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Vintage 1983 Hondo H-2 Electric Guitar

Ugly Betty (Vintage 1983 Hondo H-2 Electric Guitar)

First of all, let me confess that, despite my affinity for electric guitars, I’ve never been much of a rock ‘n’ roller. Truth to tell, I’m more likely to pick up an acoustic guitar or banjo. But I love the “art” of electrics, and they are fun to play, I admit, especially pushed through my old Rat distortion box. But sometimes that “art” goes somewhat awry. At least, in my aesthetic opinion, that’s what happened with the ’83 Hondo H-2 featured here!

Vintage 1983 Hondo H-2 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1983 Hondo H-2 Electric Guitar

Oh, I played in a rock band in 1967, on my original ’58 Gibson ES-225TD. We did a mean cover of the Boxtops’ The Letter. But by the early ‘70s I was playing and teaching classical guitar. In fact, I pretty much missed the 1970s with my nose in Giuliani barnstormers and my ears glued to Latin and Big Band swing from the 1930s and ‘40s, mostly on original 78rpm discs.

During my cultural exile I continued to read Guitar Player and had perhaps some dim awareness of what was going on. I knew disco was a threat. But I didn’t disco and had put on some weight. Only your fingers move in classical guitar and with Segovia as your model, well… In the early 1980s I decided I needed to get some exercise so I bought a cheap exercycle and set up my KLH stereo with headphones. I’d been reading about this hot-shot guitar player named Randy Rhoads playing behind some dude named Ozzy Osbourne, whoever that was. I bought a copy of Blizzard of Oz, strapped on the ‘phones, and started to pedal.

Vintage 1983 Hondo H-2 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1983 Hondo H-2 Electric Guitar

It took about 12 seconds of Randy Rhoads for me to become a convert to Heavy Metal. Man, could he play guitar. “Don’t ask me, I don’t know” became my anthem. Still is. I started reading Kerrang! Magazine and before long I was collecting LPs by all these British and American bands with steaming lead guitar(s). I never got to where I could wear Spandex or jump off an amp, but I have some great rare metal records in my collection.

One of the first things you noticed back then was that the guitarists liked guitars with odd shapes. There was the occasional Les Paul or Strat, but not that much. Vees, Explorers and even stranger fare were the order of the day, often with custom graphic paint jobs. It was all part of the post-punk gestalt.

There was no immediate impact on my guitar playing or instruments, but there was a latent impression on my tastes. Later, when I began collecting guitars, anything with a weird shape attracted my attention. So, it was inevitable that when I strolled into Sam D’Amico’s music shop in South Philadelphia, this Hondo H-2 would grab me. I didn’t know what it was, but I had to have it.

Vintage 1983 Hondo H-2 Electric Guitar

Vintage 1983 Hondo H-2 Electric Guitar

Indeed, it was this guitar that led me to eventually track down Jerry Freed and write the Hondo history, as imperfect as that was at the time. Back then I didn’t really have much of a context for it, but several decades later it now makes perfect sense. In response to the predilections of the metal guitarists, guitar companies began introducing increasingly unusual guitar shapes. Both Ibanez and Aria had introduced exotic “X”-shaped guitars. The Hondo H-2 was an extreme variation on that theme.

Hondo had been formed by International Music Corporation (IMC) of Fort Worth, Texas, by Jerry Freed and Tommy Moore. In 1969 they decided to get into importing guitars and, in a visionary move, travelled to Korea to see about sourcing guitars there from what would become the Samick company. By the time this guitar was made Korean guitarmaking was on the verge of respectability, but not quite there yet.

This Hondo H-2 was made for a kid who wanted to be Michael Schenker but probably never had more than a dream’s chance. It gives you the right image at the right price, but the laminated plywood body is hardly disguised. The neck is glued in, and the flamed maple veneer is cool. But the two single-coil pickups are kind of a joke on a heavy metal axe. Then again, if you’re playing through a Rat, you really only need a pulse to get something impressive out the other end, so this might not be as bad as it appears! Still, I doubt if Yngwie ever considered one of these!

The Hondo H-2 may not be high electric guitar art, but you gotta admit it’s pretty fetching. It certainly was—and still is—to me. I’m back to losing weight again and if I ever get fit enough for Spandex, I’m thinking of strapping this H-2 on and beginning to work on my amp-jumping skills… Not.

Workin’ for the Weekend. No really! (The Story of Hondo Guitars)

Remember Hondo? Well, some of us fondly remember this brand, including our own Michael Wright, who shares with us his fond memories of Hondo and… 80’s Hair Metal!

Hond guitar headstocks

A few Hond guitar headstocks…

It’s not very fashionable, I know, but I like ‘80s music. I should be too old for it, but I sat out the ‘70s listening to acoustic music from the 1920s and ‘30s and playing classical guitar. I began listening to rock again in the early ‘80s, beginning with Ozzy and Randy Rhoads. Boy could he play! Anyhow, the metal, hair, and power pop bands of those days all put good, strong guitar soloing up front in the mix, and I enjoyed it. (I automatically block out vocals and lyrics, by the way, so I pay no attention to them!) Among the bands I liked was the Canadian outfit Loverboy, who had a hot lead guitarist in Paul Dean. You may be aware of the rare Kramer Paul Dean Signature guitar, but you are likely to be surprised that there was in fact an earlier “signature” model produced by Hondo, of all people! Indeed, several!

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

Loverboy was founded in Calgary in 1980 and released its first record in Canada in that year. They caught on big and for most of the decade cranked out hits including probably their signature tune, (Everybody’s) Working for the Weekend. It didn’t take long for guitarist Dean to begin working with guitarmakers on a guitar design he could call his own. Apparently he had some prototypes made by a Western Canadian company, though those my never have gone into production.

At some point thereafter he apparently hooked up with Jerry Freed of International Music Corporation (IMC) of Fort Worth, Texas, the owner of the Hondo brand name. Hondo gets little respect from most guitar aficionados, but it really should, both because it contributed quite a bit to guitar history and actually made some pretty good guitars (though not all, it must be admitted).

Hondo was founded by Freed and Tommy Moore in 1969 with the intention to open up guitar production in Korea, at that time a non-player in the guitar game. Japan had taken over from Europe as the primary supplier of budget-level guitars during the 1960s. However, even by the late ‘60s the success of the Japanese was being eroded by their very success and the strength of the yen. Americans, mostly as an after-effect of World War II, had little respect for Japanese products and weren’t willing to pay much for them, even if they were pretty good. When Nixon cut the dollar loose to float with other currencies on the free market, the yen went up, making Japanese products increasingly expensive, a problem in a prejudiced, price-sensitive market like the US.

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

So, Jerry and Tommy went to Korea and hooked up with a small guitarmaker there that would become, I’m pretty sure, Samick. Japanese engineers from Tokai were brought in to help improve the operation and the Hondo brand was born. Named for the John Wayne western (and late ‘60s TV show). Not unlike the brand name featured here!

Hondo was initially known for its really crappy but cheap acoustics, but then picked up the low end of the copy era. Although by the mid-‘70s it was marketing some better models still made in Japan by Tokai. By the late ‘70s and into the ‘80s Hondo was making some pretty interesting “original” designs.

It was at this point in time when Hondo was hitting its stride that Paul Dean and Hondo crossed paths. As far as I know, this was Hondo’s first (and perhaps only) foray into celebrity endorsed guitars.

There actually may have been as many as three Hondo Paul Deans. There was one made from the Canadian prototypes which was apparently never promoted and probably pretty rare. In the June 1983 catalog the Paul Dean II and III were listed. The PD-2, shown here, had two DiMarzio Super II humbuckers and a BadAss-style stop tailpiece. The PD-3 had three single-coils and a traditional-style vibrato. Both had a black textured metal pickguard and came in a cherry finish with a 24-3.4” maple fingerboard over a 3-piece maple neck. Despite the respectable horse-power provided by DiMarzio, I’m pretty sure these guitars were made in Korea, because Japanese guitars of 1983 had pretty fine workmanship, which this lacks. It’s not at all bad, just not top-notch Tokai.

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

The Hondo Paul Dean II shown here lasted only about a year, if that. It was not in the 1984 catalog. The Paul Dean III was still listed in ’84. Both are probably quite rare and almost never seen. And close to the end of the line for Hondo.

In 1985 IMC signed an agreement with Charvel/Jackson guitars to market its Charvel line made in Japan. Let’s see. Charvel? Hondo? Which would you choose? Like a bad guy in a John Wayne western (or any by Clint), Hondo bit the dust. The brand’s fate was forever sealed when IMC bought the Jackson company in 1986. Who you gonna call? Not Hondo.

In any case, Paul Dean had bigger fish to fry. He hooked up with Dennis Berardi and Kramer guitars, which was on its way to becoming the largest guitar company in the world. In 1986 the Kramer Paul Dean debuted. But that’s another story.

Loverboy continues to perform. I still like ‘80s music, but only from the ‘80s. And only on the shuffle feature on my iPod. I’m increasingly pulled back to acoustic music from the ‘20s and ‘30s… Sorry Loverboy. But I still do like this Paul Dean II, and it’s a cool—and rare—piece of guitar history! Makes it all worth while working for the weekend…

Roundup for a Texas Longhorn (1978 Hondo II Longhorn Electric Guitar)

Spaghetti Westerns. Justice by Clint. The Duke as Hondo. Cattle drives, horses, chaps, revolvers, rustlers, Rangers and the Red River Valley. It’s the image of Texas that runs through our blood like a celluloid river. But even though this Hondo II Longhorn hails from Texas, like Eastwood’s films directed by Italians and filmed in Spain, there’s a lot more behind the story! Here’s the beef.

1978 Hondo II Longhorn Electric Guitar

1978 Hondo II Longhorn Electric Guitar

Calling this guitar a Longhorn is obvious because the cutaway horns are, well, long. Duh. But in fact, associating the Longhorn guitar with cattle (though perhaps not cowboys) has a basis in ancient history. Technically speaking, this two-horned body is the shape of a lyre. Lyres were in use in Mesopotamia—a region we know today as Iraq—at least by 2500 BC and probably earlier. Since some of the harps (a related instrument) that have survived from that time were outfitted with elaborately decorated bull’s heads, it is entirely possible that the lyre’s shape was also meant to bring steer horns to mind!

The lyre continued to be popular at least through the flowering of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and may have survived in one form or another into the early Middle Ages. The shape was actually rediscovered in the late 18th and early 19th as Europeans became interested in unearthing ancient cultures. By the mid-1800s guitars with lyre arms began to appear. Indeed, they may have been responsible for the invention of harp guitars, but that’s just a guess. Lyre guitars continued to show up in the hands of cute babes on postcards up until World War I after which they slipped from memory, until Nate Daniel brought them back in the late 1960s.

1978 Hondo II Longhorn Electric Guitar

1978 Hondo II Longhorn Electric Guitar

Most of us probably know this longhorned guitar shape from the legendary Danelectro Guitarlin. Indeed, this Hondo guitar was intended to be a tribute to that ‘60s beauty. Danelectro bit the dust in 1969, yielding to the beginnings of international guitarmaking. Ironically, it was in that same year that the Hondo brand was born, soon to become the first significant guitars coming from Korea. Hondo was owned by International Music Corporation (IMC) of Fort Worth, Texas, which was run by Tommy Moore and Jerry Freed. In 1969 IMC had a relationship with Tokai in Japan and in ’69 traveled to Korea and entered into an agreement with a relatively new company called Samick. IMC upgraded the Samick operation with technology from Tokai and began to import Hondos.

To be honest, the Korean Hondos weren’t all that great, but Hondo kept working with Tokai, and some of its deluxe models continued to be made in Japan. Which brings us to this Hondo II Longhorn, which was introduced in 1978. This is actually a swell guitar with a mahogany body and 31-fret fingerboard. It was probably made by Tokai. The active 12-hex-pole pickups were powered by an onboard preamp that let you kick this puppy into overdrive at the flick of a switch. Giddyup!

It’s not clear how long this model was offered by Hondo, but probably only a year or so. By the time this beast was history, so pretty much was the classic celluloid image of Texas, replaced by the post-modern cynicism actually introduced by those Spaghetti productions. Indeed, the Hondo II Longhorn itself was the beginning of a post-modern heritage of tributes that includes the early ‘90s hybrids assembled by Tony Mark and the excellent reproductions still made by Nashville’s Jerry Jones. Nevertheless, when you pick up one of these kick-ass, steer-inspired Hondo Longhorns and throw that pre-amp switch, you’re deep in the heart of Texas!