Saturday, December 26, 2009

Futurama Guitar

Upon thinking back to the years that I first started learning to play guitar, I was fascinated by the guitars that I saw famous musicians playing.

I can recall looking at fan magazines and seeing George Harrison and Gerry Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers) playing this unusual looking Fender guitar. At least to my young eyes it appeared to be a Fender.

It was not until years later that I discovered both these guitars were Futurama guitars made in Czechoslovakia and imported to the U.K. As I have mentioned before the import duty on U.S. made products was extremely high because Britain was still paying off the War debt. So trade with the United States was not discouraged, but expensive. European instruments were readily available, so German and Italian instruments were plentiful.

French-made Selmer amplifiers were very popular in Britain going back to the 1950’s. Around 1957 Selmer began importing a three pickup solid body guitar from the Drevokov Co-operative which was a manufacturer in Czechoslovakia that made furniture and electric guitars.

The brand on the guitars was Resonet. With its 3 single coil, plastic covered pickups with exposed pole pieces and it tremolo bar it was the closest thing to a Stratocaster to those on a budget. Selmer did not think the name Resonet was good for Rock and Roll, so the name was updated by Selmer to Futurama. Now mind you, this is the same company that produced Maccaferi's guitar.

This very early version, called simply "Futurama" is the model that George Harrison used.

It is characterized by the natural finished maple or sometimes beech body and neck, although some later ones did in fact have a rosewood fingerboard.

The double sided headstock was fitted with three-on-a-plate tuners, and the white scratch plate covers the majority of the body top. Body material was either beech or maple.

It seems that the earliest models available in the UK had Grazioso on the headstock and Resonet on the upper bout section of the white scratchplate. (George Harrison's guitar had Resonet on the scratchplate, but it did not say Grazioso on the headstock.)

In 1959, the original Futurama Solid Guitar was replaced by a similar looking instrument that Selmer called the Futurama III. Some of the features on this guitar were modified from the original. The most visible was the change from light fingerboards to dark ones, to keep up with Fender’s switch. The tremolo bar assembly was improved upon. This guitar was manufactured by a different company, but it was still in Czechoslovakia. The company was called Czechoslovak Music Instruments or CSHN in Czech.

The neck/fingerboard on Harrison’s guitar is probably maple that was darkened. The 3 on a side headstock is reminiscent of Leo Fender’s Telecaster prototype. I wonder if the manufacturers were aware of the similarity?

I've already mentioned that guitar importers wanted their instruments to have Spanish sounding names to equate the instrument to being manufactured in Spain, which at the time produced the finest quality classical/flamenco guitar.

It was in 1960 when the company updated their guitars to have a six on a side headstock. The finishes went from just sunburst to offering a red finish as well.

Selmer seems to have continued the line through 1963 and then dropped it from their catalogue.

By then Hagström began using the Futurama name. This evolved into an upscale version that Hagström called the Coronado.

This guitar came in 3 versions and a bass. All models included accordion-like switches to control the pickups and tone.

One model even had an acrylic fingerboard with the claim that it was impervious to warp and perspiration.



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Eric said...

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