At the Boatright Home in Norwalk

Mar 31, 2024

I had to run a couple of errands today, so I thought I would get some more Mosrite book research done as I was passing through the Norwalk area of Los Angeles.

Semie Moseley, the founder of Mosrite, customized guitars (and I believe even built a guitar or two) before he wound up living at this residence around 1952 or 1953. The house belonged to a preacher, Reverend Ray Boatright, a man who could’ve been a character in his own television show or movie.

Reverend Boatright was a cowboy preacher who got his start under Aimee Semple McPherson in the great Los Angeles evangelical crusades of the 1930s. He was loud, boisterous, funny, musical (he played guitar himself), and led a Pentecostal church in downtown Los Angeles—one of the first fully integrated churches at the time. In the post-WWII era, Boatright traveled to Brazil and ran with the cowboys down there, converting many of them to Christianity.

Semie Moseley was very young, perhaps sixteen or seventeen years old, when he began performing at Boatright’s revivals. Broke and hungry, Semie lived with the Boatright family for a time, around 1952 to 1955, and that’s the reason I’m here in Norwalk today.

Reverend Boatright bought Semie Moseley his first set of woodworking tools (at Sears and Roebuck) and allowed the teenager to build guitars behind his house (I have heard it described as a “tool shed,” but as I’m looking here today, it was probably the detached garage in the back).

This is where Semie Moseley made his first triple-neck guitar (it is believed he started making the triple neck when he worked at Rickenbacker Guitars for a brief time, but as he told in several interviews, Rickenbacker fired him for building his own guitar on company time). He also made the famous doublenecks for Joe Maphis and Larry Collins here at this address, as well as many of the customized guitars he created for the Town Hall Party television show artists.

To repay the debt of Reverend Boatright buying him his first “real” set of woodworking tools, Semie named his new fledgling guitar company Mos-Rite, a portmanteau of his last name (MOSEley), and the Reverend’s last name (BoatRIGHT).

This house, at 13311 Corby Avenue in Norwalk, is the birthplace of Mosrite guitars.

Semie said in interviews that when he finished the doubleneck guitar for Joe Maphis, he and Reverend Boatright went to meet Joe at a local honky-tonk called the Pioneer Room in Norwalk. Semie was too young to get in, but the Reverend came in and got Joe and brought him outside, where Semie presented Joe with the instrument he would make famous all over the world—and the first instrument to bring fame to the Mos-Rite company.

Today, of course, I had to drive 3/4 of a mile from the house where Reverend Boatright lived, and check out the former location of the Pioneer Room. It’s still there, still featuring live music. I’m sure nobody there has any idea of the history that surrounds them. I guess that’s my job.

Thanks to David Smith for tracking down the address for me through Ray Boatright’s daughter.

See the original Facebook post for more photos!