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.
Morris is the brand name used by a large Japanese manufacturer called Moridira. Little is known about their history, but by the mid-’70s they were a minor part of the Copy Era, though their forté seems to have been in acoustics. Many guitar fans think of the Copy Era as a time when Japanese companies made cheap knock-offs of American guitars and sold them to kids who couldn’t afford the real thing.
Possibly no other single event inspired the creation of more garage bands than the first Ed Sullivan show featuring the Beatles. And likewise, probably no single company furnished more of the guitars and amps for young musicians than the Sears & Roebuck Company. While most of us would rather have started out with the Gretsch, Rickenbacker, Hofner, Vox and Ludwig gear we saw the Fab Four using, due to price and availability, it was the Sears catalog that supplied our first six-string.
Most guitar aficionados know the story of Les Paul’s “log”. Remember, back in the ’40s, Les figured all he needed for the perfect electric guitar was a neck attached to a chunk of wood with some pickups on it. He built his log and it worked. But his audiences were disturbed by its look, so he cut up an Epiphone archtop and attached the sides to his log, satisfying his fans. Whether or not a guitar teacher in Green Bay, WI, named Dave Helland knew about Les’ log, he too arrived at a similar conclusion. “Heck”, thought Dave, “You could put a neck on a 2-by-4 and have a guitar.” And when one day he met up with the folks from the Holman-Woodell guitar factory in Neodesha, KS, that’s just what he did. The La Baye 2×4 Six, Four and Twelve were born. La Baye because, if you know your geography, his hometown sits on a – well, look at a map!
When I first learned of this guitar, it was known among cognoscenti as the State of Ohio guitar. I once wrote and essay in which I dubbed it The Ugliest Guitar In The World. All of us had a point. The real name, however, is the Kay Solo King K4102, and it dates to that heady period just before guitars really took off in 1960. Clearly somebody was hung over at Kay that day! When I got a chance to actually have one, how could I pass it up?
Who among us doesn’t relate to Nigel Tufnel in This Is Spinal Tap when he tried to explain to “Meathead” that having an 11 on his amp made it louder than – and hence superior to – one having a mere 10? That’s just how I felt back in the day when, after nearly two decades of owning one – that’s only one – guitar, a classical, I decided I ought to get an electric guitar again. Who could have known how slippery that slope would turn out to be?!
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.
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