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Cortley Guitars Website Blog
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
The CGW Welcome Letter

Thanks for your interest in our site and welcome to The Unofficial Cortley Guitars Website. 

We believe that most questions you have can be answered by navigating through the pages of our site. You can check out the CGW Blog for answers to the history of Cortley guitars and general questions regarding our Website. Most questions about your guitar can be answered on the Cortley Descriptions Page and the 1978 Price List Page. 

Cortley Guitars were a stencil brand of guitars contracted by Jack Westheimer. He was the pioneer of quality made Asian imports. He was responsible for other MIJ brands such as Cortez. We have some Cortez comparisons on our site. Our guitars are copies of the finest guitars made, including Martin, Gibson, Gallagher, Fender, and Guild. Cortleys were extremely well-made, and were affordable alternatives to these guitars. If you own a Cortley guitar, please sign our Guestbook and tell us a little about your instrument. The Guestbook serves as a gauge to monitor the current interest in Cortley guitars and will give us an idea how Cortley instruments have weathered time.  

CGW has a Sister Site that has a photo album with more pictures of Cortley and Cortez Instruments including mandolins, banjos, basses and even ukuleles. The Sister Site has a Message Board and Newsletter where I will from time to time post notable changes and news about the CGW.  

We hope you take advantage of the Blog. We have opened up a variety of topics that you can weigh in on.  Also, there is an entry that is entitled
General Comments and Questions
where you can take the lead and start a discussion on any subject you like regarding Cortley guitars. 

We believe a picture is still worth a thousand words. If you feel that you have a Cortley guitar that we have not adequately represented, then please send us photos of your guitar.  We would like a full shot of the front and back of your guitar, and close-ups of the body and headstock. Also, if you have any information on Cortley guitars that we don’t have, please share it with us so that we can share it with others.

Thanks again for your interest in our site and happy picking!

John Dove
Cortley Guitars Website Webmaster

Posted by cortleyguitars at 9:49 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 16 December 2009 9:50 PM EST
Rick Clymer Visits With Ed Rider
Rick Clymer visited with Ed Rider, a former Southland Music Sales Rep and during the visit asked him a few questions. Below is a copy of the email Rick sent to the CGW Webmaster.
Hey John,   I visited with Ed Rider today, and really enjoyed it. He was very impressed with the site, and is dying to get his hands on a Southland Musical catalog. I scanned about 20 pages to disk and gave him a CD with all my collective info.  Now about the questions you wanted me to ask.
 1 - Can you get a manufacturing date from Cortley serial numbers?
"I don't think so. They were made in different plants at times and didn't seem to follow a set pattern. You may be able to research Cortez and Cort serial numbers, since they were made in the same plants, and find a relationship there."
2 - When were the first Cortley guitars made?   
 "Somewhere around 1973 or 1974. They quit making them when Southland neared their demise, in the early 1980's, possibly 1983 or 1984."
I asked Ed if the dates on the US Patent and Trademark website were close and he said they were in fact correct. Southland had been in business for years before they started the Cortley and Kent line of guitars.
3 - Was Cortley made in the same factories as Cortez?
"Yes. They were for the most part, but at times, depending on who could handle the work order, they may have been made in other plants. Daion and Terada for example."
4 - When and how did Southland come up with the name Cortley?
  "As far as I know it was just a name they came up with. Possibly to conform to the Cort, Cortez line. But as far as I know, it was not named for anyone."
5 - Did Southland ask permission to copy the Gallagher G30 or any of the others?
"No, they just made guitars. All the factories those days in Japan were making copy guitars."

Posted by cortleyguitars at 9:42 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 16 December 2009 9:46 PM EST
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Cortley Guitars - By Ed Rider
Below is a copy of an email sent to the CGW Webmaster by Ed Rider. He has given me permission to post it on our site.
By all means, you may post my email.
"Cortley" was Southland's house brand. They owned that name. And yes, many if not most of the Japanese Cortley's were manufactured through the factories that Jack Westheimer had relationships with. He was really a pioneer when it came to importing Japanese guitars. Since he had the contacts already established, it was easier for a distributor to let him make the arrangements for manufacturing in exchange for a percentage of the cost from the distributor, and likely a commission from the manufacturer.
Make no mistake, Jack Westheimer did not own the Cortley name. There were only three companies that distributed Cortley Guitars; Southland Musical merchandise Corp in Greensboro, NC, Maxwell Meyers in Dallas, TX, and Harris Fandell in Massachusetts. All three companies were under the same ownership which was Onsite Energy Systems.
Jack used many different factories during those years. One that comes to mind as a major one in those days was Terada. Another was Daion. But there were others.
Ed Rider

Posted by cortleyguitars at 5:28 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 9 December 2009 5:36 PM EST
Cortley '45' - By Ed Rider

Below is a copy of an email sent to the CGW Webmaster by Ed Rider. He has given me permission to post it on our site. 

I came into the music industry on August 1st, 1972 as a stock clerk for Southland Musical Merchandise Corporation in Greensboro, NC. On April 9, 1973, I became a sales rep for them in Georgia and South Carolina.

Several months before I went to work for Southland, the company had been sold by the original owner, Mr. Harry Greenburg. Onsite Energy Systems of New York bought the company. Onsite was headed by Irving Jahre.

Sometime in 1975, Mr. Jahre stumbled on a struggling new guitar manufacturer. Where the manufacturer was located, I do not know. But I do know for a fact that it was not the Harmony Company of Chicago. The reason I am certain of this is because Southland was a Harmony distributor and no Cortley guitar ever came from that factory.

This manufacturer was building what would become the Cortley 45. I remember Mr. Jahre telling me that previous to him buying the company, it was struggling to the point that the guy was buying glue in 5 gallon pails instead of 55 gallon drums because he was so low on capital and thus was not able to compete. I do not know what brand label the company had been using prior to it's acquisition by Southland.

Ultimately, the guitar became the Cortley 45. It was available in three finishes and the retail price was $45 (thus the Cortley 45 name). The guitar was packed in six packs  two of each color. Minimum order by a dealer was 6 pieces. Yes, it was a beginner guitar. But I sold thousands of them. The company had a single one-sided 8 1/2 X 11 piece of color literature for the guitar. All I had to do was walk in the store, show the literature, tell the dealer the price, and they all bought. Some bought only one six pack, many dealers bought multiple six packs. When you are calling on four or five dealers per day, and they all buy Cortley 45 six packs, that's a bunch of guitars in a month. And I was only one of 14 reps in the company. It was a successful project for a few years.

I left Southland in 1980 and became an independent rep just as I am today. I'm still selling guitars, but in a marketplace that's vastly different than it was back then.

Posted by cortleyguitars at 5:06 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 9 December 2009 5:19 PM EST
Sunday, 10 May 2009
The Cortley / Cortez Connection

I believe Jack Westheimer, the man behind Cortez guitars, is the same man behind Cortley guitars. Westheimer is known as the “Pioneer of Global Guitar Making.” Rick Clymer has interviewed Westheimer and stated that Westheimer did not remember Cortley in particular, but the former sales manager at Southland Music in Greensboro, NC, stated that they purchased through Westheimer. Michael Wright states in his article on Cortez guitars, “Among the brands associated with Westheimer’s activities are Kingston, Teisco, Teisco Del Rey, Silvertone, Emperador, Cortez, and Cort, not to mention a host of other monikers that have graced guitars coming from the Cort factory. Even if you haven't played one of these guitars, there's a good chance that if you've ever played a decent-quality beginner import, you've played a guitar associated with Westheimer.”¹

Just the Facts…

1. Cortley guitars were identical to Cortez guitars and even shared model numbers in the beginning. Among the ones I know of are the J6000, J6500, and the 860. Later, Cortley would adapt the CF prefix for their models, and the J6000 was changed to CF95, the J6500 to a CF75, and the 860 to a CF100. At this time, Cortley may have produced models other than Cortez models. We have picture comparisons of the J6000 and J6500 on the site.
2. The Cortley and Cortez names on the headstocks that were mother of pearl inlays are identical Fonts. We have pictures on the homepage that clearly show this to be true.
3. Cortley and Cortez used the same label design. The labels contained exactly the same information: the manufacturer, serial number and the “Made in Japan” inscription.
Click here for pictures.

Although Mr. Westheimer can’t remember the Cortley brand name in particular, I am of the opinion that the evidence is overwhelming that the man behind Cortley Guitars is the same man behind Cortez guitars; Jack Westheimer. I am inclined to believe that Cortley guitars were produced in the same factory by the same craftsmen using the same model specifications. Exactly why Cortez models were produced with the Cortley name is a mystery. One hypothesis of mine is that they wanted to test market these guitars under a name that wasn’t Spanish, and therefore labeled their guitars as such. Quoting again from Michael Wright’s article, he states “Guitars were still called Spanish guitars in those days, an appellation that has fallen by the wayside; hence, the "Spanish" names like Cortez and del Rey.” ¹ My theory is that they probably didn’t want to do away with the Cortez name that was building in reputation, so they modified it and maybe even distributed Cortley guitars in different locations to “test the waters.” Later, the Cortez name was discontinued, and Cort has been used ever since.

1. Michael Wright, Vintage Guitar Magazine - What is a Cortez guitar? WikiAnswers.
Click here.

Posted by cortleyguitars at 11:39 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 20 August 2009 7:41 PM EDT
Dating Cortley Guitars

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows the name Cortley was first used in commerce 6-6-74, was registered 11-22-78, and cancelled 10-23-84. The name Cortez was first used in commerce 3-12-67, registered 6-11-85 by Westheimer Corp, and is still active. This doesn’t mean that Cortley guitars weren’t produced earlier than 1974. Michael Wright says in his article on Cortez guitars that “The Cortez brand name dates back to around '60, and the beginning of our tale.”¹ This disputes the 67 date given by The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by seven years. That suggests that these dates can be misleading and Cortley guitars could have been made earlier also. Maybe as much as six years pushing the first production year at ’69.

A ballpark production period for Cortley guitars would be from 69-84.

To guestimate where your guitar may fall in that 15-year period, the information below concerning the progression of model numbers and labels may prove helpful.

1. Cortley originally used Cortez model numbers and a Cortez style label.
2. Cortley changed to CF model numbers, but the label style was unchanged.
3. Cortley changed the label adding the distributors.

Examples of Cortez model numbers would be 860, J6000, & W65.
To see a Cortez and Cortley label side by side,
click here.
To see both style labels used in Cortley acoustic guitars,
click here.


Do the serial numbers of our Cortley guitars contain a manufacture date?

To answer this question we need data, so please list your Cortley Guitar in my GuestBook!
Click here (When you list your guitar, you will receive an email with links to more information on our site.)

If we assume that Cortley guitars were made in the late 60’s up until the mid 80’s, then the digits 6, 7, and 8 become very important. All Cortley acoustic serial numbers listed in my guestbook contain 5 digits and all contain a 6, 7, or 8 for the first digit. It appears from the data we have that either the second digit or the last digit may round out the year date code. I know that not all serial numbers contain the manufacture date. As more Cortley guitars are listed in my guestbook, I believe that this question can be answered!

1. Michael Wright, Vintage Guitar Magazine - What is a Cortez guitar? WikiAnswers.
Click here.

Posted by cortleyguitars at 11:36 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 20 August 2009 7:45 PM EDT
General Questions and Comments

 The beauty of a network is the ability to share information with each other. I opened this entry so that members can take the lead and start a discussion on any subject they like regarding Cortley guitars. Click on the comment link below and go for it!

Posted by cortleyguitars at 11:35 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 10 May 2009 11:36 AM EDT
Cortley Guitars - Rick Clymer

Cortley Guitars Website has been contacted via email by Rick Clymer. Rick has researched the Cortley Guitar Story in depth and I wish to share with everyone the information he shared with me. Below are copies of his emails that have a wealth of information that I know will be of Interest to all of us.
Thanks Rick for this information!

Hey John,
    I have a Cortley CF-30 that I have had about a year now. I tracked it down after deciding to start trying to play again after many years. My dad gave me his old Kent acoustic (another story there) and sparked my interest again. I had a Cortley Dread Dove copy I bought new in the early 80's from Southland Music (I had a cousin that worked there) in Greensboro, NC and I let it slip out of my fingers. I have researched the subject thoroughly and have been working on setting up a website. I just can't seem to find the time. My best resource is the 1978 Harris-Fandel (Southland Music) counter catalog that has all the Cortley line of guitars and accessories. I snagged it on eBay. I also talked with former sales managers from Southland and even interviewed Jack Westheimer by telephone. It seems Cortley was one of many of what Westheimer calls a "Stencil brand" that the Westheimer Corp. was importing in the later 60's and 70's. He did not remember Cortley in particular, but the former sales manager at Southland Music in Greensboro, NC stated they purchased through Westheimer. The death of Southland Music (and their associates Harris-Fandel and Maxwell-Meyers) came after a buyout, and the new owners didn't want to sell accessories anymore. Within a year after the buyout they declared bankruptcy.
   The CF-30 features close-grained, solid spruce top, solid rosewood back and sides, (top, back and sides are book matched), rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and MOP inlays. This guitar retailed for $239.95 in 1978, and is worth much more than that to me.
    Jack Westheimer advised if you are looking for a future collectors item go with Cortez. But based on price/quality ratio I'll stick with my Cortley. It sounds great although I still have a lot of learning to do, LOL. I hope this info is of interest, I have much more info but I don't know when I'll ever get time to put it on the web.
Take care and may your fingers never be sore.  Rick Clymer

Second Email..

Hey John,
    Glad you enjoyed my email. I'll get together some info, maybe scan some things (like the full line of 1978 Cortleys), and get something organized. I feel it may be best if I just create a CD and mail it to you. I need to get all my info archived anyway.
   The Westheimer Corp. is still around and they have a website, that's how I tracked down Jack Westheimer. He was just a phone call away 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx ext xxx and he seemed delighted I had tracked him down and wanted to talk about guitars. Same thing goes with the former managers from Southland Musical, Vance Marshall and Ed Rider.  I searched using Southland Musical as a search term and looked through all the results, and found these guys. I'll try to attach a photo of my CF30 (this was the photo from Gary's Guitars before I bought it). I am still in the stone age with dial-up and that is one of the other reasons I haven't posted a website, it would take days of uploading, HaHa.
    You are right about lawsuits, there was no mass court action against the "copy-cats". There was from what I read one lawsuit or some kind of legal action against Ibanez for a particular headstock, that didn't even get to court. If you go to the US Patent and Trademark website you can search the brand name Cortley, Cort, Cortez and Kent and see some interesting info about the dates those brands were marketed.
    The main reason for the demise of Cortley was the fact that On-Site Energy bought out the 3 main distributors that sold Cortley, Southland Musical Merchandising Corp, Maxwell-Meyers and Harris-Fandel. Then On-Site wanted to quit selling accessories and have their guitars (Cortley, Kent) made in cheaper facilities. They felt they could make more money, when actually the accessories were the mainstay. That info came from Vance Marshall and Ed Rider, who said within a year of the buyout the companies were bankrupt. I went to the Guilford County, NC register of deeds website and found the deeds and tax records that also back up the dates that Southland was in operation.
    Anyway I can see we are going to have quite a few emails back and forth, at least I hope so. Let me know if my CF30 pic comes through.
Best regards – Rick

Posted by cortleyguitars at 11:16 AM EDT
The Value of Cortley Guitars

I decided to post this topic to open up a discussion so others could share their thoughts on the value of Cortley guitars. It is a difficult thing to place a value on these guitars, but I will try to begin the discussion. These guitars are rare. I searched the Web continuously for over a year and only turned up about four of them. I encourage any reader to search Ebay to verify this fact. I believe that an item can be classified as rare when it doesn’t show up in an Ebay search. Who would want to sell a Cortley guitar? Most owners will testify to the fact that these guitars are extremely well made. Cortley owners know all too well that trying to replace their guitars would be a daunting task, if not impossible. These guitars were only in production for about 10 years and have been out of production for nearly 25 years. If you are lucky enough to find a Cortley guitar in good shape, you may be surprised to find that you can get it for under $250. That, to me, is a steal. The Dove Sunburst copy is a beautiful guitar, and I happened to see one of these auctioned off for $211 in January of 2008. Someone got a GREAT deal. The bottom line is Cortley guitars are not being sold that often, but when they are auctioned off you can get them for a pretty good deal. Cortley Guitars Website feels these guitars are way undervalued! If you see one in good shape for sale, we suggest you jump on it! It may be a few years before you get another opportunity!

Refer to the
1978 Price Guide as a starting point. Click here
Below is a break down of the prices paid for various Cortley models in recent years on Internet sites. The prices below are for guitars that are in good to excellent condition; basically guitars that are structurally sound and have few to no cosmetic issues.

CF85     $350 - $500   Gibson J200 Copy
CF75     $275 - $400   Martin Copy Maple Body
CF65     $250 - $400   Dove Natural Finish
CF95     $200 - $300   Martin Copy Rosewood Body
CF65     $175 - $250   Dove Copy Sunburst Finish
CF150   $100 - $150   12 String
CF347   $75   - $100   Classical
CE223   $150 - $300   Electric Les Paul Copy

Other things to consider when valuing Cortley guitars:
1. A Cortley guitar with an adjustable saddle isn’t going to resonate as well as one with a fixed saddle and may devalue the guitar.
2. Older Cortley guitars may be worth more. These models would have a label without the Distributed by Southland Music Corp information.
3. The CF30 and CF45 models were added later and would be the rarest models and that may affect the price on these models.
4. If your electric guitar has an original case, the pair may be worth more than what they are worth separately. The cases I have seen are black with orange fuzzy lining, and can be seen on our website.

Concerning where to buy one, we suggest a regimen of diligent searches on the Web. Patience and persistence may prove invaluable in your efforts to obtain a Cortley guitar. We believe Ebay is your best bet, but I have also found Cortley guitars auctioned off on other sites and advertised in other guitar stores on the net. So scrubbing the web could turn up a pearl that most will overlook. If you become impatient, then we suggest trying to find Cortley’s first cousin, a Cortez! Cortez guitars are well made, and they were in production a lot longer, so there are more of them around. Ebay usually has a few of these each week for sale. Obviously, buying a guitar that you can’t play first isn’t an ideal situation. Hopefully there will be enough close up pictures and you will ask enough of the right questions to minimize the risk of getting stuck with a clunker. Good hunting and we hope you find what you’re looking for!

Posted by cortleyguitars at 11:01 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 10 May 2009 11:31 AM EDT
Monday, 4 May 2009
About Cortley Guitars Website

    This site was first published on the World Wide Web late in December of 2007. At that point in time there were no guitar websites that even scarcely touched on Cortley Guitars. Most of you that searched for Cortley guitars on the Web will agree that there were only a few comments left on Musician Bulletin Boards and a few reviews at Harmony Central. Most of these people expressed a common belief that their Cortley Guitars were something special, although they were certainly not well known. Someone had to pick up the Cortley Guitar banner, and since I owned a few of these fine guitars, I thought I might be that person.

    To me, a picture is still worth a thousand words. So I went forth with a few pictures of my guitars prepared to give Cortley Guitars a place on the Web and in the annals of history. My first contacts were those people who had posted reviews and messages at Musician Bulletin Boards. Most Emails were no longer valid, but the people I was able to contact were happy to assist me in my efforts. Arron Ferran in the UK was the first to shed some light on the Cortez Guitar connection, and Ray Wagner was the first to send me pictures of Cortley Electric guitars. When our site was picked up by search engines, Rick Clymer contacted me by Email. Rick is the major source for most of the information on Cortley Guitars found on this Website. He has researched Cortley Guitars, and I encourage you to read his Emails that are posted in this blog, and also check out the CF30 page with his guitar and links to other info he has provided.

    This site is intended to be a resource site for Cortley guitar owners and others who are searching for information on these fine instruments. I encourage everyone to list their Cortley guitars in the Guestbook, thereby becoming a part of the Cortley Guitar Network. 

    This site is hosted by Lycos Tripod for free.  With a FREE site there are always a few issues. Pop ups and advertisements are annoying, but they pay the bills. I have used the most of what is available for free to give Cortley Guitars a place on the Web, so keep that in mind. We hope that despite our imperfections, that this site will be a resource for all looking for information on Cortley guitars, and we also hope that owners of Cortley guitars will feel that they now have a home on the Web. As a final note, we are sincere in our appreciation of Lycos for making a place for us on the Web!

Thank you!
John Dove - Cortley Guitars Website Webmaster

Posted by cortleyguitars at 6:42 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 10 May 2009 11:25 AM EDT

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