Guitar Gavel Lick Of The Week with Stevie K - Tremolo Time
In Gilmour-esque style, Stevie K presents some great suggestions on how to approach the trem arm in a simple, yet dynamic structure.
Bob Bogle would say... "Walk Don't Run"
Thank you Steve for sharing you time, treasure, and talent! Steve Kuykendall is a lifelong musician and remains an active indie artist and teacher. His music is available on Cedro Rosa Digital, Amazon, Apple Music, and Spotify.
The bowels of internet guitar forums can be a hazardous destination, reminding me of Dave Chappelle’s skit, “If The Internet Were A Real Place”. A common denominator in various forums for unknown import guitars of high quality typically leads to factories such as Matsumoku and Fujigen or Tokai. Mainly because those are the most well known, not because the dude on the other end knows anything. Fact-checking is a must, however, perception is way more fun than reality. Believing the unmarked bargain guitar you purchased from a Facebook Marketplace ad was made by a distinguished factory in Japan will make you sleep better at night. Even if it's not true.
A good guitar is a good guitar no matter where it originated from. And we should know better than to assume a well-seasoned guitar with mysterious origins must have come from Japan.
But did it? See what I did there :-).
Whacky or seldom seen guitars show up from all corners of the earth and the early 1980’s may have been the heyday of craziness. Leaving the age of disco and entering the heavy and hair metal era of the 1980s was a curious time. Manufacturers such as Hamer, Kramer, and Charvel/Jackson exploded on the scene and the craving for outrageous guitar shapes,colors, and styles began a solid 10-year run.
Before that happened there was a moment in time when guitar builders and dealers thought it was over. Especially acoustic builders. Last August at The Fretboard Summit in Chicago I heard Bob Taylor explain it in simple language. Describing it as the day the guitar died, the day John Travolta strutted into the movies with Saturday Night Fever. He said at that time Taylor Guitars was building 4-6 guitars a day. Martin was building 70 per day (he may have said 90). Almost overnight Martin’s production dried up to 9 guitars per day, Taylor’s dropped by one or two, a quarter to one-third of their output.
So how does an acoustic guitar manufacturer survive? In the case of the up and coming Japanese brand Takamine, you make a run at electric guitars to fill the void. Takamine, per the encouragement of their U.S. distributor Kaman Music Corporation (KMC), started producing solid body electrics in 1983. Hypothetically speaking at least, that is a fairly good rationale without knowing the exact answer. KMC is the parent company of Ovation Guitars and became Takamine’s U.S. distribution agent in 1968. Beyond introducing the first fiberglass backed acoustic guitars in the world, Ovation also pioneered the electric-acoustic preamp in 1971. Without knowing the ins and outs of the two entity’s working relationship, it’s no surprise they combined to basically own the electric-acoustic market for a couple of decades.
By the 1980s Ovation was no stranger to electric guitars having a few successful models in the previous decade, namely the Deacon, Breadwinner, and Viper.
To try and capitalize on the new shape of the guitar market, Ovation also gave their best effort at outsourcing some wildly pointy and shredder guitars. In order to make a go of it, Ovation created the Mako brand in 1980 and Samick of Korea was the manufacturer of choice. Nothing was off limits. As it turns out, many of Mako’s guitars were actually rebranded Hondo models such as the one below, also known as a Hondo H-2.
As far as Takamine is concerned, whether their foray into the solid body market was indeed due to sluggish acoustic sales or an opportunistic move on this new category of guitars is not exactly known. Regardless of the reason, Takamine launched the GX and GZ series of guitars in 1983. The common feature among all models was a mahogany body, set-neck, and the general deployment of DiMarzio pickups. The body styles were not overly aggressive and if you view the line-up in their entirety it’s a very well rounded offering. There were a total of four different body styles and other than the GZ300, a tremolo version was available for each. *If you dig really deep there are a couple of other shapes such as the sinister GE400TK, but these were the "standards".
The general consensus is these guitars were made in Japan. At the same time, I cannot find a picture of a Takamine electric solid body with a MIJ stamp that is clearly evident. Given Takamine’s relationship with Ovation and the timeline of both companies venturing into the solid body shredder market at the same time, perhaps some of these were sourced elsewhere? Either way, it’s a very small blip in Takamine’s history as evidenced by Takamine not acknowledging their existence on the company’s historical timeline :-). Production ended in 1985. https://www.takamine.com/history
If you have personally handled a Takamine solid body and saw a MIJ stamp on the guitar or something contrary, please leave a note in the comments.
Fortunately, the guitar market recovered and so did Takamine. It’s worth pointing out Takamine has done extremely well with the Nashville country market of acoustics. Endorsements include Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, and Glenn Frey among many others.
But can someone please explain this one?