from nuts and bolts; W. James Ormston Burns was born in England in 1925 and following World War II became involved in making guitars.Several generations of the Wulsin family continued to run the company.The piano building thrived and Baldwin became the first American piano company to win the Grand Prix Award at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1900. Louis Exposition in 1904 and London’s Anglo-American Exposition in 1914.Reportedly the purchase price was in the neighborhood of 0,000 – a pittance compared to the million CBS plopped down for Fender, although, of course, there could be no comparison between equity values.In any case, the amount didn’t matter much because, as Harrison recalls, very little cash was involved in the deal. In September ’65, Baldwin Piano and Organ took over the assets of Ormston Burns Ltd., a.k.a. Jim Burns remained on with his old company for about a year in a consulting capacity, fairly typical in this sort of deal.Jim Burns was an affable (if eccentric) personality whose forté was guitar design and technology.Alas, his strengths did not extend to business and financial management, and by ’65 his company was deeply in debt to suppliers and creditors.As early as 1935, Baldwin pioneered electronic organs and developed the electronic church organ.Over the years, Baldwin endorsers have been as diverse as President Harry Truman, composer Aaron Copeland, and Liberace.