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Jack White's Fender Telecaster with Bigsby

A Brief History Of Jack White’s Guitar Collection

In an era where guitar heroes are a dying breed, Jack White stands among the greatest guitarists of his generation. His preference for older, more primitive equipment came at a time when most guitarists were neck-deep in processors, pedals and preamps. Relying on his distinct style and killer tone, White became the touchstone for a new movement of more blues-inspired guitarists.

White used a truly unique collection of instruments to propel his no-frills style into the limelight. As you will see, his equipment choices evolved slightly through the years depending on which of his many projects he was working on. Here is a breakdown of the guitars he has used through the many phases of his career.

The White Stripes:

1964 JB Hutto Montgomery Ward Airline
This is the most iconic guitar in Jack White’s arsenal of rare axes. This model was made for Montgomery Ward department stores in the early 60s.  This guitar was White’s workhorse throughout his time with the White Stripes.

Jack White with his 1964 JB Hutto Montgomery Ward Airline Guitar

Jack White with his 1964 JB Hutto Montgomery Ward Airline Guitar

White’s vintage JB Hutto Airline became so popular that Eastwood began producing a replica around 2000, however the replica features a chambered mahogany body instead of the original fiberglass model:

Airline 59 2P

The new Airline 59 2P by Eastwood.

 

1950s Kay Hollowbody
This vintage hollowbody was one of the three guitars White used with the White Stripes. The Airline was his primary axe, but White frequently used the Kay Hollowbody as his slide guitar. Kay Instruments was one of the first companies to make an electric guitar. Blues legend Howlin’ Wolf–a major influence on White’s style–was among the most visible artists to use the Kay Hollowbody. This is the guitar White uses for “Seven Nation Army,” arguably the greatest guitar riff of the past decade.

Jack White with his 1950s Kay Hollowbody Guitar

Jack White with his 1950s Kay Hollowbody Guitar

1915 Gibson L-1 Acoustic
This guitar is commonly referred to as the Robert Johnson model. White began playing this guitar on the White Stripes’ Icky Thump album. For live performances, White uses a tape-on pickup. In an interview for Gibson’s website, White reveals that this guitar is his personal favorite.

Jack White with his 1915 Gibson L-1 Acoustic Guitar

Jack White with his 1915 Gibson L-1 Acoustic Guitar

The Raconteurs:

“Triple Green Machine”
This custom-made guitar started with a Gretsch Anniversary Junior. White enlisted Randy Parsons to modify the body and add a slew of bells and whistles, creating a truly unique instrument. He installed the same electronics from his Gretsch Triple Jet, a bigsby tailpiece, a lever-activated mute system, light-activated Theremin and a retractable bullet microphone. This guitar is also featured in the film, It Might Get Loud.

Jack White's Triple Green Machine (Gretsch Anniversary Junior Guitar)

Jack White’s Triple Green Machine (Gretsch Anniversary Junior Guitar)

Gretsch Triple Jet
White is just as particular with the aesthetics of his equipment as he is with their performance. With the Raconteurs, White plated all of his equipment–pedals, amps, guitars–in bronze. This customized axe is based on a Gretsch G5445T Electromatic Double Jet. White added a third pickup (hence, “Triple Jet”) and an onboard MXR Micro Amp. The result gave White a a bronze-plated axe with built-in overdrive.

Jack White's Gretsch Triple Jet Guitar

Jack White’s Gretsch Triple Jet Guitar

Dead Weather:

Gretsch G6199 Billy-Bo Jupiter Thunderbird
This guitar was intended for White’s tour with Alicia Keys in support of their James Bond theme, “Another Way To Die.” Keys had the box-shaped Bo Diddley model, and the idea was for White and Keys to re-create the image of Bo Diddley and the Duchess. When White’s neck injury sidelined that tour, he took up the same idea with Alison Mosshart in the Dead Weather.

Jack White and his 1957 Gretsch G6199 Billy-Bo Jupiter Thunderbird Guitar

Jack White and his 1957 Gretsch G6199 Billy-Bo Jupiter Thunderbird Guitar

1957 Gretsch G6134 White Penguin
Another one of the rarities in Jack White’s collection. Gretsch only produced 12 of this specific model. White found the guitar while touring through Texas in 2007. The white guitar was a natural fit in White’s Dead Weather color scheme. This guitar was also used on the later White Stripes albums.

Solo/Misc.:

Fender Telecaster
This may be the tamest piece in Jack White’s guitar arsenal, but this American classic was White’s main workhorse on his solo album, Blunderbuss. In typical Jack White fashion, the guitar has been outfitted with a Bigsby and painted blue to fit with the project’s color scheme.

Jack White's Fender Telecaster with Bigsby

Jack White’s Fender Telecaster with Bigsby

Gretsch G6022CWFF Rancher Falcon Cutaway Acoustic
This guitar has been a mainstay throughout White’s career. He has said that this model is favorite acoustic to play live, because of the bass tones. Given his flair for customization, White has three Rancher Falcons, each with a portrait of a different women on the back.

White explains that the women featured on his guitars are Claudette Colbert, Rita Hayworth and Veronica Lake, which gives him a brunette, a redhead and a blonde.

Jack White with his Gretsch G6022CWFF Rancher Falcon Cutaway Acoustic Guitar

Jack White with his Gretsch G6022CWFF Rancher Falcon Cutaway Acoustic Guitar

Posted by: Jason Schellhardt, writer for the cheap ticket search engine, Rukkus.

Riverhead Unicorn Series Guitar Ad

Searching for Spock (Vintage 1984 Riverhead Unicorn Electric Guitar)

In a Trekkean view of the electric guitar universe, space is populated by all sorts of exotic and unique tribes and creations. You got your Fendermen and Gibsonians and other assorted “normal” beings. Then you have a whole bunch of guitars related to potatoes, like Micro-Frets and Ibanez Musicians, frequently from the 1970s, as it happens. You have your usual run of space weapons, like Vees and Explorers. And then you have assorted vehicles, like Dave Bunker’s guitars, the Burns Flyte, or the Riverhead Unicorn seen here.

Vintage 1984 Riverhead Unicorn Electric Guitar

Vintage 1984 Riverhead Unicorn Electric Guitar

You can probably justifiably consider certain lap steel guitar designs to be the forerunners of the headless guitar. Oh, like all guitars they need some basic structural components and they need some sort of tuning mechanism, but they kind of reduce the guitar to a plank with strings. You even orient to them in a different way that kind of negates the idea of a head.

Whether or not you buy that argument, probably the first headless guitar I’m aware of was Dave Bunker’s appropriately named Astral Series Sunstar, which debuted in around 1966. Dave rather brilliantly stripped the guitar down to its essence, then appended all these removable pods and appendages (including detachable head), making it truly a Starship Enterprise! I don’t know exactly when New York guitarist Alan Gittler began his experiments on minimalist guitars, but I think it was after Bunker.

It was, of course, Ned Steinberger (and his principal disciple, as it were, Andy Summers of The Police) who codified the headless guitar concept right around the end of the 1970s. Cort in Korea licensed the design and produced a number of brands popular in the early 1980s. I have one that I used to be able to cram on top of the family’s shore supplies when we vacationed. It’s in the context of those New Wavey guitars of the early 1980s that this rather fetching Riverhead belongs.

Vintage 1984 Riverhead Unicorn Electric Guitar

Vintage 1984 Riverhead Unicorn Electric Guitar

The Riverhead story is a little hard to piece together coherently. They were primarily made in Japan by the Headway company and briefly in the mid-1980s were imported into the U.S. and actively marketed. Headway, it appears, began as a high end acoustic guitar maker in around 1977 in Matsumoto City, basically the epicenter of Japanese guitarmaking. In 1981 Headway made the transition to electric solidbody guitars. Information is sketchy, but it seems they began with Fender-style copy guitars, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. They seemed to have used the Headway name, as well as the brands Bacchus and Momose, named for the luthier and Headway founder Yasuo Momose, who’d learned his art at Fujigen Gakki, builder of Ibanez and Greco electrics. There have been other brand variations, including, obviously, Riverhead.

Online sources (which seem credible) suggest that Headway experienced two factory fires in 1983, which ended in the construction of the Asuka electric guitar factory in Matsumoto in 1983, coincidental with the launch of the Riverhead brand. Unlike the Bacchus copies, Riverheads seem to have been Headway’s “high tech” line. Another source suggests that Headway made all (or most) of its own components. Certainly its guitars had many unique and innovative features, like vibratos designed to pivot two ways.

Riverhead’s Unicorn Series was distributed in the U.S. by a company called Prime, Inc., of Marlboro, MA, the same outfit that imported those curious Quest guitars. Designed somewhat after the fashion of the Burns Flyte guitars, Unicorns came with either two single-coil or, as here, two humbuckers. These were probably a unibody construction, with a mahogany core, though the wings might have been added on. Their advertising in late 1984 touted the fact that the pickups were mounted directly on top of the body for maximum tone. The heavy duty cast adjustable bridge/tuner assembly is very similar to a Steinberger, though I’m sure it was Headway’s own innovation. For such a high tech looking axe, it’s actually pretty basic, with a simple threeway select, one volume and two tone controls. Still, you’d look pretty darned cool in your orange and black Starship Trooper jumpsuit, eh?!

The Riverhead Unicorns were promoted in 1984 and ’85, so they were around at least in that time frame, probably 1983-85 or ’86 at the latest. They’re not exactly plentiful. Prime seems to have had a presence in the Northeastern U.S. I don’t know if they achieved much national distribution. The online sources suggest that Riverhead brand guitars were produced until 1997, after which Japanese production stopped. Japanese guitar production recommenced in 1999 and continued at least into 2009, although the company operates factories elsewhere in Asia. At this writing, Headway’s web site was not active.

I’ve always thought the headless technology was cool, but I was never a New Agey kind of guy, and I wouldn’t look good in an orange and black jump suit. I always found I liked a head to help me know where I should stop. Guess I occupy more of that boring normal part of the guitar universe than I care to admit!

Riverhead Unicorn Series Guitar Ad

Riverhead Unicorn Series Guitar Ad

1985 Riverhead Unicorn Series Driving Force

1985 Riverhead Unicorn Series Driving Force

Vintage 1973 Rickenbacker 481 Electric Guitar with Slanted Frets

The Right Slant on a Rickenbacker (Vintage 1973 Rickenbacker 481 Electric Guitar)

Even for someone as guitar promiscuous as me, some brands of guitar just don’t speak to me. Rickenbacker was always one of those brands for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with Rickys; it’s just a matter of personality. However, when I found out Rickenbacker made a guitar with slanted frets, that definitely piqued my interest!

Something I’ve always found curious was the discrepancy between “correct” and “incorrect” technique on the guitar. If you ever study classical guitar, you’ll get schooled on proper positioning of the left (and right, for that matter) hand, with the thumb in the middle of the back of the neck and the fingers coming down perpendicular to the strings. This helps maximize your reach and make it easier to fret the often complex harmonic line movements. It works. But then along comes Jimi who plays left-handed upside down and backwards with his darned thumb looped over the edge of the fingerboard and creates genius. Go figure.

Vintage 1973 Rickenbacker 481 Electric Guitar with Slanted Frets

Vintage 1973 Rickenbacker 481 Electric Guitar with Slanted Frets

In any case, periodically guitar designers turn their attention to the ergonomics of the guitar fingerboard and implement improvements to the traditional parallel fret layout. In modern times Oregon luthier Ralph Novak employs his patented “fanned fret” concept—with lower frets angled toward the bass side of the head, gradually migrating in a fan-like shape so that higher frets are angled toward the bass side of the body—on his Novax guitars.

Of course, somebody has always done something before, and in this case, conceptually if not actually, at least, it was Rickenbacker who came up with the slanted frets idea in 1973 with its Model 481. Or actually they reportedly did the slanted frets as a custom option as early as 1969. Rickenbacker had a tradition of trying to improve the ergonomics of guitar necks. Back in 1961 Rickenbacker designer Peter Sceusa filed a patent for a parabolic neck profile that was narrower at the top of the back to make it easier for ladies and people with smaller hands to fret the guitar (granted 1963). Who came up with the idea of slanting the frets I don’t know, but the idea was that if you’re resting the neck in the crook of your thumb, the fingers naturally curve forward. Thus, if you angle the frets slightly forward on the bass side, it’s more comfortable to fret, more natural.

Vintage 1973 Rickenbacker 481 Electric Guitar with Slanted Frets

Vintage 1973 Rickenbacker 481 Electric Guitar with Slanted Frets

The notion must have been at least somewhat popular because the concept got its own guitar model with the 481 introduced in 1973. Basically this is a solidbody with what’s called the “cresting wave” shape derived from Rickenbacker’s distinctive 4001 bass guitars. Rickenbacker even came up with a pair of high-output humbuckers with 12—count ‘em—adjustable pole pieces each for the 481 which only ever appeared on this guitar. One of the toggles is a threeway select and the other is a nifty phase reversal switch.

Vintage 1973 Rickenbacker 481 Electric Guitar with Slanted Frets

Vintage 1973 Rickenbacker 481 Electric Guitar with Slanted Frets

Hard information on the 481 is difficult to come by. The slant-fretted Model 481 was offered for 10 years from 1973-1983, but online references suggest that these are relatively scarce. There was a sort of companion Model 480 which had a similar shape, but different electronics and no slanted frets. Apparently, the Model 481 is favored by a guitarist named Serge Pizzorno of the contemporary band Kasabian, but I confess I don’t know their music (reflective of someone like me advancing on in age).

I love the idea of this guitar, even if for me the slanted frets don’t work all that well. They’re not a real obstacle to playing—they’re not that slanted—but if you favor classical technique, like I do, they’re no real advantage, and they don’t work all that well if you play a lot of barred chords. Unless maybe you’re Jimi, but who is?

Vintage 1973 Rickenbacker 481 Electric Guitar with Slanted Frets

Vintage 1973 Rickenbacker 481 Electric Guitar with Slanted Frets

Certainly the Model 481 is one of the more desirable of Rickenbacker’s 1970s output, probably because it’s so unlike the usual Rickenbacker. I love phase reversal switches and I love crushed pearloid shark’s teeth inlays and even the varnished fingerboard surface. That it’s so unusual is probably why I was so attracted to the Model 481 in the first place. Well, come on. You gotta love any guitar with slanted frets. Whether or not the guitar really fits in with your personality.

Back Catalog Memories: 1960’s Domino Californian Electric Guitar

Not to be confused with the recently re-issued California Rebel by Eastwood Guitars, the Domino Californian came out a few years earlier. Imported to New York by Maurice Lipsky Music Co., these Japanese guitars were part of a series of models branded “Domino” throughout the 1960’s.

Vintage 1960's Domino Californian Electric Guitar (Redburst)

Vintage 1960’s Domino Californian Electric Guitar (Redburst)

This model was an obvious take on the VOX Phantom from the same era. VOX initially made guitars in England then transferred production to Italy. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones popularized the Phantom and the Teardrop models, so Lipsky was quick to jump on the opportunity with the Domino brand.

The California was available in 2 or 3 pickup configuration. Main colors were White or Redburst as shown below, but have also been spotted in canary yellow and sonic blue. They all sported the rather unique woodgrain pickguard which looked like a 1950’s kitchen table top. It was also available in a Bass version.

Vintage 1963 Teisco SD-4L Electric Guitar

Over Easy & Coffee Black, Please (Vintage 1963 Teisco SD-4L Electric Guitar)

Look, I obsess as much as any old guitar nut about fancy tone woods. I love flame. I love burl. I love spalting (although I guess that’s not too good for the tree). I love any exotic timbers, like purpleheart. I also like those fancy pearl-encrusted jobs, like Mike’s Tuxedo Custom. So naturally, when I saw this little Teisco guitar, there’s no way I could resist. How do you say “No” to a guitar covered in mother-of-dinette?

Teisco guitars have run a curious course in the opinion of vintage guitar fans. There was a time when any unidentified Japanese guitar from the 1960s—and that was just about all of them, even with brand names—was said to have been “made by Teisco,” and was generally held in disdain. Then, what used to be just cheap old guitars became collectible “vintage” guitars and before you knew it, Teisco and other el-cheapos were all of a sudden desirable and treated more or less seriously.

Vintage 1963 Teisco SD-4L Electric Guitar

Vintage 1963 Teisco SD-4L Electric Guitar

Teisco guitars were somewhat unusual back in the 1960s because many—though certainly not all—were imported into the U.S. by Westheimer Sales carrying their own company’s brand name. There actually was a Teisco company! In fact, it was the late Jack Westheimer who appended the “del Rey” suffix to give the brand a little more “Spanish” veneer. By around 1964 or so another company called W.M.I., which stood for Weiss Musical Instruments, started importing Teisco del Reys, as well. Westheimer’s interest was more engaged in other brands he was selling, so he didn’t complain about W.M.I.’s usurping his brand name.

The object of my desire seen here is a c. 1963 Teisco SD-4L, which could have been brought in by Westheimer or someone else. For a guitar that was once regarded as something close to junk, laughed at by Les Paul and Strat aficionados, this is actually a pretty remarkable piece of lutherie for its time, the formica facing notwithstanding. The body is laminated, which the more snobbish call “plywood.” The neck is one-piece maple with a bound rosewood fingerboard. I don’t know if this has a reinforced neck; if it does, it’s certainly not adjustable. It’s pretty straight, however.

Vintage 1963 Teisco SD-4L Electric Guitar

Vintage 1963 Teisco SD-4L Electric Guitar

The ultimate inspiration for this guitar was the Fender Jazzmaster, which was, at the time this was introduced, still Fender’s top-of-the-line. However, it’s probably more by way of European translation. Very early in the history of Japanese exports to the U.S. they determined that their chief competition was Italian and, to a lesser extent, German guitars. And they were often loosely based on the Jazzmaster. The presence of four pickups, rocker switches, and thumbwheels clearly takes its inspiration from the Europeans. However, the nifty, top-mounted chrome housings that hold the controls are more of a nod to Supro.

A faux walnut top, the groovy shape, and four pickups are enough to recommend this guitar. But the neatest part is under the hood. The thumbwheels are master volume and tone. I’ve always thought that each pickup having both was overkill and impossible to use outside of a studio. Notice this has six rocker switches. Four of the rockers are simple on-off swtiches for each pickup. The other two, marked “Rhythm/Solo,” are actually phase reversal switches. Using these required that each pair of pickups (front and back) be on. The Solo position gives you both pickups in series or flat out. The Rhythm position reverses the phasing, giving you that funky in-between sound so cherished on Strats. Pretty cool.

Vintage 1963 Teisco SD-4L Electric Guitar

Vintage 1963 Teisco SD-4L Electric Guitar

The vibrato is also interesting. It sits on a little elevated platform above the guitar top and operates with three springs, one of the earliest 3-spring vibratos on a Japanese guitar I know of. All in all this is a great little guitar for getting down with “Walk, Don’t Run.” Once you get everything all set up, it plays very nicely indeed.

I’ve called this a 1963. In ’62 when these were introduced, the pickups were large chunky chrome affairs with a black bobbin center. By ’63 they had changed to these quasi-DeArmond gold foil single-coils (which are not bad, by the way). The Teisco SD-4L (and a companion 2-pickup SD-2L) only lasted into 1964. There’s a perception that Japanese guitars such as Teisco were imported by the millions, but, in fact, quantities were not really that large. The biggest year was 1966, when 618,000 guitars were imported, including all electrics and acoustics. It’s probably fair to conclude that this particular model is relatively scarce. In any case, when it was made nobody thought that inexpensive Japanese guitars were worth saving or would become collectibles! I’m sure glad this one made it. I love it! Mother-of-dinette and all.

Vintage 1963 Teisco SD-4L Electric Guitar

Vintage 1963 Teisco SD-4L Electric Guitar

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

The Softer Side of Hard Rock (Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar)

It’s funny how history and evolution work. They follow a loosely Hegelian dialectical process of first going one way, then leaping to an opposing pole, and finally ending somewhere in the middle, only to start the process over again. This Kramer Ferrington acoustic-electric reflects one of those dialectical swings that occurred in the mid-1980s.

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

You know the evolution of popular music in the late 1970s and early 1980s as well as I, so there’s no need to venture a reading here. But somewhere along the way, the non-stop “heavy metal” of the early years morphed into a poppier hard rock, still full of biting guitar riffs. Then one day, it became a requisite to incorporate a “power ballad” into your repertoire. This was usually a slower love song—still played loud—that featured some generally elementary fingerstyle guitar playing on an acoustic-electric guitar. All well and good. But you had your hard rock image to keep up, and, well, let’s face it, an Ovation with wooden epaulets wasn’t exactly going to cut it. What to do?

Leave it to Kramer Guitars to come up with the perfect solution in around 1986: Kramer Ferrington acoustic-electric guitars. Make the acoustic-electric look like a way-cool solidbody electric and you could be both tough and gentle at the same time!

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Ferrington was not a made up marketing name. Rather, it was the last name of Danny Ferrington, somewhat of a celebrity luthier living in Nashville at the time who’d built guitars for a number of stars. Ferrington’s main thing was to design guitars with asymmetrical or unusual shapes. I’m not sure whether Ferrington made the Strat- and Tele-shaped designs before hooking up with Kramer or not, but he designed these, the KFS-1 and KFT-1, for Kramer and they debuted in 1986, made in Korea. I interviewed Mr. Ferrington when reviewing a book on his guitars that came out in 1992. That book, by the way, was asymmetrically shaped and beautiful. It didn’t sell well, so you’re likely to find copies still available and should pick one up for your library.

Kramer Ferringtons had very lightweight bodies and came in black, white, red, and sunburst. They had a transducer pickup under the saddle with volume and tone controls. The necks were bolted on and featured a variety of headstock shapes and fingerboard inlays that evolved over the life of the line. By 1987 some plainer KFS-2 and KFT-2 models were introduced, mainly without neck binding and with dot inlays. The KFT-1 seen here was built in 1987.

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

In 1988 Kramer introduced Ferrington Signature models which were supposed to be made by Danny Ferrington himself in the U.S., or at least under his supervision. Marketing and reality are often at odds when it comes to classic Kramer guitars, so who knows! But they probably were American made and not Korean. These were upscale guitars with solid spruce tops, set-in necks, and asymmetrical Ferrington shapes. I think these are pretty rare birds. I only ever saw a couple of them in stores and they were pricey and hung around for quite awhile.

The Kramer Ferrington line lasted until the end in 1990, when Kramer imploded. Danny Ferrington relocated to Los Angeles and marketed the KFS-1 and KFT-2 with the Ferrington brand name for a bit, but the guitars trailed off fairly quickly. I don’t know if the Korean-made Kramer Ferringtons were plentiful or not, but it’s fairly easy to find them for sale. Kramer was pretty good at selling guitars.

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Likewise, I don’t really know if these guitars made it into too many hard rock acts. They certainly had a rock ‘n’ roll vibe and would look cool on stage. They’re fully functional, but, frankly, if you’re into real acoustic-electric guitar, they’re more of a novelty. They might make you look good jumping off your amp, but if you want a really good acoustic-electric sound, you’re going to go for one of the solidbody guitars like a Gibson Chet Atkins or, for that matter, an Ovation (with wooden epaulets).

Not long after Kramer Ferringtons bit the dust, the power-ballad-infused hard rock that was their reason for existing also fell from grace, replaced by the “alternative” sound typified by Nirvana et al. History was off on another dialectical tangent.

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Vintage 1986 Kramer Ferrington KFT-1 Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar

Back Catalog Memories: Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar

In the 1960′s Maurice Lipsky Music Co., a prominent importer and distributor in New York City, developed the Domino brand of guitars. In 1967 Lipsky introduced a line proto-copies carrying the Domino brand name. Most were inspired by European models such as the EKO Violin guitar. Here is the original flyer announcing the lineup from 1967, claiming “DOMINO IMAGINATION LEADS THE ROCK GENERATION!”. The California Rebel, recently reissued by Eastwood Guitars, is front and center here in 1967.

Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar

Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar

Who actually built these guitars in Japan is unknown, but these pickups appear to be associated with Kawai guitars, and that’s probably a good guess.

Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar (Ad)

Vintage Domino Spartan Electric Guitar (Ad)

Here is an example of a dual pickup Domino Spartan in Sunburst. It was available in 2 or 3 pickup configuration, and in many different colors. Over the years I have seen olympic white, sunburst, seafoam green, orange and red. This 2P model has volume and tone controls, a 3-way selector switch and a rhythm/solo switch. The quality was pretty solid across the entire Domino line, compared to some of the stuff that was coming out of Japan at the time.

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

Peachy Keen (Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar)

Even though I don’t frequent them often, I love classic car shows. The sight of those two-tone jobs—often done up in exotic colors like pastels or turquoise—always raises a smile of nostalgia, a glimmer of my youth when they were new and I had dreams of being able to hit the road. Kind of like how I feel when I look at this very nifty EKO Condor.

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

The first time I laid eyes on this guitar was in the showroom of LoDuca Brothers warehouse in Milwaukee, which was another of those “Temples of Doom” you hear me talk about periodically. LoDuca Brothers were (or was if you consider it a company, not siblings) the American importers and distributors of EKO guitars (actually Rickenbacker handled the West Coast). LoDuca Brothers had its roots in a late 1930s, early ‘40s accordion duo Vaudeville act featuring Thomas and Gaetano (Guy) LoDuca. According to their son, Mickey, as good Italian sons, the brothers handed their earnings over to their father, who paid them an allowance and put some in savings. When they’d amassed a couple grand, they opened the first of what would become a chain of music studios around Milwaukee. As they thrived, they began to import and sell LoDuca brand accordions sourced from Oliviero Pigini of Recanati, Italy, just north of Castelfidardo, a town that is still the hub of accordion manufacturing in Italy.

As we’ve talked about before, accordions were a big fad among young Baby Boomers in the early to mid-1950s. This was good for the LoDucas business. But when the wind was squeezed out of the demand for accordions, it kind of left the LoDucas with empty hands. They played around with importing keyboards—including the actual black and white key assemblies—until, fortuitously, folk music happened and demand for guitars began to pick up toward the end of the 1950s.

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

Pigini knew only too well about the drop in sales of accordions in the US, of course. So the company decided to expand into guitar manufacturing. LoDuca Brothers had an accordion distribution network with around 600 outlets and was doing business with Pigini, so they were a natural partner to handle the expansion into guitars.

As far as I know, EKO was the brand name chosen for Pigini’s guitars and didn’t come off another existing line of instruments. I don’t think it was ever used on accordions (though it eventually did get put on some electronic keyboards and drums). Just as with accordions, Pigini would gladly put the brand name of your choice on a batch of guitars, but EKO was their main string moniker. EKO guitars debuted in 1961.

The first EKO guitars were acoustics and among the first customers was Sears. LoDuca had imported a little chord organ for Sears beginning in 1959, so they had an established relationship. The first EKO electric guitars were a pair of plastic-covered solidbodies, the Models 500 and 700, covered in sparkle plastic, plus a range of archtops, introduced in 1962.

From the get-go Pigini relied on input from LoDuca Brothers to develop guitars that would sell in the American market. In this regard LoDuca enlisted a number of professional guitarists from the Milwaukee area, who endorsed EKOs.

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

Vintage 1967 EKO Condor Electric Guitar

LoDuca and EKO hit the market at a good time. EKO’s biggest year was probably 1967, when this Condor was made. It’s the huge ’67 catalog that most frequently circulates in the paper trade. I fell in love with this the moment I laid eyes on it. I mean, it’s so T-Bird (as in Ford with a porthole) or Edsel (yeah, I loved those, too). That pale pink with the black neck. And four—count ‘em—four pickups. It pretty much screams out for a matching tuxedo. Besides being a looker, this guitar actually plays pretty well, too. It’s light-weight and comfortable. The single-coil pickups aren’t screamers, but they’re beefy enough. You get a nice variety of tones, though not those swell glassy out-of-phase sounds like on a jimmied Strat. Having four on-off switches is darned awkward, but otherwise this is a sweetheart.

So, why was the warehouse this came out of another Temple of Doom? Mainly because of a confluence of events. Demand for guitars in the US began to drop in 1968. Tastes changed. Hendrix, Clapton and Bloomfield were whetting appetites for axes capable of chopping, not matching tuxedos. Then, at some time probably around 1968 or ’69, Oliviero Pigini, who loved fast sports cars, died in a car crash. Anecdotal evidence suggests that EKO’s seasoned wood supply burned up in 1970, but I can’t confirm that. In any case, quality supposedly declined.

In any case, business waned and LoDuca Brothers found itself sitting on a warehouse full of unsold EKO guitars. And there they sat for years. Fast forward and in the 1980s vintage guitar collecting became all the rage. Collectors and dealers got the word and began to mine the trove at bargain prices. Temple of Doom indeed! When I strode in, the pickings were comparatively slim, but there was still plenty of guitar eye candy left, including this two-tone beauty, as fine a sight as any gleaming T-Bird, or maybe a pink Cadillac!

Stars Guitars - Brian May signature guitar

Back Catalog Memories: Brian May Guitar from Stars Guitars

Stars Guitars - Brian May signature guitar

Stars Guitars – Brian May signature guitar

There was a period in time about 12 months before the official birth of Eastwood Guitars, where www.myrareguitars.com was selling more NEW guitars than Vintage Guitars. From 1999-2002, MRG was a dealer for Dipinto Guitars, Burns UK, EKO, Italia, Tokai and many others. One of the brands at that time was STARS. STARS? I know, never heard of it. Maybe it lasted for only 18 months at best, but they put out a Brian May copy that was WAY better than most people expected, at a price that was unbeatable, around $599.

Here are a bunch of photos of one model – perfect finish, excellent quality bridge, saddles and tremolo, beautiful fretboard – they had everything. Everything except licensing rights, so after some nicely worded lawyers letters, it seems the STARS brand disappeared into the night….

 

John Lennon with his 1965 Epiphone E230TD Casino guitar unsanded (The Beatles)

John Lennon’s Guitars in the Beatles

One of the most legendary musicians of all time was also quite the great guitar player. Many don’t associate John Lennon with being a great guitarist, but in actuality he was. Sure in the early Beatles’ days, he played standard rhythm guitar, but in later years he was soloing along side George Harrison.

So what guitars did John use as a Beatle? Lets take a closer look…

1958 Rickenbacker 325 Capri

John Lennon with his 1958 Rickenbacker 325 Capri guitar (The Beatles)

John Lennon with his 1958 Rickenbacker 325 Capri guitar (The Beatles)

It was in 1960 that John acquired the 325 capri, which accompanied him in the Hamburg days. This guitar can famously be seen in the Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan Show performance. Rumor has it that this guitar was a natural color and was painted black in 1962. It is believed that he stopped using it sometime in 1964. The 325 Capri has been left in the hand of John’s son, Sean Lennon.

1962 Gibson J-160E

John Lennon with his 1962 Gibson J-160E guitar (The Beatles)

John Lennon with his 1962 Gibson J-160E guitar (The Beatles)

One of John’s most famous acoustic guitars is easy to recognize with the sunburst finish and knobs on the soundboard to control the built-in pickup. The Gibson can be heard on the song “Love Me Do” and was used extensively on the Please Please Me sessions. Lennon picked up another J-160E, which he took on tour in 1964 and 1965.

1963 Rickenbacker 325

John Lennon with his 1963 Rickenbacker 325 guitar (The Beatles)

John Lennon with his 1963 Rickenbacker 325 guitar (The Beatles)

This Rickenbacker came in to replace John’s “Hamburg” Capri, which had taken quite the beating. It was used on the album A Hard Day’s Night. As well, it was used on the second performance the Beatles did on the Ed Sullivan Show. Lennon also received a 12-string version of this guitar.

1961 Fender Stratocaster

John Lennon with his 1961 Fender Stratocaster Guitar (The Beatles)

John Lennon with his 1961 Fender Stratocaster Guitar (The Beatles)

In 1964, John Lennon and George Harrison made a request for some strats, and each received one. In a cool light blue color with a rosewood fretboard, the stratocasters were used on the song “Nowhere Man”. George Harrison later gave his a psychedelic paint job for the All You Need is Love satellite broadcast.

1965 Epiphone E230TD Casino

John Lennon with his 1965 Epiphone E230TD Casino guitar sanded (The Beatles)

John Lennon with his 1965 Epiphone E230TD Casino guitar sanded (The Beatles)

John Lennon with his 1965 Epiphone E230TD Casino guitar unsanded (The Beatles)

John Lennon with his 1965 Epiphone E230TD Casino guitar unsanded (The Beatles)

This hollow body guitar is quite famous as John used it for the impromptu rooftop concert. He also toured with it extensively in 1966 and it can be seen at the Beatles’ Shea Stadium performance. Sometime in 1968, John has his Casino sanded down to its natural finish, which can be seen in the rooftop concert.

Other guitars John had during the Beatles

  • Ramirez A-1 classical guitar
  • Framus 12-string acoustic guitar
  • 1963 Gretsch 6120, Guild Starfire XII
  • 1966 Vox Kensington
  • 1965 Martin D-28 acoustic

– Posted by Raj who writes a blog on Guitar Tone

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