Saturday, August 4, 2018

Guyatone Guitars

The Japanese guitar industry has a very interwoven history. One of the earliest guitar manufacturers in Japan, Guyatone, began production in 1933.

Guyatone Guitars
Matsuki Seisakujo, the name of the original company, was founded by a cabinet maker’s apprentice Mr. Mitsuo Matsuki and friend Mr. Atsuo Kaneko. If you read my previous article on Teisco guitars, it will become evident that Atsuo Kaneko was also the partner of Doryu Matsuda, and one of the principle founders that started Teisco Guitars in 1946. However, Guyatone was in business over a decade, before Teisco.

Mr. Atsuo Kaneko (center)
Mr. Matsuki was an apprentice at a cabinetry firm, and enrolled in night classes to study electronics. Mr. Kaneko got his start playing Hawaiian music in Japan, which was popular at the time. Kaneko also played Spanish guitar.

Kaneko was a friend of Matsuki, and he suggested that they build electric Hawaiian guitars. So by the late 1930’s the Matsuki Seisakujo (company) was set up. The name translates to the Matsuki Joiner Company. They began by building electric lap steel guitars in the style of that era’s Rickenbacker guitars for domestic use. These early instruments sold under the Guya brand name.

China Japan War  Manchura 1931
In 1940 the company had to halt production since Matsuki was drafted into the Japanese Army to fight in the war between Japan and China. This last until 1945 when the war ended.

Upon returning Matsuki formed his own business and called it Matsuki Denki Onkyo Kenkyujo or Matsuki Electric Sound Laboratory. This would explain the departure of Atsuo Kaneko, who had become involved with Teisco during the ensuing years.

After the war, Matsuki production restarted and the Guyatone  name was used on the companies instruments and products. This company not only made electric guitars, but also built amplifiers, and cartridges used for record players.

For those unfamiliar with “record players”, may I digress for a moment.

1950's record player

Record players were originally called phonographs, and played vinyl records on a turntable. By the late 1940’s these “record players” contained an amplifier. The grooves on the vinyl disk were read by a needle on the end of an arm or aperture.

Guyatone A-16 tone arm

The needle was attached to an electronic cartridge, which was an electro-mechanical transducer that picked up the signal from the grooves.

Guyatone C-2 phone cartridge
These vibration were turned into electrical signals and sent it to the amplifier. The cartridge essentially worked like a guitar pickup. In fact Chet Atkins and Les Paul both took apart old phonographs to use the cartridges as pickups on their first acoustic guitars.

So let us get back to the Guyatone story:

Guyatone was manufacturing a lot of record player cartridges and this market was boosted after their products were being used by NHK, a government owned broadcasting station.

In the early to mid 1950’s the company’s name was changed to Tokyo Sound Company (which also leads to some confusion with Teisco). It was later changed to Guya Company Ltd., but later was changed back to Tokyo Sound Company.

1950's Guyatone Guitar

By July 1956 the Tokyo Sound Factory began large scale production. During the late 1950’s to the early 1960’s they were producing up to 1500 electric lap steel guitars, 1600 electric guitars and basses, 2000 guitar amplifiers, and 5000 microphones every month. These were distributed and exported under different brand names.

Early photo of employees
of the Hoshino Gakki Company

In Japan the Hoshino Gakki Company exported Guyatone guitars and products under the Star and the Ibanez brand names.

Hank Marvin with his Antoria LG-50
In the United Kingdom, the James T. Coppock Leeds Ltd imported Guyatone products under the Antoria brand name. Some well know players got their start playing these guitars including Hank Marvin, Marty Wilde, Rory Gallagher, Johny Guitar, Jeff Beck, and even Ringo Starr, who played drums and guitar with Rory and the Hurricaines.

From the Bell Music catalog

Some of these instruments were imported by the Bell Music Company and sold under the Guyatone brand.

Early 1960's Selmer Freshman

Selmer of Paris imported some Futurama guitars made by Guyatone, although most came from the Drevokov Company of Czechoslovakia. They were also imported under the Broadway brand.

Selmer - Guyatone catalog

Here is the mid 1960's Selmer/Guyatone catalog.

1940 Buegeleisen and Jacobson

In the United States, Buegeleisen and Jacobson of New York City were importing Guyatones and badging them under the Kent brand, the Saturn brand, the Starlight brand, and the Royalist brand.

Tokyo Sound Company

In 2013 the Tokyo Sound Company closed up shop and transferred ownership of the Guyatone name to Hiroshi Matsuki, the son of the company’s founder, and brother of the company’s current CEO.

It took about a year, but the company reorganized, and reopened. The company manufactures mostly parts and effects pedal now. They currently maintain an office in Oswego, Illinois. Guyatone built some excellent and unique instruments from the 1950's through the 1980's.

Guyatone LG-40

Here is the Guyatone LG-40 built in 1959.

Guyatone LG-65

I saw many, many of these Guyatone guitars pictured here, most were being sold in pawn shops in the mid 1960's. Some had tremolo units, but many did not.

Guyatone GT-70 Star

Another model that was popular in the mid 1960's,was the model GT-70 Star.

One method of distinguishing Guyatone guitars from Teisco is the slanted string bar that is on the instruments peg head just above the nut.  This model was sold under the Star brand, and the Ibanez brand. The body shape is used today on the Ibanez Talman models.

Hound Dog Taylor with his model 1860. 
One of the most famous artists that was known for using this model was Bluesman, Hound Dog Taylor. It was also known as the Rhythm Maker model 1860. Another famous artist that used this guitar was a young Jimi Hendrix, who traded his Danelectro for one of these guitars.

Guyatone LG-60B

One of the most well-known and respected Irish blues musicians was Rory Gallagher. During his early career he owned and played a Guyatone LG-60B. This is his guitar and is on display at Harrod's of London. Hank Marvin started out playing an Astoria LG-50, in his early days of playing guitar for Cliff Richard and the Drifters.

1965 LG-130T

This model was also popular during the mid to late 1960's, and perhaps was Guyatone's take on the Stratocaster. This is their model LG-130T.

Photos by Bill Menting

These are the Guyatone guitars that I recall being sold in pawn shops and some music stores back in the mid-1960's: the model EG-90, the model 1202 bass, the model 1830 small body, and the model 1830 large body, and the set neck model 1860.

Tulio brand guitar, made by Guyatone

Some of these were sold under the Guyatone brand, and some under the Ibanez brand, and of course some jobbers put the retailers brand name, such as this 1960's Guyatone sold under the Tulio brand name.

Guyatone M-66
12 electric 12 string

As the 1960's progressed, the  sound of the 12 string electric guitar gained popularity in pop and rock music. This is a mid 1960's Guyatone electric 12 string guitar.

Kent Model 820

Here is a mid 1960 Kent model 820 hollow body electric, with a gorgeous stripe on its side. The neck is a bolt on type, and has a skunk stripe down its middle.

Silvertone 1445

Most all of the major department store chains sold Guyatone guitars at their stores and through their catalogs. Here is a late 1960's Silvertone 1445, which was heavily influenced by that era's Mosrite guitars, right down to the German carve.

Guyatone LG-350T-DX

This is a Guyatone model LG-350T DX, that was sold only in Japan. It may have been built as a homage to professional motor sports legend Nobuhiro Tajima. This was an original and very unique guitar. It has a bolt-on neck, a blue sparkle finish, and an unusual vibrato system.

Model LG-160T

One of the more unusual Guyatone models was the model LG-160T Telstar. This was considered a very good instrument in its day. FYI, Telstar was the first communications satellite launched in July of 1962, and was a very big deal at the time. It even inspired a popular song, of they day produced by Joe Meek.

1975 LS-380

By 1975 Guyatone was making replica guitars, sometimes under the Ibanez brand name.

1960's Guyatone amplifier

Guyatone also made amplifiers such as this 1960's version such as this model GA-520.

1960's Guyatone amplifier

Here is a more powerful model, the GA-620. Both had point-to-point wiring.

1970's Guyatone GA-1030 Reverb

By the 1970's Guyatone amplifiers were clones of silver-face Fender amplifiers.

1970's Guyatone GA-1050 Reverb Jazz

Here is a 1970's Guyatone replica of a Fender Twin Reverb.

Guyatone US
Guyatone is still in business, but now concentrates on effects pedals and parts.

1 comment:

Glenn Lazzaro said...

Thanks Marc, Awesome as usual!