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

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

Remember Hondo? Well, some of us fondly remember this brand, including our own Michael Wright, who shares with us his fond memories of Hondo and… 80’s Hair Metal!

Hond guitar headstocks

A few Hond guitar headstocks…

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…

Michael Wright

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

mike durantPosted on  11:11 am - Dec 18, 2010

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

Tim KillionPosted on  3:59 pm - Aug 15, 2011

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

The Yankee Jew who knows how to work | Agent3155Posted on  7:52 am - Oct 11, 2011

[…] thought. Meeting the people at the guitar store made me want to be like them. I bought a crappy Hondo from Rumble Seat and for a few more years I would go into the store once in a while to visit Eliot […]

mike dPosted on  11:28 am - Jan 5, 2012

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

‘Wayne McMinnPosted on  8:31 pm - Jun 1, 2012

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

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.


lonewolf1950Posted on  9:55 am - Sep 23, 2012

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

doubleclutchPosted on  10:02 pm - Dec 20, 2012

I have a Hondo, 737 series Les Paul copy, looks good plays sweet.

doubleclutchPosted on  10:04 pm - Dec 20, 2012

I have a Hondo 737 series Les Paul copy. Looks good sounds sweet.

David VirgilPosted on  8:33 am - Feb 24, 2013

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.

guitarzanPosted on  1:18 pm - May 23, 2013

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 !

guitarzanPosted on  4:34 pm - May 23, 2013

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 !!

stephen WoolfPosted on  10:57 pm - Jun 16, 2013

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

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MichaelPosted on  7:04 am - Mar 8, 2014

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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RichardPosted on  1:48 pm - Apr 13, 2014

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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STEVEPosted on  2:54 pm - Jun 27, 2014

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.

rothharaldPosted on  1:18 pm - Oct 1, 2014

I bought yesterday a Hondo II classical 7/8 measure –no product code&no serial number in the label….nice to have a guitar that is worth nothing in a world of cash!

MarkPosted on  3:31 pm - Oct 25, 2014

I have an opportunity to buy a Hondo II at an auction house here in London to resell. Ought I to do you think? Are they rare?

ChrisPosted on  7:49 pm - Nov 20, 2014

My first “baby” ever… A Hondo ll archtop fatboy HL5…. Huge, heavy and solid but most of all… the sheer smooth sound of this instrument…. Magic! Bought in the eighty’s and it’s still going strong after hundreds of gigs throughout Europe almost 30 years ago. I still own it and nowadays it’s an eyecatcher in my livingroom . Still in perfect condition! If you ever encounter one of these in good condition… don’t hesitate buying it…. It’ll be worth your money twice !

Regards…. Chris

Kathleen AtkinsonPosted on  1:22 am - May 26, 2015

I have a Hondo acoustic guitar model H315 in pristine condition. I played it only about four times until an injury. It has been stored in a Mediera case in a cedar closet all these many years. I can’t remember when it was given to me except it must have been in the early 60’s. Can you give me the year it was made and what it might be worth today. Thank you.

Blind WillyPosted on  2:42 pm - Nov 6, 2015

I’ve got an 80’s Hondo H1 that I call Spike.
It’s definitely a hair band style guitar.
Just stopped by to see if you had any info on that.

JamiePosted on  7:59 pm - Dec 4, 2015

Mike D, did you find the make of you guitar with the gold small letter h with 5 lines on the headstock? I have an acoustic guitar with no other markings but that. It is about 45 years old and I would like to know what it is. Any ideas anyone? I have looked up SEVERAL different ones and have not yet found anything like it (logo wise). It looks like a Yakimaki guitar style but its not.

Thank you!

JTPosted on  8:59 pm - Apr 19, 2016

I have a Hondo H115 in case like new received in early 70’s. Anyone have an idea of value? Like an old friend to have around but still trying to learn a song or two.

jOHANNPosted on  9:58 am - Oct 23, 2016

Hi there ,ive got a Hondo guitar it is a twelve string,and the model nr. is H159A,are these guitar of any signivecent value or is it just another cheap inport from the east,this spesific guitar was made in Korea,Any info would be apreciated.

AngelaPosted on  9:03 am - Nov 18, 2016

Hi, I have a Hondo concert model 016N, anybody know a value? Google doesn’t come up with anything…

Bruce FeltyPosted on  9:17 am - Jan 5, 2017

I have a “New (never played)” Hondo H3 ” Death’s Dagger” that I kept in a Glass case on display in my Music Store..I has been in a Hondo custom case for the past 7 years under my bed.. I would like to sell it to someone that would appreciate it! It has only 1 knob “VOLUME” in the 80’s that was the only knob ever wanted or needed! (843) 506-0983…Bruce

C CarterPosted on  12:46 am - Jan 8, 2017

Your short history omits that at one point Hondo partnered with or was at least licensed by Dan Erlewine to produce an “Automatic” replica. I have seen vast numbers of guitars but have only seen one of this model.

Doug TPosted on  9:30 am - Feb 3, 2017

I still have my old black with white trim Hondo H1 “Lightning Bolt” guitar from about 1983, with the case still in great shape. Awkward as hell to play if you’re anywhere near mic stands or other players, but the pickup was great and it actually plays well. It mostly just hangs on the wall now though, because it’s not great for sit down playing, but still better than a flying V.. The trem is set up flat on the deck and only good for dive bombs. Ahh, the 80s… gotta love’em!

JackPosted on  6:55 pm - Feb 16, 2017

Hi, I just bought a Hondo H-117 , at the goodwill store in the original case for $10.00 it is nice and straight and has one string in the middle, and sounds really great just the one string, I better get cleaning it up and new strings on it, says 1981 on the sticker inside,

LexLuthierPosted on  6:07 pm - Feb 24, 2017

Odyssey Paul Dean, one of 50 made

mrz80Posted on  4:02 pm - Apr 3, 2017

Ok, this looks like a good place to post my periodic “Seen this?” blurb. 🙂

30+ years ago I lived in Phoenix for a while. When I moved back to my then-native Maryland after [circumstances redacted] I left my early80s bolt-on HondoII LP copy with a friend on “indefinite loan”. A few years passed by, with intermittent contact with said friend, during which time he was playing the thing semi-regularly. Well, after a while I got the itch to have it back, but by then he’d lost track of it and best he could determine after asking around was that his grandparents had given it to Goodwill or sold it at a yard sale or somesuch.

Thus my somewhat Quixotic quest (“Sancho, bring me the lance- there’s a windmill!”). If anyone in or recently in the Phoenix area has seen this critter, I’d love to hear about it. The guitar in question is a late 70s bolt-on Hondo II LP copy, white, with rectangular inlays. The tuners were replaced with Schaller M6s; the pickguard was replaced with a b/w/b sandwich; the original knobs (which perversely I still have) were redone with black ones, the neck pu is a no-name PAF copy, and the bridge PU is a DiMarzio Dual Sound. The biggest identifier, though, is the row of four micro toggles running diagonally between the neck volume and bridge tone knobs.

I realize it’s remarkably unlikely that I’ll ever see the thing again after all these years, but I figure heck, it’s worth a shot. It was my first decent (or semi decent) electric, and I miss it terribly.

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