Workin’ for the Weekend. No really! (The Story of Hondo Guitars)

It’s not very fashionable, I know, but I like ‘80s music. I should be too old for it, but I sat out the ‘70s listening to acoustic music from the 1920s and ‘30s and playing classical guitar. I began listening to rock again in the early ‘80s, beginning with Ozzy and Randy Rhoads. Boy could he play! Anyhow, the metal, hair, and power pop bands of those days all put good, strong guitar soloing up front in the mix, and I enjoyed it. (I automatically block out vocals and lyrics, by the way, so I pay no attention to them!) Among the bands I liked was the Canadian outfit Loverboy, who had a hot lead guitarist in Paul Dean. You may be aware of the rare Kramer Paul Dean Signature guitar, but you are likely to be surprised that there was in fact an earlier “signature” model produced by Hondo, of all people! Indeed, several!

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

Loverboy was founded in Calgary in 1980 and released its first record in Canada in that year. They caught on big and for most of the decade cranked out hits including probably their signature tune, (Everybody’s) Working for the Weekend. It didn’t take long for guitarist Dean to begin working with guitarmakers on a guitar design he could call his own. Apparently he had some prototypes made by a Western Canadian company, though those my never have gone into production. At some point thereafter he apparently hooked up with Jerry Freed of International Music Corporation (IMC) of Fort Worth, Texas, the owner of the Hondo brand name. Hondo gets little respect from most guitar aficionados, but it really should, both because it contributed quite a bit to guitar history and actually made some pretty good guitars (though not all, it must be admitted).

Hondo was founded by Freed and Tommy Moore in 1969 with the intention to open up guitar production in Korea, at that time a non-player in the guitar game. Japan had taken over from Europe as the primary supplier of budget-level guitars during the 1960s. However, even by the late ‘60s the success of the Japanese was being eroded by their very success and the strength of the yen. Americans, mostly as an after-effect of World War II, had little respect for Japanese products and weren’t willing to pay much for them, even if they were pretty good. When Nixon cut the dollar loose to float with other currencies on the free market, the yen went up, making Japanese products increasingly expensive, a problem in a prejudiced, price-sensitive market like the US.

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

So, Jerry and Tommy went to Korea and hooked up with a small guitarmaker there that would become, I’m pretty sure, Samick. Japanese engineers from Tokai were brought in to help improve the operation and the Hondo brand was born. Named for the John Wayne western (and late ‘60s TV show). Not unlike the brand name featured here!

Hondo was initially known for its really crappy but cheap acoustics, but then picked up the low end of the copy era. Although by the mid-‘70s it was marketing some better models still made in Japan by Tokai. By the late ‘70s and into the ‘80s Hondo was making some pretty interesting “original” designs.

It was at this point in time when Hondo was hitting its stride that Paul Dean and Hondo crossed paths. As far as I know, this was Hondo’s first (and perhaps only) foray into celebrity endorsed guitars.

There actually may have been as many as three Hondo Paul Deans. There was one made from the Canadian prototypes which was apparently never promoted and probably pretty rare. In the June 1983 catalog the Paul Dean II and III were listed. The PD-2, shown here, had two DiMarzio Super II humbuckers and a BadAss-style stop tailpiece. The PD-3 had three single-coils and a traditional-style vibrato. Both had a black textured metal pickguard and came in a cherry finish with a 24-3.4” maple fingerboard over a 3-piece maple neck. Despite the respectable horse-power provided by DiMarzio, I’m pretty sure these guitars were made in Korea, because Japanese guitars of 1983 had pretty fine workmanship, which this lacks. It’s not at all bad, just not top-notch Tokai.

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

1983 Hondo Paul Dean II Electric Guitar (Hondo PD-2)

The Hondo Paul Dean II shown here lasted only about a year, if that. It was not in the 1984 catalog. The Paul Dean III was still listed in ’84. Both are probably quite rare and almost never seen. And close to the end of the line for Hondo.

In 1985 IMC signed an agreement with Charvel/Jackson guitars to market its Charvel line made in Japan. Let’s see. Charvel? Hondo? Which would you choose? Like a bad guy in a John Wayne western (or any by Clint), Hondo bit the dust. The brand’s fate was forever sealed when IMC bought the Jackson company in 1986. Who you gonna call? Not Hondo.

In any case, Paul Dean had bigger fish to fry. He hooked up with Dennis Berardi and Kramer guitars, which was on its way to becoming the largest guitar company in the world. In 1986 the Kramer Paul Dean debuted. But that’s another story.

Loverboy continues to perform. I still like ‘80s music, but only from the ‘80s. And only on the shuffle feature on my iPod. I’m increasingly pulled back to acoustic music from the ‘20s and ‘30s… Sorry Loverboy. But I still do like this Paul Dean II, and it’s a cool—and rare—piece of guitar history! Makes it all worth while working for the weekend…

Comments

  1. mike durant says

    You are wrong about hondo starting in 1969 because i bought a professional bass model no h 815 for $284.95 dollars in fort worth texas in june 1966.

    yours sincerely, Mike Durant

  2. Tim Killion says

    Am looking a Hondo acoustic six string with serial # H158A. Would like to know year of manufacture and ballpark value for like. COndition is average at best and needs some owrk on G string gear knob.

    Thanks for your help

  3. mike d says

    hi .I have a les paul copy, set neck 2 humbuckers, it has a gibson style headstock hbut rounded in the middle. it appers to be asain by the pot markings. it is solid plywood and fairly heavy, a nice burgandy color double edge cream binding , block inlays. hears the thing. It has the letter h on the headstock. made up pf 5 gold lines, not a capital H but SMALL h, can you helb me itentify it i think its from the 80′ i can send a picture. could it be a hondo ? thanks. mike

  4. 'Wayne McMinn says

    I just purchased an accustic Hondo… at a junk shop in Palacios, Texas.

    It’s in ok shape except the bridge is loose… doesn’t seem to have any inside
    suppors/connection.

    I had to give $2.00 for it !!!! I Intend to put plastic strings on it.

    I’m not a guitar player,,,,,,, yet,,, but I play banjo.

    Thanks for the info.

    wayne

  5. lonewolf1950 says

    Hello. I have a Hondo acoustic electric model H 124LNM and can not find any information on this . The headstock looks like Martin with Gold Lettering says Hondo Guitars EST 1969. It has 20 frets with the pickup in the fret board between the 18th and 19th fret. The ID tag is inside at the heal of the neck and list information and bottom of tag says International Music Company no Country listed. I have pictures if interested. I have not found any like this even in pictures. I have had this for 25 years and is like new with no fret ware or dibits in board. Thanks, John

  6. David Virgil says

    I currently own 2 Hondo guitars a Strat Body model H-720 MCS and a Hondo II Professional. The Strat has a very decent sound and I would match it against any Fender that was Asian made or MIM. The Professional is fantastic and better than the Epiphone LP copies and many other double humbucker guitars .. I use it in the studio and always blow people away getting such great sound from a Hondo II.

  7. guitarzan says

    I have just acquired a Hondo 737 deluxe with a set neck,trapozoid inlays, and man this guitar lacks nothing. Not much info on these guitars but,what I can say is these Hondo went all out with these ! Great lp copy !

  8. guitarzan says

    I have just acquired a Hondo 737 deluxe with a set neck,trapazoid inlays, and man this guitar rocks, it lacks nothing. Not much info on this particular guitar, but what I can say is this,Hondo went all out with these. It appears to be made of 2, 3/4 inch pcs. of red mahoghany, with a very nice book matched 3/4 curly maple top.This guitar also has an original Gibson headstock, v vs V open book stock, I’ve never seen one ?

    Kudos to Hondo on this one ! NICE guitar !!

  9. stephen Woolf says

    HI just picked up a Hondo Acoustic Kneck was split from body I used some Lee Valley Super Glue seems to be holding havent strung it yet should I use Nylon strings? Model is H18 Date on Label is 1981 I payed $20.00 for it

  10. Michael says

    G`day,
    I had a Hondo 2 les Paul in the late 70`s,quite a good guitar,many guitars later, I just recently purchased a Hondo strat copy, not thinking anything of it as it was a $20 bargain I`ve left it in the guitar racks amongst 18 other guitars in various stages of repair/playability.
    I plugged into my 67 Playmaster valve amp today and started playing my guitars,Pacifica, MIM Strat,Shadow LP Jr,Yammaha rx212,modified squires,76 Suzuki(Greco) strat and a bunch of others and then picked up this Hondo, tuned it and OMG! This guitar is incredible,tone,volume and mojo,its going in for a full setup,outplayed all of my guitars totally! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.The clean sound emulates most bands i.e (Cars) with no pedals and the cranked single coil spews rock venom from the full throttle 40 watt valve amp.
    Once in a lifetime you find it, never thought it would be a Hondo!

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  12. Richard says

    My wife recently purchased for me a 761 strat copy with the E v h stripes. Red body with yellow striping. My guess is that this is a early 80′s model. I remember hondo guitars b /c as a kid-early teen in Arizona, there was a store named house of guitars in Phoenix that sold exclusively Hondo products. Good guitars; the hondo professional line was great, and musicians on a budget could rely on them. My 761 is a little beat up; in 2014, I’d expect a 30 + year axe to have wear. It also has withstood time in a good way. The 3 s/c pups chime like an old fender. If I remember correctly hondo used dimarzios in their mid to high end models. I played this one in a shop bf wifey bought it. Played thru a boogie full stack n some chorus fx. Sounds great n the vintage fulcrum bridge Is stamped “made in japan”. Covered tuners that surprisingly hold tune well. 21 frets; maple all around. Heavy body. Resonates well. Really gives the feel/sound of an older fender. Play thru a peavey bandit (another relic item!!) n digitech multi fx rp300. This is a good solid guitar. Searching carefully, ppl can, IMO, find a hondo gem. Thx n happy hunting !!

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  14. STEVE says

    Interesting article. I do remember Paul Dean having a signature model made by Odyssey guitars in Vancouver BC. These were most likely the prototypes for Hondo, and probably a far superior instrument.
    Cheers.

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