Vintage Japan Electric Guitars

I will tell you about guitar that was made in Japan in the 1960s. It is really interesting story. You can see these guitars have a similar quality about them. They all look like vintage Japanese sixties guitars, but they’re all different in ways. But it’s a really interesting story. In the 60s, there were a handful of, uh, manufacturers that were making guitars and, it’s easy for us to think nowadays because of what happened through the seventies and eighties. American companies offshore to Japan to make cheap stuff. Well, this is before that these companies were created on their own.

They were, making guitars on their own. They weren’t like just manufacturers that were just trying to reproduce something that was made in United States. And before, like in the late sixties, it started to become offshoring to the Japan seventies offshore in Japan in the 70s. All these Japanese manufacturers just made Les Paul looking guitars, Les Paul and Strat ripoffs is all they made. And they killed it. They made tons of money and everything. But before that they were making guitars that were distinctly Japanese and they weren’t being told to make them by American companies. They were just making to sell in Japan.

And then they even started coming over to the United States and selling them United States, not what we would think of the traditional story. Like: “Oh, I’m an American company, I’m going to offshore to Japan.”

These were companies being entrepreneurial to come to the U S and market their brands and sell their guitars in the United States. The United States, guitar makers, harmony, K, the big ones, a Gibson and all these were being undercut by these cheap, inexpensive to purchase guitars that were being made in Japan. And, what they started to do was the American company started to try to make guitars as cheaply and Kay had some success and we’ll talk about that when we talk about Kay with a kind of a price point, like a $59 price point that could compete with these Japanese guitars. But, and then eventually, not only did, American company start compete and trying to compete with them, which they couldn’t do. But then it was like: “what’s going to happen?” A number of things happened. First of all, like American entrepreneur gas dude with cigar, a sport coat that doesn’t fit well makes up a brand name for a guitar out of his hat and off like contact some dude in Japan and build it for them and sells at the Sears.

You know, you’ve got a lot of that. You get a lot of these American brands that are just made. You dash you guitars. It is the garments Bay cigar man basically started taking the cars that were already being made and starts just changing the name on them and selling them. Teiso is one of the big Japanese manufacturers. They were, they were in the early 60, late fifties, early sixties, probably a handful of these manufacturers. Then by the late sixties, they were probably 15, 25 of them. And then in the 70s, it was a free for all man. And you had again, everybody, all these American companies, offshore India, Japan.

But there was this, there was this heyday in the 60s where in the early sixties, this is 63. This is a unknown, early sixties, where the guitars were unique. No guitars in the world like this. And they’re Japanese looking and they’ve got, you know, their electronics, their buttons here, they use these gold foil pickups. This is a gold foil in here that you couldn’t make today cause it would be too expensive to make their kinda microphonic pickups cause that solid gold, just, 90,000 carrots. I don’t know about you about vegetables, but a lot of carrots in here.

The kind of what people call the warm vintage tone, which is funny cause you think warm vintage will guy listen to old music and like Beatles. And so there’s nothing warm about that. It’s all jangly. Well what they mean jerk by vintages. Actually these gold for these kind of Japanese guitars had this jazzy warm body down. They’ve got great action. They’re great. The thing is is that they’re all handmade and just like this little factory somewhere in Japan and there’s this incredible inconsistency around them. Like some of are incredibly well made and some of them are very poorly made. I have great action. The pickups are all wound different amounts. Know, there’s no science kind of quality control, controlling all this stuff. It’s not the Japan of the eighties where we think of Toyota and like extreme quality control.

These are like, this kind of farm folk, blue collar Japanese books. Hand-making making these guitars, and it’s before the U S kind of took over the Japanese market and I love them. You can, you can find them and you see them in a range of price. You know, you see him for um, a couple hundred bucks. You see him for 1200 bucks. It just depends on how well they’re made, when they were made, what, what manufacturer made them, what name brand they have stamped on them. It might be an American name brand, a Japanese name brand.

And this one actually, this is an Italian name brand melody. It’s owned by ECO, the Italian company. And they decided to make their guitars. They formed a brand called melody and decided to make them in Japan. And this is like mid sixties.

They reached out to a manufacturer manufacturing Japan and like: “Hey, will you make us, a guitar to sell in Italy?” And of course it comes out looking like a Japanese guitar, because that’s all they were making. They’re using the same part. There was like a handful of these manufacturers. This look sort of like vaguely fender, but with this, all this random stuff and this cool kind of junk on it that was defined in sixties. It’s Japanese style. It’s the art and I mean. And you can recognize these Japanese guitars. You see when you’re like, that’s gotta be a sixties Japanese guitar. Before everything became all those same companies starting to just making imitations and less positive strats, they were making these completely unique guitar.

This one went, this guitar was made in the early sixties in Japan. Then went to Italy, had a life in Italy and then somehow ended up in United States. And then somehow I ended up with us here at the local pickup. That’s pretty cool. And they’re all bulked on neck. They’re, kind of inexpensive wood. They all got that same kind of swoopy, maybe Telecaster kind, but side swoop body Jazzmaster. And they’ve all got these either gold foil or what people call silver foil pickups. These are the silver for water. You don’t have the gold in it, but still has the same quality about it.

Are these, were these original pickups?

Both of these are, they’re the exact same style. And they’re like the microphonic. In the cold foil.war they were pro, it’s likely these guitars were made in the same plant in Japan. And this one went to Italy and this one came to United States.

And a really interesting thing about this guitar is, every guitar has that we know of that I’ve always grown up with. You have the, the dot on the third fret, uh, the fifth fret, seventh threaten, the ninth fret. And then instead of going 11th you skipped to the 12th and that’s standard. It’s on every guitar I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Well this one has third fret, fifth fret, seventh fret. And then instead of the ninth, it’s on the 10th fret, which is different than the ninth fret. And that was a Italian European thing. And they’re kind of, um, acoustic guitars. They would put it on the dot on the 10th fret versus the ninth fret. Apparently when the Italian company ordered this guitar from the Japanese maker, they had to tell him; “Hey, put the dot on the 10th frat.” And they made it and their Japanese style, but then they put the dot on it on the 10th fret.

People say like, what does that say? Warm vintage town. Warm vintage. The Beatles was anything but warm. It was jangly and Crispin. It was were butthole heart and they were called hearted man.

This one, came out of a factory unbranded. I’m thinking an employee kind of made one for himself, uh, is for him. Or him or her, you know, whatever. But it’s a, we’re working on this when we’re gonna refresh some of it and, work on the electronics, maybe change out the wires and whatnot. But this one is a, I love this one. It’s got a cool book. It’s tiny little guitar. It’s interesting that the arms, you can see the finish is, it’s blue on the front, but then there’s like this red on the side just on the sides. It’s really neat.

But they all have a really warm. Real deep. And it’s funny, it’s such a small guitar, but you would think it would sound board jangling.

Very cool thing to have some of these guitars. You can find them out there again, the prices range radically. Couple of hundred bucks to 1000 bucks or whatever based on if they’re, first of all, it might be somebody just trying to, overcharge for it. But mostly it’s like is does it have good action. Does it do the electronics work? They’re in all different States, these guitars basically. You gotta be careful when you buy one, if you, unless you can play it yourself. But, some of them come and the action’s high from the guitar.

Anyway, it’s very cool. It’s a cool thing in history that a Japan was making guitars that were distinctly Japanese before they started making guitars for American companies. Cause I would’ve thought that it was just like, well this is all an American thing and we’re just going to outsource to Japan. But they were over there making killer guitars and sort of created this wave of guitars.

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