Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hoyer Guitars

Randy Bachman collects Hoyer guitars.  That ought to make your ears perk up. Besides being a first rate rock guitarist and singer, Bachman is one of the foremost guitar collectors in the world. Here is a man that knows guitars.  He recently sold a part of the collection that he had amassed over a 30-year period. Fred Gretsch of Gretsch Guitars purchased his entire cache of 360 vintage Gretsch instruments.These will be housed in the Gretsch museum.  


When Gretsch restarted the business, he owned no original models. The originals were destroyed in a fire at the Arkansas based factory.  At the time, Gretsch was able to borrow some of Bachman’s collection as a basis for the measurements of the current Gretsch guitars.

As I alluded to, Bachman is  a collector of Hoyer guitars. When it comes to guitars, Hoyer is one of Germany's best-kept secrets. The company started in 1874 and to this day is building excellent guitars. In my opinion, the guitars they produced in the 1950’s through the 1960’s are the best. 

The wood is beautiful, the woodworking is classic with the German Carve on the bodies perimeter, the f-holes are unique to Hoyer and included a lightening bolt style and a cats eye style reminiscent of Rickenbacker guitars. These guitars are works of art and craftsmanship.

As for some background, in 1874, Franz Hoyer followed in his families business of making stringed instruments. His son, Joseph, opened his own shop at this time to concentrate on building classic and folk guitars. 

By 1945, Hoyer had to leave Schönbach, which was the town his family had lived. At the end of the ware, the town became part of the Czech Republic. The family settled near the town of Erlangen, in Bavaria.

Erlangen was home to many instrument artisans, including Fred Wilfer, who founded Framus guitars. Shortly after the relocation, Hoyer’s son Arnold took over the company.

By 1948, Hoyer guitars were making a name as preeminent Jazzgitarran in Germany.  By the 1950’s most Hoyer guitars were semi-acoustic and equipped with pickups. By the end of the 1950’s, the company had started  producing solid body guitars.

Arnold Hoyer passed away in 1967 and his son Walter took over the business. Walter concentrated mainly on the line of electric guitars and classical instruments. Quality, design and beautiful wood were hallmarks of Hoyer. During the 1960’s, Hoyer even invented a guitar with a foldaway neck.

In 1977, Walter Hoyer left the business. His staff of luthiers ran it through 1987 when the company closed its door. Three years later it was purchase by a German acquisition group. They concentrated building a contemporary line of solid body instruments. Much of the production was outsourced to Asia, though some high-end instruments were still built domestically. 

In 2005, AMC Compernass, a company owned by Michael Compernass acquired the Hoyer brand name. 


By 2009, a UK company, Ritter Europe LTD entered into an agreement with AMC for the purchase of Hoyer. Compernass has stayed on to provide expertise and by the sole distributor in the German market.  The company is still building guitars in Germany and importing some from the Far East.


However the golden years of Hoyer stretched from 1945 to the end of the 1960's, when they produced gorgeous German-crafted, hand-built guitars. 


The top-of-the-line guitar for Hoyer is the Special SL. This guitar combines many of the features of the Bianka and the Special. The body is similar to the Hoyer Special, but has black or white pearloid inlay surrounding the top, much like the Bianka. The top and bottom sides are bound with large herringbone inlay. The top is carved spruce and the back and sides are flamed maple.

The Special SL has cats eye tone holes that are bound with herringbone inlay. The controls come mounted on a metal plate. On some models the controls mounted in the traditional manner. The usual Hoyer rolling bridge is used. The bound neck is flamed maple and came with a traditional ebony fretboard with bow-tie style markers. 

It also came with a white plasticized fretboard with black bow-tie position markers. The tailpiece was elaborate and interesting.


One of the most beautiful instruments was the Hoyer Bianka. The body is carved from spruce, with unusual engraving. This engraved top is emphasized by the German carve. The top of the body bears a beautiful pearloid border and bound by a white plastic inlay. But for the pickups and controls, the back of the body mirrors the front. The sound-holes are lightening bolt style, the body is extra wide, the neck is flame maple with laminated mahogany strips, and the six individual tuners have engraved buttons. In the break between the neck and headpiece is a large volute.

The fretboard is bound ebony with sort of bow-tie inlays. The metal roller bridge saddle is unique and so is the tailpiece. The roller bridge is unusual since the guitar does not have a vibrato.  The controls sit on a chromed metal pad on the lower bout. The parallelogram pickups are unique to Hoyer guitars. Looking closely, the output jack is an old-style DIN plug. The sunburst Bianka is even more stunning.

The Hoyer Special does not have the engraving of the Bianka, or the German carve or even the lightening bolt inlays. It is a more subtle instrument with bound cats eye sound holes and a beautiful tailpiece. The arched top is carved from spruce and the back and sides are flame maple. Both front and back come bordered with herringbone inlay. The neck is laminated with maple and mahogany. The bound ebony fretboard is similar to the Bianka’s and has a zero fret. The tuners had engraved pegheads.

This guitar also came as a twin pickup electric model with the Hoyer parallelogram pickups. It was available in with a natural or red sunburst finish. Some models have the metal plate to house the controls. Later models have more traditional controls that were mounted into the wood.  This guitar came in acoustic or electric models. Some of the electric models featured the Hoyer parallelogram pickups and others featured pickups that appear to be made by DeArmond.

A most unusual guitar manufactured by Hoyer sometimes did not bear the Hoyer logo. Instead, the headstock read Herr Im Frack or Gentleman Dressed for the Evening. This all black hollow archtop bore a small round soundhole as well as twin cats eye soundholes. The black non-cutaway body was bound, front and back, in white pearloid inlay.

The neck was bound in white and came with a rosewood fretboard inlaid with white blocks, except for the 12th fret, which had a red marker, mimicking a bowtie. The guitar had the zero fret, which is found on most Hoyers. The usual Hoyer roller bridge saddle was paired with a beautiful gold-plated tailpiece. The headstock was bound in white and bore the name Herr Im Frack in gold pearloid lettering. 


Hoyer also produced a very unusual model, somewhat similar to the Herr Im Frack. They called this the Volttal. The instrument was not as fancy. It bore the Hoyer logo. The bizarre feature was the 18 individual sound holes that surrounded the body's perimeter.

The Hoyer Soloist was a beautiful guitar. Different models had different features. It came in a very plain natural version with a spruce top and maple back, sides and neck.  The body was bound with white inlay, the bound neck featured an ebony fretboard with small position markers. The headstock came with 3 white pearloid inlays. The machine heads were plain with pearloid buttons. A fancier version of the Soloist was also available with a multi-striped top that featured alternating strips of spruce and mahogany. It was bound with triangulated wood pieces.


Without a doubt the most bizarre Hoyer guitar was the Fantastik model.  This was sort of an experimental instrument that Hoyer created and sold. Due to its unusual construction, it became  known as the organ guitar.

The body is constructed of six wooden pipes or tubes lined up in three differing lengths. Each pipe is an individual resonator and each has a sound hole. The beautifully carved body is lined with a dark binding.  The back of the guitar is flat. 

The guitars accoutrements include a trapeze tailpiece, the Hoyer roller bridge; white binding on the back of the body and Hoyer fancy butterfly shaped tuning buttons. The guitars ebony fretboard came bound in white and came with unusual white inlays, but for the 12th fret, which had a red inlay

The unusual pointed headstock came bound with black and white strips and adorned in fancy script announcing this was an Arnold Hoyer guitar. A DeArmond floating pickup attached to the scratchplate topped the body and contained the output jack, volume, and tone control.

As futuristic, well constructed, and thought out as this instrument was, according to those that played it, the instrument did  not have much of an acoustic sound. However, it was surely and eye catcher.


Though many US music stores offer new Hoyer guitars, one would be hard pressed to find a used Hoyer in the USA. They occasionally show up on eBay.eBay.



13 comments:

NJL27 said...

I was researching the internet to try and get an idea as to the age of my Arnold Hoyer guitar( think it is mid to late 50’s).
I came across your fantastic website and decided that you may be interested to know that there is another Arnold Hoyer guitar down under.
I can attach photos ( not sure how to do that yet) of the guitar that I have owned for 30 odd years.
The guitar is almost totally original, I had to replace one of the “plastic” tuners and have had the cable rewired but it still plays and resonates beautifully.
The guitar is a long way away from it’s original home so I hope this creates some interest .

NJL27 said...

I was researching the internet to try and get an idea as to the age of my Arnold Hoyer guitar( think it is mid to late 50’s).
I came across your fantastic website and decided that you may be interested to know that there is another Arnold Hoyer guitar down under.
I can attach photos ( not sure how to do that yet) of the guitar that I have owned for 30 odd years.
The guitar is almost totally original, I had to replace one of the “plastic” tuners and have had the cable rewired but it still plays and resonates beautifully.
The guitar is a long way away from it’s original home so I hope this creates some interest .

Anonymous said...

Hi I recently came upon a Hoyer guitar with a serial number of 013745. Any info on it would be great thanks!!!!

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Anonymous said...

I have a Hoyer "fold-axe"in average condition,would like to restore it.I would like to get an appraisal to see if its worth while doing it.Any info is appreciated.

Songsmith said...

I recently acquired an Arnold Hoyer triple-neck steel guitar that I believe is from the 50's or 60's. It is a beautiful instrument, covered with "mother-of-pearl" and it plays great. It's all original, with original hard case, and all the electronics work. I've been trying to research this guitar on-line, but can find no references to steel guitars by Hoyer. Can anyone give me any info about this guitar?

Helmuth Lemme said...

Hi,

I am the man who wrote the article "The Secrets of Electric Guitar
Pickups" at "www.buildyourguitar.com/resources/lemme"
and the book "Electric Guitars made in Germany" (together with Norbert Schnepel). During my research in the eighties I visited the Hoyer company in Erlangen/ Germany several times. The old employees (which are all dead now) told me a lot about the history.

A comment to the parallelogram pickups used on Hoyer guitars in the early sixties: These were made by Schaller. Inside they are the same as the other Schaller pickups made in these times, only the
parallelogram shaped plastic cover was custom made for Hoyer. I
repaired some of these pickups which were dead. This was a horrible job. They don't have a bobbin, the wires are wound in an open ring.

Also most of the other pickups on old Hoyers were made by Schaller,
such as the ones with six screws in the middle and pole pieces near the edge under three strings each, as well as the controls. The two rotary switches with lever knobs (pickup selector and tone selector) were used on many old German guitars, not only Hoyers but also Framus, Hopf, and some others.

I asked Schaller for these pickups. They do not have them anymore on stock. The lever knobs are still on stock.

Helmuth E. W. Lemme
kontakt@gitarrenelektronik.de

Marc said...

Helmuth, you are a most fortunate individual Thank you so much for your story. I had no idea that Hoyer used Schaller pickups. I have another article on Framus guitars that may be of interest to you.

Best wishes,
Marc O'Hara

Anonymous said...

Hi, Just wondered if you knew anything about this Hoyer guitar. It was found in a garage which hand't been opened for about 30 years

http://s1087.photobucket.com/user/quicktime211/media/DSC00562.jpg.html

Marc said...

Anonymous, I haven't got a clue! Is it a guitar, a banjo, a bedpan, what?

That is one of the most unusual guitars I have come across.

Thanks.

Marc

Uli Vogel said...

Wow, nice hoyer there

should be built around 1965 i guess

I live in germany and have a decent collection of hoyer guitars, from the 1960ies to 1987

they all were hand built in germany by skilled luthiers as Helmut Lemme said. the wood used was best choice and beginning in ca. 1983 you could custom order special guitars later to be delivered to your local shop. i personally own at least 2 of these typ of guitars.

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to get a late 50s Hoyer 12 string acoustic for £12! http://youtu.be/PkvXeqMgrJo