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Forgotten Offset Guitars: Teisco TG-64

Offset Guitars have been, for a long time, a favourite amongst alternative rock and indie rock players. Let’s have a look at a forgotten classic – the Teisco TG-64, now being reissued by Eastwood.

Blonde Redhead live

Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead, one of the players who discovered the joys of a Teisco offset – she plays the bass version of the TG-64, the TB-64 now being resurrected by Eastwood. VIEW INFO

Don’t get us wrong – we love a good Jazzmaster, Jaguar or Mustang. Fender was and still is the big daddy of the offset guitars. But if familiarity doesn’t always have to bring contempt, on the other hand many of us prefer guitars with that little spark of mystery, which add to an unique touch when you’re on stage, or simply helps making it more interesting to play. That’s why a few lucky guitarists can’t help but loving their rare, 1960’s Teisco TG-64. Let’s be honest, it has a certain mojo lacking in modern-day Jazzmasters!

The Forgotten Offset Classic?

While its shape is familar, it’s all about those other details: three single coil pickups stripy scratchplate, push buttons and that cut-out handle on the body – what’s it all about? One of those features no one really needs, but which in fact looks pretty cool. It was the Sixties, after all, and who knows what the designers were smoking, then!

Original Teisco TG-64

Original Teisco TG-64

The thing about Teisco guitars, is that they were unashamedly cheap knock offs of bigger brands such as Fender – but with enough personality to stand out on their own. They were never meant to be GREAT guitars, but put them through a valve amp and a good fuzz pedal, and it could be the coolest thing ever.  Originally unpopular offset models such as the Jazzmaster and Jaguar were affordable, and for this reason rediscovered in the Seventies by Punk and New Wave acts, but as soon as they became a staple in 90s alt-rock, thanks to Nirvana, Sonic Youth and others, they became prized commodities – and, somewhere along the way, lost just a little bit of their “cool” factor (for all it’s worth!).

Owning a Teisco TG-64 is a bit like owning a Jazzmaster back in 1976 – because it’s still an odd and rather cool choice, not seen too often. Some of the people who’ve used one recently include Blonde Redhead and Conor Oberst. But this model is still not the easiest to find! This is perhaps the coolest of all non-Fender offset guitars, and certainly a “forgotten classic”!

Conor Oberst and his Teisco TG-64

Conor Oberst and his Teisco TG-64

Eastwood Custom TG-64 Monkey Grip

It’s great news that Eastwood Custom are planning to reissue the Teisco TG-64. The plan is to make it even better than the original, but still quite affordable. While in the past Teisco were cool but cheap guitars, the new ones are of much better quality. If you’re looking for a cool alternative to a Fender Jaguar or Jazzmaster that really stands out, maybe the new Eastwood Custom TG-64 will do the trick for you.

Eastwood Custom TG-64 Monkey Grip

Eastwood Custom TG-64 Monkey Grip

At the moment guitarists have to pledge a small amount to guarantee theirs… if you’re interested, hurry up, because opportunity ends TODAY (17th November)

VIEW EASTWOOD TG-64 PAGE FOR INFO

Eastwood Custom TB-64 Monkey Grip

Tesco TB-64... new Eastwood custom project

Teisco TB-64… new Eastwood custom project. Find out more

The Teisco TB-64 looks very closely to the TG-64, but with a few differences besides the longer scale: a more “Fender-y” headstock, different neck joint and a vibrato arm closer to the edge of the body. Yes, it might’ve been inspired – in principle – on the Fender Bass VI but, frankly, has quite a marked difference… and, dare we say, looks much better?

Eastwood launched a custom shop project to reissue the TB-64, ending on April 20, 2017. They’ve successfully crowdfunded the TG-64 and it looks likely the TB-64 will also get made… but the best way to make sure this happens, and to guarantee yours, is of course to help crowdfunding and leave your pledge, too!

VIEW EASTWOOD TB-64 PAGE FOR INFO

Watch: Teisco TG-64 Demo

Vegematic Guitars

Vegematic Guitars

By Michael Wright

The Different Strummer

 

1965 Hagstrom Impala

As with our old friend Nigel Tufnel, that more is better goes without saying.  Why play an amp at 10 when you could play at 11?  I’ve bought guitars just because they had 4 pickups.  And I’d for sure be interested in a guitar like this Hagstrom Impala with 8 push-button controls!  Count ‘em, 8! And color-coded!

I find it curious that Hagstrom isn’t better known or regarded by Stateside guitar enthusiasts.  I guess you can say that about most European guitar-makers.  But Hagstrom actually got pretty good distribution here.  Maybe even better than EKO, which somehow ends up being better known (although that’s probably more due to Dan Forte’s—aka Teisco Del Rey—writings than actual familiarity during the 1960s)  But Hagstroms were pretty well made and they actually were among the earliest European guitars to be imported after the War.  In the late ‘50s, with the rising popularity of Folk music, acoustic guitars from Scandinavia were the first imports, guitars made by Landola (Finland) and Bjarton (Sweden) came in as Goyas and Espanas.  In around 1959 those acoustic were followed by the first, short-lived electrics, those wonderful sparkle-plastic covered hollowbody electrics sold under the Goya brand name, made by Hagstrom in Sweden.

Finding a vegematic array of push-buttons on a Hagstrom shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Indeed, those early sparkles had push-buttons.  But when you consider that Hagstrom actually began in the 1930s as an accordion manufacturer.  Accordions have nothing if they don’t have buttons!  American manufacturers hit on the toggle switch early on, but European makers seem to have preferred push-button switching.  Then again, come to think of it, most European guitar-makers started out making accordions!  Except for many of the German makers.  Except for Hohner.

Anyhow, Hagstrom produced some pretty innovative and high quality instruments, although I think their reputation gets a bit tarred by those pretty flimsy vinyl-covered guitars that were their bread and butter through most of the 1960s.  But those early sparkles were pretty interesting.  They had modular pickup assemblies.  You just lifted one configuration out and plugged in a different one, although practically speaking that really only made sense if you were upgrading.  I can’t think of why you’d change out a 4-pickup unit for a 1-pickup unit, since all you had to do was just play one pickup on the 4-pickup configuration, but, hey, it makes for good marketing copy.

mrwright

            There were guitars like this Impala.  This was a very early neck-through-body guitar made long before that technique became fashionable.  The push-buttons were basically for a variety of tone controls.  The “0” was one of my favorite settings: “off.”  I never really understood why you want to turn your guitar off, but OK.  The 1 button activated the neck pickup, while 2 turned on the bridge unit.  Then there were 3 buttons  for Hi, Mid, and Low, sort of a quasi-EQ presumably with different capacitors.  The Solo button was full out, and Accompaniment was a muted setting for chording.  The sliding lever was a master volume for all the buttons except for knob which was a volume control for when you were in Accompaniment mode.  I love all those buttons but I may be loving a toggle switch more.  Even though the switching is a bit arcane, this is a high quality guitar with a pretty good amount of tonal versatility.

Guitars like the Impala weren’t Hagstrom’s only quality builds or technical innovations.  Later in the 1970s the company commissioned Jimmy D’Aquisto to design a jazz box (dubbed the Jimmy) and they also produced the very nice Swede, a sort of Les Paul-style axe, some of which came outfitted with a Patch 2000 interface pedal made by Ampeg, a pre-MIDI form of synth guitar that combined guitar switches with a foot pedal and was even harder to figure out than the Impala’s push-buttons.  But the Swede/Patch 2000 certainly earned them an A for effort.

Hagstrom, like most other European manufacturers couldn’t survive the Japanese juggernaut of the 1970s and they bit the dust in the early 1980s.  Their labor costs kept going up and up as Europe gradually recovered from the 20th Century’s hot wars and the political and economic turmoil of the Cold War.  But they did manage to make some significant—or at least some really interesting—contributions to guitar history.  Including guitars with lots of buttons.  Now, if this only had 9 buttons, Nigel would be a happy chappy…

 

Vintage 1960's Teisco Plexi Spectrum 5 Guitar

Back Catalog Memories: TEISCO Spectrum 5 Plexi Guitar

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.

TEISCO guitars sold in the United States were badged “Teisco Del Rey” beginning in 1964. Teisco guitars were also imported in the U.S. under several brand names including Silvertone, Kent, Beltone, Duke, Heit Deluxe, Jedson, Kimberly, Kingston, Lyle, Norma, Tulio and World Teisco. Likewise, they were imported in the UK under such labels as Arbiter, Audition, Kay and Top Twenty. While guitars manufactured by Teisco were ubiquitous in their day, they are now very collectable. In fact, highly sought after models are now being reproduced.

Vintage 1960's Teisco Spectrum 5 Guitar

Vintage 1960's Teisco Spectrum 5 Guitar

The cream of the crop was certainly the Spectrum 5:

This model was a massive achievement on many levels: deep german carved body, stereo pickups and switching, wild colored switches and a crazy body contour. So no wonder forty years later that it is the serious collector’s version of a TEISCO, at least three times more valuable than any other model. “So how do you make the rare, rarer??” I asked. Make a Plexiglas version of it, that’s how. Here is where the story gets interesting…

I’ve said it before: one of the cool things about being in this business is the people you meet. I’ve recently come to the following conclusion – If you are really into weird guitars, and you live long enough, you’ll eventually meet every other person on the planet that is into weird guitars.

Vintage 1960's Teisco Plexi Spectrum 5 Guitar

Vintage 1960's Teisco Plexi Spectrum 5 Guitar

A while back I got an email from one of the worlds best “out there” guitar players – Henry Kaiser. He saw an older article from the My Rare Guitars website that circled around a particularly wierd guitar and was interested in trading something for it. What did Henry have to trade? A Teisco Spectrum. Yes, a Teisco Spectrum is always in the top ten in my “trade-for” list. But wait… this one was a plexi Spectrum!! What the hell??? Apparently they made 100 or so in Japan (where Henry got it earlier in the decade) so I’m guessing not many – if any other than this one – ever made it across the pond.

So goes the lifetime obsession of guitar collecting. Cool things come and go every month, but this one was worth a mention for sure. For the most part, I enjoy the pursuit. Once I get them, I start looking for the next and the initial romantic attraction wanes. As a customer once stated, it is like fishing, catch and release. But sometimes you catch a really big one, and relling it in is so much fun!

Oh, by the way, do yourself a favour and catch up with Henry Kaiser.

Walk, Don’t Run! (1967 Heit Deluxe V-2 Electric Guitar)

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! Maybe that was part of their appeal in Japan. Or maybe it was just that they were one of the few popular American bands to bother to go to Japan to perform. That simple gesture got the band generations of loyal Japanese fans and kept the group afloat during those lean years of the late ‘60s when their sharp, clear sound was out of phase with pot-smoking kids who preferred to get lost in the purple haze of Inna Gadda Da Vida.

1967 Heit Deluxe V-2 Vintage Electric Guitar

1967 Heit Deluxe V-2 Vintage Electric Guitar

Whatever the reasons for their popularity in the Pacific, it should come as no surprise that when the Japanese guitarmakers hit on the strategy of copying popular guitar designs, the Ventures’ Mosrites were near the top of the list. Which partially explains this ca. 1967 Heit Deluxe V-2.

Actually, the first “copy” guitars by the Japanese were of their European competition. European guitarmakers from Italy, Germany, and Sweden were among the first to begin supplying the beginner-grade demand of American post-War Baby Boomers, just hitting adolescence as the ‘60s dawned. The success of EKO’s violin-bodied guitars and basses—a not-so-subtle nod to Paul McCartney’s Hofner—yielded a host of Japanese knock-offs by the mid-‘60s.

1967 Heit Deluxe V-2 Vintage Electric Guitar

1967 Heit Deluxe V-2 Vintage Electric Guitar

Once the notion of “copying” took hold, it didn’t take long for the Japanese attention to turn to other models. And it didn’t take long for them to begin eyeing those swell Mosrites played by their beloved Ventures. Perhaps as early as 1966, but certainly by 1967, a variety of Mosrite-inspired guitars were coming off Japanese production lines and making their way to American shores carrying a variety of brand names, including the Heit Deluxe seen here. These Mosrite-style guitars ranged from vague tributes such as those by Humming Bird and Guyatone to the first really exact copies like the Mosrite Avenger by Firstman.

1967 Heit Deluxe V-2 Vintage Electric Guitar

1967 Heit Deluxe V-2 Vintage Electric Guitar

This Heit Deluxe is almost certainly a version of the V-2 made by Teisco. It is identical to those shown in the indispensable book ‘60s Bizarre Guitars‘, except for the two-way sliding selector switch instead of the usual three-way toggle. Most guitar fans automatically think “Teisco” for anything Japanese, but the picture is far more complicated, of course! When you actually study Japanese guitars, you find a remarkable consistency in pickup use. While there are a few exceptions to prove the rule, Japanese manufacturers almost always used distinctive and exclusive pickup types. The ones shown here are variants on the little DeArmonds used by Harmony and are almost always found on Teisco-made guitars. As you might expect, there’s a lot of variability in the output of these pickups, but they can be quite excellent, as here on this guitar. This particular guitar is a little more reminiscent of the Mosrite Joe Maphis or Mark I than the Ventures model, but the inspiration is absolute. These are great guitars, with nice slim necks that play swell if you set them up right. As with many ‘60s solids, this has a mahogany body, although a lot of these guitars used sen, a native timber related to mahogany.

Less is known about the Heit brand. It was used on a number of Japanese and possibly early Korean acoustic imports in the late ‘60s marketed by G & H Imports (GHi) located at 475 Westminster Place in Lodi, New Jersey, a small town not far from Passaic near the junction between the Garden State Parkway and I-80. Presumably G and H were partners in the venture, but their names are unknown at this time. You can find their 1968 catalog and price list at www.vintaxe.com (a subscription site). This model is not shown that year, which is why I suspect ’67, but it could be slightly later. ‘60s Bizarre lists these as “c. 1968,” but that don’t mean it’s necessarily so. Other models shown in the Heit are not Teiscos, but could be Kawais. Other Kawai guitars have been spotted carrying the Heit Deluxe brand. The Deluxes were Heit’s better models, but that’s almost one of those distinctions without a difference. Pickups ranged from one to four. The acoustics look dreadful which is why I suspect a Korean origin. GHi apparently distributed to other retailers because in ’68 a half dozen Heits would set you back between $18-35 each!

1967 Heit Deluxe V-2 Vintage Electric Guitar

1967 Heit Deluxe V-2 Vintage Electric Guitar

Of course, you won’t find your Heit Deluxe for $35 any more, but you’ll still pay a heck of a lot less than for a genuine Mosrite! And, you’ll have a sweet little ‘60s guitar (well, not really so little; these are pretty substantial) to chomp down on whichever version of Walk, Don’t Run you prefer to play!

Let me know if you know anything more about GHi or who G and H were!

A Missing Link? (1969 Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectro Electric Guitar)

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.

1969 Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectro Electric Guitar

1969 Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectro Electric Guitar

Turns out Danelectro, like every other musical instrument company, got caught up in the corporate feeding frenzy of the 1960s. Danelectro had its origins in electronics work done for a department store by Nathaniel “Nate” Daniel (born 1912) in the Bronx in the 1930s. He came up with his own amplifier design and from 1934-42 made Epiphone’s Electar amplifers. After World War II Daniel moved to Red Bank, New Jersey, and founded Danelectro, building amps for Montgomery Ward (Airline), Sears (Silvertone), and Targ and Diner (S.S. Maxwell). In the early 1950s, when solidbody electrics demonstrated that they were more than a passing fad, Sears wanted more guitars than its subsidiary Harmony could produce and arranged for Danelectro to start making electric guitars. Danelectro and its Silvertone counterparts debuted in 1954.

The first Danos were solid, made of poplar. In 1956 the legendary “lipstick tube” pickups appeared and yes Martha they were purchased from a lipstick manufacturer! In 1958 the classic masonite hollowbodies took a bow, the same year Danelectro relocated to Neptune, New Jersey.

1969 Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectro Electric Guitar

1969 Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectro Electric Guitar

Fast forward to 1966. By then guitar companies could sell any guitars they could make. A number of large corporations, many with experience on the periphery of the entertainment business, started seeing dollar signs and began acquiring guitar companies. CBS purchased Fender in 1965. Norlin, whose interests including breweries (I guess that’s entertainment!), bought Gibson. Baldwin Pianos and Organs bought first Burns of London and then Gretsch. Even Westheimer Sales, importer of Teiscos, was purchased by King Korn trade stamps. Seaburg, the juke box folks, bought Valco/Kay. Avnet bought Guild. Danelectro was purchased by MCA, the company that owned Decca Records and Universal Pictures, among other properties.

Unfortunately for all the greedy corporations, the bloom started to fade from the guitar business almost immediately. According to the Music Trades magazine, guitar sales began to decline in 1967 followed by an even bigger drop in 1968. That year Valco/Kay went belly up. MCA wanted out, but there were no takers to buy the brand. In 1969, MCA simply locked the doors of the factory and that was it.

Which links up with this guitar. Dan Armstrong was a well-known repairman nee guitar designer who had a shop in New York. He and his then girlfriend Carly Simon came up with this idea for a plexiglass “see-through” guitar which would be sold through another area amplifier company, Ampeg in 1969. Armstrong was hired to personally inspect every guitar before it left the plant, but, reportedly, Armstrong was, shall we say, not very interested in showing up for a regular day job shift. Ampeg had trouble meeting demand for the plexiglass guitars and basses. There may have been other production problems.

In any case, a part of the Ampeg design was a series of interchangeable pickups that slid into a slot on the front. These were cast in epoxy to help cut back on feedback.

1969 Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectro Electric Guitar

1969 Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectro Electric Guitar

The rest of the story is a little murky. Some sources say that Armstrong purchased a bunch of leftover parts from the closed Danelectro factory and assembled between 650-700 guitars outfitted with his epoxy-potted pickups. Some stories link this to Ampeg’s supply problems, but why they don’t then say Ampeg is a mystery. Other stories have these guitars being sold out of Armstrong’s New York shop, which probably makes more sense, given the identification on the pickguard. One interesting clue is that Ampeg used Danelectro bridges on its see-through guitars. This has always struck me as odd, that such an advance guitar concept wouldn’t have a sophisticated bridge.

Somehow, this all ties up with the fact that Unimusic, Ampeg’s parent company, ran into financial troubles about this time. They couldn’t pay Armstrong. Had Ampeg purchased those Danelectro parts to use the bridges and save money? Did Armstrong get the parts to make these guitars as part of the pay Ampeg couldn’t give him? We may never know the whole story.

All this came tumbling down in 1971 when the Ampeg see-throughs bit the dust. Along with the company. Ampeg was sold to the consumer electronics giant Magnavox that year. Magnavox operated the company until 1980 when the brand went to Ernie Briefel’s Music Technology, Inc. (MTI), distributor of Westone and Vantage guitars from Matsumoku Moto in Japan, as well as Giannini from Brazil. In 1985 the brand was sold once again to St. Louis Music, where it still resides.

Following the see-through debacle and the brief fling with these Danelectros, Dan Armstrong moved to London where he produced some mahogany versions of the see-through designs.

So, that leaves us with these Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectros. As you can see, they do exist! I’m pretty sure these date from 1969, but that’s far from certain. The timing fits. They could date from slightly later, but probably not much.

Basically everything on these guitars is vintage Dano except for the pickups. They are smooth, rich and quiet. Unfortunately, a Dano really needs cheapo lipstick-tube single-coils to sound right. These high-tech units kind of leave the guitar with no soul. I have no idea what the three-way toggle is supposed to do. It may have already been installed!

Nevertheless, like those anthropological missing links, this Dan Armstrong Modified Danelectro fills in some curious connections between some of our most famous brand names and innovative guitar personalities. Maybe some day we’ll know the whole truth about this oddball.

Alpine Wonderland (1968 St. Moritz Stereo Guitar)

Hot chicks in tight pedal pushers with angora sweaters tied around their necks. Quaint chalets and picturesque streets. Snow capped mountains in the background. Elegant expensive restaurants. Skiers. Winter sports. Aspen, right? No. St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps! But what the heck does a resort in Europe have to do with a groovy stereophonic guitar from Japan? Damifino! But both are pretty cool!

There’s not much I know about St. Moritz, Switzerland (or Aspen, for that matter). There’s not even much I know about this St. Moritz stereo guitar. But I’m pretty sure I like all of them. Certainly I love this guitar, which is pretty revolutionary.

Some of my greatest experiences in music have been in ensembles, but for the most part I’ve been a soloist. Already in the late ‘60s I was thinking about ways I could split signals to different amps. There wasn’t really much of a concept of effects yet back then. There were some effects, but they were pretty esoteric and I didn’t know about them. But I thought it would be so cool if you could create a surround sound sending parts of your signal this way and part of it that, kind of like panning. I doodled with primitive plans. It never went anywhere. I’m no engineer.

1968 St. Moritz Stereo Guitar

1968 St. Moritz Stereo Guitar

And I didn’t know there were people thinking about this problem already. But as this ca. 1968 St. Moritz stereo guitar demonstrates, they were.

The notion of stereophonic sound goes back at least to 1881 and Clement Ader in Paris. That such an idea should apply to sound is easily understood when you realize that stereoscopic photography applying to vision had already been around for 20 years or more. A long history of stereo sound unfolds but the first commercial records appeared from Decca in 1945. A common standard was established by RIAA in September of 1957. In 1958 the first modern stereo records appeared. I remember it well. And both stereo and mono records continued to be produced over the next decade or more.

Playback in stereo is one thing. But playing in stereo, that’s another matter. In history, it’s often hard to pin-point the first “who.” But probably the first to come up with the notion of a stereo guitar was Gibson with its ES-345 in 1959, which this guitar clearly emulates. A good candidate for inventing individual pickups might be Dave Bunker, who came up with the idea in the early ‘60s. Someone may have preceded him, but I don’t know who.

1968 St. Moritz Stereo Guitar

1968 St. Moritz Stereo Guitar

Probably both these influences led to some wag in Japan coming up with this St. Moritz. I have no idea who may have been responsible for this brand name. A relatively fair number of this brand exists, so it must have been a significant distributor or retailer. I don’t mean to say these are common like a Teisco, but neither are they totally rare.

When I bought this guitar I expected it to be another cheapo Japanese hollowbody. There were some pretty crappy ones made back then. But plugging this one in gave me a little whiplash. This is a really sold guitar and these goofy pickups really, really pack a punch. Each little ceramic unit is mounted on a large plastic base or plate and has its own magnet, pole and coil. Wiring is split down the middle, with the output as 6-4 on one channel, 3-1 on the other. You can switch off either channel, though why you would want just treble or just bass output is a bit of a mystery! I guess turning them both off gives you a roundabout way to “standby.” You can also get a mono signal using a Mix position. There are two volumes and two tones each associated with its own channel.

As with all ‘60s Japanese guitars, the electronics leave a bit to be desired. No sliding switch provides the greatest trouble-free connection and these cheap units are particularly bad, especially with age. Thin, unshielded wire and the smallest amount of solder don’t help. Still, this is a great sounding guitar.

1968 St. Moritz Stereo Guitar

1968 St. Moritz Stereo Guitar

And it feels good, too. I’m not much of a thinline man, but this neck feels good and sturdy and the guitar has enough adjustments to let you set it up perfectly. The body is probably laminated, but even with that it’s better than all those little Teiscos.

I’m not really sure when this guitar is from. I’ve picked 1968 because by then the Japanese were making some very interesting guitars and the cleverness of these electronics and quality construction seem to fit with that period of creativity. But it really could be anywhere from around 1966 to 1970.

So, as far as I know, this guitar has nothing remotely to do with Switzerland. But, had I only known about this St. Moritz back in the day, I would have been in heaven! And I’m sure I could have afforded it, unlike an ES-345! And nevermind the ballsy stereo output, how could anyone resist a guitar with a pickup that looks like this?!

Like Rodney, It Don’t Get No Respect (1979 Gretsch TK 300 Model 7624 Electric Guitar)

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?

1979 Gretsch TK 300 Model 7624 Electric Guitar

1979 Gretsch TK 300 Model 7624 Electric Guitar

Gretsch was founded in Brooklyn, NY, in 1883 by Friedrich Gretsch of Mannheim, Germany. He died a couple years later and the company was run by Fred Gretsch, Sr., until 1942. Bill and Fred, Jr., took over and when Bill died in ’48, Fred, Jr., was in charge. Most of Gretsch’s most famous guitars date from the 1950s, including the famous White Falcon that was promoted by touch guitarist Jimmy Webster in guitar demos offered at Gretsch dealerships throughout the country. Gretsches during this era were powered by DeArmond pickups and were undoubtedly cool!

Then along came the Swinging Sixties. Baby Boomers fused with the Beatles and suddenly you could sell every electric guitar you could make. Sensing gold in them thar hills, major corporations, some of which had nothing to do with music, stumbled over themselves to get into the guitar business. In 1965 CBS, with TV, radio and record company holdings, bought Fender. Ok. In ’67 Norlin, with a beer-making history, bought Gibson. In between both guitar manufacturers and distributors sold to corporations. Guild went to Avnet, an entertainment company. Kay went first to Seeburg, the jukebox company, and then to Valco. Jack Westheimer’s Teisco went to King Korn trading stamp company!

1979 Gretsch TK 300 Model 7624 Electric Guitar

1979 Gretsch TK 300 Model 7624 Electric Guitar

Anyhow, Gretsch got caught up in the buying frenzy. Baldwin Piano and Organ Company of Cincinnati made a bid for Fender, but lost out to CBS. Then later in ’65 Baldwin bought Burns of London. Two years later, Baldwin added Gretsch to its portfolio. After that, Gretsch guitars began incorporating Burns features, like the “gear-box” neck adjustment and vibratos. To save money, in 1970 production was relocated to Booneville, Arkansas, and finally to DeQueen, AR. HQ moved to Cincinnati in ’72. Later that year the plant burned down, marking pretty much the end of the era acceptable to hardcore Gretsch freaks. Production didn’t really ramp up again until 1974, by now facing stiff Japanese competition. Baldwin was interested in capturing as much market share as it could.

In around 1978 Gretsch came up with a bunch of new models, including the ill-fated Committee (designed by same), as well as the Beast models (bitchin’ guitars), and this Bizarro TK, with the asymmetrical body and hocky-stick head. The hardware and pickups on these were made in Japan. This model may have been Gretsch’s first bolt-neck guitar model. The rising sun was about to set.

This particular TK came from my classic visit to discover the Temple of Doom, aka Bob’s House of Music in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Bob owned a strip mall and instead of renting out the shops, filled them with guitars. More guitars than you can imagine. If you came in to buy one and tried to negotiate, Bob would drive the price UP, not go down. He didn’t sell much with this strategy. He also collected feral cats and wore cast-off thrift store clothes. I went out there to take pictures of guitars, and came home with this as one of my prizes. No, it was a fair price but no bargain. What would you expect?

Collectors who like Corvettes or Mr. Chets or Falcons disdain these later Gretsches, but if you ignore the history, these are really nice guitars. The necks are slim and fast. They’re light-weight, which is good if you’re older like me (or like to jump off amps). And the Japanese pickups are HOT, HOT, HOT. These are great guitars. In a popular guitar context.

Gretsch died shortly after this adventure, though it would return as an import later. But if you’re interested in good guitarflesh that, like Rodney Dangerfield, don’t get no respect, but is quite respectable, you might want to keep your eyes open for a TK 300!

Rob’s Crazy eBay Finds: 1960’s Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

The Short-Scale Bass is a versatile and wonderful instrument. It packs enough punch to be used as a part of a bassist’s gigging set-up. Its shorter scale (anywhere from the super duper short 25 7/8″ of the Valco/National/Supro/Airline pocket basses, to the 30″ of the classic Fender Mustangs and Musicmasters) makes it comfortable to play for beginners, small-handed adults and guitar players more familiar with guitar scale. Plus, a lot of very cool ones have been made over the years.

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

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.

While clearly inspired by the violin basses, notice the cool horn flares and the distinct cut aways. Also of note on this model is a stunning triple (TRIPLE!) bound side and a highly figured and eye-catching sunburst on the back (!?) side.

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

This, like many (most?) Kents has a history that’s a little difficult to trace. This one is from 1967 or 1968 and was probably made at the Kawai factory. Some sources also credit the earlier slab bodied models to Guyatone and/or Teisco. A tangled web they weaved, these Kents.

Also of note about Kents is that both the amps and guitars vary wildly from model to model – perhaps more so than any other brand from the era. They made some truly crappy guitars (the slab body models mentioned above among them. Most I’ve seen, actually, are low-grade crude one pickup models with very little to recommend them as players or collectables). Yet, they made beauties like this and many other higher-end semi-hollowbodies. And while most of the Kent amps I’ve ever seen are the basic three and four tube crapboxes without Power Transformers (i.e., ones you don’t want to play barefoot on a cement floor with a moisture problem), there are a couple of models that are very sweet. These include a 2 EL84 output model with tremolo and a single 12″ speaker in a primitive basket-weave faux-tweed (or, paper, if you want to be exact-ha), and a REALLY cool piggyback model (with single 12″ cab). They may not be collectable, but their cool factor is very high and no one wants them, so they can be had on the cheap (which, for the frugal tone gourmet, only increases the cool factor).

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

Back to the bass at hand, though. This model has a zero fret and plays really well up the neck. With a good setup, these are truly sweet playing basses. If you were going to use it as your main bass, you’d probably want to get some higher-grade machine heads and also probably replace the pickups (which are pretty aenemic and flat sounding). However, the pickup covers are so radically cool, you’d probably want to find something that fit so you could put this beauty back to stock. No permanent mods on something this nice looking. For just looking and the odd recording bass and quieter(er) jams, leave it as-is.

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

One thing to look out for (especially if buying via on line auction and/or through the mail): I’ve seen a few of these over the years and nearly half had a warped neck. The truss rods are not the most reliable, so ask questions and don’t pay too much if you have any hunch there might be something hinky about it.

Other nifty features: Dig the 60’s Japanese top-hat Tone and Volume knobs (with the stylish “T” and “V”), the funky script on the headstock and chunky block mother of toilet seat inlays on the neck.

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

What does one of these cost? These are pretty rare and, as a result, they don”t show up on eBay or in music stores a whole lot. As a result, there seems to be more variation on the price- I’ve seen them go as low as $150 (not including shipping…which of course we never do include when discussing what we paid for a neat vintage guitar, right?) and as high as $450. There is a corresponding guitar model, so be the hep cat on your block and, like they used to say about Hot Wheels, “collect ’em all.” Happy hunting, yee vintage freaks.

Losing It in TV? (1965 Teisco TRG-2L Electric Guitar)

How would you feel if you got a gig playing on your local television station and your gear didn’t work? Well, in a way, that’s what happened to me and this 1965 Teisco TRG-2L guitar! Sort of.

Vintage 1965 Teisco TRG-2L Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Teisco TRG-2L Electric Guitar

Like in most major TV markets, the stations where I live have a roving reporter who gets to go around and do stories on the strange and unusual. You know, pieces about people obsessed with carving pumpkins at Halloween and guys with like 8,000 Lionel trains their basements. I guess I fell into the latter category. Somehow one of these reporters found me out and called to do a story on the weirder parts of my guitar collection. Some might argue that’s the whole thing, but he meant the old Kays and Harmonies and Teiscos he remembered from his youth. I reluctantly agreed and he said “Ok, bring a couple hundred of them into your living room.” Right. You gonna carry them? Expletive deleted. But I picked about 30 or so and spread them around.

Vintage 1965 Teisco TRG-2L Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Teisco TRG-2L Electric Guitar

Anyhow, on the appointed day the reporter showed up, interviewed me, and started making fun of my guitars. As he worked the room he got to this Teisco with the built-in amp. He threw the switch and hit a chord. Vroo-crackle, crackle. It crapped out. On TV. Ho, ho, ho. More mirth. Oh, great. Doh!

Vintage 1965 Teisco TRG-2L Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Teisco TRG-2L Electric Guitar

Then again, maybe having an amp built in to your guitar is something to laugh at. The idea isn’t new. Back in the 1930s both National and Harmony, at least, built cases with amps for their lap steels. But it was left to modern transistorized electronics, and the Japanese application of them to the earliest consumer products, to put the amp into the guitar itself. The result was this TRG-2L, one of several models introduced in 1965 that had a small amp and 3″ speaker built in, operated by two 9-volt batteries. These came in a kind of Stratish shape and a sort of Tele-ish shape. One or two pickups. These were the first of their kind.

Ok, the TV performance aside, these actually do work and are kind of fun to play. You can walk around the house and strum without the tether of a cord. Wanna go to the beach? No need for a plug to entertain that campfire circle. Louie Louie, Oh yeah, we gotta go now. (Or were there other words?) And, like most Japanese guitars from this period, they’re really quite well made – and play well – once you set them up properly. The body is solid mahogany (maple neck), and, in case you’re not at a pig roast, there’s even a headphone jack if you want to use this as a practice guitar.

Vintage 1965 Teisco TRG-2L Electric Guitar

Vintage 1965 Teisco TRG-2L Electric Guitar

Of course, practice and Pignose amps came much later. But guitars like this Teisco were revolutionary in their time and are still fun to play. You can even run them through a regular amp if you want to make a different kind of impression.

Although you might not want to do it on TV. If these early Japanese guitars have a flaw, it’s in the use of extremely thin wire and economical use of solder. Easy to get that crackle, crackle when you least want it. I’m told the video of me trying to salvage some respect for my goofy guitars still circulates occasionally on late-night Philly airwaves (and cable whatever they are). At least it wasn’t me who lost it on TV! Blame it on time and the Teisco. And that darned cynical reporter.

I’m an Axe Victim: Reconnecting with Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe

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.

Bill Nelson, guitarist for Be Bop Deluxe

Bill Nelson, guitarist for Be Bop Deluxe

Here we are 30 years later and after following my passion, I find myself as the president of EASTWOOD Guitars. My enthusiasm for music has not diminished one bit. I still seem to spend more money on CD’s than groceries. I have thousands of LP’s that have not seen a needle in years, due to the fact that I now have thousands of CD’s that for a large part, replicate my LP’s. Of course now that I have my 60G IPOD, the CD’s are getting a rest. Crazy? Perhaps, but I would not give them up for the world. Being surrounded by music and electric guitars, I find myself enjoying life more now than ever. How could it get any better? How about reconnecting with Bill Nelson!

As luck would have it, our paths recently crossed again – this time not through my pursuing an autograph – but through Bill’s on-going interest in Bizarre Guitars. I have followed the career of Bill Nelson since his first release in 1971, Northern Dream (which by the way was the album I had him sign). Most of us were introduced to Bill through the critically acclaimed 70’s band, Be Bop Deluxe. I still play air guitar when listening to riffs from LIVE IN THE AIR AGE, possibly one of the greatest LIVE band recordings from that era.

Bill continued through the next 3 decades with a solo career that amassed a staggering number of releases. I cannot remember a year going by without the purchase of at least one Bill Nelson CD, often two and three. Some of my personal favorites include QUIT DREAMING AND GET ON THE BEAM (1981), CHIMERA (1983), MAP OF DREAMS (1987), AFTER THE SATELLITE SINGS (1996), MAGNIFICNET DREAM PEOPLE (1997) and DEEP DREAM DECODER (1998).

If for some reason you missed the last three decades and are in need of a quick fix, run out and get WHAT NOW, WHAT NEXT?, it is an exceptionally good compilation of the Cocteau Years from 1980-1990. Also pick up SATELLITE SONGS, the perfect companion. More than enough to rekindle the spirit.

I am the proud owner of over 40 CD’s (and a few dozen vinyl LP’s) from Bill Nelson. Thirty years later, now that our paths have crossed again, Bill is the proud owner of an EASTWOOD Saturn ’63. How cool is that!? Imagine the smile on my face when Bill wrote back with the following message:

I’m one of those post-war baby-boomers who were born into the era of rock n’ roll and science-fiction. Like many well-known British musicians of my generation, I attended Art School in the ’60’s and have always had an eye for unusual visual design, whether that be in the realm of cars, clothes or architecture… guitars too. Especially guitars!

I remember standing outside local music store windows as a 12 year old, blown away by the exotic, futuristic designs of many ’50’s and ’60’s guitar manufacturers such as Fenton Weill, Wandre, Hopf, Guyatone and Teisco. These were not the big name, glamorous makes that famous stars played, but they were, for me and my budding young musician friends, even more other-worldly, more electric than the expensive mainstream brands. Their visual appeal went way beyond practical considerations and strayed into the realm of pure fantasy. They were aesthetically ‘out there’, super-modern, ultra-baroque. They embodied the essential, electrical essence of rock n’ roll.

Unfortunately, they were not the most player-friendly instruments in the world, often being manufactured cheaply, despite the avant-garde nature of their visual appeal. Nevertheless, 40 odd years later, these vintage designs have become rare and coveted instruments, (‘though sadly more suited towards the wealthy collector’s cabinet than the recording studio or stage.)

Hats off to Eastwood Guitars for their visionary mission to re-issue some of these rare designs yet keep the guitarists of the 21st Century in mind. Eastwood guitars look just like the original instruments, but with the added bonus of superior build quality, modern playability and a vibey, characterful tonality. These guitars go beyond retro-futurist nostalgia to expand any contemporary guitarist’s tonal palette. And separate you from the herd.

Magically, my Saturn 63 reminds me of just how I felt standing outside that music shop back in the late ’50’s, and confirms just why I fell in love with electric guitars in the first place, all those years ago.

Somehow makes it all worthwhile, don’t it? Well, if you are a regular reader of this newsletter, you know what I’ve been up to lately, but what about Bill Nelson? Quite a lot actually.

In the past 30 years, Bill has released close to 50 CD’s, many of which are double, triple and even quad disk sets. You wonder when he finds time to sleep! He has also worked on film, television and video scores, directed a variety of videos, toured as part of Heroes De Lumiere with his brother Ian, worked with Roger Eno, Gary Numan, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Harold Budd, Flock of Seagulls, John Cooper-Clarke, David Sylvian, Laraaji and Kate St. John under the Channel Light Vessel name and performed as part of the Japanese group Culturemix. Phenomenally busy, driven by his muse and an active imagination, Nelson continues to delight and confound.

No signs of slowing, either. Bill tells me he has got two new albums in the pipeline: ‘Neptunes Galaxy’ and ‘Return To Jazz Of Lights’ as well as some rare, previously unreleased Be Bop Deluxe material, all coming out later this year. You can get in line (behind me) to sign up for these releases on his website, Dreamsville (www.billnelson.com). There are plenty of things to do during your visit to Dreamsville – pack a lunch and have fun!

Here is a short list of recent releases from Bill Nelson (all available at DREAMSVILLE):

  • Gleaming Without Lights (CD)
  • Getting The Holy Ghost Across (CD)
  • Return To Jazz Of Lights (CD)
  • The Alchemical Adventures Of Sailor Bill (CD)
  • Rosewood Volume 2 (CD)
  • Rosewood Volume 1 (CD)
  • Atom Shop (CD)
  • Crimsworth (CD)
  • What Now What Next? (2CD)