I think there’s an illusion among many vintage guitar enthusiasts that the 1960s were some sort of candy store filled with glittering guitars at every turn. Certainly the remarkable variety of brands and designs that were produced and have survived help foster this illusion of abundance. But the reality on the ground back then was quite different for most of us. Few of us ever encountered a guitar like this 1967 TeleStar until well after the fact!
Over many years of writing about and photographing guitars, I’ve had numerous occasion to take pictures of guitars “on location.” That means packing up rather bulky photographic gear—cameras, tripods, lights, backdrops—and voyaging near and far. Sometimes this took place at a vintage guitar shop, sometimes at a collector’s place. When it came to the subject of TeleStar guitars, I got to combine both.
Get around round round I get around/I’m a real cool head/Get around round round I get around/I’m makin’ real good bread. Back in the day, The Beach Boys were often pictured with what was sort of their “band car,” a Chevy Corvette Stingray. There was some spiritual force that inextricably linked hot rods and guitars back in the early to mid-1960s. Rock and roll and Big Daddy Roth kind of went together. Just ask Billy Gibbons. Or just consider this 1967 Gretsch Corvette 6135.
EKO was an Italian manufacturer located in Recanati, Italy. Their products include classical guitars, 12-string guitars, arch top guitars, electric guitars and acoustic bass guitars. EKO guitars gained high popularity during the rock’n’roll craze of 1960s, becoming the largest guitar exporter in Europe. Their electric models were often highly ornamented with pearl, featured 3 or 4 pickups and recognizable “rocker” switches for pickup selection. The acoustic models were popular in country and folk rock bands of the late ’60s.
As I’ve said many times, one of the privileges of writing about off-beat guitars is that I get to do detective work and, when I’m lucky (and in time!), talk to someone who had a direct hand in bringing us the guitars in question. I had to dig hard to uncover something about Alamo guitars and I was both lucky and luckily in time with this story!
This cherryburst Rangemaster Model 109R Goya guitar was made by the “Polverini Brothers” of Italy (not by EKO as previously thought) in the late 1960’s. The multi control panels that were common with Italian instruments from that era, include a master volume next to three tone options, low, medium and high. The upper controls are for pickup selection, as the pickups are split into 3+3 x 2. So the controls are: 1+2, 1+4, 2+3, 3+4, off. Pretty cool!
Imagine someone telling you about an old-time music store that had a huge stash of unsold guitars from the 1960s, plus some guitar effects from the ‘70s lying around in its upper floors in Newark, NJ. Well, you can bet it didn’t take long for me to beat a path to the door of Newark Music City (calm down; this was a long time ago and, while the company still exists, it’s long gone from Newark). Even though I was late in the game, there were still unmined treasures to be had. A real Temple of Doom!
Late 1960’s and early 1970’s Tokai guitars are very well crafted instruments. Eventually they drifted into the more profitable Les Paul copies and developed a great reputation – which probably sparked the lawsuits from that era. However, before that, they were making some crazy guitars, and perhaps the Hummingbird was one of the craziest.