Being a Chicago based business we have a special affinity with Kay. Kay guitars started in Chicago however Kay actually started building guitars in 1890 under the Groshl name. By 1921 the name was changed to Stromberg-Voisinet. By the early 1920 Stromberg was supplying guitars to Montgomery Wards and Regal. After the introduction of the higher end "Kay Craft" guitars in 1931 the company name was changed to Kay Musical Instruments.
Kay was purchased in 1955 by a former Harmony manager and quickly turned Kay into one of the largest guitar manufacturers of the 1950's. Kay supplied guitars to Sears for the Silvertone line as well as Speigal (Kraftsmen brand), Montgomery Wards (Airline brand) and many other private label distributors. One of the most popular 50's models was the Silvertone "Jimmy Reed Thin Twin" which was the Kay 161 model.
In the 60's the market was changing and imports from companies such as Univox and Teisco resulted in financial difficulties for Kay. Seeburg, a Juke Box manufacturer purchased Kay in 1965 later selling Kay to Valco. Valco soon went out of business taking Kay with it. The Kay brand was sold to WMI in 1969.