KAPA Guitars was founded in 1963 by a Dutch immigrant named Koob Veneman.
Mr. Veneman was the owner of Veneman's Music Emporium, a musical instrument store in Silver Spring Maryland.
During the early 1960’s Veneman made the decision to build his own unique line of guitars. This was the years of the British Invasion and the Guitar Boom and Mr. Veneman wanted his piece of the pie.
Hofner with Watkins Amplifier
Many of the guitars in stock at the Veneman store consisted of guitars that were imported from Germany and Italy.
The connections with these companies provided him with an excellent oportunity to purchase supplies from overseas manufacturers. His plan was to order guitar parts from European suppliers, assemble them in Edsmonston Maryland where the guitars bodies were created.
The necks, pickups and electronics originally came from German manufacturer Hofner. The guitars generally were equipped with two slider switches to control on/off function of the pickups, which is typical of Hofner's design of the 1960’s. In the company's later years they made their own pickups, which looked similar to Hofner units.
The tuners were made by Schaller. Kapa made his own bridges and tremolo assemblies. Most KAPA guitars are equipped with the tremolo.
KAPA necks are ultra thin, which is sort of a ’60 thing. Guitarists wanted to play fast and for some odd reason, manufacturers equated this with skinny necks instead of low action. In fact, Gibson ES-335’s of this era had thin necks.
The bodies also were thin in comparison to Fender and Gibson bodies.
KAPA was able to sell it's instruments at a price well below the competitors.
It was rumored that Fender filed a lawsuit against Kapa in the 1960's, although I cannot seen to find anything to verify a suit. If anyone knows about this, email me.
It is interesting that KAPA 12 string guitars came out around the same time that Fender released the Fender XII.
The cost of the KAPA was almost half of the Fender instrument.
To the unfamiliar, one could mistake a KAPA for a Fender guitar, based on it's Jaguar and Stratocaster-like shapes and the shape of the headstock. The KAPA logo used script on the headstock was very similar to what we call the Fender Spaghetti script. However the KAPA logo had a circle with a crest in the middle that was similar to the Veneman family crest.
KAPA guitars were founded on some great principals set up by the Venemans. The instruments were well made, playable and affordable. Plus they were made in the USA.
The guitar boom eventually wound down. Competition was fierce. And Asian made instruments were getting better all the time.
During the companies final years some of the production was outsourced to Japan, no doubt due to the high cost of labor.
Finally in 1970 KAPA ceased production and sold it's assets to Mosrite and Microfret Guitar Companies. Mosrite also outsourced the KAPA instruments production to Japan.
One of the earliest models produced by KAPA was called The Challenger which had a Strat-like body. In 1966 the name was changed to The Continental, which had a slightly different shape.
The Cobra was a slightly smaller instrument with just one pickup. The Wildcat was another instrument that slightly resembled a Stratocaster and it had three pickups.
One of the more well known KAPA guitars was called The Minstrel.
This was a 12 string guitar that had a tear drop shaped body sort of resembling an electric lute.
These instruments were also being produced during the same time Vox was selling guitars and the Vox Teardrop was one of their most popular models.
KAPA also made a hollow body model called the 506. It resembled a Gibson ES-335. The headstock on this guitar was three-on-a-side. The KAPA script was engraved, instead of being placed as a decal.
The metal trapeze tailpiece was also engraved with the KAPA name and was similar to one Hofner used on their guitars. This guitar was built in Japan with German parts. There were other guitars in the KAPA 500 series, all were made in Japan.
KAPA guitars are still available through collectors and sellers. If set up properly they are nice and affordable players.
It is also wonderful that KAPA guitars were a product of the United States.
I have recently learned of the passing of Koob Veneman. May God bless him and his family. He left his mark in the history as a luthier and enteprenuer.