Magnatone Guitars!

New for Fall 2013, a complete guide to Magnatone guitars and the stories behind them!

1938-1960 Steel Guitars

1956-1963 Bigsby/Barth Era

1964-1966 Starstream Era


Stan Green

The Magnatone story encounters Stanley Green in 1961. Green was the president and part-owner of ORCOA (Organ Corporation of America). ORCOA imported small reed organs from Italy for the US market. These organs were priced in the $50-$100 range, and sold relatively well in the student and beginner market. The keyboard and reed assemblies were built in Italy, and assembled into cases at a facility on Long Island.

When Arnold Bernhard was looking to get shed of Estey, he found ORCOA. A merger was cooked up between the two that allowed ORCOA's owners to buy Estey (and thus Magnatone). Little or no cash traded hands in the deal, it was an acquistion simply made by issuing stock shares and trading them between companies.

Green's friend and business partner was Sonny Knazick. In the case of ORCOA as well as the post-merger Estey Corporation, Stan was president, and Sonny was vice-president. Another important player in Green's business dealings and personal life was Jay Levine, his father-inlaw. Levine was part owner of both Estey and ORCOA, but elected to be a director only, and never held an executive position in Estey.

Green's administration of Estey was always viewed as being suspect by engineers and plant workers. As the company continually struggled with payroll. The impression that Stan and Sonny were lining their pockets while the company suffered was common.

When it came to matters of gaining confidence in investors or in the media, Green and Knazick often cited that Estey had a hundred years of experience in the organ business but between the two of them there was only a handful of years at the helm of ORCOA, which imported small toy reed organs. They made Estey a participant of the financial practice of factoring, which if done by a strong leader, can help a company eventually achieve success. In the case of Estey, it only further contributed to its financial problems.

Following bankruptcy in 1964, Estey's primary creditor, Commerical Credit Corp., saw to it that Stan and Sonny were removed from their executive positions, however they remained share-holders of the company.

Cine-Box and Color-Sonics

In 1963, Green started importing video jukeboxes from Italy under the name Cine-Box as a division of Estey. Some level of success of these units seemed to exist in Europe, but didn't materialize in US markets. When Commerical Credit asked Green and Knazick to step down, they also cut the Cine-box division loose. Almost immediately a new Green/Knazick venture was born, picking up the pieces where Cine-Box left off. The new operation, Color-Sonics, advertised that all but the disk changer assembly was made in the USA. Color-Sonics didn't fare must better than Cine-Box, and it appears to have only latest for the years 1966 and maybe 1967.

After this venture failed, Stan and Sonny --still part owners of Estey-- began to get involved in Estey business again, although it is unclear in what capacity they might have served.
When Electro-Learner merged/acquired Estey, majority ownership ended up with Levine, Green, Knazick, and Art Schmoyer, and the first order of business was to elect Stan and Sonny as president and vice-president of the new company. Of course, this venture didn't last either and it was completely gone by 1973 or so.

At some point in the 1970's, there was nothing left of Estey . Green and his father in-law, Jay Levine, ended up in Florida owning and running a medical insurance outfit. This went bust in a bad way, complete with litigation, fraud charges, and bankruptcy in 1975. Levine died in 1976, and Green died in 1990.

Read more about Stanley Green

Sonny Knazick

Born in Brooklyn to Russian immigrants, Saul Knazick worked in the tooling dept at a factory prior serving in the US Army from 1943-1947 an airplane pilot. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Metals, and two Purple Hearts.

After earned a bachelors degree at Long Island University he sold Encyclopedias for a short time and then went into the frozen food business. He was quite successful in this field, and had his hands in several frozen food home provisioning outfits in the New York area.

At some point in the mid to late fifties he became a part owner of ORCOA.

His involvement with ORCOA and Estey is summarized above in the Stan Green narrative and in detail at in the history of Magnatone.

Green and Knazick spent most of their time at the head offices in West Hempstead, NY and had little direct envolvement in the company in terms of production direction for guitars and guitar amplifiers, especially in the Torrance years. After the collapse of Estey, Knazick continued to work in the NYC area for Emerson tape. Knazick died in 1996.

Pictured below-right, Knazick is second from the right, and to the left of him is Irving Kappy. Kappy was in charge of the ORCOA division post-Estey merger and the short-lived, failed Estey tape division. This picture is from 1979.




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