If you have missed The Wrecking Crew, I can highly recommend this documentary about the real musicians behind some of the worlds biggest hits.
I recently found a 000-sized Alvarez for my friend Wolf. It’s a really nice little guitar that we both were impressed by. These guitars were made in Japan for the US market and imported by St. Louis Music in Missouri, the guys behind Westone. According to Wikipedia and Alvarez own site it was the legendary Kazuo Yairi that founded the brand in 1965 to make cheaper Yairi guitars for the US market. Having said that, it’s still unclear if all Alvarez guitars were really made in the K. Yairi factory in Kani, Gifu in Japan or outsourced on other factories in Japan, see Jedistar. These early 1970’s Alvarez are a bit different to the later Alvarez-Yairi guitars that got famous in the late 1970’s and 1980’s when musicians like Crosby, Stills & Nash and Bob Weir endorsed them. Not only is the label inside and head inlays different, but they also seems to have their own models, the later Alvarez-Yairi are exact copies of the Yairi models of the time but made for export to the US. Since there is a sticker with a serial number inside that correspond perfectly to the Emperor code that K. Yairi uses things point towards the Yairi factory. As with everything made in Japan during the 1970’s, there are some questions we might never find the answer too. Either way we have an awesome Japan made Martin 000-18 copy that Wolf is very excited to play, especially with my Bill Lawrence A-300 in the soundhole.
The serial number starts with 48 which signify the 48th year of the reign of emperor Shōwa, which was in 1973. You can check the serial numbers of your Yairi or Alvarez here
My new country favorite, Sturgill Simpson is finally coming to town. He’s playing Sala Rocksound here in Barcelona on Thursday 21st of January 2016. I was damn jealous when he was gigging around Europe last year but never came to Spain. I think it’s a solo show, which is a shame it would have been nice to see his band too. Having said that, I’m pretty sure Sturgill’s voice and guitar is enough to fill the room. If you want to learn more about Sturgill you can listen to this interview.
I finally got a chance to try one of the new Chinese made Levin guitars. Levin closed down the factory in Gothenburg, Sweden back in 1981 when Svenska Levin AB bought the name and the remaining stock. A small batch of classical guitars continued to be made in Sweden by Lugnås Gitarr AB, and are still made there today. During the 1990’s there were some electric guitars and amps being produced in the far east under the Levin name, my first amp that I bought around 1997 was Levin branded. It took another 10 years until we started to see some Levin steel string acoustic guitars, these being produced first in Korea, then Indonesia and later China. Of course it’s impossible to compare a Swedish made guitar from the 1960-70’s with something being produced nowadays in Asia but I’m still quite impressed with these new Levin guitars. I emailed the owner and he told me that they had some issues in the beginning to get the finish right and I have to admit that the build quality is far from a Swedish Levin but still, if you see it for what it is then it’s a pretty great guitar for the price.
A modern Levin, built in China for Svenska Levin AB
I’ve just ordered myself a LR Baggs Lyrics, mainly because I needed a second pickups system but also because I thought it would make me as awesome as Sturgill Simpson. Either way, I needed something new and felt that the Lyrics sounded way more realistic than my old LR Baggs M1. My friend Wolf and I recently installed a LR Baggs iBeam in his Luxor Dove copy and that sounded great. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to install the Lyrics system in my new 1982 Sigma DR-41 or the 1973 K. Yairi YW-1000.
Here is Sturgill with his LR Baggs Lyrics
I found a Hagström HIII back in April that I felt really sorry for and had to rescue, or rather save it from being slaughtered and sold for parts by someone else. Unfortunately it wasn’t a bargain and I probably wouldn’t have bought it if I wasn’t drunk at time, I need to stop browsing eBay on Sunday evenings. It had all the parts but the fretboard and frets were in a terrible state and the electronics weren’t working properly, basically a nice guitar and worth the price if it was working. All the hardware cleaned up nicely, I love the Van Gent machine heads, a complete set tend to go for 100€ on their own, and it had the original tremolo, pickups and pickguard. I had to remove the old frets, even out the fretboard and then refret it to get it playable. After waiting for over a month I finally got the switch needed from Hong Kong here we are, a fully restored and working 1970 Hagström HIII. Even though I love the look and sound of this guitar I can’t seem to get used to the fast Hagström neck, the fastest neck in the world, and therefore it’s for sale.
Hagström HIII made in Älvdalen, Sweden between 1970-1972. It’s the 491st HIII made in a series of totally 708 guitars, this was the last run ever of this model since it was replaced by the more 1970’s looking Hagström HIIN
I started with taking the guitar apart and cleaning everything with a toothbrush and some soap and then polish up all the hardware.
The electronics was in fairly good state but needed to be grounded properly. Also the on/off wasn’t plugged in and the bridge pickup’s switch wasn’t working properly so I had to wait a month for a new one from Hong Kong. Now everything is soldered up properly and is working fine.
The main problem with the fretboard was the deep groves in it, it almost looked like the first 5-7 frets had been scalloped. The original frets were really uneven too so I decided to refret it completely. I pulled out the old frets, sanded the fretboard even and then gave it 10″ radius before I re-cut the fret slots and installed new Jescar jumbos.
This video was shot before I changed the bridge pickup’s switch so it’s cutting out occasionally, that has been sorted now with a new switch. I posted these two videos so you can here the difference between Hagström’s fat single coils and their humbuckers.
Here is a new video of the Hagström III with all the switches working, unfortunately my amp is acting up and is making hell of a noise
Last month I was asked to find a guitar for my friend Miki’s birthday. His girlfriend Laura thought that I was the man to source an old Japanese acoustic for him, well I found it and she picked it. Last night he received the guitar so now the surprise is over and I can write about it, he seemed very pleased to be a part of the vintage Japanese guitar club. It’s pretty similar in shape and sound to the Ibanez built Cimar D-320 I got for my friend Tomasz back in May. Even though they have a lot in common, this Ibanez felt both fancier and more solidly built. I really like the sound of these 1970-80’s Ibanez and they look pretty unique since they aren’t an obvious Gibson or Martin copy. I can highly recommend them if you find one for a descent price, they tend to be more in the Morris price range than Suzuki which I guess could be because Ibanez is such a famous brand.
Ibanez catalogue 1983-84 take from Ibanez Guitars
I recently helped my friend Tomasz to find a nice Japanese acoustic and we ended up with this Cimar D-320. Cimar were made by Ibanez in the 1980’s as their cheaper brand and even though you seen them for sale quite often, I had actually never tried one. Ibanez is owned by Hoshino Gakki and based in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan. Hoshino Gakki also had semi acoustic, nylon and steel stringed acoustic guitars manufactured under the Ibanez name. Most Ibanez guitars were made for Hoshino Gakki by the FujiGen guitar factory in Japan up until the mid-to-late 1980s and from then on Ibanez guitars have also been made in other Asian countries such as Korea, China and Indonesia, taken from Wikipedia. I have a feeling this Cimar would be one of the last ones to have been made in Japan and I’m still struggle to see how they could be making inexpensive guitars in Japan in the mid 1980’s, I had a feeling that everything had already been moved to Korea or some other cheaper country. They guitar seems to be pretty solidly built and has a lot of swanky details like the snowflake inlay and herringbone binding which looks great from a distance. The best part is still the sound, I would never have expected it to have such rich bass and great response, especially not for being fully laminated. A pretty great guitar for the price. If you want to know more about different Japanese guitar brands then check my previous post.
Fujigen Gakki began operation in 1960 as a classical guitar manufacturer, moving into the lucurative electric guitar markets in 1962. The company was the largest producer of Japanese guitars during the 1960-1980 period. They were known for producing high quality products, especially for the badged guitar market, which is why the company was selected by so many major American brands. It wasn’t until 1970 that the company began making products for the venerable Ibanez brand, which was an unqualified success. Fujigen Gakki was the main manufacturer of choice for Greco badged guitars in the 1970 to 1980 period. They also produced guitars for major manufacturer Yamaha. Badged guitars made by Fujigen include Antoria, Epiphone, Jason and Mann. Badged guitars that may have been made by Fujigen Gakki were Marlin and St. Moritz.