No matter what you think of Ovation guitars, you have to hand it to them for trying, and I mean trying hard. Their application of helicopter technology to acoustic guitars is the stuff of legends. I’m always blown away by how good the synthetic materials sound when you just don’t expect them to compare to traditional timbers. I confess Ovation’s choice of aesthetics has often been baffling, but some of that is attributable to the times in which they emerged. All of the above certainly applies to Ovation’s Quixotic attempts to break open the solidbody guitar and bass market.
Aria was formed in Japan in 1953 by Shiro Arai as Arai and Company. They began retailing acoustic guitars in 1960, although the company didn’t actually start manufacturing their own until 1964. Aria arranged for Matsumoku, the musical instrument maker, to build the guitars for them under contract. Arai and Matsumoku started building acoustic guitars in 1964, and then electric guitars in 1966, using Arai, Aria, Aria Diamond, Diamond, and much less frequently, Arita brand names.
UNIVOX guitars were imported to North America from Japan in the late 1960’s to the late 1970’s. They had many different models – most popular of which is the Hi-Flyer – but also included an array of Les Paul copies, Hagstrom, Fender and others. UNIVOX guitars were built by the Matsumoko guitar factory in Japan, who also built guitars for Aria, Westbury, Westone, and several other brands at the time. This model, the Coily Bass is based on the Epiphone Casino.
What’s the best bass for guitar players? What’s arguably the coolest bass ever made? What’s got bottom that’s so huge, warm, and round that Mr. “I like Big Butts” Sir Mix a Lot would pen a moving ode to it? If you guessed the Valco-made Supro and/or Airline Pocket bass, you guessed right.
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.
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