Tag: 1960’s

Juan Estruch, Barcelona

Guitarras Juan Estruch Barcelona
The 1960’s Juan Estruch Barcelona guitar before and after I cleaned it up.

I recently bought an old Juan Estruch guitar for my friend Rafa. He has mentioned numerous times, actually since the day that I found my Francisca Montserrat, that he would love to have an old Spanish guitar. So for his birthday Araceli and I went to all the Cash converters we could think of an eventually found a beat up Juan Estruch for him. The brand was founded here in Barcelona by Juan Estruch Rosell in 1880. This guitar seems to have been made between 1960-1969, according to the label, and has a solid top. There was a few things that needed to be sorted to get it playable but I could tell straight away, even with strings missing, that it had a nice tone and great projection.

Guitarras Juan Estruch Barcelona
This is what it looked like when I bought it

Here is some info about the brand taken from Wikipedia, unfortunately in Spanish for you English readers: Guitarras Juan Estruch es una marca de guitarras y otros instrumentos musicales de Barcelona. La compañía fue fundada por Juan Estruch Rosell en 1880, siendo maestro de otros luthiers de fama como Enrique Sanfeliu1 de quien exponen una guitarra en el ministerio de educación de Uruguay. Después de la guerra civil, su hijo Joan Estruch Sastre se hizo cargo del taller de la calle Ample continuando con la construcción artesanal de guitarras siguiendo la tradición familiar. A su muerte (1970), su hijo Joan Estruch Pipó, se hizo cargo de la empresa hasta su muerte en 1989. Hoy en día la empresa sigue en Rubí, con el nombre ESTRUCH Luthiers , a cargo de la viuda y el antiguo encargado del taller Rafael Montes que entró a los 14 años, aunque la mayor parte de su producción es para la exportación. En los años sesenta muchos de los cantautores de la nueva canción catalana fueron clientes del taller de la calle Ample haciendo un lugar de encuentro con animadas tertulias.

Guitarras Juan Estruch Barcelona
The normal cleaning, polishing frets and oiling the fretboard

Guitarras Juan Estruch Barcelona
I wasn’t really sure how to fix the missing binding. In the end I decided to do a MacGyver and just use what every I could find at home. First I closed the gap between the side and top with fish glue and then I filled it up with wood filler. When it was dry I sanded it in to shape, got it smooth and then painted it black to match the original plastic binding.

Guitarras Juan Estruch Barcelona
Unfortunately I had to change the machine heads since one was broken, I would have loved to keep it all original

Guitarras Juan Estruch Barcelona
The final result, a fully playable birthday present for my friend Rafa

Guitarras Juan Estruch Barcelona
Rafa from the band Cobarde with his new Juan Estruch guitar

Guitarras Juan Estruch Barcelona
Sr Chinarro came around and tried it too

1965 Tienda de construcción de guitarras del Sr Estruch en la calle Ancha
1965 Tienda de construcción de guitarras del Sr Estruch en la calle Ancha

Photo of the day

Leonard Cohen blowing smoke rings by Jim Wigler
Leonard Cohen blowing smoke rings by Jim Wigler

The smoke ring photograph of Leonard was taken in New York City in the 60′s. I lived at 377 Bleecker Street and Mary Martin, his manager at the time, lived beneath me. I had, a few year earlier, left the Austin Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (an open psychiatric treatment center). One day I heard this awful singing and guitar strumming beneath me and I put the speakers of my stereo face down on the floor and played Mormon Tabernacle choir music. Mary immediately ran upstairs and confronted me. We instantly became friends. She was living with Bob Dylan’s cat, Lord. Through her, I met Leonard and Sheila Campion (who worked with Bob Krasner at The Realist) and the Zappas, Zalman Yanovsky and other 60′s rock luminaries. My father had just sent me a Nikon camera and a few lenses as I had expressed an interest in photography when I left the mental hospital. Mary asked me if I could take some pictures of Leonard, which I did. The first edition of “Spice Box of Earth” has one of my photographs on it, and I did a whole shoot for some German magazine, but they retained the negatives. The smoke ring picture was taken at Peter’s Pot Belly (or something like that) a coffee shop in our neighborhood. The shot was simply serendipitous. It wasn’t planned or anything, I was just taking pictures as he was smoking and talking. – Jim Wigler

Movie of the day

500€ Guitars

Sometimes I wish I was stinking rich so I could buy all the guitars in the world. Then I realise that my life would probably not be that much better just because I had a million guitars. I wouldn’t have time to play them all and after a while I guess nothing really impress you. If you have a couple of Jimi Hendrix Strats in your collection then the Strats that you have that didn’t use to belong to Hendrix would probably feel pretty boring in comparison. I don’t have any really expensive guitars in my collection. Mainly because I’m not rich enough to buy a 1952 Telecaster, a 1964 L Series Strat or a 1958 Sunburst Les Paul, but also because it would be pretty pointless. When would you actually take out an instrument and play it if it was worth ten thousands of Euros? You would be so scared that something happened to it that you just kept it in a vault, like John Entwistle did. Guitars are meant to be played, and adored, but mainly played. I prefer to have guitars that I can use, bring to gigs and rehearse with, as well as hang on the wall and adore at home. Therefore I think guitars for around 500€ are ideal, at least for me. If you know what you are doing you can still get amazing Japanese guitars for 500€, especially on eBay. Expensive enough for having descent quality but cheap enough to replace if something happened to them so you really dare to use them.

John Entwistle shows his amazing guitar and bass collection

Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C A nice example of a guitar worth around 500, well maybe more like 600-700. Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C, Made in Japan, FujiGen 1980

A small part of Slash's guitar collectionA small part of Slash’s guitar collection

Are all Japanese guitars good?

I would say yes and no. Most of the early Japanese guitars I have tried have a rather “toy guitar” feel to them. My Playsound from the late 1960’s is fun to play but it’s a pretty horrible copy of a Telecaster. A lot of Japanese acoustic guitar manufactures jumped on the bandwagon and started to make electric guitars in the mid Sixties since that seemed to be what the kids wanted, here you can read more about Japanese guitar brands. Some of them managed to make pretty decent copies of American Fender’s and Gibson’s and others came up with pretty elaborate and creative designs of their own but in general they weren’t that good guitars. Most of the guitars made in the 1960’s didn’t have that great wood and the hardware was normally pretty weak but sometimes the pickups could be all right. Ry Cooder still prefers the Japanese gold foil pickups for his slide guitars and they have been quite popular in American surf music too, this could simply be because that was what people could afford back in the days. It’s important to remember that a lot of the Japanese guitars in the Sixties were mainly made as cheap entry level instruments for the West, not as elaborate copies of the real deal for professionals as they later became in the Seventies and eighties. Some early Fender and Gibson copies are horrible just because they didn’t have any real American instruments to copy, they had to rely on photos and come up with their own solutions to solve the problems that Leo Fender and the boys had already figured out back in the fifties.

Japanese guitars, MIJ, Made in Japan
The Japanese collection at the moment: Fender Telecaster TL52-75 1987, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Tokai Love Rock LS-55 1991, VOX Les Paul 1970′s, Hohner Telecaster 1970’s, Hohner Stratocaster 1970′s, Tokai Silver Star SS-36 1979, Jazz Bass 1978, Fender Squier 1993, Maya F335G 1970’s, K.Yairi TG-40 1977, Morris WL-40 1973, Morris WL-35 1970’s

The big change came around 1972-74, this is also when most Japanese guitar manufacturers started to put serial numbers on their instruments. Lack of serial numbers could be a good indicator of the quality, or rather the lack of quality, of an instrument but not always. There are amazing Matsumoku made Greco’s that were made in the early Seventies that lack serial numbers. I would say that most Japanese guitar makers, or at least the successful ones, started to get it right around 1972-74. Especially the Fender copies but also the Les Pauls started to really feel and sound like the real deal around this time. Most copies in the sixties were either Stratocasters / Telecasters or SG’s / 335’s, and unfortunately most of them were pretty cheaply made. In the early Seventies Stratocasters kept being popular but most makers started to try to make Les Paul’s now as well, most with bolt on neck, and some with pretty good result. Some makers kept on making low cost instruments for export and others started to make amazing quality instruments that wasn’t particularly cheap at the time. The model number is often a giveaway of the original price so my Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N would have cost ¥50 000 back in 1977 when it was made, that’s around $500. This is not true for all brands but a lot of them started in the mid-70’s to price the instruments after the model number, or rather the other way around, and this is probably the easiest way of determining the quality of a Japanese instrument. I’m not sure what an American made Gibson Les Paul Custom cost back in the mid-70’s but if one of Greco’s top of the line like the EG-1500 cost ¥150 000 that would have been a huge investment back then, around $1500. The second hand value today, at least for the famous brands like Greco, Tokai, Ibanez and Fernandes, is roughly what they cost new. A Greco EG-500 Les Paul copy tend go for 500-700€ on eBay, the same for Tokai and Fernandes, slightly less for unknown brands. A Les Paul tend to be worth a bit more than a Stratocaster, I guess because they made more Stratocasters so they are more common or maybe it’s just because Les Paul’s are more popular today. Rare models, don’t trust people who say that the guitar they are selling is rare on eBay, I mean really rare and high end models tend to cost like a real Fender or Gibson from that time.

So what is so good with Japanese guitars? I would say the wood and the craftsmanship. Americans got really sloppy and so did the European manufactures when the productions became too big in the Seventies. Cheap Japanese made guitars, at least after the mid-Seventies, are still really well made. They tend to have good solid wood, great weight and sustain and an amazing quality feel to them. This is of course not true for all of them but at least the Japanese guitars I have played have had a great feel to them. When they made budget instruments in Japan during the Seventies and the Eighties they didn’t cut cost on wood and workmanship, only on hardware and electronics and that’s fairly cheap and easy to upgrade yourself. The best guitars I have are all made in Japan around 1980, that seems to be the height of Japanese guitar manufacturing.

Japanese guitars Playsound (Teisco) 1960’s, CSL (Charles Summerfield Ltd) 1980’s, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977

The Playsound guitar was labeled as Audition on the amp and Playsound on the guitar, a beginners set made by Teisco in the Sixties and sold by Woolworth in the UK. I found the whole kit very cheap in a charity shop in South Woodford, UK, the first guitar I bought to collect rather than play. CSL was made by Ibanez in the Fujigen factory and relabeled CSL (Charles Summerfield Ltd) for their UK import. I found it in a second hand shop in Spain in a terrible state so I bought it and cleaned it up and gave it as a present to cheer my girlfriend up after a hospital stay, so techincally not part of my guitar collection. Pretty classic Ibanez head from the 1980’s so clearly made after the 1977 lawsuit. Amazing neck, good feel in general but pretty weak pickups and cheap hardware. The Greco was imported straight from Japan last year, the first guitar I actually bought from outside EU. Amazing Fujigen built Thinline copy, strong original Maxon pickups but not too dark for being humbuckers and with a really fat neck, just as I like it.