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David Bowie red guitar

The Guitars Of David Bowie

2016 was a year of great musical losses, but none was as shocking or as saddening as David Bowie’s. One year on, let’s remember a side of Bowie that’s been often forgotten: the guitarist! Here’s our guide to the guitars played by David Bowie over the years… enjoy!

David Bowie has had many different faces and personas over the years, but, surprisingly, one has been overlooked by most – David Bowie, the guitarist. In a way, it’s not very surprisingly, considering he was far from being a guitar hero, and, most importantly, has collaborated with some truly stellar guitarists who contributed greatly to his music, including: Mick Ronson, Carlos Alomar, Earl Slick, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Nile Rodgers and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Quite an impressive list!

Which Guitars Did David Bowie Play?

Though not primarily a guitarist, Bowie had a consistent taste for vintage, rare guitars and his choice of instrument often changed with his ever-changing musical directions. Here’s a guide to some of his most notable guitars. We usually talk about electric guitars, but in Bowie’s case we can’t help but mention a few acoustics, too… after all, he was a huge fan of 12-string acoustic models, throughout his career! In any case – Bowie was a true connoisseur, and his choice of guitars over the years is nothing short of fascinating! 

Here’s Bowie’s career – in 20 rare, amazing guitars.

1) Framus 12-String Acoustic (1965-66)

Of course, many of you will know that Bowie started his musical career as a saxophone player, and then became the frontman of different bands (The Mannish Boys, The Lower Third) but never playing a guitar. This pic of an young David Jones with a Framus 12-string  is the earliest photograph of Bowie with a guitar.

David Bowie circa 1965-66 with Framus 12 string

David Bowie circa 1965-66 with Framus 12-string 

According to Bowie biographer Paul Trynka, Bowie bought a guitar in late 1965. Considering Bowie’s well-documented taste for 12-string acoustics in later years, it’s fair to assume that the Framus in the photograph was indeed his first guitar, though there has never been any specific information about it. It’s interesting to note that his guitar had pickup, volume and tone controls – perhaps it was modded and bought second-hand by the still struggling Bowie. Little trivia: the guitar was redburst. 

Playing guitar was an important step in David Bowie’s career, as he started to use the instrument to compose songs, such as “Maid Of Bond Street” and his first true classic, “Can’t Help Thinking About Me”.

2) Gibson B45 12-String (1968-69)

Bowie live with Feathers

Bowie performing with Feathers

After the commercial failure of his 1967 debut album, Bowie tried other directions, including joining Lindsey Kemp’s mime troup, buddhism and forming folky trio Feathers with his girlfriend Hermione Farthingale and John Hutchinson. During this period, Bowie used a Gibson B-45 12-string acoustic.

Gibson B-45, as played by David Bowie

Gibson B-45, as played by David Bowie

He’s never been seen or photographed with this guitar again, after the end of Feathers. We actually believe this is the first time this guitar has ever been mentioned in relation to Bowie, as we couldn’t find anything else elsewhere. Well, now you know!

3) Hagstrom 12-String Acoustic (1969-1972)

Bowie live at the Beckenham Free Festival in 1969, with his Hagstrom.

Bowie live at the Beckenham Free Festival in 1969, with his Hagstrom.

This is perhaps Bowie’s most legendary guitar. It’s believed it’s the one he used to write his first hit, ‘Space Oddity’, as well as used live and to write most ‘Ziggy Stardust’-era songs, including ‘Starman’.

Curiously enough, the guitar is now on display at the ‘Beatles Story’ museum, in Liverpool. At some point, it seems to have had pickup and tone & volume controls added to it, though it’s not shown with this configuration in any Bowie photos.

David Bowie's Hagstrom on display in Liverpool.

David Bowie’s Hagstrom on display in Liverpool.

4) Espana 12-String Acoustic (1969)

Bowie and his Espana 12-string

Bowie and his Espana 12-string

This guitar was used on a famous promo shot for the ‘Space Oddity’ single, but strangely enough, there’s not a whole lot info about it. It might have been used just as a prop for the photograph. It looks very similar to the Hagstrom 12-string, and it could indeed be the one he’s using in other pics and footage, but it’s hard to be sure!

5) Guild 12-String Acoustic (1971)

David Bowie live in 1971 with Guild 12-string

David Bowie live in 1971 with Guild 12-string

When David Bowie toured the US for the first time, to promote ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ in 1971, he could be seen playing a Guild 12-string acoustic. There’s no report or pics of him using one before or since, so he probably just borrowed it for the tour.

6) Harptone 12-string (1972-83)

Bowie and his Ziggy-era Harpoon 12-string

Bowie and his Ziggy-era Harpoon 12-string

This Harptone 12-string is “the” Ziggy-era Bowie acoustic. He used it when touring with the Spiders From Mars and this guitar can be seen on most footage from the era. 

Curiously enough, it seems Bowie decided to dust it off years later, after the release of Let’s Dance, as this live pic suggests:

Eighties Bowie meets Ziggy-era acouistic.

Eighties Bowie meets Ziggy-era acoustic.

7) Harpotone 12-String Jumbo (1972-75)

Bowie Harptone 12 Jumbo

Bowie Harptone 12 Jumbo

Many people don’t realise this, but Bowie also regularly used ANOTHER Harptone 12-string, which at first sight looks similar to the previous one, but you’ll notice that it has a different scratchplate and is also bigger. He used this model on the second, Ziggy-era “Space Oddity” video; during the Ziggy tour and up until the Young Americans- era.

8) Egmond 12-String, Blue (1972)

Bowie and his blue Egmond.

Bowie and his blue Egmond.

This is one of Bowie’s most important guitars – if not for anything else, simply for being the guitar he used on the watershed moment of his career – playing “Starman” on Top Of The Pops, which finally launched Bowie as a bona fide popstar in the UK! He also used the Egmond on a few promo shots, and that seems to be about it.

9) Vox Teardrop Mark XII 12-String (1972)

Bowie and his Vox 12 string

There’s no record of Bowie using this cool Vox guitar other than in 1972, for promo pics. Years later, he used a Vox Teardrop Mark VI for the recording of one of his best songs in the Eighties, ‘Absolute Beginners’. The guitar is now on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Warsaw. There’s no photo of him and this guitar, though.

Bowie's Vox VI guitar

10) Gibson 1972 Deluxe Les Paul (1972)

David Bowie and a Gibson Les Paul

David Bowie and a Gibson Les Paul

David Bowie was always very conscious about his image and symbolism. That’s why he posed with a borrowed Les Paul on the cover of the “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” album – to show the world he was now a tougher, “rock’n’roll” act.  Maybe for this reason, he was up for using a Les Paul during his 1972 USA tour.

Presented to Bowie by Gibson, he used it live and on the ‘Jean Genie’ promo film. But given his more esoteric tastes in guitars, it’s not surprising that it soon became Mick Ronson’s back up guitar, never to be used by Bowie again. 

11) Hagstrom I Kent PB- 24-G (1974)

David Bowie red guitar

David Bowie and his Hagstrom I Kent PB-24-G

Now we’re talking! The red Hagstrom I Kent PB-24G guitar was Bowie’s first truly iconic electric guitar. Though many fans will recognise and love it, this guitar was only used in promo shots for his ‘Diamond Dogs’ album, and there’s no record of him ever using it elsewhere, apart from a TV appearance:

As most hardcore Bowie fans may know, he played most guitar parts on the ‘Diamond Dogs’ album, but according to those who worked with him, his guitar choice during the sessions was a Dan Armstrong plexiglass model – which he’s never been pictured with… a shame! Unless, those recollections are slightly wrong and they really meant the next guitar…

12) Dan Armstrong 341 (1976)

Bowie's Dan Armstrong 341

Bowie’s Dan Armstrong 341

Yes, David Bowie had for sure another Dan Armstrong guitar, but it was not a plexiglass model! Auctioned in 1991, this is an important guitar. Besides featuring on a famous pic used for the Sound + Vision compilation, it was also used to write one of Bowie’s finest albums. According to Bowie, in ’91: “I’ve had this Dan Armstrong guitar since the early 70s. I wrote most of the songs for Station to Station on it.” Considering the cronology, it may have been used on ‘Diamond Dogs’, too.

13) Custom Fender Telecaster, Natural (1976)

Bowie and a customized Fender Telecaster

Bowie and a customized Fender Telecaster

During the tour to promote ‘Station To Station’, Bowie played a custom Fender Telecaster, with 3 pickups with individual on/off switches. A pretty cool guitar, never seen since.

14) Fender Stratocaster, Red and Sunburst (1977)

Bowie Red Strat

Bowie and his Red Strat

Two  more conventional choices, during Bowie’s least conventional period! In 1977 Bowie could be seen playing a red Stratocaster for the ‘Be My Wife’ promo, one of the most commercial tracks from ‘Low’, which became a single. 

Bowie was also spotted playing a sunburst Strat that same year, for his duet with Marc Bolan, on Bolan’s TV show. This guitar belonged to Marc, who gave it to Bowie as he turned up without one on the day!

David Bowie, Strat and Marc Bolan.

David Bowie with a Strat and Marc Bolan.

15) Gibson L4, Black (1989-90)

Bowie and his Gibson L4

Bowie and his Gibson L4

Owned and used by David Bowie in the studio, on stage and while on tour with Tin Machine, accompanied by a Sound + Vision tour program showing Bowie playing this guitar, a signed letter of authenticity from Reeves Grables and guitar picks. The guitar can be seen in videos for the Tin Machine 1 album, in Music News reports and was used heavily in the studio for the recording of Tin Machine II. 

16) Gibson Chet Atkins Country Gentleman, Wine Red (1990)

Bowie and his Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman

Bowie and his Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman

The guitar was used on stage by Bowie during his March – September of 1990, Sound + Vision World Tour.

Bowie also subsequently used this guitar during studio sessions for his 1995 concept album “Outside.”

17) Takamine FP 400SC (1990)

Bowie and his 12-string Takamine

Bowie and his 12-string Takamine

Bowie used this guitar during his 1990 Sound + Vision tour. It was his main acoustic guitar then, used on classic hits such as ‘Space Odyssey’. The tour included 108 concerts over seven months in more than 80 cities around the world. Bowie promoted the tour as a “greatest hits” tour and stated it was the last time he was going to play songs from his back catalog. 

18) Steinberger GL2, Custom Silver (1991-92)

Bowie and hiscustom Steinberger

Bowie and hiscustom Steinberger

Bowie was a big fan of headless guitars, since he saw Tin Machine’s Reeves Gabrel’s: “David saw mine and decided he wanted one like it. My guitar tech, Andy Spray, called the factory in Newburgh to see if they could make another chrome L series. Apparently, they had a guitar they used as a test run for the chroming process. That one had a normal fretboard (it did not have a chromed fretboard) making Bowie’s copycat completely playable while mine was not. The non chromed fretboard is the easiest way to tell them apart.”

19) Supro Dual Tone (2003)

Bowie and his Supro Dual Tone

Bowie and his Supro Dual Tone

The Supro Dual Tone is one of his most iconic later-years guitars. He used it during his last world tour, in 2003, and it even appears on his 2010 live album of that tour, ‘A Reality Tour’:

Bowie 'A Reality Tour' cover

Bowie ‘A Reality Tour’ cover

More recently, Eastwood did a great job at recreating this model (first made famous by Link Wray in the Fifties) as the Airline Twin Tone – a fitting tribute to Wray’s model, but now also a great choice for fans of Bowie who also play guitar…

The Airline Twin Tone, now also popular thanks to the David Bowie connection.

The Airline Twin Tone, now also popular thanks to the David Bowie connection.

20) Hohner G2, Red (2013)

Bowie and his Hohner G2

Bowie and his Hohner G2

Bowie went back to a headless guitar in the video of ‘Valentine’s Day’, from his superb comeback album ‘The Next Day’. As ever, his choice of instrument was unusual but made total sense with his tastes over the years. Unique just like the man himself.

gw9e

Vincent’s Guitar Workshop – issue 9

I remember feeling a certain terror as a young boy plugging my guitar in to play, but not hearing anything come from the amp when I strummed a chord. Frantically I’d check my volume knobs, the volume on the amp, and jiggle the cable around to no avail. “I’m doomed”, I would think. “There’s no way I would try to open that thing up myself, I don’t want to break it even more than it already is!”

gw9a

 

When an electrical device fails, and its functions are a mystery to you, it’s normal to feel a little helpless. The first thought is to take it in for repair, which is your best (and most cost effective) bet if you’re someone who just wants to play. However, for those “do-it-yourselfers” or any interested in learning to work on guitars, this is a beginner’s guide to the minor electrical repair of a guitar.

 

The first step is to identify what the problem is. Is there no output at all? Does the guitar cut in / out when the cable is jiggled? Do you have output from only one pickup? Do you hear a dirty crackling noise when you rotate the volume/tone knob? Is there a constant loud hum that comes from the amp when you plug the guitar in? These are all common problems that can occur, and are usually very simple soldering fixes. In order to get started, here’s a list of what you will need:

 

1)     Soldering Iron (not too powerful, 30 watts will do. You don’t want to fry your components!)

2)     Solder

3)     Wet Sponge (wet paper towel will do)

4)     Screw driver set

5)     Needle nose pliers

6)     Wire cutters/strippers

7)     Electrical contact cleaner

 

Before opening the guitar up, check that the knobs and the input jack are tight. A loose bolt can signal the reason for the problem – if the bolt is loose and a knob is turned, the whole pot will spin. This can eventually lead to wires being disconnected. In order to properly tighten a bolt, hold the top still with a flat head screwdriver, and then tighten with your pliers like so:

gw9b

 

Now it’s time to open up the guitar! Different models will have different access spots. Most often, a guitar’s electronics will either be mounted to the pick guard on the front of the body, or will be accessible through a panel on the back like this one:

gw9c

 

Sometimes, neither of these are available which leads to a tricky process of feeding the components through the pickup cavities, the input jack cavity, or even through one of the thin “F-holes” on a semi-acoustic. Most people call them F-holes because of their shape, but when you are trying to feed a large volume pot tied to a string through it without damaging the pot or the guitar, the name will have a new meaning. More on that later.

 

Here, I’ve opened up an Eastwood Sidejack which has the electronics mounted to the pick guard:

gw9d

 

The first thing you’ll see is that there really isn’t much to it. At least, not for a 2 pickup guitar with basic volume and tone controls. At this point, it’s time to remember what the issue was. If it was just a dirty crackling sound, you may only need to spray some contact cleaner into the problematic component. Find the small hole in the pot, and spray some in. Rotate the pot back and forth until the noise goes away. If this doesn’t seem to help the problem after a few attempts, the pot may need to be replaced. Was there no output at all? Check the connection of the wires at the input jack, and make sure the metal piece that the cable make contact with is properly bent to do so. Check that the “hot” wire (usually red) is connected to the volume pot properly. If you see a wire that’s completely disconnected, well that’s a dead giveaway. How do you know where to connect it if you aren’t experienced? Look for a lump of solder somewhere that doesn’t have a wire attached to it, and just place the wire up to it. Check to see if that fixes the problem. Alternatively, many guitar manufacturers offer wiring diagrams that you can follow and match exactly.

gw9e

 

What if all the wires seem to be connected, but the problem is still there? Hopefully, this is just what’s known as a “cold solder joint”, meaning something is not fully connected with solder. With your hand, gently jiggle each wire around at its connection. When you find one that makes the guitar cut in and out as you move it around, you’ve found the cold solder joint!

gw9f

 

(not in a guitar, but shows a good solder joint vs a cold one on the right)

 

A guitar that is making a constant, loud hum noise could be a grounding issue. Check that the grounding wires are all properly connected. These are normally the wires that have a large portion of their wrapping stripped, and are soldered to the tops of the pots. Follow along the grounding wires to see where they attach to – you will notice each component connects with each other somewhere, and then one wire goes through the body of the guitar to attach to either a bridge post or a tailpiece screw.

 

When you’ve found the wire that needs to be re-soldered, you can get your soldering iron ready. When it’s hot, you’ll need to “tin the tip”, which just means to melt some solder on to the tip of the rod, and then wipe it on the wet sponge. The fresh solder on the tip allows for better solder and heat flow. If the wire is still somewhat attached, you can use the iron to melt the solder holding it and detach it completely. Often a wire may need to be prepared to be re-attached, such as this one:

gw9g

 

Here I cut off the “bad” end, re-stripped the wire, and then coated it in solder to make re-attachment easier:

gw9h

 

The tabs on the pots have small holes in them, and the best connection you can make is when the wire sits in this hole. To do this, make sure the hole is filled with solder. Then, heat up this solder with your iron and thread the wire end through. Make sure the solder fully connects the wire and the pot tab, and there are no holes between them. This is exactly what a cold solder joint looks like, and you don’t want that! If it looks good, let it cool, and you’re done!

 

When I fixed my first electrical problem on a guitar, all fears I had of making things worse went away. It really isn’t too daunting of a task; as a matter of fact, it’s kind of fun doing the troubleshooting and figuring out the problem. Hopefully you’ll feel the same when you fix yours!

 

Happy Playing!

Vintage 1966 Imperial S-2T Electric Guitar

The King of Vintage – err – Used Guitars (Vintage 1966 Imperial S-2T Electric Guitar)

Vintage 1966 Imperial S-2T Electric Guitar

Vintage 1966 Imperial S-2T Electric Guitar

When I published my first book, Guitar Stories Vol. 1, we promoted it at a few vintage guitar shows and I would invariably get the wit from collectors and dealers, “Guitar stories, yeah, I got a few stories I can tell you.” Of course, they weren’t talking about histories, like I was, but amusing anecdotes about where they’d picked up this or that guitar. I guess most of us pack rats remember where we got things. Oh, maybe not so much the mail-order or internet scores, but back in the day when you looked the seller in the eye and tried to make him blink with a lower offer. It’s hard to forget the story about getting this Imperial guitar.

This Imperial came out of a little piece of Dickens in Philadelphia called Torresdale Music in the neighborhood with that name, in the “near northeast” as we call it, near the Burlington-Bristol Bridge (cheapest toll bridge over the Delaware River to New Jersey and back). Torresdale was a tiny, ancient corner shop just up the street from Chink’s Steaks, a legendary cheesesteak sandwich purveyor, the name of whose establishment has been the source of some local ethnic controversy. (Really good cheesesteaks consumed while sitting in 1940s-vintage wooden booths, highly recommended.)

Vintage 1966 Imperial S-2T Electric Guitar

Vintage 1966 Imperial S-2T Electric Guitar

Torresdale Music was run by Marvin Kopernik, who’d worked for the local music distributor 8th Street Music before becoming a guitar picker, as in flea market habitué, not as in Doc Watson. Anyhow, Marvin’s shop was STUFFED to the gills with old guitars and amps that he’d pick up dirt cheap at yard sales and local swap meets, an endless stream of new treasures lurking behind something else under a shelf to tempt me.

Marvin liked to get a dear price for his wares and he would rarely budge from his sticker price. However, there were chinks in Marvin’s armor. He’d write a little code on the reverse of the price tag. It didn’t take long to decipher the fact that this was what he paid for the guitar written backwards. If it was, say, “501” I’d know that Marvin had $105 into it.

Vintage 1966 Imperial S-2T Electric Guitar

Vintage 1966 Imperial S-2T Electric Guitar

One other chink in Marvin’s armor was that he couldn’t add too fast on his feet. The strategy was to scope out three guitars, decipher what he had into them, bundle them together and offer him a larger, but reasonable sum for the lot. Marvin’s circuits would fry and he’d hear $300 and that sounded like a lot of money and I’d walk out with a really great score!

But, no, this Imperial wasn’t part of one of those deals. You see, in addition to the overstuffed racks out front, Marvin had this teeny, tiny little back room where he’d pile up recent finds and stuff he had no room for in the showroom, like so much firewood. It was kind of painful to see, really. It was lurking under one of these stacks of guitars that I found this Imperial early in my collecting days and when I first knew Marvin. I had no idea what it was other than being Japanese, but it spoke to me.

Vintage 1966 Imperial S-2T Electric Guitar

Vintage 1966 Imperial S-2T Electric Guitar

Much later I found out that this was a product marketed by the Imperial Accordion Company of Chicago. As we’ve discussed before, there was an accordion boom among Baby Boomers in the mid-1950s. Like many booms before and since, it didn’t last and the numerous accordion manufacturers/importers/distributors that had sprung up to meet the demand found themselves in need of new markets. Fortunately, this coincided with the rise in guitar popularity. Also fortunately, the Italian accordion manufacturers, from whom most of the accordion guys sourced their products, were also near a guitar-making area, so they expanded into guitars, many of which were sold by the old accordion companies, including Imperial. By the early 1960s Imperial was selling solidbody electrics made by Crucianelli in Italy. By around 1965 Imperial had added Japanese-made guitars to its line, including this puppy.

Just what this model is is uncertain, but we can extrapolate. This shape is very similar to the older Crucianellis. A c. 1965 catalog has the Model S1 with one pickup and the Model S-3T, a three-pickup with “tremolo.” This is probably a Model S-2T. Very similar Greco guitars from Japan are seen, and most Grecos were built by Fujigen Gakki, the factory that produced most Ibanez guitars as well. The style of this guitar probably puts it right around 1965 or ’66.

Fortunately, this had a thick enough poly finish to survive Marvin’s woodpile. Unfortunately, Marvin’s health didn’t hold up—certainly not helped by too many cheesesteaks from Chink’s—and his shop finally had to close and become a piece of Philly history and legend. Every time I see this Imperial I smile and recall those glory days when I had Marvin’s number and got to revel in his shop’s treasures. How much did I pay? Now, that’s another story…

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

All Amped Up (Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar)

Back in the late 1960s, amplifiers were big. No, I don’t mean as in “popular.” I mean as in big! I had a giant 350-watt solid-state Mosrite that ran a whole band. It was so big, I had to buy a VW Bus to schlep it around. Back then, probably no big amp brand was bigger—as in more popular—than Standel out of California. Those were the amps to have (I suspect my Mosrite was really made by them). Standel got so big, the company introduced its own guitar lines. And, just as Mosrite probably didn’t make any amps, Standel didn’t make any of its guitars.

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

Standel was originally founded by Bob Crooks of Temple City, CA (a northern suburb of L.A.), in 1953 to make high-end tube amplifiers. The company describes itself as a “boutique” manufacturer, meaning it was basically a custom shop. Transistors—which can amplify an electrical signal in a way that’s analogous (!) to tubes—were invented around the same time, but it took some time for them to be applied to musical instrument amplification. I’m no amp expert, but the earliest application of transistors to guitar amps I’ve encountered was by Kay and its Vanguard series that debuted in 1963. Bud Ross, in Chanute, KS, built a reputation for hot-rodding amps by putting tuck-and-roll vinyl on them, and, in 1965, produced a transistorized amplifier that he took to NAMM and Kustom amplifiers—also “big” in both senses of the word—were off and running. I don’t know when Standel embraced the new solid-state technology, but it wasn’t long thereafter.

Kustom, like Standel, would go on to produce—or really commission—its own line of guitars. Exactly when Standel introduced its first guitars is a mystery remaining to be solved. Likewise, who made most of Standel’s guitars also remains to be elucidated. By 1969, at least, Standel was sourcing its guitars from legendary luthier Sam Koontz in New Jersey. This Standel Custom guitar is from before that arrangement.

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

Pretty much inspired by the Country-Western bands that congregated in and around Bakersfield, CA, a whole bunch of guitarmakers sprang up in Southern California, including Semie Moseley and others. Standel did sell some solidbody guitars with a tell-tale German carve around the top that I suspect might have been built for them by Semie. But Crooks apparently preferred hollowbodies, since most Standels are made that way.

Looking at the Southern California guitarmaker landscape at the time—excluding Fender and Rickenbacker, of course—the most likely source for this guitar is Murph. This looks for all the world like a Murph Gemini. Murph guitars were made in another northern L.A. suburb of San Fernando, CA, by Thomas Patrick Murphy from 1965-67, mainly as a vehicle to help promote the pop music act put together by his children. The best known models were the Squier and a heart-shaped Satellite that Dan Forte (aka Teisco del Rey) loves to feature. The Gemini was a thinline hollowbody with a pair of f-holes. The Murph Satellite had a headstock with a little Woody Woodpecker peak at the tip. Visit www.murphguitars.com for more information on Murph guitars.

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

Vintage 1967 Standel Custom Model 202 Electric Guitar (Red)

You can’t just look at a Murph and this Standel and say “Aha.” There are both similarities and differences. In addition to the similar body shape, the Standel head shows its own resemblance to Mr. Woodpecker. Murphs had more than 10 coats of paint; this appears to be plastic-covered, but could be really just very thickly painted. Both lines had 3-bolt necks. The Gemini had a similarly shaped pickguard with extensions up under the pickups, although these pickup covers are unlike any Murphs. The bridge and vibrato are also different. The Murph Gemini used a threeway toggle, but the Squier used a sliding switch, as here. The two biggest differences are the presence of an elevated “belly on the top,” yielding a mild German carve, sort of. Murphs had flat tops. Lastly, Murphs did not have zero frets. Of course, Standel could have deliberately sourced hardware from a different supplier just to make their guitars different.

So, like those annoying History Channel shows where you sit through an hour to find out that they can’t really prove that the wreck they’re exploring really is the Santa Maria or not, we can’t say for sure that Murph made this Standel. If they did, that would place it somewhere between 1965 and 1967, probably closer to the latter. If Murph did supply Standel’s guitars, then Murph’s demise in 1967 might explain why Standel switched to Sam Koontz a year or two later.

All Standel guitars appear to be quite rare. Until we find an example from another known maker that’s identical, origins will never be conclusive. Who knows? We could even find out that, for awhile, at least, Standel did, in fact, actually build its own guitars! And, for the record, give me a small amp any day!

(L to R) Bob2 with Gibson L6-S Custom, Bob1 with LaBaye 2x4 Six, Jerry Casale with modified Gibson Ripper, August 1979

The Devo Guitar Guide

Devo have always taken an unconventional approach to their music, videos, and striking fashion sense so it’s no surprise that this attitude would also apply to their choice of guitars. While many think of them as a synthpop band with the occasional guitar thrown in, in their early years they were precisely the opposite – at times featuring three guitarists in their line up (guitarist Bob1 [Mothersbaugh], guitarist/keyboardist Bob2 [Casale], and singer/keyboardist/guitarist Mark Mothersbaugh). By the early 80s, however, Bob1 was the only member with strings on his instrument with Bob2 and bassist Jerry Casale having mostly switched over to playing their parts on synths. They seemed to have not only enjoyed unusual choices in guitars (shying away from the all too common Strats and Les Pauls) but rotating through many different models as well.

(L to R) Bob2 with Gibson L6-S Custom, Bob1 with LaBaye 2x4 Six, Jerry Casale with modified Gibson Ripper, August 1979

(L to R) Bob2 with Gibson L6-S Custom, Bob1 with LaBaye 2x4 Six, Jerry Casale with modified Gibson Ripper, August 1979

  • Bob Mothersbaugh
    Bob Mothersbaugh’s early guitar of choice was the (never particularly popular) Gibson L6-S Custom. A bit of an ugly duckling looking like a misguided copy of a standard Les Paul, it was designed by Bill Lawrence and was originally intended to be “a multi-sound system for the SG Standard” before morphing into an entirely new model. Initially embraced by players with jazz fusion leanings including Al Di Meola, Pat Martino, and Carlos Santana it was equipped with a six way chicken-head rotary knob to select any combination of the two pickups in series/parallel or in/out of phase. It’s likely that Mothersbaugh utilized many of these settings to get some of the distinctive Devo guitar sounds. He can be seen playing it in during “Secret Agent Man” in the short film In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De-Evolution from 1976 as well as numerous other videos and live performances. Also, Devo’s appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1978 saw both Bob Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale playing L6-Ss.Bob Mothersbaugh also used the striking (and extremely rare) LaBaye 2×4 “Six”only 45 of which were produced in 1967 in Neodesha, Kansas. An obvious forerunner of the Steinberger in design if not playability and sound (the original pickups were notoriously weak). He can be seen playing it in the “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” video from 1978 and some of their earliest live shows outside of their native Akron, Ohio in New York. He still plays the guitar during live versions of “Mr. DNA” and, in a bit of showmanship, breaks all the strings at the end of the solo by violently pulling up on the vibrato arm.Perhaps his most famous guitar is the custom made Ibanez that was originally supposed to look like a potato but came out looking more like a cloud and can be seen in the Devo – Live 1980 DVD (and on the cover) as well as the “Girl U Want” video from 1980. He sold the guitar in the mid-80s while not in the best state of mind and set out to find it again years later. After over a decade of fruitlessly searching, it was finally found in the possession of pro skateboarder Jason Jessee who reunited Bob with the guitar.Over the years he’s been spotted with a variety of other guitars including a blue Ibanez Iceman (played on “Gates of Steel” on the late night TV show Fridays in 1980), an Olympic White Fender Musicmaster (as seen in “The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize” video from 1979 and “It Takes A Worried Man” in Neil Young’s Human Highway film), a Wine Red Les Paul – only acquired to be compatible with the 360 Systems Spectre Guitar Synthesizer which he described as “horrible” – with a “reverse horn” (done by Bob himself) as seen in the “Whip It” video from 1980 and even a Kay K1962 (played in the “Time Out for Fun” and “That’s Good” videos from 1982).

    He’s currently playing a Gibson Custom Shop’59 Les Paul reissue (modeled after Mike Bloomfield’s guitar), a 1964 Gibson SG Standard with P-90s and a Gibson Vibrola, and several entry-level G&L SC-2s which he has described as “probably my favorite guitar.”

    (L to R) Jerry Casale with custom-made bass with Gibson EB-3 neck, Bob1 with Ibanez “cloud” guitar, 1980

    (L to R) Jerry Casale with custom-made bass with Gibson EB-3 neck, Bob1 with Ibanez “cloud” guitar, 1980

  • Bob Casale
    Bob Casale’s main guitar seems to have been a red Hagstrom PB-24-G which he played at Devo’s first performance (as Sextet Devo) at Kent State University in 1973 as well as the “Satisfaction” and “Come Back Jonee” videos in 1978. Occasionally played by Mark Mothersbaugh as well as on Saturday Night Live in 1978 (with his trademark pedals duct taped to it). He can also be seen playing a Gibson Marauder at early shows in New York. During recent shows he has been playing a green Ibanez Talman TC420 with a red pickguard.
  • Mark Mothersbaugh
    Mark almost exclusively used Fender Telecasters which he liked to duct tape his pedals to. This choice was not only aesthetic but practical as well as he can often be seen twiddling the knobs on the pedals while playing. He played what seemed to be a stock Telecaster in the “Satisfaction” video with what appears to be an Electro-Harmonix Frequency Analyzer mounted on the body though it looks like at times he had up to three pedals. Live footage of Devo in Japan in 1979 also shows Mark playing what appears to be a different Telecaster modified with a humbucker in the neck position. During current live shows he plays a left-handed Fender Stratocaster with a pedal duct taped to it, of course.

    Mark Mothersbaugh with Hagstrom PB-24-G & duct taped pedals

    Mark Mothersbaugh with Hagstrom PB-24-G & duct taped pedals

  • Jerry Casale
    Left-handed bassist Jerry Casale has always played right-handed basses strung for a right-handed player (with the E string closest to the ground). At early live shows in Akron and New York he played a Gibson EB-3 before switching to a Gibson Ripper with the horns sawed off (and thick black arm padding added to the top side) supposedly to look more like a potato. This “Spudbass” can be seen in the “Satisfaction” video and on their Saturday Night Live appearance in 1978. He later had a plywood custom-made red rounded cross-shaped body fitted with two DiMarzio Model J’s and the neck from his EB-3 (as seen in Urgh! A Music War filmed in 1980). He then became an early adopter of the Steinberger L2 which he used since its release in 1981 (as seen in the videos for “That’s Good” and “Peek-A-Boo!” from 1982) and he continues to use in concert.
(L to R) Jerry Casale with Steinberger L2, Mark Mothersbaugh with left-handed Fender Stratocaster & duct taped pedals, Bob1 with G&L SC-2, Bob2 with Ibanez Talman TC420

(L to R) Jerry Casale with Steinberger L2, Mark Mothersbaugh with left-handed Fender Stratocaster & duct taped pedals, Bob1 with G&L SC-2, Bob2 with Ibanez Talman TC420

As Bob Mothersbaugh has recently said, “Twenty years ago, someone in the band decided that guitars were obsolete and nobody would be using guitars 20 years from then, and they tried to make that a reality, which really didn’t work for us.” It’s good to see the guitars back.

David Anderson

Guitars & Humidity: Taking Care of Your Guitar

David Anderson

David Anderson

So, it’s cold out side and the snow is falling. You decide to sit by the fire with your favorite hot beverage and your guitar for a little one on one time. You give your prized axe a strum, but it seems someone has replaced your instrument with an imposter. This guitar looks like your old friend in every way, but it’s buzzing and rattling, and the frets are sharp. You ask yourself what is going on.

Humidity is what’s going on, or more accurately, the lack of humidity. Guitars and other stringed instruments require 45 to 55% relative humidity in the environment in order to function properly. If your guitar gets below 45%, it will actually begin to shrink. Your instrument can easily loose 1/8 of an inch of mass from shrinkage due to a dry environment, and that means sharp fret edges, notes that buzz, cracks in the wood, lifting bridges, and even failing neck joints. If your instrument is over-humidified, on the other hand, you will notice an immediate difference in the way it plays due to the neck relief changing and the top rising and bellying up. You may even notice a difference in tone.

But don’t “fret”…it’s not too late! You can reverse the condition of your guitar by simply changing the relative humidity of the environment in which it resides. If you have a hard shell case, you can easily add humidity by purchasing a guitar/case humidifier, but you must be sure to keep the guitar in the case while not in use to allow the case interior to act as the immediate environment for the guitar. If you like to hang your instrument on a wall or display it on a stand, you will need to get a cold mist humidifier for your room (home furnaces with built in humidifiers will not suffice). It’s a good idea to purchase a hydrometer so you can keep track of the relative humidity in your area. Expect it to take a few weeks for your guitar to acclimate to its proper environment. This may seem like a lot of effort, but so is humidifying and repairing a top crack or dressing frets due to dryness, fixes not covered by the manufacturer as warranty work. Prevention is key!

So, if you want to give that special stringed someone the gift that keeps on giving, give the gift of humidity. Your guitar will be happy, and you will too.

Written by: David Anderson

1966 Kapa Continental 12-String

From the Temple of Doom (I): Koob, Albert, Patricia, and Adeline

A View From the Back of the Rack

From the Temple of Doom (I): Koob, Albert, Patricia, and Adeline

By Michael Wright
The Different Strummer

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!
I pulled a lot of good stuff out of Music City and owner John Ciarfella was great to work with. The store was full of New-Old-Stock gear, not to mention a bunch of vintage pieces taken in on trade over the years and just never sold. Maestro pedal effects, replacement Victrola parts, Japanese guitar hardware. Plus this NOS c. 1966 Kapa Continental No. CO-XII-V 12-String, culled from a huge pile in their old cardboard boxes stacked in a corner on the 3rd Floor. All leftover from when John’s father ran Newark Musical Merchandise and distributed Kapas, but was never able to sell. More about the Kapa later.

But the trip to the trip was the upper floors.  Music City was actually two joined 4-story buildings on a corner near the “new” Newark performance center.  The stairs were rickety and the floors unfinished, everything dusty.  The 2nd floor was full of old shelving and drawers filled with the NOS stuff.  The stairs between the floors and buildings were a maze.

After I’d bought a number of things on several trips, John took me up to the 4th floor of the corner building.  That had originally been a speakeasy and on the 4th floor was a Burlesque theater.  It was still there.  The proscenium stage, all the seats, tattered curtains.  Water damage and some graffiti by locals who’d broken in through the skylight.  It was awesome, almost dwarfing the Kapa find.

But, unlike the KAPA, I couldn’t take the theater home with me. Kapa was a brand started by another music distributorship begun in 1960 and owned by a Dutch immigrant named Koob Veneman in Rockville, BD.  Veneman’s father had operated a music store in Holland and distributed guitars carrying the AMKA brand, an acronym made up of the first letters of his childrens’ names (K was Koob).  In 1962 Veneman decided to plunge into the Guitar Boom and manufacture his own line of solid- and hollowbody electric guitars and basses in nearby Hyattsville, MD.  He named the guitars KAPA after his family, himself, son Albert, daughter Patricia, and wife Adeline.

KAPA began in 1963 or ‘64 (sources differ) with three solidbodies, the Challenger (sort of a two-pickup mini-Strat), the Wildcat (three-pickup version), and an occasional single-pickup Cobra, made from scraps.  KAPAs were famous for their ultra-thin necks, made by KAPA, not Höfner as some online sources claim.  Until 1966 the pickups, which looked like Höfners, were made by KAPA.

In 1966 KAPA’s lumber stock got thinner and they began using Pix pickups made in Germany, the same as used by Höfner (but not made by Höfner).  They also switched from threeway toggles to sliding on/off switches about this time.  KAPA also introduced the Jazzmaster-style Continental in ‘66, including the 12-string example seen here.

KAPA guitars were actually quite well made, very easy to play, and give off a nice vintage ‘60s vibe.  They made upwards of 120,000 of them, so they’re not especially rare, but then, not too many people ever thought they’d be of interest to anyone in the future!

1966 Kapa Continental 12-String HS

 

Unfortunately, KAPA doesn’t seem to have been very concerned about consistency, and you’ll find Continentals with Challenger decals and vice versa, and dating is primarily a matter of guesswork.  In 1968 KAPA added a Minstrel teardrop-shaped solid to the line and in 1969 some thinline hollowbodies with bodies made in Japan.  However, by then sales were in decline and in 1970 Veneman shut KAPA down, selling leftover supplies and machinery to Micro-Frets and Mosrite.  Veneman sold Bradley copy guitars during the 1970s.  In the 1980s the shop got into the mailorder music biz.  The shop still exists, but as a premier Guitar Center location.

In any case, besides being a relatively rare ‘60s soldibody 12-string, this KAPA Continental carries the cachet of having been found unsold in a musty old corner of a musical Temple of Doom in Newark, NJ, next door and an obscure staircase away from a mothballed attic burlesque theater!

 

 

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

A Sharp Venture (1968 Guyatone LG-350T Sharp 5 Electric Guitar)

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!

1968 Guyatone LG-350T Sharp 5 Vintage Electric Guitar

1968 Guyatone LG-350T Sharp 5 Vintage Electric Guitar

It shows my age (everything does now anyway), but around the time I was hitting my teenage years, I discovered what was then still a fairly obscure band called The Ventures and their record called Another Smash. At least they were obscure for northern Michigan. This was also about the same time that I figured out I wasn’t going to be either the next Johnny Unitas or Al Kaline (a famous slugger with the Tigers). My dream became to learn those songs, which I eventually did more or less and I still play some of them to this day. The Ventures went on to have a bunch of hits, perhaps the most famous of which was their streamlined version of Johnny Smith’s “Walk, Don’t Run.” Their popularity eventually led to a relationship with Semie Moseley and yielded the Mosrite Ventures guitars, which was literally based on a tracing of a flipped-over Strat! Plus the groovy German carve around the edge that Semie had learned from Roger Rossmeisl.

Even though the Ventures seemed to keep increasing their record output, their popularity didn’t quite keep pace. In the US, that is. At a time when Jimi Hendrix and Fresh Cream were all the rage, the Ventures just didn’t seem relevant. What saved the Ventures’ career during those lean years when they were eclipsed by Bob Dylan and the Beatles was an astonishingly virile popularity in Japan. The Japanese obsession with the band extended to everything Ventures including Mosrite guitars. By the mid-‘60s, when Japanese guitarmakers finally began to become competitive in the American market, they hit upon a strategy of imitating the competition. Which, at the time, was European guitars. Among the early Japanese imitations were the violin-bodied copies of EKO’s popular copies (of Hofner’s copies of Gibson’s…well, you get the picture).

1968 Guyatone LG-350T Sharp 5 Vintage Electric Guitar

1968 Guyatone LG-350T Sharp 5 Vintage Electric Guitar

Wholesale copying of American guitars would come later, but the honor of the first American design to be copied probably goes to the Mosrite Ventures. By 1966 or ’67 many Japanese guitarmakers were building guitars inspired by Mosrites, with extended lower horns and/or German carves and/or slanted neck pickups, etc. Among the earliest and goofier of these in Japan were these Guyatones.

Guyatone was one of the first guitar manufacturers in Japan. It was founded in 1933 by Mitsuo Matsuki and Atsuo Kaneko and began selling Hawaiian guitars with the Guya brand name. After the War, in 1951, the company switched to using the Guyatone brand. Guyatones were among the earliest Japanese electrics to come to the US, imported by Buegeleisen and Jacobson with the Kent brand name.

1968 Guyatone LG-350T Sharp 5 Vintage Electric Guitar

1968 Guyatone LG-350T Sharp 5 Vintage Electric Guitar

This 1968 Guyatone LG-350 Sharp 5 is actually kind of a flipped-over Mosrite, ironically enough! It’s hard to tell from the photos, but it’s finished in a really cool dark metallic blue color. The pickguard is also blue. Its single coil pickups are not typical of most Guyatone guitars that made it to the US. This was a pretty high-end guitar for Japan at the time. The edges aren’t exactly German carve, but they are beveled. The vibrato is a pretty interesting in-body design that emulates the feather-touch of a Mosrite. An unusual feature for the time is covered tuners, sort of like European Van Ghents. And you gotta love that headstock! This is a sweet guitar way ahead of the usual quality you find in Japanese guitars of this era.

By the time this guitar was made, other guitars closer to Mosrite were beginning to appear made by Teisco, Kawai, Firstman, Aria, Zen-On, Humming Bird, Suzuki, Minister, Audition, Monica and others. And the first near-copy had made it to America in the Noble EG 686-2HT, a variant on the Mosrite Combo, marketed by Chicago’s Strum & Drum. By the early 1970s Mosrite knock-offs had become standard, like one of the most famous, the Univox Hi Flyer. But as sharp as those are, that’s another story!

Guitar Troubleshooting: Finding the Source of a Bad Electric Guitar Connection

Sooner or later your electric guitar, cable, or amplifier is going to have problems and you need to do some guitar troubleshooting. There really isn’t much that you can do to prevent it. Honestly, instruments and equipment just get old and need repairs.

But, it’s still good to know what components of your electric guitar connection need replacing so you can prevent yourself from spending money on something that wasn’t actually necessary. Here is a basic order for troubleshooting the connection between your electric guitar and amplifier.

1. Cable

  • Before you even attempt to get your precious guitar or your expensive amplifier fixed, you need to find out if your cable is just messing with you. The fastest way to check it is simply… replace it.
  • Switch it with another that you know is guaranteed to work and you’ll know immediately from your guitar troubleshooting if you need a new cable.

2. Guitar

  • Jiggle and turn the tone and volume knobs. There could possibly be something wrong with the volume or tone knobs of your guitar and you can find out by giving those knobs a little jiggle. If there appears to be static in the sound or no change in tone or volume when the knobs are manipulated, now you know it’s a guitar problem and it’s primarily in those knobs.
  • Lightly jiggle the cable input. A lot of guitar troubleshooting finds bad guitar input jacks, because they tend to go bad with lots of playing while you’re sweaty. If you have your guitar plugged into the amplifier, move the cable around in the guitar’s input slightly and notice if you hear any static or dismissal of sound.
  • Press the strings to the pick-ups. The pick-ups underneath the strings where you strum are where all the tone gets absorbed into the hardware and if those aren’t working, your guitar is now a poorly made acoustic. To check, simply turn on your guitar while plugged into an amplifier and lightly press a string to one of the silver dots on your pick-ups. If you hear a sound come through your amplifier, then your pick-ups are all ship shape.

3. Amplifier

  • Check the power: This one is a no-brainer, but sometimes it can be overlooked when you get overwhelmed by your guitar problems. For this guitar troubleshooting, if your amplifier won’t turn on, you’ll need to try the power cable. Simply switch it out with another and see if your amp turns on. You’ll immediately know if something is wrong.
  • Move the cable around lightly inside the input: Just like you tested the input on your electric guitar, the input on your amplifier should be tested the same way. Jiggle it around and if you hear any static or the sound begin to cut out, you’ll know it’s an input problem.
  • Press and turn all of the knobs, even the ones not used often. I once had a faulty knob that chose to create a loud, blaring noise every time that it was pushed in slightly. Test your amplifier knobs by pressing on them and turning them in their appropriate directions.

It really stinks when you have to get repairs on your electric guitar or your equipment, but doing the necessary guitar troubleshooting can save you some money on unnecessary repairs. Go through these steps the next time there’s a problem with your guitar’s connection and discover where the source is.

Kyle Hoffman is an experienced guitarist that loves to play just as a hobby, and to perform live on stage. To learn Kyle’s valuable tips for beginning the guitar the RIGHT way, visit How To Play Guitar as part of his popular guitar blog, How To Tune Guitar.

Catching a Wave (1984 Takamine Electric Guitar)

I don’t go to guitar shows much any more. I should, because I have a lot of friends who ply the floor, but I’ve been on a guitar diet for several years now. And my friends always find something goofy for me to buy. That’s how I ended up with this mysterious and rare Takamine solidbody guitar from 1984. What the heck is this?! I didn’t know and the dealer who knew enough to bring it to me didn’t know either, but he knew I would have to have it!

1984 Takamine Solid Body Electric Guitar (Model Unknown)

1984 Takamine Solid Body Electric Guitar (Model Unknown)

Well, I eventually found out some more, which I’ll be glad to share. To understand where this guitar comes from we have to go back to 1854 when Commodore Matthew Perry brought a fleet of warships to Japan and forced a treaty to open up its ports, and hence trade, to anyone other than the Portuguese, who’d had a monopoly on trade since the 1600s. This began the influx of Western cultural influences on the island kingdom. The guitar is said to have arrived in around 1890, at the time mandolin orchestras were popular. In 1901 Mr. Kempachi Hiruma returned from a stay in Italy bringing a guitar. Mr. Morishige Takei, a great player and composer, also studied in Italy in 1911 and returned to Japan in 1915 where he founded the Sinfonia Mandolini Orchestra in Tokyo, giving his first solo guitar concert in 1921. In 1929 Segovia toured Japan with great success and influence. Guitar importing soon followed, with manufacturing commencing in the 1930s.

Enter World War II. Pearl Harbor. Hiroshima. American occupation and reconstruction. Rebuilding amongst the ruins were guitar manufacturers, including those who made those new-fangled electric guitars and amps. It wasn’t long before Japanese manufacturers were exporting instruments throughout the east Asian region. By the end of the 1950s, the exporting was to the fast-growing American market, rapidly filling up with increasing numbers of Post-War Baby Boomers. Initially occupying the bottom of the market, their quality increased and by the late ‘60s Japanese guitars had effectively driven out European competition and put an end to many American mass-manufacturers (eg, Kay, National). By around 1969 product quality had progressed enough that established American manufacturers saw the possibilities of shifting production of budget lines eastward.

1984 Takamine Solid Body Electric Guitar (Model Unknown)

1984 Takamine Solid Body Electric Guitar (Model Unknown)

In 1969 the Martin company made overtures to the Takamine company—a premium maker of acoustic guitars—about producing some budget acoustics, but the deal fell through. However, the Kaman Corporation, owners of the Ovation brand, stepped in and inked an exclusive U.S. distribution deal with Takamine. Thus began a long and fruitful collaboration between Ovation and Takamine.

Which finally brings us back to this unusual Takamine guitar. Guitar-making, like any other aspect of a manufacturing economy, goes through cycles of demand and recession. In the early 1980s, demand for acoustic guitars was way down. Disco in the late ‘70s had challenged the whole guitar supremacy with a threat of keyboard domination. The guitar, thankfully, dodged that bullet with punk/New Wave and then the rise of Heavy Metal in the early ‘80s. That was good not only for electric guitars, but it was also good for weird-shaped guitars. The Metallers liked guitars like Explorers and Flying Vees and even more exotic shapes.

1984 Takamine Solid Body Electric Guitar (Model Unknown)

1984 Takamine Solid Body Electric Guitar (Model Unknown)

Alas, Heavy Metallers didn’t really dig acoustic guitars too much. Takamine suffered a dramatic drop in sales. Their American partners, Ovation, decided to help and suggested they try their hand at making weird-shaped solidbody electrics for the Metal market in order to avoid having to lay off workers. This strange beast was one of those experimental guitars produced by Takamine in 1984.

So, how did they do? Well, pretty good, actually. This model—name unknown—had all the latest jimcracks. It had a neck-through-body design and the just becoming de rigueur humbucker/single/single pickup layout. It also had a proprietary double locking vibrato system with a lock-down function turning it into a stoptail (probably borrowed from Yamaha). Pickups were controlled by a unique on/off pushbutton system, simple but effective if you like such designs. The metallic mauve finish wasn’t half bad either!

Indeed, this is a pretty darned good guitar. The pickups are sufficiently hot, the vibrato works fine, and the controls, while basic, are really all you need. If there’s a criticism, it’s that the neck has the typical Takamine rounded acoustic profile, not the usual thinner, flatter shape usually found on electric guitars of this era. Then again, if you like an acoustic feel, that might be a positive!

How long these were produced is unknown (probably about one run), as is how many were produced, but this is the only one I’ve ever laid eyes on. There’s no serial number. It’s probably as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth. I love it, but it’s just another of those reasons why you haven’t seen me much at guitar shows of late!