Maton’s beginnings go back to the early 1940s with a woodworker, Bill May of Melbourne, Australia, quitting his teaching job to start a guitar repair and custom build shop. With a loan from the bank to buy timber, a band saw rigged from the front wheel bearings of Bill’s car, and his machinist brother Reg lending a hand, the Maton Musical Instruments Company was hatched in 1946.
Maton comes from the brother’s last name “May” and the word “tone”.
At first they built acoustic and classical guitars before adding amplifiers (1954/55) and eventually electric guitars. The origins and exact timeline of amplifier offerings of the 1950s is a little mysterious as Maton outsourced manufacturing until 1960. (An important footnote for Maton fans).
Graced by the hands of George Harrison the Maton Mastersound MS500 was the company’s first solid body electric guitar introduced in 1958. While on tour in the summer of 1963 George’s Gretsch was in the shop, so he borrowed the Mastersound from a music store in England and ended up keeping it.
Side Note- Harrison’s 1958 Mastersound sold at auction in 2015 for $485,000 and again at auction in 2018 for approximately $450,000
Tommy Emmanuel’s first guitar was a 1960 Mastersound.
Technically speaking Maton’s first electric was a custom hollowbody E1 in 1946. The first production electric was the archtop Starline SE90 in 1954.
Maton’s early electrics were considerably idiosyncratic. They did produce some knockoffs of Fender and Gibson body styles, but those were rare and Maton’s are known for being original.