In the early days of My Rare Guitars I collected TEISCO guitars at a freakish pace. Look at the vintage 60’s guitar photos and you will see just about every TEISCO model ever produced from Japan in the 1960’s.
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!
Sometimes you take a look at a guitar and the warning bells start ringing: bogus. Like those early “missing links” proposed by inventive amateur anthropologists who put gorilla skulls on anthropoid skeletons. That’s what happened to me the first time a dealer hauled this out and showed it to me. It was a Danelectro alright, but those pickups? Then I looked again. Who would stencil “Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectro” on an aftermarket pickguard? Then there were the pickups. Epoxy potted. Trademark of who, or is it whom? Dan Armstrong. Think his Ampeg see-through guitars. No, on second thought, this had the air of a mystery wrapped in an enigma with a generous dash of authenticity. So it proved to be. And so it came my way and all I had to do was put the links back together again.
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?
Enter exhibit A: A late 60’s KENT short scale variation on the very popular (then and now) “Beatle” violin shaped bass. As you can see from the photos, this isn’t your average violin bass. While many, from the classic Hofner that Paul McCartney turned a few kids on to, to the Teisco and Black Jack Japanese models, didn’t stray far from the violin shape, this Kent takes a few attractive and stylish liberties with the standard template.
Twenty Eight years ago in Toronto, CANADA, an 18 yr old music fan slipped backstage, unnoticed by the distracted security people. Up a staircase, down a hall, then back down another staircase. He heard voices coming from the bands dressing room. He quietly stepped inside and said, “Mr. Nelson, will you please autograph my Album?” The memory seems like it was just yesterday. There, standing in front of me was my guitar hero, Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe. He smiled and obliged. I turned to pose with Bill for a picture as my friend prepared to snap it. “What? No film?” My good friend Wally Moss had forgotten to load film in the camera. Go figure. People follow their passions – Wally’s was photography, mine was the electric guitar – and the musicians who made them sing. Bill Nelson remains one of the best.
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.
For the past few years I had been looking for a really nice Mosrite Ventures Model Vintage guitar. Prices ranged from $1,500 to $4,000 depending on the year and the condition. Last year an angel descended on eBay with 35 NOS Mosrite guitars that were built in 1987. These guitars were all brand new and were never sold. They were stored in a warehouse for 14 years. Unbelievable! They were auctioned off one by one, week after week, until they were all gone. I bought the 13th one that sold. I was not disappointed.