The heart-shaped ‘SATELLITE’ model that bears the MURPH name is a MOST unusual creature! It looks nothing like the normal ‘Squire’ model generally associated with the company and only a few examples are left in captivity. ( not that many existed in the first place ) It’s existance was first brought to the world’s attention by well known bizarre guitar collector Teisco Del Ray in his regular columns in Guitar Player magazine in 1986. It was a most unusual find in the “oddball guitar field “he specialised in and a design that even today stands alone in it’s “uniqueness”.
Who exactly came up with the idea is unclear but some family sources attribute the design to Pat Murphy himself ( although his wife Mary Jane was the designer of the ‘Squire’ models ) while Pat recalls that the heart shaped guitar was suggested by their salesman, Jim Gurley who had been the kids music teacher and came into the business to help market the guitars.
This period was a hostile time in the guitar industry and everyone was being accused of design theft. Murphy Music Industries were in mid 1966 embroiled in a potential legal challenge over the offset shape of their ‘Squire’ solid body guitar range which to one of the major guitar manufacturers looked too much like their “offset body” styling. Some new models were being developed and it was thought that if a truly radical design was produced, especially one which was so different to existing guitars, then rival companies could not claim it had been copied.
The name of this oddball was to be the ‘SATELLITE’ but it’s factory working title remained the ‘heart-shaped guitar’. They were designed in 6 and 12 string configurations as well as a 4 string bass, however it and the 12 string version ( with the massive “6 tuners a side” maple & rosewood headstock ) were terribly top heavy & the instruments were quite unbalanced.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that the bodies were semi-hollow in construction with a poplar perimeter frame with ply deck & back – all finished in a black/red sunburst. Pickups were locally made covered by white molded covers. ( sadly they were fairly weak in output )
The other hardware used was common to the Squire range of 12 strings. ( tailpiece / bridge / Kluson tuners / electronics etc… )
Two photos that show the massive headstock on the 12 string version of the Satellite
Serial numbers were stamped into the triangular neck plate and prefixed with an ‘S’ for Satellite. Well, this was the intention, as some have surfaced with no ‘S’ prefix or no number at all!
The radical body shape needed a special stand to support the instrument and it was unable to be supported comfortably whilst in a sitting position. These were issues that would have been remedied if the company had survived but that was not to be.Pat estimates that because production of these guitars was toward the end of 1966 and times were difficult, that there may have been less than a dozen or so ‘Satellite’ heart guitars made ( of all the styles ) ….making this possibly the rarest of all MURPHs
One of the few Murph ‘Satellites’ left – and in fact the ONLY 6 string one found thus far is this one formally owned by rockabilly artist, Deke Dickerson but now under new ownership in Japan. ( if you are reading this, please contact us )Photo courtesy of Deke – thanks buddy!
Two more views of the only 6 string Satellite found to date – now ‘lost’ in Japan
Now, having sold off his only Murph Satellite years ago and regretting it ever since, look what Deke has turned up!! ….. yes a closet special – a Murph Satellite with stand, with brochures NEVER USED!!!!Yes, folks, this time warp sat in a San Diego closet for decades before the irrepressible guitar guru found it and brought it home. Look for it at his display at the Guiter Geek Festival this month.
This is twilight zone stuff folks, imagine this sitting in a closet, wrapped in plastic, and kept safe from humidity changes since 1966!!!!
Another of the RARE Murph heart shaped ‘Satellites’, this one held in a private collection here in Australia. This example has had the headstock “reconstructed” ( albeit incorrectly ) and is currently being restored to it’s former glory!