I believe this story happened in about 1966, during my last year of high school at Paradise Valley High in Phoenix, Arizona. I was a wannabe rock ‘n roll guy and like most of my friends, always had a few guitars lying around. I had this one friend, Richard Guimont, who was not a musician, but his Mom just happened to own JD’s night club in Scottsdale.
Kawai was founded in 1927 by Koichi Kawai in Hamamatsu, Japan. Mr. Kawai’s vision was to create top-quality pianos, a quest in which he certainly succeeded! Kawai added guitars to its repertoire in around 1954 and eventually became a player in the ’60s Guitar Boom. Like many Japanese electric guitars, most early Kawai guitars were slightly frumpy, although my impression is that their electronics were a little better than some contemporaries. Probably the most prominent brand names in the U.S. manufactured by Kawai were TeleStar, whose sparkle models have a small but devoted following, and Domino.
While the Pests downed a quick lunch, I grabbed a few instrumental odds & ends from the van and walked across the parking lot to the building with the huge sign, “Consumers Mall”. It’s one of those former discount stores, now indoor flea market which are popping up across the land in abandoned K-Marts, grocery stores and so on. One of the missions of our little band was the rescue of abused and/or neglected guitars, which we found on our journeys and there was a candidate for rescue inside.
Morris is the brand name used by a large Japanese manufacturer called Moridira. Little is known about their history, but by the mid-’70s they were a minor part of the Copy Era, though their forté seems to have been in acoustics. Many guitar fans think of the Copy Era as a time when Japanese companies made cheap knock-offs of American guitars and sold them to kids who couldn’t afford the real thing.
Awful as it sounds, it’s the truth. But don’t let it scare you off. The highest number I’ve ever heard in the context of music is 13, so you don’t have to be a genius to figure it out.
One of my students was around the other night and pointed out that even when I was playing his guitar (a beautiful Strat), I still sounded like me. It’s true – no matter what guitar or amp I plug into, I always sound like me. After 38 years of playing, it would be impossible for me not to. For a long time this bugged me. I guess because I was so used to “my sound”, I started to think it was pretty ordinary, and over the years I’ve made the odd attempt to change it. I can’t anymore.
Possibly no other single event inspired the creation of more garage bands than the first Ed Sullivan show featuring the Beatles. And likewise, probably no single company furnished more of the guitars and amps for young musicians than the Sears & Roebuck Company. While most of us would rather have started out with the Gretsch, Rickenbacker, Hofner, Vox and Ludwig gear we saw the Fab Four using, due to price and availability, it was the Sears catalog that supplied our first six-string.
Most guitar aficionados know the story of Les Paul’s “log”. Remember, back in the ’40s, Les figured all he needed for the perfect electric guitar was a neck attached to a chunk of wood with some pickups on it. He built his log and it worked. But his audiences were disturbed by its look, so he cut up an Epiphone archtop and attached the sides to his log, satisfying his fans. Whether or not a guitar teacher in Green Bay, WI, named Dave Helland knew about Les’ log, he too arrived at a similar conclusion. “Heck”, thought Dave, “You could put a neck on a 2-by-4 and have a guitar.” And when one day he met up with the folks from the Holman-Woodell guitar factory in Neodesha, KS, that’s just what he did. The La Baye 2×4 Six, Four and Twelve were born. La Baye because, if you know your geography, his hometown sits on a – well, look at a map!
The Eastwood Hi-Flyer Johnny Ramone version is a beautiful reproduction of the Univox Hi-Flyer from the early 1970’s, but with a stop tail. The carved Basswood body is mounted to a set maple neck for an incredibly solid design that can take as much abuse as you can throw at it. Two powerful P90 pickups kick out an incredible bite for the buck. Available in Black, White and White left-hand.
Back in 1984 Ovation put out a high-end guitar to compete with Gibson’s Les Paul. The Ultra GP Series. At the time, it was priced at about $400, the same price as a Les Paul. Guess what, they didn’t sell. Not because of the design – it was an incredible guitar – but tough to complete with Gibson head to head with a guitar from a company that is famous for acoustics. Consequently, only 400-500 were made. Recently the GP has become a sought-after vintage and prices have soared over $2,000 each. Last year I got tired of trying to find an original and decided it was time for Eastwood to get the re-issue machine cranked up again.
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