Claescaster

Tag: guitar manufacturer

Vorg by Pearl

Vorg by Pearl Telecaster Made in JapanVorg by Pearl, built in Japan by Matsumoku in the mid 1970’s

I recently got myself a Vorg Telecaster. These where built by Pearl in the Matsumoku factory and named Vorg for the German market. The previous owner claimed that it was built in 1977 since the serial starts with 7 which could be true, it’s built in the mid 1970’s for sure. It’s all original except for the machine heads which has been upgraded to a set of Schaller. The guitar has been converted to a string through with bushings on the back instead of being top-loaded something that obviously improved the sustain and overall tone. The original pickups looks like they were made by Maxon, something that makes perfect sense for a Matsumoku built guitar of that time. The neck is fantastic, really chunky for being a Japanese guitar. It’s a great sounding and playing Japanese Telecaster that I unfortunately can’t keep. I bought it for my birthday last month but the same week I found another late 1970’s Fender Telecaster so this Vorg has to go. It’s for sale here.

Vorg by Pearl Telecaster Made in Japan

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C.G. Winner

CG Winner AO-410 Made in Japan Neck trough late 1970'sC.G. Winner AO-410, Made in Japan 1980’s

About three years ago I came across the brand C.G. Winner for the first time. It was a German eBay seller that had one of these neck through double cut away guitar for sale and even though I wasn’t crazy about the design, I loved the name. My name is Claes Gellerbrink so any brand that has my initials and then the word winner after in their logo must be for me. Years later I stumbled upon one of these and in a weak moment bought it. I didn’t really know what to expect but I actually really like it. The neck is perhaps too long for me, just like an SG, I get confused when 12th fret is almost in the middle of the neck. Having said that, this is the fattest neck I’ve ever held in my hand, that I haven’t made myself, it’s a proper baseball bat. It’s a pretty well balanced guitar and doesn’t feel too neck heavy, like some do. I haven’t had time to play it properly through my Fender amp or played with any effects but I have a feeling this might be a monster with a bit of distortion. After some research a few Germans mentioned that these came with Di Marzio humbuckers, not sure if it’s true, mine are not stamped so it might be plain old Maxon’s. Either way, I’m pretty sure that C.G. Winner were made by Matsumoku in the early 1980’s alongside Aria Pro II, Vantage and Ibanez, which makes perfect sense since all three brands made neck through models very similar to this C.G. Winner. Here is the full story that I found reposted in quite a few Ibanez collector and Matsumoku based forums.

“Clarence Griffith Winner (C.G.Winner), was an American luthier. He was a close friend of Leo Fender, with whom he also worked until the beginning of the eighties, when Leo Fender founded G+L. Around the same time, Winner also founded his own enterprise. He created own collections of guitars, mostly inspired by Gibson. They were produced by Matsumoku of Japan (Aria Pro II, Vantage, Ibanez). Unfortunately Winner was a bad salesman, he refused to invest any money in marketing and advertising, so his guitars ware only known to insiders without a realistic chance on the market. Only a few years later Winner hat to give up his business. In the US C.G. Winner Guitars are well known amongst vintage-collectors, in Germany they are mostly unknown.” Found at the Ibanez Collectors

CG Winner AO-410 Made in Japan Neck trough late 1970'sCG Winner AO-410 Made in Japan Neck trough late 1970'sI only had to clean it up, put on a bone nut and replace the bridge and the knobs

 

Tacoma Stratocaster

Tacoma Stratocaster Made in Japan 1970'sTacoma Stratocaster, made in Japan in the late 1970’s

I haven’t paid much attention to electric guitars lately but then I saw this beautiful looking Tacoma Stratocaster and I couldn’t resist. I actually had a natural wood coloured Japanese Westone Strat that I really liked but sold last year since the neck profile was a bit too flat for my liking. This Tacoma has a neck profile right up there with my Tokai Silver Star SS-36 and my Fender Stratocaster, both made in 1979. I got confused when I bought this Tacoma, the auction was ending and I didn’t have time to do my research. I really thought that Tacoma had something to do with Tama for some reason, but apparently not. The only thing related to Tacoma that I have found so far is that Wutzdog guitars in Germany has two Strats from the mid 1970’s for sale and neither match mine. Mine has a fancy pants real inlay logo on the headstock while theirs have printed logos but then at least one of theirs have grey bottom pickups which I wished mine had too, my Tokai Silver Star SS-36 has that and they sound awesome. This Tacoma has some weird looking brass plate in the bottom but that might good too, I haven’t had time to play this properly through my Fender amp yet. Either way I really like this guitar and the neck is just a pure joy to play.

Tacoma Stratocaster Made in Japan 1970'sTacoma Stratocaster Made in Japan 1970'sI assume the guitar is from the late 1970’s considering the big head and feel of it, but who knows, they might have made Fender copies in the early 1980’s too. There is an American guitar company called Tacoma but I doubt that they have anything to do with these old Japan made guitars. If anyone knows anything about Tacoma then please get in touch.

Tacoma Stratocaster Made in Japan 1970'sThe wood is in great shape and it has a nice weight to it. This is the first time I’ve seen single coils with those heavy brass plates.

Tacoma Stratocaster Made in Japan 1970's pickupsAfter a bit of research I’ve come to think that perhaps my Tacoma was made by FujiGen. The guitar on the left is a Yamaha Super r’n Roller SR-400 and what I gathered they were made by FujiGen in the 1970’s. The guitar in the middle is an early 1970’s Matsumoku built Univox Strat. On the right we have my Tacoma and even though all three looks very similar I still think that the Tacoma and the Yamaha has the most in common.

 

Westone, Made in Japan

 Westone Stratocaster Made in Japan, Matsumoku 1979
Westone Stratocaster copy, made in Japan by Matsumoku in 1979

This weekend my Westone Stratocaster found a new owner. It felt kind of sad, I don’t normally miss guitars that I sell, well that’s I lie, I have missed all of the guitars I’ve sold but normally not this much. Oh well, I needed to make room for my new Tokai Silver Star SS-36 so it had to go. I have had two Westone guitars, a Strat and a Les Paul copy and I really liked both of them. Westone built Fender and Gibson copies in the late 1970’s before they started on their own heavy metal influenced creations of the 1980’s that owned the brand it’s name. You can read more about the brand Westone here. I have to say that the quality was pretty good for being a less known brand from the Matsumoku factory. I’ve always claimed that FujiGen was better than Matsumoku but I start to think that might have been more about when and not so much where. There was a huge change in Japanese guitars around 1975, not just the quality but perhaps more about how well they managed to copy the big American brands.Therfor a Greco guitar from 1978 would be better built than one from 1972, not just because the first was made by FujiGen but because it was made after 1975. You can read more about in my earlier post, Are all Japanese guitars good? I think what I would miss most of the Westone Strat is the Sen ash body, the wood was amazing and without any doubt the heaviest and most solid Strat I have ever seen with a fantastic sustain. The pickups were pretty great too, not Grey Bobbin pickups like on my Tokai Silver Star SS-36, but still, pretty sweet sounding. The pickups were pretty great in the Westone Les Paul too, maybe there was something special about these late 1970’s Matsumoku built Westone guitars.

Westone Les Paul, Made in Japan, Matsumoku 1970's
Westone Les Paul copy, made in Japan by Matsumoku in 1970’s

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. Taken from my previous post about Japanese guitar brands

Tokai Silver Star SS-36

Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979
Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979

When arrived to the office on Monday morning I noticed that Yuma, one of the eBay sellers that I follow from Japan, had added a new guitar, a 1979 Tokai Silver Star SS-36. I’ve always admired, well admired is not strong enough, I’ve always been totally gay for the 3-tone sunburst that Fender used in 1970’s. I even built the Claescaster because of this, since I couldn’t find a Telecaster with the right colour I decided to assemble one myself. For the past two years I’ve been looking at different Japanese big headed Stratocasters with the 3-tone 1970’s sunburst and black pickguard and was pretty convinced that a Greco SE-500 would be my next electric guitar or perhaps a late Seventies Fernandes Burny but they never seemed to have necks that were fat enough. I was in touch with a couple of the Japanese sellers and asked which brand had the fattest neck and got this reply, none. One seller explained that most Japanese guitars have fairly flat necks since the Japanese have small hands, which sounded a bit racist but whatever the reason is, most Japan made guitars had soft profiled necks up until now. I’ve played a couple of Crafted in Japan Fenders with great V-profile but that’s just in the last couple of years, none of the Japanese guitars that I’ve tried from 1970-80’s has had any baseball bat necks. This was a beautiful looking Tokai Silver Star with great grain showing through the 3-tone sunburst. I asked the seller about the neck and he replied that it wasn’t super fat, more of a soft U-profile, well that sounded close enough to me. The truth is that I’ve really missed the sound of the Fernandes RST-50 ’57 that I had for a short while. The Grey Bobbin pickups just sounded so amazingly good but I could never really come to terms with the small head or the fact that the guitar was black. Eric Clapton’s Blackie in all honour but they look pretty bland and boring to me, I like wood coloured or 3-tone sunburst guitars. My head started to think, well what could be better than Greco’s Maxon pickups, well the Ferndandes grey bobbin pickups, any day. Who was making Fernades in the late Seventies, well Tokai. Does that mean that this Tokai Silver Star will have some form of similar pickups? I tried to do some research but before I had even come to any conclusion I was the happy owner of a 1979 Tokai Silver Star SS-36. It was a Monday morning, I was a bit hungover, most of my guitar purchases has been made in that state, or perhaps when I’m drunk. I tend to be really concerned about money, I like to plan ahead, save for a rainy day, and then suddenly I sit there in front of the computer drunk or hungover without any filters whatsoever and just thinking GAS, GAS, GAS.

Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979
Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979

To be honest I didn’t know that much about Tokai, a part of me has always classed it like Ibanez, kind of bellow Greco in terms of quality. Then again, I can’t really say that I have felt a huge difference in quality between the Fender Japan made by FujiGen or the ones by Tokai, but everyone seems to prefer the Made in Japan to the later Tokai built Crafted in Japan. I have a 1991 Tokai Love Rock LS-55 Les Paul copy that is awesome but that doesn’t mean that an entry level Strat from 1979 would be equally good, but luckily it was. The Tokai Silver Strat SS-36 was the cheapest in the line of the late Seventies Fender copies that Tokai made but I think the main difference between the top and the bottom was if they had 3 or 4 screws bolt-on-necks, how many pieces of wood was used for the bodies and the quality of machine heads and hardware, and less about the pickups. Or perhaps these are the shittiest pickups Tokai produced and they still sound awesome.

Tokai (Tōkai Gakki)
Tōkai Gakki 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. Taken from my previous post about Japanese guitar brands

Fender replicas were started in 1977 officially. These were great guitars too. Using good quality wooden material with great craft man ship. “Springy Sound” Stratocaster replicas and the “Breezy Sound” Telecaster replicas are superior to the original Fender. Tokai has own factory and has built guitars for many famous known brands such as Fernandes and Fender Japan. For that mean, Tokai is only one original electric guitar manufacturer in Japan. (Note: Fender Japan used many sub constructors such as Fujigen, Dyna, Tokai, and Terada. The JV and E serial were made by Fujigen. Tokai made has “Made in Japan” under serial number in cursive handwriting). Taken from Music-Trade Japan

Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979
The guitar has a really nice soft U-shaped 1-piece maple neck with a nut width of just 40.6 mm, which didn’t feel that different to me. The body is 4 pieces Sen (Japanese ash) with poly lacquer in the classic 1970’s Fender 3-tone sunburst, which I truly love. I’m not sure if the pickups are similar to the L-5000 Vintage Arched PP Grey Bobbin pickups that the Fernandes RST-50 ’57 had or just some other grey bottom pickups. I tried to find some more information about them but they are just refereed to as grey bottom Tokai PU at Music-Trade Japan. Tokai Was building Fernandes at this time so I assume they would have used similar pickups for both. Either way, I love the pickups in this Tokai and it sounds almost as good as the Fernades did. I added an extra spring to the tremolo block since I never use the wammy bar and prefer a more solid hardtail feel, just like a real late 1970’s Fender Stratocaster.


I will try to get a new video up soon where I play a bit louder so you can hear the pickups properly, I was worried about the neighbours, and ideally play a bit better.


Well here it is, I might not play any better, but at least it is a more of it. I changed the string to 010, always Ernie Ball Regular Slinky, raised the action and fitted a 4th spring to the tremolo. Not sure what difference it made sound vice but it made it felt better to me playing.