by Michael Wright The Different Strummer It’s odd that I never thought of things this way before but it was encountering Japanese guitars that started me on the road to writing guitar history. It was probably more about coincidence—and me being cheap—than any sort of far-sighted strategy, maybe salted with a generous dash of […]
By Michael Wright The Different Strummer I’ve always been a sucker for oddball guitars. A LaBaye 2×4? You bet! A Bunker Astral Series Sunstar? Yup! A Jay Turser Shark? O’Hagan Shark? Of course. So, when a chance to get a moon-shaped guitars beckoned, the call was irresistible. Now, despite its hallowed place in the […]
In the good old days, guitar cognoscenti used to snicker at ‘60s Japanese guitar styles because they looked as if they just couldn’t get it right. As in make a guitar as clean and cool as a Fender Strat or Jazzmaster. The joke was on the experts. If the Japanese guitar designers did anything, they got […]
What is it about the Japanese and the Ventures? I mean, I cut my teeth with the Ventures. They were the perfect band to learn guitar from. The Ventures took songs with often complex harmonic structures—like the wonderful Johnny Smith classic—and stripped them down to their basic melodies, gave them a simple rock groove, and played them clean. I had the sheet music to Smith’s song, but there was no way in you know where I was gong to play off that. But follow along with the Ventures’ single? You bet!
I wasn’t in the market for any more amps, but how could I pass up this Lafayette LA-75? A buddy of mine (thanks Rob S.!) sent me an email, letting me know that this baby was on ebay for a really good price and that I should snatch it up. “If you love the (Valco-made) Harmony 415,” he said, knowing it was one of my favorites, “you’ll love this one. Similar output and tone, only out of one 12” instead of two.” And he was right—and then some. I do love the duel EL84 Valco/Harmony 415, but I think I like this little sleeper even more.
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!
It’s always dangerous to deal in stereotypes. Nevertheless, there’s often a grain of truth lurking behind them. Take guitars (what else?) from the ‘60s. Often it only takes a glance to sus where a guitar came from. Look at a Japanese electric guitar and you won’t mistake it for anything else. Or move to Europe. You’d almost never confuse a German guitar—full of engineering bells and whistles—for an Italian one (loaded with style), or vice versa. Take this c. 1965 Juliett Delux guitar.
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