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!
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!
If you somehow missed this story at Winter NAMM 2011…well…it’s time you heard about the George Harrison Tribute Duo Jet from Gretsch Guitars. They have made one of the most awesome replica guitars you’ll ever see. It is limited to a run of 60, and it will be available in May 2011 with an MSRP of $20,000.
Behind every guitar there’s some sort of story, but they usually aren’t as rich as the one behind the Kramer Gorky Park seen here! Not only was this guitar associated with one of the big flash-in-the-pan pop metal bands of the late 1980s, it symbolically and almost literally marked the end of Kramer, as the largest guitar company in the world was crumbling just like the Iron Curtain!
Well, well, well. What have we here? On the surface, of course, it’s a 1968 Guyatone LG-350T Sharp 5. A sight little seen in North America, but not uncommon in Japan, at least once upon a time. And if it makes you think of a little bit of a Mosrite on drugs, well then you’re not too far off the mark! Welcome to a bit about the Ventures and the early world of copy guitars!
What is it about the Japanese and the Ventures? I mean, I cut my teeth with the Ventures. They were the perfect band to learn guitar from. The Ventures took songs with often complex harmonic structures—like the wonderful Johnny Smith classic—and stripped them down to their basic melodies, gave them a simple rock groove, and played them clean. I had the sheet music to Smith’s song, but there was no way in you know where I was gong to play off that. But follow along with the Ventures’ single? You bet!
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!
Sometimes you take a look at a guitar and the warning bells start ringing: bogus. Like those early “missing links” proposed by inventive amateur anthropologists who put gorilla skulls on anthropoid skeletons. That’s what happened to me the first time a dealer hauled this out and showed it to me. It was a Danelectro alright, but those pickups? Then I looked again. Who would stencil “Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectro” on an aftermarket pickguard? Then there were the pickups. Epoxy potted. Trademark of who, or is it whom? Dan Armstrong. Think his Ampeg see-through guitars. No, on second thought, this had the air of a mystery wrapped in an enigma with a generous dash of authenticity. So it proved to be. And so it came my way and all I had to do was put the links back together again.