Guitar history has yielded some very odd marriages, from a business perspective, at least. While these can be found at almost any time, perhaps the glory days of unusual conjunctions was the 1960s, when cascading demand for electric guitars among maturing Baby Boomers caused corporations, both with and without music industry experience, to realize that thar’s gold in them thar hills. Among the odder of these unions was that between Chicago’s Heads & Threads company and Norma, Noble, and even National guitars.
It has always amused me that one of the great tempests in the teapot of guitardom has been the legendary “lawsuit” of the 1970s. You know, when Norlin (aka Gibson) sued Elger (aka Hoshino, aka Ibanez) in 1977 over trademark infringement based upon “copying” Gibson’s headstock design. There are tons of ironies in this story, but one of the most amusing aspects is that companies such as Gibson have been one of the most egregious copyists of its own guitars over the years. Witness the Korean-made Epiphone Firebird 500 seen here.
These days Epiphone guitars are almost ubiquitous. If a band plays Gibson-style guitars, they’re most likely to be slinging Epis. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s because the quality is pretty good, the sound is decent, the look is there, and, if some scumbag should manage to ease a case out of the back of your van when you’re looking the other way, you’re only out an Epi. In other words, the Gibson stays back at home. This is only the latest twist in a tale full of deliciously ironic symbiosis. Another turn is reflected by this extremely rare 1988 Epiphone Spotlight.
Travel with us now Back to the – no, not the Future, but – the 1970s! Back when things were all natural and stuff! Back to nature. Long hair. Deer-hide jackets with fringe. Back when the taste for things au naturale began to show up in guitars. Back when clearcoat finishes began to reveal alternating laminates of light and dark wood, often maple and mahogany or walnut. Back to a time when Martin built this 1979 Martin EM-18. Say what? Martin??
Some guitars combine fascinating stories about both their creation and acquisition, and this 1979 Gretsch TK 300 Model No. 7624 is one of those guitars! It was conceived during what many vintage Gretsch enthusiasts consider to be the low point in Gretsch history. It was purchased during one of the great guitar adventures of my career! But, is it any good?
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