Burns Bison

Burns has a checkered history. Production was started in 1959 by Alice Farrell and James Ormston (Jim) Burns as Burns-Weill. Jim Burns manufactured a British product to his own design. Of moderate quality they were significantly cheaper than US made Fenders and Gibsons and of course did not attract import duties. In the early sixties, I acquired a Burns Vibra Artist which was an odd shaped solid with three Burns Trisonic pick-ups. This was later replaced by a Burns Black Bison that had curiously elongated horns and four pick-ups.


Burns had some limited success with artists such as Hank Marvin and Jimmy Hendrix but his products never quite matched the popularity of their American rivals. In 1965 Burns was sold to The Baldwin Piano and Organ Company and renamed Baldwin-Burns. Product quality dropped and Baldwin threw in the towel in 1970.

Between 1970 and 1992 Jim burns was involved in several ventures, none of which proved particularly successful. In 1992 production was restarted by Barry Gibb who hired Jim Burns as a consultant. Now christened Burns of London, the company offered a range including a reissue of the strikingly styled Bison, this time with only three pick-ups. I bought my white Bison as an act of pure nostalgia. I took it to the French house but, being a solid, it requires electrification with which I could rarely be bothered so the poor old Burns tended to languish in a cupboard. Replaced by a more agreeable Epiphone ES 175 (to me at any rate), it is now back in the UK.

As an interesting footnote to the career of Jim  Burns is the fact that when he sold his business , as a fan of the Alvis car marque, he was instrumental  in the design of a heavily modified  Alvis TD  model with a Corvette V8 aimed at the US market. The venture came to nothing but the lone prototype still exists today and was recently for sale at around £70K.

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