I think there’s an illusion among many vintage guitar enthusiasts that the 1960s were some sort of candy store filled with glittering guitars at every turn. Certainly the remarkable variety of brands and designs that were produced and have survived help foster this illusion of abundance. But the reality on the ground back then was quite different for most of us. Few of us ever encountered a guitar like this 1967 TeleStar until well after the fact!
There is very little information available on this model, which is surprising given its excellent quality of construction and sound range. I understand that they were made around the late 1970 or early 1980’s in Japan by The Kawai company. This 12-string solid seems rare, and is possibly one of only a handful in existence.
One of the most unconventional and impractical body shapes from the electric guitar world, this Kawai Moonsault was a big hit in Japan. Really. The initial production was 1982 and the build quality was superb as Japanese guitar manufacturing had hit its stride in the early 1980’s, many producing better quality guitar than those in USA.
Over many years of writing about and photographing guitars, I’ve had numerous occasion to take pictures of guitars “on location.” That means packing up rather bulky photographic gear—cameras, tripods, lights, backdrops—and voyaging near and far. Sometimes this took place at a vintage guitar shop, sometimes at a collector’s place. When it came to the subject of TeleStar guitars, I got to combine both.
If you’re old enough and like whacky guitars, like me, you probably remember the great Guitar Player “Off the Wall” columns by Teisco Del Rey, the nom de plume of journalist Dan Forte. His was the first, and sometimes the only, story I’d read for a long time. Dan was perhaps the first to celebrate guitars whose names didn’t begin with M, G, or F. Dan usually worked the humor angle, but for those of us with an aesthetic eye, the guitars he featured became Holy Grails. One of the holiest of those was the 1968 Teisco May Queen guitar, a rare red version of which you see here!
Judging by many of my last few years guitar purchases (on Ebay and elsewhere), I’m the kind of a person who seems to think he’s the kind of a person who likes guitars with a lot of knobs and switches. I’ve bought several multi-pickup guitars. Old ones, new ones, new ones made to look like old ones (not those stupid “relic-ed” ones, though…I’m an idiot, but I’m not stupid). Yet, as I look at the keepers in my collection, I’ve only kept one guitar with more than four knobs, and none with more than two pickups. Odd.
Now, I don’t really think there was – or even would have been – any sinful activity associated with this guitar. And the fact that its design is based in part on a religious motif is purely coincidence. But it is a funny story how this rare 1978 Kawai KS-700 guitar was discovered, in SinCity, no less.
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.
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