Saturday, May 11, 2019

Vintage Hagstrom Guitars - 1958 to 1967

Dodds Music Store

I started playing guitar when I was 13 years old, and took lessons at Dodd’s Music Store in Covington, Kentucky. That is where I fell in love with the guitar. I would hang out at that place before, and after my guitar lesson, and even go there after school, just to check out the guitars.

Vintage Hagstrom Guitars

On a section of one wall was a display of six unusual guitars made by Hagstrom. Some of them looked like guitars made by Fender.

The six-on-a-side headstock, had the brand “Hagstrom” written in script similar to Fender’s spaghetti-style font. In smaller letters you could read Albin Hagstrom.

Aside from the lesser price, the big difference between Hagstrom and Fender was that Hagstrom guitars had thinner bodies, and a lot of slider switches. At that age, I did not know that the vibrato was a much different system than the one on a Fender Stratocaster, or even a Jazzmaster. But all those switches were mighty impressive to someone learning basic guitar chords.

Hagstrom King Neck Decal

One of the selling features, which was printed on a metallic decal on the back of the Hagstrom guitar headstock, was their “King Neck”.

Hagstrom Expander-Stretcher H-Rod
This feature refers to the unique “H Expander-Stretcher” truss rod. Hagstrom advertised that they were the "Fastest necks in the World". I don’t know about fast, but the necks on those old Hagstrom guitars were certainly among the thinnest.

Albin Hagstrom

Mr. Albin Hagström began importing accordions from Germany and Italy to Sweden in 1925 and founded Firma Albin Hagström. Albin expanded his business with shops in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

Hagstrom Store Drottninggatan Stockholm
In fact most of his business was devoted to music stores, that sold his accordions.

An Early Hagstrom Accordion

In 1932 he started manufacturing accordions himself in Älvdalen, Sweden. By 1936, Hagström hired two Italian accordion builders who helped to update and streamline the manufacturing process.

Then in 1939 Hagström started to establish themselves in USA by opening Hagstrom Music Company Inc in Rockefeller Center in New York as well as Albin Hagstrom Inc in Jamestown, New York.

Late 1940's and Early 1950's Guitars
The company had offered guitars as early as the late 1940's, but primarily was known as an accordion manufacturer, and distributor.

However, in 1940 the launch in Jamestown was canceled due to World War II and the people hired to run the company disappeared with the company's funds.

After the war ended,  Sven Hillring was sent over from Sweden to oversee a new launch of the new accordion factory in Jamestown,  New York. This was in 1946. Men serving in WWII were coming home with accordions, and in a few years the "stomach Steinway" would become a brief fad. The Hagstrom U.S branch stayed in business until 1949. To take advantage of America's  accordion craze, Hagstrom was there to provide the instruments.

But in 1958 Albin Hagström's oldest son Karl Erik Hagström came back to Sweden stating that the accordion era was coming towards an end and that the future was rock´n´roll . Rock music demanded electric guitars instead of accordions!

A 1958 Pre-production
P46 Deluxe - #P007
After some research, that included taking a Gibson Les Paul "Goldtop" apart (Hagstrom was the Scandinavian Gibson distributor at that time), the head designer Holger Berglund and his right hand man Arne Hårdén started to design the first Hagstrom electric guitar. A pre-production batch of guitars were built towards the end of 1958.

Those instruments have their serial numbers stamped in their perloid covered bodies starting from P-001. The first "official" batch of Hagstrom electric guitars is batch 449.

The first part of this batch is called the Hagstrom De Luxe "small model" and the last part is the "large model" witch later became the Hagstrom De Luxe 90.

1959 P-24 Smal Model Deluxe

The first batch included 200 guitars that were built from 1958 to 1959.

1959 Standard Sweetone Models

The last batch of these Sparkle & Pearloid guitars included 540 guitars that were built in 1963.

1960 & 61 Goya 80 Hagstrom Guitars

Many of these guitars were sold under the Goya brand name in the United States. This was because importer Jerome Hershman, who had been the sole importer of Levin guitars from Sweden, under the Goya brand, inked a deal to import and distribute Hagstrom guitars in the United States.

The original models were known as the De Luxe “Smal Model” (that is not a typo, It is called Smal) ,which was the first guitar and manufactured from 1958-59.

1959 Hagstrom
4 pickup P-46 Sweetone
These original guitars were covered with perloid plastic on the front and back of the body, the sides, the body, the neck, the fretboard, and the front and back of the headstock. While the guitar’s front was generally done in a sparkle colour, the rest of the body used the pearloid material.

This guitar had two single coil pickup that are surrounded by a metal frame. On the top of the frame were four push button tone controls, as well as two rotary potentionmeters.

In the center of the metal frame, between the two pickups, was a piece of gold or silver foil with diamond shaped patterns.

1959 Goya 90 - P-46
When I was young, I was told the feature was to enhance the sound, if the instrument was played un-amplified. I doubt if this explanation is credible. It was just further adornment.

Below the metal frame that housed the pickups and electronics, was a clear plastic pickguard.

A stamped chrome metal Hagstrom logo was adhered to the upper bout. There was no logo on the headstock.

The tuning machines were of the open backed variety and had ivoroid buttons. The side of the instrument featured a strip of binding in the center. The bridge/saddle was in-distinctive, and not tunable.  The strings attached to a small metal tailpiece. The input jack is on the instruments lower side.

'59 Hagstrom
The updated model known as the Standard “Sweetone”, was introduced in 1959. The features were similar, but the bridge was now made of metal, and on most models it was compensated. This model also was available with a mahogany top.

Next came the Standard 80 and Standard 90 were developed in 1959 and sold through 1962. These mostly came in sparkle models, But the Standard 90 was also available with the Mahogany front. These included similar electronics, but some models included the Hagstrom Tremar system.

1960 Hagstrom Batman P-90
Another very unique, and very rare guitar is the Hagstrom De Luxe Batman guitar. It is also known as the Hagstrom Ducks Foot guitar. This guitar had two pointed cutaway horns, a set neck, and a headstock with points on either end. The electronics were similar to the Standard models, The Batman was available with twin single coil pickups, or with four single coil pickups, It was also offered with a stop tailpiece, or the Hagstrom Tremar system.

This is the only guitar that Karl Erik Hagstrom designed. It was available in varying sparkle finishes, or in a mahogany finish.

1959 Goya 90 - P-24 Deluxe

There were two imported versions of the the Hagstrom Standard 80 and 90 guitars that were called the Goya 80, and Goya 90. These instruments were offered from 1960 to 1962.

1960 Goya 80
The Goya 80 had the same features as the Hagstrom Standard 80, as did the Goya 90. However this is a unique instrument. It had four pickups, instead of two.

Importer/distributor Jerry Hershman considered this instrument to be hard to sell in the United States under the Hagstrom name, so he insisted it be sold with the Goya logo, which, in his opinion, was more familiar to U.S. buyers.

Goya 80 without electronics

Also, because the custom fees were less expensive on acoustic guitars, the Goya 80, and Goya 90 were sold without the electronics, although they were said to have an acoustic pickup. The guitar did have an eighth inch plug running from the input jack to a routed area on the guitar, but since it had no electronics it was considered to be an acoustic instrument.

Goya 80 - P-24 Pickup Unit
Once in the USA, the electronic units were assembled on the instruments. There were four different electronic units available. Some had two pickups, while others had four pickups. The units included the roller knobs for pickup volume, and either four or six tone switches.

From 1962 to 1966 Hagstrom offered some guitars branded under the Kent logo, known as the Kent model PB-24G.

1962 Kent PB-24G and 1963 Kent PG-24G

The reason the guitar was not sold under the Hagstrom brand was that Karl Hagstrom was worried that the acrylic top - pickguard/electronic assembly may crack, and he did not want the Hagstrom name on this product.

This guitars body was shaped like a Fender Stratocaster. Kent guitars were meant for distribution throughout Europe, and the U.K. at a time when guitars imported from the USA had high tariffs.

Hagstrom Kent PB-24G
The top was made of an acrylic material that was dyed either light blue or red so no paint was necessary on the body. The sparkles, and pearl were not to be seen again.

I am told this guitar also came in purple/lavender and orange/brown, but I have never seen this model in those colours.

The center portion of this instrument was raised and was cream coloured. It generally held two single coil pickups with an indented area for the gold or silver foil insert. Though it looked like a scratch plate, it was actually a molded part of the top.

On the bottom were four slider switches which turned the pickups off or on, and changed the tone. The guitar included one master volume knob. Below the volume control is a raised section for the input jack. It resembles an inverted Stratocaster jack.

Hagstrom Kent PB-24 G back

The back of this guitars body was a vinyl covered shell which allowed the body to line up with it, and six bolts and washers around the top's perimeter secured the top in place.

This guitar came with a wooden bridge, that is embedded with eight sections of fretwire as saddles. The strings attach the a Hagstrom Tremar unit. The neck was painted glossy black, as was the six-on-a-side "dolphin" shaped head stork.

Kent Head Stocks

More often the headstocks were painted black if the bodies were blue or red for the guitars with red bodies. They all bore the KENT logo. It was meant to be a budget guitar, but it was not a bad guitar at all. I have seen a few of these guitars with three pickups, and six slider switches.

Kent III New Model
Some of the later models were known as Kent II or Kent New Model. These were labeled as Hagstrom guitars.

By 1963 Hagstrom introduced their "new" models, which were like nothing else on the market, but for the Fender style six-in-line headstock. These were the Impala, the Corvette/Condor, and the Automatic. The twin horns were offset, and there was a slight edge to the bottom of the body.

1964 Hagstrom Impala

The Impala came in red-burst, while the Corvette/Condor, and the Automatic came in brow-burst.  The Corvette had two names. In Europe or the UK, it was the Corvette. Due to trademark infringement, in the USA, it was called The Condor. No one knows why there was not a problem with the Impala, since General Motors also made a car with that trade name,

1964 Hagstrom Corvette

The Impala, and the Condor/Corvette had the same controls, including a three pickup selector knob. Since the Impala only had two pickups, the first position was off, the second position activated the neck pickup, while the third position activated the bridge pickup.

1966 Hagstrom Condor

For the Corvette/Condor, the switch turned each pickup on.  The volume was controlled by a slider switched that was mounted on the side of the pickguard.  The guitar featured eight tonal switches. Both guitars featured an unusual body shape. The input jack was side mounted on both the Impala, and Condor/Corvette. Both guitars featured the Hagstrom Tremar unit.

Condor 4 bass
A bass version of the of the Condor, called The Condor 4 was available. It had a slightly different body shape. This bass model came with a slider switch mounted in the pickguard, and four tonal switches.

Hagstrom had two other models. One was called The Automatic, and was sold under the Hagstrom brand, while the other was called The Futurama Coronado Automatic brand. Both instruments were vary different. Both instruments came with three pickups.

1965 Hagstrom Automatic

The controls for the Automatic were mounted on the pickguard. These featured a single tone, and volume potentiometer. A set of three slider switches that controlled which pickups were active, and two additional switches that I assume are tone controls. The jack was side mounted The body shape of both the Automatic, and the Futurama Coronado were similar to a Fender Jazzmaster.

Hagstrom Futurama Coronado
The Futurama Coronado version was wired totally different. on a raised wood grain scratch plate were three volume controls for each pickup. On the lower bout of the guitar were twelve tonal switches in two rows. The upper row had seven switches, while the lower row had four switches. The jack was side mounted. This was a unique guitar sold only for the European, UK market.

'65 Hagstrom I
The Hagstrom I, II, and III, started out with strat-style bodies in 1963 to 1965. The Hagstrom I was much like the acrylic body Kent Pb-24G, but with the Hagstrom logo.

The Hagstrom II and III retained the same "strat-shape" as the PB-24G but had solid wooden bodies.

The pickups on the II, and III were mounted on an acrylic plate, with four switches, volume knob, and a raised input jack.  The Hagstrom II came with two pickups and the gold/silver foil insert between them. The switches were on/off, for each pickup, a tone switch that activated some capacitors for low or high sounds, and a mute switch.

Selmer "Futurama
Hagstrom-made III and II

The Hagstrom III, also known as the Futurama on the UK market, and distributed there by the French company Selmer, had three single coil pickups, six switches, a volume knob, and the raised input jack. The switches controlled which pickups were active, tone, and one switch muted the guitar. All the instruments came with the Hagstrom Tremar vibrato system.

Hagstrom I with wooden bridge
The Hagstrom I had a wooden bridge saddle, while the Hagstrom II, and III came with a height adjustable compensated metal bridge. There were two types of bridge saddles available; the compensated model, and an adjustable model.

By 1966, the Hagstrom line up added some new guitars, which were distributed in the European, and US market.

1966 Hagstrom F-11

The Hagstrom I with the acrylic body was renamed the F-11. It was a two pickup guitar, available in red, white, light blue, and black.

1966 F-B

A similar bass known as the F-B was offered. It came with a bass neck, and a metal bass that held the strings, with a slanted wooden bridge. However the body was much the same as on the F-11 guitars. The twin single coil pickups had four pole pieces.

The newest models for 1966 were the Hagstrom F-200, the F-
300, F-400 and F-12. The bodies on these guitar had offset cutaways, like a Stratocaster, but the horns were pointed, much like an SG. The thin lacquered wooden bodies on these guitars were beveled on the edges. The bodies were made of birch. These guitars had improved square pickups, with tone rings around each pickup.

1966 F-200

The controls for the F-200 were similar to the older models; an on/off switch for each pickup, a tone switch that changed capacitors for lo-hi sounds, and a switch labeled mute. Another switch was added to the upper bout that was a standby or kill switch that shut off the electronics.

The right handed versions were available in red, white, blue, black, and sunburst, and all came equipped with the Hagstrom Tremar unit.

1966 F-300
The F-300 had an additional pickup, and six switches on the bottom side of the guitar, plus the standby switch on the upper portion of the pickguard.

All of these guitars had black pickguards with the controls mounted on them. Each instrument had only one potentiometer for the volume. The input jack was similar to the one on a Stratocaster, but not as deep. It was mounted on the instruments body.

1966 F-400
This same type of instrument was offered as the F-400 bass, which had two square pickups and metal surrounds, four switches on the pickguard, a volume pot, and a standby switch. The F-400 bass had a flat chrome base that served as a string attachment, and had a wooden slanted bridge.

One thing that is interesting about all of the Hagstrom instruments is the narrow neck, which Hagstrom marketed as the World's Fastest Neck. I don't know about that, but I once owned an F-400 bass, and it was an extremely narrow neck, which in my opinion, was great for a guitar player doubling on bass.

If you are used to playing with a P-bass neck, this would not be your instrument,  Instead of string trees, all Hagstrom necks had a metal bar just above the nut to lower, and direct the strings.

F-300 Neck
The necks on all the guitars and basses were made of maple, with a rosewood fret board, and dot inlays. The headstocks were Fender-like, six-on-a-side style, and the tuners were great. The tuners on the F-400 were enclosed, and comparable to those on any Fender bass.  The literature states that left handed versions of the F-300, and F-400 were only available in red, black, or sunburst.

Joe Long with a Hagstrom F-400

However I have seen a video of the Four Seasons bass player, Joe Long, playing a white Hagstrom F-400. In 1966 my two favorite Hagstrom guitars were the F-12-S, and the Hagstrom Eight String bass.

1966 Hagstrom F-12S
The Hagstrom F-12-S was a 12 string version of the F-200. All the controls were the same as the F-200, but this guitar was set up for 12 strings. The strings went over a metal compensated bridge that was height adjustable, and attached to a stop tail piece. The headstock on this guitar was a flat six-on-each-side style. A badge that said Hagstrom was centered between the strings.

A friend of mine owned this guitar, and I borrowed it many times from him. The neck had a very flat radius, and was not at all thick. The only drawback from this guitar was due to the enclosed tuners, I found it to be top heavy. But it had a great sound.

Hagstrom H-33

Hagstrom offered an acoustic 12 string model called the H-33, that suspiciously looks like a Levin guitar. Hagstrom offered some other acoustics as well. Due to Jerry Herschman's connection with Levin guitars, I believe they were most like made by Levin, and badged as Hagstrom models. In later years this model came with a trapeze tailpiece.

1966 Impala, Condor, and Condor IV
During this same year, 1966, Hagstrom offered the Impala and the Condor in the United States. This included a bass model known as the Condor IV. The Impala was a twin pickup guitar, and advertised as producing 18 tonal effects, while the Condor came with three pickups, and is said to produce 27 tonal effects.

1966 Viking V1 & V2
In 1966 Hagstrom offered some acoustic electric models they called the Viking guitars, and Concord basses.  The Viking models, the V-1, and V-2, were similar instruments. Both had semi-acoustic bodies with twin F holes,  twin single coil pickups, with a tone, and volume control for each pickup. The edges of the ES-335 shaped bodies were bound, and offered in red, or sunburst. The V-1 was priced at $250, while the V-2 cost $425. A Bigsby tailpiece was an option.

Red Viking V1

The pickguard, with the Hagstom logo on it, was black. The necks were once again thin, and had a six-on-a-side headstock. The back of the neck was painted to match the guitars body. If the body was red, the back of the neck and headstock was red.

Sunburst Viking V-1
If the body was sunburst the back of the neck was sunburst. The front of the headstock was usually black, but could be red on that color guitar.

The instruments had a stock harp style tail piece, however were available with an optional Bigsby unit.

The difference between the V-1, and V-2 was the adornment.

The maple neck on the V-1 had a bound rosewood fretboard with dot inlays.

1968 Hagstrom V-2
On the V-2 instrument, the F holes were bound, the neck, and headstock were also bound.  The neck on the V-2 had a bound ebony fretboard, with block inlays. The headstock on the V-2 instrument was glossy black and bound. The hardware and pickup surround were gold-plated.

The necks on both instruments were bolted on units. The V-2 had a fancier harp tailpiece.

1968 Elvis with a Hagstrom V-2

You may have seen a picture of Elvis with a V-2 guitar. He borrowed this guitar from session player, Al Casey, just for the pictures.

Hagstrom C-1 and C-2

Hagstrom offered bass versions they called the Concord C-1, and C-2. Once again, these bass guitar were very similar. The C-1 had twin single coil pickups, a bound neck, and chrome hardware. The C-2 came with the same twin pickups, but the f-holes, neck and headstock were bound, and all the hardware, including pickup surrounds were gold plated. The necks on both basses were quite thin.

We will take a further look at Hagstrom guitars from 1968 to 1984 at another time.

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)


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revfish said...

A good friend from high school played a Hagstrom. Since he bought it in the mid-1960's I assume it was the F-200. I think it had two pick-ups and a tremolo. It was red and I remember he told me it was advertised as "the fastest neck." I played it a few times and remember it was easy to play but I was never impressed enough by it to buy one. He played it through a Fender Delux Reverb. I'll have to contact him to see if he still owns it.

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