Claescaster

Tag: Fujigen

Japanese guitar brands: Greco

Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500The Greco family, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979

I’m so in love with my Greco‘s, every time I pick one up it hits me how good they feel to play. They might not be the best built guitars to ever come out of Japan but they all have something special, here is a list of Japanese guitar brands. I only have 3 in the 500-series and I have never tried anything in the 1000-series so I can only speak about the cheaper Greco models. I would say that the best built Japanese electric I own is my Fender TL52-75 and the best acoustic would be the K.Yairi TG-40 or my Morris W-40. Having said that, there is something that makes me like my Greco’s more than all the others, more than my Fender, my Tokai LS-55 and even the fabulous Fernandes RST-50 I sold that I really liked, and still miss a bit. There is a resonance in the wood on my Greco’s, especially on my Greco TL-500, that I haven’t felt in my other Japanese guitars. I’m not sure if it’s down to the brand, the factory or their age. All three were made in the late 1970’s by FujiGen, I have actually never tried a Matsumoku made Greco, they changed factory around 1974-75. In my opinion FujiGen built better guitars than Matsumoku, having said that this could be down to years rather than factories, read about it here: Are all Japanese guitars good? I have two Westone guitars made by Matsumoku and three Greco’s and one Fender made by FujiGen and I feel that later are way better, again could be down to brands and years rather than factories. The Hohner Strat I have might have been built by Morris, but out of the cheapest materials around, before they started up H.S. Anderson and all of that. Now I’m seriously considering extending the Greco collection with a nice late 1970’s Strat, ideally a Greco SE-500 in a three-tone sunburst, just like my Claescaster.

Japanese guitars, MIJ, Made in JapanI have sold some of my Japanese guitars so this is more or less what’s left, from left to right: 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,  Westone Les Paul 1970′s, Jazz Bass 1978, Hohner Stratocaster 1970′s, Westone Stratocaster 1979, K.Yairi TG-40 1977, Morris WL-40 1973, Morris WL-35 1980′s

Roy Buchanan

Roy Buchanan
Roy Buchanan and Nancy, from the 1977 album Loading Zone

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post I’m a huge fan of Roy Buchanan. I even got myself a Nancy, well it’s a Japanese Fender ’52 re-issue Telecaster from the late 1980’s but close enough. I was watching Youtube documentaries on my lunch and came across Roy Buchanan – P.B.S. Greatest Unknown Guitarist in the World from 1971. Roy’s life story is both sad and quite amazing, you can read more about him if you click the links above. I love the fact that he had give up on music and trained to be a hairdresser when he found Nancy and that he was kicked out of The Hawks for being too weird. This is the song that made me fall in love with him and I’m still not sure if I’m more impressed by his singing or his guitar playing, Roy Buchanan – CC Rider.

Japanese guitar brands

Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500
The Greco family, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979

I guess it will come as no surprise that I love Japanese guitars, especially Greco’s. I have over the years learned quite a lot about different brands and makers but it can get pretty confusing for me too. Luckily I found this great list of Japanese guitars brands, or rather a list of guitar makers. The list might not be complete but it’s a good start. Taken from Who Made My MIJ Guitar

Atlansia
This guitar manufacturer started out as a parts supplier in the early 1970’s. Atlansia didn’t begin production of guitars under their badge until infamous engineer and designer Nobuaki Hayashi of Matsumoku fame became the company’s president and chief designer in the late 1970’s. Since then, Atlansia has continued to produce cutting-edge guitar designs in Nagano, Japan. The company did not make any other badged guitars other than namesake Atlansia.

Chushin Gakki
Chushin is still in operation today in Nagano, Japan and does business with guitar giant Fender. I believe that Chushin may have been a member of the Matsumoto Musical Instruments Association listed further down because both companies produced Fresher guitars during different periods….with Matsumoto beginning production and Chushin ending it (perhaps because the Association was disbanded?). During the 1960-1980 period they were responsible for badges Bambu, Cobran, El Maya and Hisonus as well as some Charvel, Fresher and Jackson badges. The company may have possibly made some guitars with the Aztec, Maya and Robin badges, but that is not verified. Guitars made by Chushin from this period are well-made and appreciated by guitar enthusiasts worldwide.

Daimaru
Founded in the city of Matsumoto, Japan in the early 1960’s, Daimaru produced their own house brand, although they outsourced electric guitar production to Teisco during the 1970’s period. Daimaru appears to have gone out of business after 1980.

Dyna Gakki
Dyna Gakki began production in 1972 in the city of Nagano, Japan. They manufactured guitars for Fender Japan and Greco, so they couldn’t have been a terrible manufacturer as Fender is very choosy about outsourcing their product. Dyna was responsible for the JooDee badge and may have been a source for Japanese manufacturer Yamaki. Dyna also produced the infamous Ibanez badges for a short period of time.

Electric Sound Products (ESP)
Founded in 1975 by Hisatake Shibuya, this wildly-popular manufacturer focused on making quality basses for export as well as electric guitars. ESP survived the ‘copy’ era and is still in business today. Badges made by ESP included their house brand ESP as well as Navigator during the late 1970’s. A possible badge made by the company was Robin.

Elk Gakki (also known as Miyuki)
Makers of the Elk badged guitar from the early to mid 1960’s to 1975, although other sources indicate that the Elk brand did not stop production until the early 1980’s. Elk badged guitars came in clear acrylics in addition to colors in the early 1970’s, which was an attempt to copy clear acrylics designed by the legendary Dan Armstrong in the late 1960’s.

Fernandes
Fernandes Guitars started production in 1969 in Osaka, Japan. It grew and became one of the largest producers of Japanese-made guitars, rivaling competitors Fujigen and Matsumoku. Fernandes produced guitars with the Burny and Nady badges as well as house brand Fernandes. A possible badge made by Fernandes was the oddly named Orange guitar.

Fujigen Gakki
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.

Guyatone
Guyatone produced electric guitars for major guitar manufacturer Suzuki. The company also produced their house brand Guyatone. Badged guitars produced by Guyatone include Barclay, Broadway, Coronado, Crestwood, Futurama, Howard, Hi-Lo, Ibanez, Ideal, Imperial, Johnny Guitar, Kent, Kingston, Lafayette, Marco Polo (electrics only), Montclair, Omega, Orpheus, Prestige, Royalist, Saturn, Silhouette, Silvertone, Vernon, Winston and Zenta, an impressive amount of names produced by a single company. Other badges that may have been produced by Guyatone are Beeton (not to be confused by the Beeton Brass Guitar company founded in 1994), Bradford, Canora and Regent.

Hayashi/Zenon
Hayashi was one of the premier acoustic guitar makers among Japanese manufacturers from this time frame. Hayashi bought out small manufacturer Zen-On in 1968 during a period of expansion for the company. Credited with making Pearl badged acoustic guitars, Hayashi was also responsible for making Cortez, Custom and Emperador acoustics.

Hitachi Gakki/Hitachi Musical Instruments Manufacturing
I’m unsure if this company existed or not, but since many major electronics manufacturers jumped into the electric guitar market in the 1970’s, it seems reasonable that Hitachi could have ventured briefly into guitar production. A seller of the badged guitar “Splender” claims it was made by this company. Yet another seller claims the badge Slendon was made by this company.

Hoshino Gakki Ten/ Tama
Hoshino Gakki were known primarily for producing Ibanez guitars during this time although that wasn’t the only badged guitar they made. Badged guitars produced by Hoshino include Cimar, Cimar by Ibanez, Penco, Howard. Tama Industries began guitar production from 1962 to 1967 as a factory of Hoshino, producing more badged Ibanez guitars as well as Continental, Crest, Goldentone, Jamboree, King’s Stone, Maxitone, Star, Starfield (some), Tulio and Jason. Tama eventually took over badged guitar production from STAR Instruments in the mid-1960’s. There’s some evidence that Tama began producing guitars under their own badge from 1975-1979. I’m unsure at this point if this Tama had any relation to the Tama that existed under Hoshino Gakki Ten.

Humming Bird
Little-known manufacturer in operation in the early 1960’s until 1968. Humming Bird made electrics that were copies of Mosrite guitars. It’s possible they also made acoustics.

Iida
Iida began manufacturing guitars in 1958 in Nagoya, Japan. Iida is still producing guitars, but mostly in their factory located in Korea. They were mainly responsible for producing acoustic and semi-acoustic rather than electric guitars for major manufacturers Ibanez and Yamaha. There is speculation that Iida may have assisted Moridara for a short period in making Morris badged guitars, but that is not verified.

Kasuga
Kasuga produced their own house brand in Kasuga guitars. For a brief period of time the company produced Yamaha acoustic guitars. Kasuga guitars were first sold in America in 1972. Unlike many Japanese manufacturers who outsourced their guitar production in other factories outside the main maker, Kasuga produced all their products in-house. Badged guitars known to have been made by Kasuga include Conrad, Emperador, ES-S, Ganson, Heerby, Hondo, Mei Mei and Roland. Kasuga went out of business in 1996.

Kawai Teisco
Kawai Teisco was founded by Atswo Kaneko and Doryu Matsuda. The company also produced the popular Ibanez badge in the 1960’s. Kawai Teisco made their own house brands Kawai, Teisco, Del Rey and Teisco Del Rey. Badged guitars produced by the Kawai Teisco factories include Apollo, Aquarius, Arbiter, Atlas, Audition, Avar, Ayar, Barth, Beltone, Black Jack, Cipher, Concert, Cougar, Crown, Daimaru, Decca, Diasonic, Domino, Duke, Emperador, Heit Deluxe, Hy-Lo, Holiday, Imperial, Inter-Mark Cipher, Jedson, Kay, Kent, Kimberly, Kingsley, Kingston, Keefy, Lindell, Marquis, May Queen, Minister, Noble, Prestige, Randall, Recco, Regina, Rexina, Sakai, Satellite, Schaffer, Sekova, Silvertone, Sorrento, Sterling, Swinger, Tele Star, Top Twenty, Victoria, and Winston. Possible badged guitars made by the company include: Astrotone, Demian, G-Holiday, Lafayette, Master, Orange, Tamaki and Trump.

Kyowa Shokai
This company, which may have been a distributor as opposed to a manufacturer, was a member of the Matsumoto Musical Instrument Association. They have been credited with Camel and Fresher badged guitars, although Freshers were also made by Chushin in the late 1970’s.

Magnavox/Ampeg
Ampeg was swallowed up by Japanese electrical giant Magnavox in 1971, when they wanted to get in on the electric guitar copy craze of the 1970’s. Magnavox produced electric and bass guitars under the Stud badge as well as the successful Ampeg brand. It’s been suggested that Magnavox was also responsible for producing Selmer acoustic guitar badges during this time, but that has not been verified. Selmer was sold to Magnavox around the same time they bought Ampeg, so it certainly seems plausible they could have made Selmer acoustic badged guitars as an offering for that market. Stud badged guitars were made until ’75, with Ampeg guitar production continuing until 1980. Opus was another badge made by the company. Magnavox lost their interest in Ampeg shortly thereafter and the brand languished until it was resurrected over a decade later by another American company.

Maruha Gakki
We know this company existed in the 1970’s in Japan because of stickers found inside repaired Maruha guitars. Maruha made high-quality acoustics, some of which are badged F. Hashimoto (some long lost master luthier?) along with the Maruha badges. These guitars are highly sought-after because of the overall quality.

Matsumoku
Matsumoku is one of the Japanese manufacturers that did not survive long after the heyday of the 1970’s guitar market despite having a long tradition of quality stringed instrument craftsmanship. Matsumoku produced guitars for major manufacturers Greco, Guyatone and Yamaha. Matsumoku made Arai, Aria, Aria Pro II and Aria Diamond badges, with Aria being their primary badge for a majority of this time frame. Badged guitars known to have been made by Matsumoku include Apollo, Arita, Barclay, Burny, Capri, Columbus, Conrad, Cortez (electrics only), Country, Cutler, Dia, Domino, Electra, Epiphone, Granada, Hi Lo, Howard, Ibanez, Lindberg, Lyle, Luxor, Maxitone (this guitar differs from Tama’s Maxitone badge), Mayfair, Memphis, Montclair, Pan, Pearl (electrics only), Raven, Stewart, Tempo, Univox ,Vantage, Ventura, Vision, Volhox, Washburn (in 1979 and 1980), Westbury, Westminster and Westone. Possible Matsumoku badges include: Bruno, Crestwood, Conqueror, Eros, Mako, Memphis, Orlando and Toledo.

Matsumoto Musical Instrument Manufacturers Association
The Matsumoto Musicial Instrument Manufacturers Association was the organization responsible for Fresher guitars. Little is known about this association, other than it did not have larger guitar manufacturers Matsumoku or Fujigen Gakki as members. Nakai Gakki was a possible member of the association. Fresher guitars began production in 1973 by the Kyowa Shokai Company, an association member, which was also responsible for the Camel badge. It’s interesting to note that Fresher guitars were eventually being produced by Chushin, which leads me to believe that they may have been an Association member along with Kyowa. The beginning production year was considered a low quality benchmark for the company. The Fresher brand continuously improved in quality until 1980.

Maya Guitar Company
Located in Kobe, Japan, this manufacturer made the famous Maya brand guitar. Maya guitars were in production from 1970-1980. It’s been suggested that Maya may have been responsible for the Aztec badge. You’ll notice that Maya has been attributed to a company known as Tahara. At this point I do not know if Maya assisted in production or if Tahara produced some Maya guitars as a subcontractor. Maya and El Maya badges have also been attributed to Chushin Gakki. More research is needed to clarify this point.

Moridaira (Morris Guitars)
Founded in 1967 by Toshio “Mori” Moridaira, the Moridaira factory produced high-quality guitars, including the infamous Morris badged guitar. Moridaira also produced badged guitars for Hohner including Coronado, Futurama, H.S. Anderson, Lotus (some) and Sakai.

Nakai Gakki
Little-known manufacturer from Osaka, Japan, this company is responsible for the oddly named John Bennet badge. Nakai has been mentioned as a possible Matusmoto Musical Instruments Association member in the past. The company still exists and is producing musical instruments, quite a feat in light of so many manufacturers who faded after the golden electric guitar age.

Shinko Musical Company
A very small, unknown company that is attributed to being the manufacturer of the Pleasant guitar from 1960 to 1966. Shinko later moved to Korea sometime in the early 1970’s where they produced the Drive guitar badge.

Shiro Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company, Limited
This little-known company is responsible for the St. George badge. This particular badge was made from 1963-1967. It also produced the rare Shiro guitar. It is possible that the company may also be responsible for the Pleasant guitar badge after 1966. This company may have been a small offshoot of Aria Guitar Company, founded by Shiro Arai, but that has not been verified as of today.

STAR Instruments
This company slowly merged into Hoshino/Tama but prior to their unification, produced instruments with the Star badge, mainly drums. They also produced guitars, including the infamous Zim-Gar badged electric and acoustic guitars. Over time, drum production was segmented to Pearl, while guitar contracts were taken up by Tama. Zim-Gar production was relatively short, as these were budget guitars made for K-mart between 1962 and 1968.

Suzuki Musical Instrument Manufacturing
Suzuki had two factories in Kiso and Hamamatsu where they made popular Suzuki guitars. The Hummingbird Suzuki guitar was manufactured in the Kiso factory. Suzuki is also credited with making the Canora and Takeharu badged guitars along with Marco Polo acoustics. Holly is another badge ascribed to Suzuki, although that has not been verified.

Tahara
Founded by a father and son, Ryohei Tahara and the unknown Tahara. I do not know which was the father and which was the son. The company existed until the late 1979 when it was bought up by Saga Musical Instruments. In all, the company existed less than a decade as Tahara. Both the Maya and El Maya badges are attributed to Tahara. Saga Musical Instruments exists to this day.

Takamine
Founded in 1962 in Sakashita, Japan, this manufacturer survived the copy era and is still producing guitars to this day. Takamine was among the first to make and export electric acoustics with their own house brand, although they are primarily known for their acoustic guitars. It is unknown if they made badged guitars.

Terada
Terada was one of the smaller Japanese manufacturers of acoustic guitars during the period of 1960 to 1980, producing products for Epiphone, Fender Japan, Grapham, Gretch and Vesta. Terada produced some Kingston badges until 1975. Other badged guitars produced by Terada include some Burny badges and interesting Thumb guitars. Terada has been in continuous operation since 1912.

Tokai
Tokai was founded in 1947 and is based in Hamamatsu, Japan. Tokai began production of acoustic guitars in 1965 and by 1968 was producing electric guitars for the American market. Tokai still exists as guitar manufacturer. Tokai made guitars for Fernandes, Mosrite and Fender Japan. Tokai badged guitars included the house brand Tokai as well as Cat’s Eyes, Conrad, Drifter, Hondo, Love Rock, Mosrite, Sigma and Silver Star. Possible badges include Artist Ltd., Gaban, Gallan, Gession and Robin. It’s suggested that Tokai made Hummingbird acoustics as well, but if these were related to those made by Humming Bird I haven’t quite sorted out yet.

Tombo
Tombo was the only Japanese manufacturer who produced Norma badged guitars. Tombo made Norma guitars from 1965 to 1970. Badged guitars produced by Tombo include Angelica, Asama, Columbus, Condor, Duke, Horugel, Kinor, Montaya, Queen, Regina, Schaffer and Yamato.

Toyota
Is there anything T. Kurosawa didn’t attempt to manufacture in the 1970’s? Yes, Toyota manufactured a high-end line of acoustic, electric and bass guitars from approximately 1972. Toyota ceased manufacturing guitars in a short span of time (probably because they didn’t sell), although exactly when in the 1970’s production ended, I’m not sure.

Yamaha/Nippon Gakki
Founded in 1946, Yamaha is still going strong in the electric guitar market as a manufacturer. During the timeframe this article covers (1960-1980) all Yamaha guitars were made in Japan, although not necessarily in their factories as they outsourced to other manufacturers.

Yamaki
Yamaki was founded in the 1960 by brothers Yasuyuki and Hirotsygu. Yamaki exists today as a major manufacturer of guitar parts for outside Japanese guitar manufacturers. Yamaki produced a house brand, as well as Daion, Dion, Grande and Jedson badged guitars.

Zen-On (see also Hayashi)
Little known Japanese manufacturer who was out of business by 1968. Zen-On made electric guitars with the house brand Zen-on badge, as well as Beltone, Morales and Zenon badges. Zen-On bought out Hayashi, but exactly when that took place is clouded in mystery.

Thanks again to Who Made My MIJ Guitar for the extensive research. Another great source is the Japanese site Music Trade, where you can read Koyama’s first hand experience with some more obscure brands. I have only tried Fender Japan (MIJ and CIJ), Greco, Tokai, Fernandes, Morris, Suzuki, Westone, Hohner, CSL and Teisco so if you have any questions regarding these brands your are more than welcome to get in touch. I did a previous post about the quality of Japan made guitars that can be found here, Are all Japanese guitars good? Here is the Japanese section of the Claes collection, however some of these guitars have found a new home now.

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


Fender Telecaster Japan TL52-75

Fender Telecaster Japan TL52-75
Fender Telecaster TL52-75, ’52 re-issue, Made in Japan by FujiGen between 1987-1989

I have thought long and hard about it and now decided to put “Nancy” up for sale. It’s going to be sad to see her go but sometimes you have to sell things you love for the greater good of the collection. I’m going to focus more on Greco and Levin from now on. I also have two guitars on their way so I need to make some room for my new babies.

Fender Japan TL52-75
Fender Telecaster TL52-75,
’52 re-issue Made in Japan, FujiGen 1987-1989.
900€ SOLD
In mint condition, all original, without any doubts the best Telecaster I have ever played. Imported straight from Japan. The only reason for selling is because I prefer fat 70’s necks. There is no way to find the production year of these A-serial Telecaster with the serial number on the bridge plate. However, it must have been made between 1987 and 1989 since it’s a TL52-75. They were called TL52-70 between 1984-1986 and then changed to TL52-700 in 1990.

Fender Japan Twang catalogue 1989
Fender Japan Twang catalogue 1989

Fernandes The Revival RST-50 ’57

Fernandes The Revival '57 Stratocaster
Fernandes The Revival RST-50 ’57 Stratocaster
Made in Japan, 1988

We were up in Vitoria last weekend for the Azkena rock festival, I had to see The Black Crowes, and I managed to find this little beauty in a Cash converter. It’s a Fernandes The Revival RST-50 ’57 Stratocaster made in Japan probably in 1988. It’s a bit of detective work left to do, I’m still not sure if these were made in the FujiGen or the Tokai factory. It’s most likely made in 1988, well if you can trust Guitar world crazy in Japan, but he seems to know his stuff. The number on the back plate has nothing to do with the year but the first digit of the number stamped on the neck seems to indicate the production year, at least during the 1980’s. Mine has #Y80801 and ’57 stamped and the heal so that should be a Fernades RST-50 ’57 Strat from 1988. However, this guy on eBay claims that Fernandes changed from the proper Fender head to a sharpier head in 1986. He claims that mine should have been made between 1982-85 since it has “Electric Sound Research Group” under the Fernandes The Revival logo on the headstock. I think I’ll go with the Guitar world crazy guy, he seems to know a thing or two. We can be pretty sure that the material is the following, both Guitar world crazy and Music-Trade Japan says the same. The RST-50 ’57 were made between 1981-90, came with Revival Logo, had a 3-piece alder body a Small head and a 1-piece maple neck, poly lacquer, L-5000 Vintage Arched PP Gray Bobbin pickups, separate Diecast & FSRG Press saddle. However, then it says that from 1984 the pickups changed to VS-2 and the saddle to non press marked which is weird since mine clearly has “Revival F.S.R.G” stamped on them. It has quite a lot of fret wear but since the neck felt so amazing I couldn’t resist. Now I finally have an awesome “Blackie” copy so you all can call me Claes Clapton from now on.

Update 2013-07-06
Fernandes have found a new dad. She got adopted this Saturday by a lovely sound engineer, that happened to live two streets away from me, so she could be the jewel in his growing collection of Japanese guitars. I wish the best to both of you.

Fernandes The Revival '57 Stratocaster

Fernandes The Revival '57 Stratocaster

Fernandes The Revival '57 Stratocaster

Fender Telecaster Japan TL52-75

Fender Telecaster TL52-75, ’52 re-issue, Made in Japan Fender Telecaster TL52-75, ’52 re-issue, Made in Japan by FujiGen between 1987-1989

As a Roy Buchanan fan I always dreamt of owning my own “Nancy“. The story how Roy found his Nancy is pretty interesting. In 1969 Roy got fed up with the music industry and enrolled in a school to learn to be a hairdresser. One day during class he saw a guy walking pass the window carrying an old butterscotch blonde Telecaster and Roy fell in love at first site. He chased after the guy and told him that he could pick any guitar he wanted in a nearby music store and in the end bought him a new purple Telecaster to trade for the 1953 Fender Telecaster, serial number 2324, that later became his beloved Nancy. My story wasn’t that interesting. I had kept an eye out for a Japan made ’52 reissue and one day I saw that my favourite eBay seller in Japan, Tokyowax had one for sale. So in October 2012 I became the proud owner of a Fender Telecaster TL52-75, ’52 re-issue, Made in Japan by FujiGen between 1987-1989. There is no way to find the exact production year of these A-serial Telecaster with the serial number on the bridge plate. However, it must have been made between 1987 and 1989 since it’s a TL52-75. They were called TL52-70 between 1984-1986 and then changed to TL52-700 in 1990. I do love Nancy, she is an extremely heavy and amazing sounding Telecaster but I still struggle a but with the neck. She has a typical mid eighties Japan neck, really flat and fast playing, without any doubt the fastest guitar I have after my 1975 Hagström HIIN OT. The problem is that I’m not such a huge fan of slick and easy to play necks. I like quite high action and really fat necks so I have to make an effort to play, it’s a part of the feeling for me. Nancy is still an awesome guitar and sounds great from stock, everything is made in Japan, machine heads, pickups, switch and pots. However, there was one thing that really annoyed me, the brass saddles. If you live in a Mediterranean coast city like Barcelona, you will have to adjust your guitars a lot to cope with the humidity. I have to adjust the truss-rod and saddles on most of my guitar when the seasons change and with Nancy it was a nightmare. The only screwdriver that was small enough to fit for adjusting the height of the original saddles was a tiny little weak thing that I got for my watches. Since I didn’t have strength enough to move the screw while the guitar was tuned I had to loosen the string every time, then tune it again. I was also a bit disappointed with the intonation high up on the neck so I decided to change for my favourites, Wilkinson compensated brass saddles. I found a set really cheap from Swivel Electronics in Singapore and a couple of weeks ago I got around to change them.

♪ ♫ Roy Buchanan – CC Rider

Fender Telecaster TL52-75 The old ones might have had more sustain since they were heavier and seemed more solid but to be able to adjust the height with a simple Allen key, without having to loosen the string is more important to me.

Fender Telecaster TL52-75 All done, I’m sure they will look old in a few month and blend in perfectly with the rest of the hardware. The humidity here in Barcelona seems to age metal very quickly.

Fender Telecaster TL52-75, ’52 re-issue, Made in Japan I bought Nancy because I wanted a blackguard ’52 re-issue but quite soon I realised that everyone else in Barcelona had one too, well not a Japanese but still. It suddenly felt and looked more Bruce Springsteen than Roy Buchanan so I decided to change to a tortoise shell 5 hole pickguard to make it look a bit more Country-,  Swamp-, Southern rock. 

The Claescaster

A quick update on my new Claescaster. The Mighty Mite Swamp ash body that I ordered from USA back in the beginning of March might finally be on it’s way. I saw this update when I tracked it this morning, “Customs clearance processing complete”. I presume that means that they will finally send me my body that has been stuck in Madrid since the 14th of March. How can something take a month to clear? The thing that annoys me the most is perhaps not that I had to wait for more than a month, but that they charged 40% on top of the original price including shipping. A body that cost $150 that I paid 170€ for including shipping and then I had to pay an extra 68€ in import tax and custom fees. I have imported two guitars straight from Japan without any problems so I couldn’t even in my wildest imagination think that it would be this bad just because the package came form USA. The Japanese guitars I bought, on two separate occasions, were delivered with DHL Express, cost $125 and was here within 48 hours and the tax was only about 18-20% of the actual price, not price plus shipping. I think I paid around 70-80€ when I imported Nancy, a Fender Telecaster ’52 re-issue Made in Japan from 1987-1989, but she cost six times more than the new body did. Well at least now I know that you can’t buy things from USA if you live in Spain.

Fender Telecaster TL52-75, '52 re-issue Made in Japan, FujiGen 1989 Fender Telecaster TL52-75, ’52 re-issue Made in Japan, FujiGen 1987-1989. There is no way to find the production year of these A-serial Telecaster with the serial number on the bridge plate. However, it must have been made between 1987 and 1989 since it’s a TL52-75. They were called TL52-70 between 1984-1986 and then changed to TL52-700 in 1990

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.