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Category Archive1990’s Vintage Guitars

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Forgotten Offset Guitars: Teisco TG-64

Offset Guitars have been, for a long time, a favourite amongst alternative rock and indie rock players. Let’s have a look at a forgotten classic – the Teisco TG-64, now being reissued by Eastwood.

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Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead, one of the players who discovered the joys of a Teisco offset – she plays the bass version of the TG-64, the TB-64 now being resurrected by Eastwood. VIEW INFO

Don’t get us wrong – we love a good Jazzmaster, Jaguar or Mustang. Fender was and still is the big daddy of the offset guitars. But if familiarity doesn’t always have to bring contempt, on the other hand many of us prefer guitars with that little spark of mystery, which add to an unique touch when you’re on stage, or simply helps making it more interesting to play. That’s why a few lucky guitarists can’t help but loving their rare, 1960’s Teisco TG-64. Let’s be honest, it has a certain mojo lacking in modern-day Jazzmasters!

The Forgotten Offset Classic?

While its shape is familar, it’s all about those other details: three single coil pickups stripy scratchplate, push buttons and that cut-out handle on the body – what’s it all about? One of those features no one really needs, but which in fact looks pretty cool. It was the Sixties, after all, and who knows what the designers were smoking, then!

Original Teisco TG-64

Original Teisco TG-64

The thing about Teisco guitars, is that they were unashamedly cheap knock offs of bigger brands such as Fender – but with enough personality to stand out on their own. They were never meant to be GREAT guitars, but put them through a valve amp and a good fuzz pedal, and it could be the coolest thing ever.  Originally unpopular offset models such as the Jazzmaster and Jaguar were affordable, and for this reason rediscovered in the Seventies by Punk and New Wave acts, but as soon as they became a staple in 90s alt-rock, thanks to Nirvana, Sonic Youth and others, they became prized commodities – and, somewhere along the way, lost just a little bit of their “cool” factor (for all it’s worth!).

Owning a Teisco TG-64 is a bit like owning a Jazzmaster back in 1976 – because it’s still an odd and rather cool choice, not seen too often. Some of the people who’ve used one recently include Blonde Redhead and Conor Oberst. But this model is still not the easiest to find! This is perhaps the coolest of all non-Fender offset guitars, and certainly a “forgotten classic”!

Conor Oberst and his Teisco TG-64

Conor Oberst and his Teisco TG-64

Eastwood Custom TG-64 Monkey Grip

It’s great news that Eastwood Custom are planning to reissue the Teisco TG-64. The plan is to make it even better than the original, but still quite affordable. While in the past Teisco were cool but cheap guitars, the new ones are of much better quality. If you’re looking for a cool alternative to a Fender Jaguar or Jazzmaster that really stands out, maybe the new Eastwood Custom TG-64 will do the trick for you.

Eastwood Custom TG-64 Monkey Grip

Eastwood Custom TG-64 Monkey Grip

At the moment guitarists have to pledge a small amount to guarantee theirs… if you’re interested, hurry up, because opportunity ends TODAY (17th November)

VIEW EASTWOOD TG-64 PAGE FOR INFO

Eastwood Custom TB-64 Monkey Grip

Tesco TB-64... new Eastwood custom project

Teisco TB-64… new Eastwood custom project. Find out more

The Teisco TB-64 looks very closely to the TG-64, but with a few differences besides the longer scale: a more “Fender-y” headstock, different neck joint and a vibrato arm closer to the edge of the body. Yes, it might’ve been inspired – in principle – on the Fender Bass VI but, frankly, has quite a marked difference… and, dare we say, looks much better?

Eastwood launched a custom shop project to reissue the TB-64, ending on April 20, 2017. They’ve successfully crowdfunded the TG-64 and it looks likely the TB-64 will also get made… but the best way to make sure this happens, and to guarantee yours, is of course to help crowdfunding and leave your pledge, too!

VIEW EASTWOOD TB-64 PAGE FOR INFO

Watch: Teisco TG-64 Demo

Vintage 1990 Vester Concert II Electric Guitar

Speechless (Vintage 1990 Vester Concert II HFR-1070 Electric Guitar)

Now that we’ve grabbed your attention, you may be surprised to find that it’s not that easy to write responsibly about a guitar with a shapely woman’s derriere replacing quilted maple on the top, but we’ll give it the old college try.

Actually, painted finishes have been around probably forever. I’m no expert on really old guitars, but I’m sure faux wood finishes have been used ever since the technique was invented. It was popular in the late Victorian period on many items, including boxes, clocks, and furniture. Chicago’s Joseph Bohmann specialized in acoustic guitars with faux wood finishes from the 1880’s into the early 20th Century. Faux wood finishes returned on inexpensive guitars during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, obvious concessions to the hard times. Even Fender and some other makers used a form of photographic faux finishes on their electric guitars in recent times.

Vintage 1990 Vester Concert II Electric Guitar

Vintage 1990 Vester Concert II Electric Guitar

Likewise graphic decorations have been used time out of mind. Technically speaking, marquetry and purfling are forms of it. Stenciling probably existed for a long time, but by the 1920’s it had become a common technique for dressing up cheaper guitars. Think of those cowboy guitars with roundup and campfire scenes on the front. Sometimes this “stenciling” was actually what was known as “decalomania,” use of a colored acetate decal under the clearcoat. These could be as simple as gold scrolls to 4-colored scenes like on the Bradley Kincaid Houn’ Dog of the late 1920’s.

Vintage 1990 Vester Concert II Electric Guitar

Vintage 1990 Vester Concert II Electric Guitar

All these “finish tricks” are ancestors of the guitar graphics that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Probably no one did more to champion custom graphics on guitars than Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, whose checkerboard-to-self-portrait guitars almost define the genre. By the early ‘80s heavy metal was on the rise. Essential to metal was flashy guitar playing and for that you needed a flashy guitar, often with nifty graphics. Graphic guitars trailed off late in the decade but right around 1989-90 there was a resurgence of the form. Crackle paint jobs, bowling balls, and guitars like this here c. 1990 Vester II Concert Series (JJR Series) HFR-1070 (I kid you not).

Vintage 1990 Vester Concert II Electric Guitar

Vintage 1990 Vester Concert II Electric Guitar

I tried to get information about Vester guitars and contacted someone at the parent company, but it was NAMM time and later I misplaced the contact. But we know a little. Vester guitars were imported by Samuel Music Company of Effingham, IL, probably beginning in the late 1980’s, by 1987 at least. Your guess is as good as mine as to why this is a Vester II and not just a Vester. There were some “Traditional Series” copy guitars, and some more modern bass designs, at least. Vesters were made by Saehan Guitar Technology of Korea. Online sources say there were some Japanese Vesters as well, but take that with a grain of salt, since the Korean Saehan factory is the only source identified. The guitars were imported by Midco Music, which became Musicorp. Most Vester guitars of this vintage had typical graphic finishes for the times, some abstract, some representational.

Vintage 1990 Vester Concert II Electric Guitar

Vintage 1990 Vester Concert II Electric Guitar

I’m not sure how this graphic was produced, but I’m guessing its some sort of photo-printing process of an original airbrushed image. This is a pretty standard form of Superstrat, with the H/S/H pickup layout. The pickup covers are marked “Vester” and encase serviceable Korean pickups. The controls are interesting. Supporting the master volume and tone are the mini-toggles that control each pickup. The single-coil is on/off. However, the humbuckers are on/off/on, reversing the phase between the two on positions. Pretty clever and pretty complicated, if you ask me.

By the late 1980s Korean manufacturers were making decent guitars. These are solid, competent guitars. If you like personality, they don’t have a lot. But how do you define “personality?” Some guitars have this vibe that incorporates some sort of ineffable essence from the people who made it. Some are just good tools…and this falls into that category. Pump it through some nice effects and it will perform admirably.

I’ve no idea how long Vester brand guitars were produced, but probably into the mid-1990s at least. With the advent of “the Seattle sound” spearheaded by bands like Nirvana, Superstrats fell out of favor, and overtly sexist graphics were hardly appropriate. Vester guitars don’t seem to be especially rare, but this is the only one of this graphic I’ve ever seen. But, it was cataloged. At least we can say they are not everyday occurrences.

As a red-blooded heterosexual man, I’m tickled by the idea of exercising that strategically placed whammy. But, to be honest, it’s hard to imagine a venue where you could do that without garnering the ire of a good portion of the human race these days. Not sure I’d have the…

Well, so, did I write responsibly about a guitar decorated by a woman’s rear end? You bet your…

Vintage 1994 Alvarez Dana Scoop AE650TRW Electric Guitar (White)

A (Mostly) Happy Accident (Vintage 1994 Alvarez Dana Scoop Electric Guitar)

I don’t recall how I got his number, but when I called Dana Sutcliffe to talk about what is probably his most famous—at least known famous—guitar, he said we should do lunch. Dana lives just down the road from me in Delaware, so it was an easy meeting. I asked if he’d ever had Vietnamese pho (beef noodle soup, one of the world’s most perfect foods), and since he hadn’t and since he loves to eat, we met one day in one of South Philadelphia’s numerous pho parlors to discuss the genesis of the Alvarez Dana Scoop. It was, as it turns out, all the result of an accident.

Vintage 1994 Alvarez Dana Scoop AE650TRW Electric Guitar (White)

Vintage 1994 Alvarez Dana Scoop AE650TRW Electric Guitar (White)

Sutcliffe grew up in the Philadelphia area and Delaware. At 13 years of age, he got one of those 4-pickup Kent solidbodies with the horrible pickups. He promptly rewound them and was on his way. Armed with guitar experience, in 1978-79 Sutcliffe cut his teeth on guitarmaking at the short-lived flop—but ultimately fascinating—Renaissance (plexiglass) guitars out in Newtown Square, PA.

Most of you have probably seen his next work. Sutcliffe began working with another Delawarean, George Thorogood, converting Gibson hollowbodies to his taste and repainting them white. Sutcliffe began adjusting amps for a local Crate amp rep using a guitar with his own pickups, and that eventually led to a gig outfitting electrics in Westone solidbody guitars for St. Louis Music (Crate’s owner) in around 1987. The following year he had a line of Dana Westones.

Vintage 1994 Alvarez Dana Scoop AE650TRW Electric Guitar (White)

Vintage 1994 Alvarez Dana Scoop AE650TRW Electric Guitar (White)

In 1988 one of Sutcliffe’s employees was working on a Matsumoku-made Westone body when the router hit a knot near the treble cutaway and accidentally cut a big gash in the body. The body was discarded, but another employee finished assembling the guitar. The next day it was the joke of the shop, but when Sutcliffe played it, it sounded really, really good. He fiddled around with the gash and invented the Dana Scoop prototype.
Sutcliffe took the guitar to the 1989 NAMM show and showed it around as a novelty. However, SLM pulled him aside and told him to stop showing it. They were looking for a new model and this would be it! The new Alvarez Dana Scoop (made by Cort; the Westone brand died when Matsumoku stopped making guitars perhaps as late as 1990) debuted at the 1992 NAMM show, where it was named the “Guitar of the Year.” It was extremely successful and a number of variations appeared over the next couple years, including a Strat-style “L.A.” model and a Tele-inspired “Nashville.”

However, the relationship between Sutcliffe and SLM quickly began to sour. By 1994 versions of the Scoop that Sutcliffe had not approved began to appear, including the one with a Modulus Graphite neck and the guitar shown here with the 3-coil Tri-Force (probably a descendent of the Mighty Mite Motherbucker; Cort owned the Mighty Mite franchise by this time).

Vintage 1994 Alvarez Dana Scoop AE650TRW Electric Guitar (White)

Vintage 1994 Alvarez Dana Scoop AE650TRW Electric Guitar (White)

Seen here is an Alvarez Dan Scoop AE650TRW from around 1994. It has a see-through butterscotch finish over a figured maple body with the unauthorized Tri-Force pickup. The fiveway offers five different one- and two-coil combinations. Controls include a master volume and two tones. These were basically made for about one year, possibly less. By 1995 Sutcliffe and SLM had parted ways. Since Sutcliffe had a patent on the Scoop design, the model also departed the guitar universe. Production numbers are impossible to determine with any accuracy, but Sutcliffe estimates that approximately 2-3,000 of the original design were made, plus a 500-700 more L.A. and Nashville Scoop variants, and a fair number of custom-shop examples. How many of these Tri-Forces were produced is a total mystery.

Vintage 1994 Alvarez Dana Scoop AE650TRW Electric Guitar (White)

Vintage 1994 Alvarez Dana Scoop AE650TRW Electric Guitar (White)

The Alvarez Dana Scoop is pretty cool for a pin-router accident! And a lot of fun to play. It only had a brief roughly three year run, though it seems to loom larger than that. These days Sutcliffe keeps extra busy doing custom restorations and set-ups of high-end collectable guitars and banjos for well-heeled, mostly pro clients. We both keep trying to schedule another lunch, but so far it hasn’t worked out.

Michael Wright, The Different Strummer, is a collector and historian whose work is featured in Vintage Guitar Magazine.

Charvel Surfcaster Guitar & Bass Ad (1991)

Back Catalog Memories: 1991 Charvel Surfcaster Guitar & Bass

Charvel Surfcaster Guitar & Bass Ad (1991)

Charvel Surfcaster Guitar & Bass Ad (1991)

The Charvel Surfcaster surfaced in the early 1990s, and it was manufactured from 1991 to 2005 by the Charvel/Jackson guitar company. It was never very popular in terms of sales, but was considered a boutique style guitar and those who like them, like them a lot, like me! It is reminiscent of the Fender Jazzmaster but with a Rickenbacker style f-hole. These design aspects make it significantly different than other models from Charvel/Jackson that focused mainly on the hard rock guitarist. The Surfcaster was picked as a “Pawn Shop Prize” by Guitar Player magazine in July 2003.

Originally available only in the two lipstick pickup configuration, later models would include a humbucking pickup in the bridge position. Later solid body 3 lipstick pickup variations were also produced. A twelve string and four string bass version were also created and are highly collectible. Quality & cosmetics suffered. When Charvel/Jackson was purchased by Fender in 2002 they dropped the Surfcaster because of its similarity to guitars sold under the Fender brand.

Here are a some detailed photos of a beautiful matching pair. Enjoy!

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Electric Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Charvel Surfcaster Bass Guitar

Tension Reduction, But Not With Shiatsu (1990 PBC GTS 200S Electric Guitar)

How often have you ever walked into a music store—an admittedly increasingly exotic experience in this internet age—and had the salesman practically beg you to buy a guitar at a bargain basement price? My guess is not often! Nevertheless, that’s exactly what happened to me with this 1990 PBC GTS 200S!

1990 PBC GTS 200S Electric Guitar

1990 PBC GTS 200S Electric Guitar

The usual scenario, of course, involves holding onto a poker face, disguising your interest in some treasure or other, and finally ending up in a negotiation to wrangle the prize at the best—that is lowest—price. Not this time. I was casually cruising through Cintioli Music in Philadelphia, a legendary music store, when a salesman who knew me said “Psst,” and pointed to this guitar sitting on a stand on the counter. “Take this off my hands, please.” I shrugged. I had no idea what it was. Then he said the magic words. “Seventy five bucks.” Well, it did have a cool lightning bolt and the original hardshell case. What the hey. It was mine. Another mystery to solve…

It turned out that this guitar featured some very cool technology, had a really interesting pedigree, and was actually a local product built—in nearby Coopersburg, Pennsylvania—by a significant guitar designer, Dave Bunker. Yes, of the Boston Bunkers, though some generations and a century or so removed to the Pacific Northwest.

1990 PBC GTS 200S Electric Guitar

1990 PBC GTS 200S Electric Guitar

Dave was born on January 3, 1935, in Bunker Creek, Washington (his family has a knack for naming places). His was a musical family and he learned guitar and began teaching in Puyallup. Then in 1955 he went to one of those promotional workshops Gretsch was throwing starring the Ohio-born tapping-style genius Jimmie Webster. Bunker had his mission.

Bunker went on to have several successful music acts playing Las Vegas and later cruise ships. He designed the guitars for his act and Bunker guitars are some of the coolest unique guitars in guitar history. All were designed to maximize his “touch” technique. Detachable wings off a central core body, six individual pole pickups. Eventually leading to his “Touch Guitar.” Locking nuts and butt-end tuners? Dave. But those are all ancillary to this story!

1990 PBC GTS 200S Electric Guitar

1990 PBC GTS 200S Electric Guitar

Probably the central theme of Dave Bunker’s guitar contributions was his development of the “tension-free” neck in the 1960s. Bunker found that he was getting dead spots above the 10th fret caused by the tightening of the truss rod, which anchored right around there. He came up with the notion of taking all the tension off the neck by putting a metal bar into a channel through the neck, attaching the bar to the body and the head, leaving the neck itself to float free and be more resonant. Good for tapping!

The tension-free neck would provide the basis for all of Bunker’s subsequent guitar designing.

In 1989 while demonstrating his Touch Guitar at the Los Angeles NAMM show, Bunker met John Pearse, the colorful guitarist and string/accessory maven living in Pennsylvania. While performing on a cruise ship in Alaska the following year, Pearse contacted Dave about joining a new guitar manufacturing venture. With a partner named Paul Chernay to handle financing, Bunker found himself in charge of design and production of guitars for PBC Guitar Technology—Pearse-Bunker-Chernay—located just outside Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles north of Philly. Pearse quickly left the partnership over a disagreement.

1990 PBC GTS 200S Electric Guitar

1990 PBC GTS 200S Electric Guitar

In any case, the result was a line of interesting, mostly hollowbody guitars with Bunker-designed pickups…and the patented tension-free neck. The PBC line met with moderate success, but PBCs came into being at a time when retro guitars and, ironically, the Seattle sound were hitting big. Still, things really began to take off when Bunker’s guitars were discovered by Jim Donahue, then designing guitars for Ibanez in nearby Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Ibanez contracted with PBC to make its USA Custom USRG Series with Bunker’s floating necks, a line that debuted in 1994. Ibanez was pleased with the project and wanted to expand the relationship in 1996. However, Chernay had issues with working with the Japanese, and deep-sixed the contract. And, as it happened, PBC, which bit the dust along with the USRGs that year.

Probably the most conventional-looking guitar in the PBC line was this GTS 200S, with its Strat-style solid body. There was a GTS 200, the same except without the lightning graphics. Nevertheless, it had the tension-free neck, plus the quite-respectable PBC Spectrutone humbucker and two PBC Banshee singles. Not to mention a “sound reflection shield,” a recessed Kahler Spyder vibrato, and a coil-tap on the ‘bucker. A two-octave neck is never bad! Turns out this is one heck of a shred machine! Good price, too! This guitar originally listed for $900! It’s pretty much in like new condition.

And probably pretty rare. PBC output never got that large, and this model was only made for a couple of years.

After the PBC and Ibanez fiasco, Dave Bunker—now in his 70s—moved back to his native Washington State and began custom building Bunker guitars again, making guitars more-or-less based on his PBC designs. He’s still doing it today.

So, that salesman’s “Psst” worked out pretty good! Cool guitar. Cool piece of history. Like I said, a great price! And no negotiations. Glad I listened.