Monday, May 3, 2010

Bizarre Guitars

Bizarre Guitars - text by Henry Ho

In the beginning of 90´s, I went to work with vintage instruments in Tokyo, used and seldom. In this referred store, I knew a guy called Naofumi Yasuhara, an expert (true freak!) in this subject.
He was a quiet man and serious quite not available to teach. I felt induced not to have contact with him, at first. However, one nice day, the guy started to talk to me and then – I was learning about old instruments, seldom vintage and especially the bizarre.
Naofumi hated the bizarre world. But had a dreadful knowledge related to story and label. I didn´t know anything. Our store was always supplied by guitar from The United States. The stuff was got in events named “guitar show” and specialized stores. I was quite always fascinated to see and play that rough instruments with single building, exquisite / bizarre visual and fine timbre.
“Bizarre Guitars” are a part of a parallel universe. Maybe will not be music artifacts that enjoy appeal of the major guitarists. But the nobleness calls attention and also is a part of the strings story.
At the beginning of the electric guitar era, different labels equipments as Gibson, Fender, Gretsch, Epiphone, Rickenbaker were manufactured as effective cost instruments, whose origin were from "Yankeeland", Europe and Sun Flower Earth.
From Europe English labels as Vox and Watson were caught to America and sold for a low cost. Vox manufactured guitars in Italy (to escape for high tax from English treasury) in the same factory where were manufactured guitars whose labels as Eko, Goya and Elektra. Silverstone, for example, was one of the first pioneering labels to be expanded in America.
Manufactured in Japan by Teisco, these guitars were sold by Sears Store e by a low amount of 30 to 55 dollar (A Fender Stratocaster in that time cost about 240 dollars). That is, was considered formerly as an instrument of low cost, and nowadays they add a new concept: old, bizarre and seldom instruments. From others markets as Russia, Sweden, and England besides the bizarre, some instruments had hilarious appearance…
Teisco label is a binding reference in terms of bizarre guitars. The company that manufactured them, has arisen in 1946, is Aoi Onpa Kenkyujo. In 1952, they manufactured the first semi-solid electromagnetic pickup guitar and during all 50 decade, Teisco produced from American instruments a reduced cost copies. Let´s say, Gibson and Fender. Only semi-acoustic models had a different design, but influenced “slightly” by “American way of life”.
In the middle of 60´s, Teisco produced solid, bizarre design instruments. Were considered as foolish instruments by gringo, and these Japanese low cost guitars nibbled a subtle piece in the market. Because of cultural chauvinism from that era, however, in terms of market has not attained to. Nowadays, they are loved and brawled by compulsive collectors. Teisco guitars can be found in different several logotype and terminology. Here are some examples: Teisco, Teisco Del Rey, Kawai, Kingston, Kent, Heit, Kimberly and Silverstone.
I had the opportunity to play and later sell many Teisco guitars.
In Japanese market, the price can vary the average between 300 to 800 dollars, depending on model and the maintenance state.
In America, about 150 to 200 dollars, it´s possible to buy an old Teisco. The models the most disputed as Teisco “May Queen” of 1968 cost about 1500 dollars.
The first Teisco that arise “Del Rey” firebird model has respectively very strange rough ergonomic design. The price? Sold by 500 dollars with original case. To who may like Teisco or want to know it access:

I feel certain, that Teisco instruments can help you to re-define some market concepts. If that time, the low cost labels were parallel passing through to manufacturer as Fender, Gibson, Gretsch and Rickenbaker offering lower prices, and also a far visual concept from Strato / Les Paul standard. Making one a part, will never like Rickenbaker, I consider him bizarre in the opposite side. That is, rough and bad related to building. My friend Naofumi as well.
However, the bizarre universe isn´t restricted to only Teisco instruments or Vox. We made an interesting list. Some are familiar “brands”, but others not as many as.
That´s it, labels and sub labels that made instruments history for 50, 60 and starting of 70 decades.
Alamo, Kay, Valco, Harmony, Hagstrom, Guild, Stromberg, Mosrite, Baldwin, Larson, Supro, Gilchrist, Burns, Goya, Electra, Eko, Norma, Framus, Davoli, Galant, Egmond, Crucianelli, Levin, Marius, Zerosette, Orfeus, Hohner, Polverini, Dixon, Maya, Aristom, Dynacord, Welson, Gemelli, E-Ros, Excelsior, Melody, Wandre, Sekova, Crest, Univox, Bigsby, Ampeg Dan Armstrong, Maccaferri, Veleno, Kalamazoo, Danelectro, Dynelctron, Watson, Hofner, Airline, Fasan, Migma, Klira, Wilson, Harvey Thomas Guitars, Micro-Frets, Orpheum, Aelita, Amka, Watkins, Hoyer, Shiva, Mastro and Oahu.
And some Japanese as:
Guyatone, Kawai, Firstman, Galan, Hondo, Aria Pro, Tokai, Maya, Eros, Hitachi, Galama, Gaban, Navigator, Greco, Bunny, Thunder, Fresher, Joodee, Gibbon, Hisonus, Hosono, Westminster, Weldone, Sakura, Sakai, Stagg, Winston, Kasuga, Pro-Ceed, Fernandes, Rokugen, Alpha and Riverhead.
It´s not as many as labels, but the major seen before has through by our riddle in Japan. Were guitars that proposed the fragments rescue of guitars history.

Sound and Architecture
In terms of design, Americans can opt for pompous and colonial forms. The major manufacturer is proceeded from European East, that is, Anglo-Saxon side. From this, can explain some labels sumptuousness and over simplicity for others. No “mid-term”.
Japanese always copy Americans, but ransom came to Teisco and Navigator labels. Both changed the revolution of concepts and futurist citations, nowadays, are reverenced.
Italians that always flatter and consider themselves papa designer, don´t make any ostentation. Only some good ideas and no more.
But for Englishman, if you produce “ugly things” as Watson and Watkins guitars as said before my friend Naofumi “you will need improve more to call them bizarre or bad. And this: will be considered doubtable quality”.
Related to timbre, bizarre guitars will flirt better with classic rock, punk, blues and pop sound music. The bizarre guitars will be far from metal. Before someone ´s complaint, B.C. Rich, Kramer, Hamer, Jackson and others … only in 80´s. These are eighties arrogance we will see in the next stuff. Saying that 70´s and 80´s arrogance as Gibson as Fender also produced in this period “bizarre things”. Not even the big company seen before is immune to this. Who knows in the next future, I will be fully telling about it.
Backing to sound, it was rare to find a bizarre old guitar with good electrical parts. Pickups are noisy, low end and sound was fine thin. The components suggested a journey to retro time. The control knobs from an old Teisco, for example, are estimable pieces and found in any antique fair. Bridges, Peg heads and Shield always are a difference, exquisite visually and far common sense.
Bizarre or not
What is the real meaning of bizarre? The wisers says: noble, graceful, extravagant and strange.
Graceful and noble for some people strange and poor for others. The expert definition shows different taste and this we can´t discuss.
Imagine that you found a copy Gibson Les Paul guitar logotype Gibbon (that´s just it, isn´t that?) it´s bizarre, and a subliminal arrogance form.
Bizarre is that instrument that aggregate visual elements (future and retro), different technical supplies and sense that runs from sky to hell no more one second… that is, or you love or you hate…
If for some people a Japanese navigator Char model is considered bizarre, what can we say about 1916 Mozzani acoustic guitar / Lira Maccaferri? Or even Veleno guitar Traveler model one made for Mark Farner guitarist from Grand Funk?
This thing of bizarre has personal meaning. Do you remember the Hammer five arms guitar from Cheap Trick guitarist, Rick Nielsen ?
And the Foghat guitarist (Lonesone Dave Peveret) square guitar? Or Any Michael Angelo´s two necks or more guitar model?
For purists and traditional, the bizarre guitars are time loss or spent money. For that people who loves it, there is no more than disgusting and common a Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul. Who likes here are some links related to:

One day Naofumi said: “good equipment must be: a good Gibson Les Paul, a Fender Stratocaster, or Telecaster, an acoustic Martin guitar and a guitar Floyd Rose pickup. But if you feel bored…buy a bizarre guitar”.

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