At the time, I considered myself to be a pretty good guitarist, but looking back, my playing was only average, so I relied heavily on my ability to sing.
What a difference fifty years can make! My 67 year old voice is old, and much deeper. Those high notes that used to be so easy are now long gone. I wouldn’t pay money to hear me sing. Come to think of it, I don't recall making much money back then. But 50 years later my guitar playing has improved exponentially, and though I don't get to play in front of audiences much, playing my guitar at home is something that gives me a great deal of joy.
|1970 Fender Guitar Catalog|
And as the decade progressed, some "replica" guitars were undistinguishable from the real thing.
|1975 Ibanez Les Paul copies|
This culminated in the infamous 1977 Gibson Guitars vs Elger Music lawsuit, which was settled before going to trial.
The first acoustic guitar I owned, a 1950’s Harmony Patrician, was broken by my siblings.
|1970 Yamaha G55A|
Around 1970, I acquired an inexpensive used Yamaha G55A classical guitar, which was a laminated wood instrument, that probably cost around $50.00.
|1971 Giannini Craviola 12 string|
In 1971 I purchased a 12-string acoustic guitar that I had seen at a local music store. This unique instrument was called a Craviola, and was made by The Giannini Company of Brazil. The best way to describe the body was as a large kidney bean shape. While the upper bout was ovular, the bottom was offset with a large Venetian cutaway. The slotted headstock had a distinctive lip that faced upward, and the neck had triangular position markers.
This instruments sound accentuated the treble. After reading much literature about the instrument, the goal of the guitars creator was to produce a sound that was similar to that of a harpsichord. Around 1970, the harpsichord, and electric clavinet were popular in music of the day. The sticker inside of my guitar indicates it was a 1971 model.
These instruments are still available, and today they are built from better woods. Mine had a laminate Spruce top, and beautiful laminate Brazilian rosewood back, and sides.
|1970 Martin 0-16NY|
Like a folk instrument, it had a nice slotted peg head. I had two problems with that guitar. The first was, since it was made during the “Folk” era, it was built to only use silk and steel strings, or nylon strings. The neck would not withstand normal acoustic strings of day, so the sound was not very loud or crisp.
The other issue was that I could never get the darn thing in tune. It did not have a compensated bridge saddle. I sent it back to the factory twice, and even received a letter stating the problem was not the guitar, but me.
|Ovation 1613-4 Classical Electric|
The electronics were an early version of Ovation’s six-piece piezo system, and had a built in pre-amplifier with a single volume control. I had to re-imagine some chords due to the wider neck. That guitar sounded fantastic, and even better when plugged into an amplifier. I still have that guitar. Because the resale value is so little, I continue to hang on to it.
It would be at least a decade before I acquired another guitar.
The 1970’s brought many changes to the guitar industry. Fender Guitars had been acquired by The CBS Corporation and by 1970 made changes to original design.
|1970's Fender 3 Bolt Neck|
|1970's Fender Stratocaster|
|1976 Fender Starcaster|
Around 1976 Fender added the Starcaster to their line up. The guitar featured a hollow body with twin 'F' holes, and was designed to compete with Gibson's ES line up. Like other Fender's of this era, it came with the 3 bolt neck joint, but the six-on-a-side headstock was totally unique with an up-turned shape.
|1974 Gibson L-5S|
In 1970 Gibson was taken over by ECL, which by 1974 became the Norlin Company. They still offered their classic line of ES models, Les Pauls, and SG's. Added in 1974 was a new electric model called the L-5S Custom model. This was meant to be a solid body version of the Gibson L-5. It was a gorgeous guitar. The first version had low impedance pickups, that were later changed to humbuckers.
|1970 Gibson L-6|
Another very nice Gibson model was the L-6. It was designed for Gibson by Bill Lawrence. This guitar had twin custom designed pickups, and a six position rotary switch that offered different sound combinations. Gibson offered three variants of this guitar.
|1978 Gibson S-1|
By the mid 1970's Gibson entered into what I call, That Zany Norlin Era, and came out with some very odd guitars, such as the 1978 three single coil pickup S-1, which combined a Flying V headstock, and solid Les Paul body. This guitar had a four-way rotary switch for different pickup combination.
|1976 Gibson Maurauder|
Around this same time Gibson/Norlin came out with another guitar they called The Marauder. It looked much like the S-1, but came with one humbucking, and one single coil pickup. (Didn't Fender have a guitar with the same name?)
|Grabber, Ripper, and G-3|
In 1974 Gibson came out with the Ripper Bass, the Grabber Bass, and the G-3. They were all very interesting instruments, with similar bodies, two had Flying V style headstocks, and the G-3 came with three pickups, The Ripper had twin pickups, while the original Grabber had one sliding pickup.
Another 1970's Gibson creation during the Norlin era was the ES-335TD which came with a lovely laminated Walnut finish.
An Epiphone instrument built in 1967 for Howard Roberts, became The Gibson Howard Roberts Custom guitar in 1974. It's arched top was made of 7 layer Birdseye Maple. The neck was beautifully bound. This guitar featured an oval shaped sound hole, and a single floating humbucker, which was controlled by a volume knob, a treble roll off, and a mid-range roll off knob.
|1976 Peavey T-60's|
In 1976 the Peavey Company, which had been making amplifiers, and public address equipment, entered the guitar market with the Peavey T-60, This twin pickup guitar had a Stratocaster-like shape on its solid body. The twin pickup design was rather unique. The tone controls actually rolled the humbuckers from humbucking mode to single coil.
Although this was a remarkable guitar, and offered at a very reasonable price, the downside was it was heavy as a rock.
|Late 1970's Super Swede|
These guitars came with twin humbucking pickups, twin tone and volume controls, and two toggle switches. One switch operated one pickup, the other three way switch gave both pickups different tone options. The body was mahogany with a laminated spruce top. The bridge saddle was based on a tune-o-matic bridge.
The Super Swede models the tailpiece featured a chromed palm rest.
|Santana with Yamaha S-2000|
Yamaha of Japan came up with a unique guitar called the S-2000. This instrument was based on a Gibson Les Paul, but came with two shallow cutaways. The prototype was sent to Carlos Santana, but he thought the guitar was too light.
|1976 Yamaha SG-2000|
Yamaha installed a brass sustain plate beneath the bridge, and improved the three piece laminated neck by added a 'T-Cross' system in the neck. These improvements gave the instrument excellent sustain, and Santana used the guitar for a lot of his early career.
In the 1960's, Gibson was building Epiphone guitars right alongside the more expensive Gibson instruments. Some were different shape, but had similar features to Gibson models. But by 1970 Gibson/Norlin moved their Epiphone division to Japan, and contracted with Matsumoku to built guitars under the Epiphone name. Ironically this was seven years prior to the infamous lawsuit.
The hollow body Epiphone Casino, which was used by The Beatles and other popular groups, was almost the same guitar as Gibson's ES-330. The Epiphone Sheraton was semi-hollow, and comparable to a Gibson ES-335.
Other Epiphone guitars built during the 1970's included updated versions of the Wilshire, Emperor, Riviera and Newport bass.
|1976 Epiphone Scroll|
Another totally unique guitar called The Monticello, more commonly called The Scroll was introduced in 1976. These instruments had beautiful carved mahogany bodies.
The Guild Guitar Company was mostly known for it's exquisite acoustic guitars, but during the 1970's they produced some fine electric models as well, such as the M-75CS and the M-85 II Bass.
|Guild Starfire and Starfire Bass|
The hollow body Guild Starfire came in several versions, including single cutaway, and a double cutaway models.
|1973 Guild S-100|
The S-100 designation was taken from the discontinued 1960's model known as The Polara, which came with a built-in stand.
|1976 Guild S-300|
|Guild S-60 & S-60D|
Around that same time Guild offered the single humbucking pickup S-60, and the S-60 which came with two single coil pickups.
|1979 Guild S-70|
By 1979 Guild came out with the S-70, which had three single coil pickups, and a blade switch. This guitar had a beautiful carved mahogany body. It was their tribute to Fender's Stratocaster.
Due to the massive increase in imported guitars, by the 1970's some iconic American guitar manufacturers took a financial downturn and went out of business.
Harmony Guitars started producing instruments in 1892. By 1916, Sears and Roebuck purchased the company. However in 1975, Harmony Guitars ceased operation, and held a huge auction. Late in the 1970's the Harmony brand name was sold, and subsequent guitars were then manufactured in Asia.
By 1969 The Baldwin Piano Company moved their guitar manufacturing business to Booneville, Arkansas. Their facility suffered through two disastrous fires, burning down equipment. The heat and humidity in the South was not conducive to painting and finishing guitars.
|Baldwin Era Gretsch Guitars|
However Baldwin/Gretsch came up with some rather bizarre solid body creations, as well as some guitars that seemed to be variants of Gibson products. Though they were fine instruments, they never caught on.
There were a few 1970 Gretsch guitars that I admired.
|Super Axe and Super Chet|
One was the Gretsch Super Axe, and the other was the Super Chet.
|1970 Baldwin 700|
Baldwin still made some guitars under their own brand up through 1974. Although by 1969 some were made in Italy by Crucianelli, and rebranded with the Baldwin logo.
|1969-70 Kay Electric Guitars|
Kay Guitars had already been sold to Seeburg, a company known for manufacturing Juke Boxes. In 1967 Kay Guitars then merged with Valco Musical instruments. But due to financial problems, both companies ended business in 1968.
Although the construction was cheap, these guitars, and basses stood the test of time. The founder/inventor, Nate Daniels sold the company to Music Corporation of America (MCA) in 1966. The company went out of business by 1969.
Some of these company brand names emerged in later years, but the manufacturing was no longer done in the United States. Fifty years later, although much has been tried in the electric guitar industry, most companies harken back to turning out replicas of vintage models, due to consumer preference.
The one factor that has improved manufacturing of modern guitars is computerization. Virtually all modern guitars are built through computer aided design. In the past artisans 'eye-balled' it. Many individual luthiers still use their own templates.
|Plek Pro Station|
A newer machine called Plek is used by builders to set up exacting guitar neck specifications, install and dress frets and nuts.
|Worker at the original Fender Factory|
Guitar manufacturing has come a long way from 1970.
Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
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