Kawai was founded in 1927 in the town of
Hamamatsu with the goal of building quality pianos. The founder was Japan . Koichi Kawai
The 1950’s signaled a new era. Baby boomers wanted their children to have things they never had, including a music education. I recall door-to-door accordion salesmen promising parents, their offspring could really go far if they would just sign up for lessons on the squeezebox and buy a starter accordion. Country music was evolving more into the pop market, so the guitar was a natural for the youngster.
|Kawai and Apollo Electric Guitars|
Around 1964, the British Invasion hit and subsequently flooded the market with inexpensive Asian made instruments, most of which were wild designs based on some American models. By the late 1960’s, there was a glut of bizarre cheap guitars that looked like they were designed by
. Many had as many as four pickups and a few came with five pickups. Franz Kafka
|Kawai Guitars sold under the Dominoe Brand.|
By 1967, Kawai purchased the Teisco company and began exporting guitars under the Teisco, Telestar,
Kimberly and Domino brand names. They also built guitars for the large St. Louis Music company under the Apollo brand. During this year, I definitely recall seeing Teisco and Dominoe guitars offered in music stores and pawn shops.
The designs grew weirder. By 1968, the Teisco May Queen appeared. The company offered an axe-shaped guitar long before
They also offered a banjo shaped six string guitar the called the Splendor. Most of their product line were solid body instrument that used soft wood for the bodies. However, Kawai and its subsequent brands also built hollow bodied and acoustic instruments.
|Hound Dog Taylor with his Kawai Guitar|
|Kawai manufacture Kay on left - Kawai model on right|
What puzzles me is how much these instruments are fetching. I have seen people asking $800 to $900 US dollars for Kawai brands that originally sold anywhere from $25 to $50 in the late 1960’s. Yes, the shapes are interesting. Yes, from a collectors point of view the prices are less than what is asked for a 1957 Stratocaster. In my opinion, they were not great players back then and are not getting any better. However, from the point of being unusual and unique, Kawai guitars and all of its brands, live up to that standard.