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Monday, March 28, 2011

Pearl Guitars...brought to you by Matsumoku and Hayashi

Pearl badged MIJ guitars have a mysterious history depending on whom you talk to. They appear to have been widely distributed, finding their way to Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States so they must have been fairly successful.  I haven't seen proof that the Pearl badge originated from the infamous Pearl drum corporation although the logos are suspiciously similar.  Perhaps it was a brief venture during the guitar craze of the 1970's by that company.  We may never know.  Most people assume that Pearl badged guitars were made by the famous percussion instrument maker and Pearl guitars are often sold with that information presented as fact.  Perhaps someone can enlighten me.  Till then, I'm on the fence about the origin of Pearl guitars.

Pearl electric guitars which were made by the venerable Matsumoku, were good Les Paul copies.  They came in sunburst and blond finishes from what I've seen of them.  Pearls were carried by Great West Musical Imports to the North American continent and I do not know if they distributed the guitar badge worldwide exclusively.  Some have mother of pearl pickguards in addition to the Pearl badge inlay, which add to the beauty of the Pearl image.  It would be interesting to know if they originally came that way from Matsumoku.  They seem to be pretty rare here in the United States but far more numerous among our friends in Australia so I wonder just how many were sold in their heyday.  They appear to be classified as a medium-quality guitar, but they sure look good to me. 

Pearl acoustics, however, were made by top Japanese acoustic guitar-maker Hayashi. They appear to have been gorgeously crafted with inlays of mother of pearl on the frets on occasion. Most Pearl acoustics from what I've seen were made of high quality tonewoods based on Gibson designs, although I'm not an acoustic guitar expert.  Finishes can be anywhere from sunburst to natural and they seem far more numerous in existing quantities than their electric cousins.  Pearl acoustics are praised by their owners as high-quality instruments and little wonder...they ARE Hayashi products!  You can read more specific information about Pearl acoustic guitar models HERE by Blogger friend Martin on his Vintage Japanese Acoustics blog.  

Another interesting thing with Pearl badges is that some "Pearl" inlays are gold and others mother of pearl.  I wonder if one color denotes a higher-end instrument model.  Again, I don't know the answer to that.  Yet another mystery to solve. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Quest Atak V

Of all the crazy MIJ guitars I've seen, this one is really unique.  They're a little outside my area of study, since they were made in the 1980's, but they so embody the era of metal bands and long hair.  The Quest Atak series is pretty awe-inspiring in designs from the time, but the Atak V is an axe to savor.  Want to see the fluid, flying shape of one?  Go to this webpage.  Awesome, isn't it?

In addition to the crazy shape, I love the color blending on the looks like it just came out of a fire someplace.  Must be some hot guitar madness being generated by that Atak.  Looks like you can score an Atak for as little as $120, but that's peanuts for as beautiful as these guitars look to me. 

If you own one of these pieces of guitar art, let me know how they sound!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan Quake 2, Hy-Lo, Hi-Lo?

Been watching the devastation over in Japan...yikes.  I honestly don't know if they will ever be able to return to normal after this.  Still haven't heard from some of the larger guitar manufacturers to find out if their factories still stand...and if the talented people making guitars in the region are still with us.  We'll just continue to pray to the guitar gods that all is well.

Meanwhile, a mystery has unfolded.  Two guitars:  Hy-Lo or Hi-Lo.  Made by the same company?  I don't know...after looking around and viewing a few for sale here and there, I have a hunch that these badges were made by different companies-thus Hy-Lo and Hi-Lo.  My guess after reading a lot of boards from owners is that Hy-Lo was made by Kawai Teisco, while Hi-Lo was a Matsumoku badge.  Why?  Well, one person claims that they bought their Hy-Lo from a Teisco catalog back in the late 1960's (nothing like an eyewitness account from a direct owner).  And Hi-Lo electrics sure look like a Matsumoku product to people who collect Matsumoku badges.   I really don't know.  To add to the confusion, both electrics and acoustics were made with this badge name, so it must have been somewhat successful as a badge here in the United States.  For now, I've got them divided on the list under these makers until someone puts me right who knows the answer or I find a person with  Hi-Lo who can testify that it was made by a specific maker because they have direct knowledge of it.  I'm confident that Hy-Lo is a Kawai Teisco product.  What I don't know, what I'm unsure of, is the Hi-Lo badge.

Does your head hurt reading this?  It hurts mine just thinking about it as I write.  Sorry.

Anyhow, if you know of the origin of Hi-Lo guitars, let me know.  I'm going to take an aspirin now and lie down after that previous paragraph.  Whew.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japanese Quake...Damage to Guitar Manufacturers So Far....

After seeing the footage from the great Japanese quake of 2011, one can't help but be awed at the destruction.  Many of us in the guitar world are worried about factories in the areas affected that produce the guitars we love to both play and purchase.  After taking a look at the information available the only guitar manufacturer who released a statement was Yamaha.  Yamaha said their factories were not damaged significantly if at all by the earthquake.

Another source claims that Tokai factories are safe after the quake.  Fujigen Gakki reports on their company blog that the factory is safe and everyone is ok.

I have not been able to locate anything from Hoshino Gakki, distributors of Ibanez and Tama instruments.  Chushin Gakki is located in Nagano and there has been no word issued from the factory.  If anyone knows the status of their factories, let me know.

Now I just read that one of the nuclear reactors in Japan has melted down...dear god.  We can just pray and hope that things improve from here on out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mike Starr, tribute to a kick-ass bass guitarist

Can't tell you the disappointment that came with the death of Mike Starr.  He was really terrific as a bass player.  When I saw Alice In Chains live years ago, he was freakin awesome!  I can't believe he was only 44.  Sounds like he couldn't break his sad.  Rock music loses so much talent to drugs and drinking. Starr's playing on "Facelift" and "Dirt" earned him the recognition he so deserved as a top bassist.  He just played back in May of last year with Ace Frehley at the VH1 concert!  And now he joins former Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley in death.  So sad and predictable.

Monday, March 7, 2011

JooDee solved...Do You Have An Elk?

Had a message from a guy out on the west coast who's a collector of JooDee guitars.  He shared with me that he nailed down the company of origin for these beauties:  Dyna Gakki.  Which was one of the companies cited in many JooDee discussions!  He said he got the information from a former Dyna executive in Japan.  So I feel confident that we can say Dyna is the maker of the JooDee badge.  Whew.  Only god-knows-how many more badges to go....

Read some interesting things on the Elk badge too, from Vintage Guitar magazine.  I had it in the wrong place, as there was an Elk Gakki in Japan!   From the pics, these were pretty cool looking guitars.  Finding a clear acrylic Elk was fascinating as well.  Does anyone remember a major rock star of the 1970's who played a clear acrylic guitar?  If there was one, I don't recall it.  Anyway, Elk seems to be a pretty scarce badge.  Have you seen one?  Own one?  Did Elk Gakki make anything else? 

So many questions....I may have to learn Japanese.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Checkin Out Some Vintage Ibanez and Weymann Guitars

Had a pretty good weekend last week and checked out some new talent.  One was playing a pretty decent Gibson from the 1980's with gold pickups...sweet.  Another had a vintage 1940's Weymann electric with pearl inlays that was outta sight!  Sounded pretty good, too!  Also saw two Ibanez beauties:  a 1979 bass in honey, Musician MC300NT and a 1973 custom cherryburst Les Paul copy.  Getting to hold them and just look at the craftsmanship was a pleasure.

But I also stumbled upon a new badge this week.  Gession.  Apparently, this was a guitar made in Japan in the 1970-1980's period.  It's a Les Paul with a pancake body...with a darkburst over yellow finish.  Has anyone seen a Gession before?  Rumor has it that it was a Tokai badge, but I don't know...I've certainly never seen one or heard of the badge before.  The person who had it got it at a local flea market pretty cheap (it's not in the best of shape, but playable).  Yet another mystery to solve in the MIJ world.

Oh, well.  I've got a good 40 years yet to look into this.  And learn.  Maybe even solve some of these questions.