The history of Framus guitars, by request.
How About a brief history of Framus guitars, asked reader Alan Simmonds of Edinburgh. And how about some info on my Framus Nashville bass and Framus three-pickup solid six-string, he added. Paul Day supplies the answers, and invites you to suggest further adventures in vintage guitar land by writing to: How About, One Two Testing, (Contact Details).
The Nashville bass formed part of a range that appeared in 1975, encompassing various electrics and acoustics. All were designed to update the Framus image and to provide sounds, if not styling, akin to comparative American products. The solid electrics featured circuitry and pickups developed by Bill Lawrence and certainly did sound Gretsch-like, justifying that Nashville tag and its country connotations.
His second instrument is an unidentified three pickup semi-acoustic guitar, and from the description I would guess that it is either an early version of the New Sound model, or a later-style Fret Jet. Both appeared during the early 1960s and shared many features, including the twin-cutaway body styling, two or three pickup options, and in-line controls with a multiswitch panel mounted on the left horn. Actual dating of Framus instruments is usually quite easy, as the last two digits of the serial number (found on the rear of the headstock) should indicate the year of manufacture.
Established in 1946, the Framus company introduced electric models during the late 1950s, these being electrified versions of established traditional designs plus certain more 'modern' thin-bodied types such as the Billy Lorento (Bill Lawrence) and Hi-Fi Six models.
By 1960 Framus had entered the solid body field with the introduction of the attractive Hollywood series, which included a novel single sliding pickup model. Body styling was reminiscent of the Gibson Les Paul, but was later changed to a twin-cutaway design. Available by this time were the original semi-acoustic Star bass guitars in small-and large-bodied versions, which also appeared under the Aristone brand name. Both basses incorporated the characteristic ultra-slim Stiletto neck design, a feature which appealed to Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones and which led to his later endorsement of these instruments.
The early 1960s saw the expansion of the solid range with the launch of the Strato series, comprising one, two and three pickup versions, plus matching basses, all featuring an original body style. These models underwent frequent design and component changes, in keeping with usual Framus policy. Also available were the Fret Jet and New Sound twin-cutaway semis, and a three pickup version was marketed in Britain under the alternative Hawk brand name.
Many new models appeared during the early/mid-1960s period, often displaying innovative ideas and approach. One such novel design was the Melodie, an unusual nine-string solid based on the Strato series' styling. The upper three strings were doubled and tuned accordingly, while the lower three single strings obviated the usual intonation problems. Other additions included the Strato De Luxe and Golden De Luxe Strato series, with Fender Jazzmaster-style body shape, plus comprehensive tone circuitry. The latter also featured a patented organ effect, this being a spring-loaded automatic return volume control providing a manual swell facility.
The three pickup Electrona solid incorporated similar circuitry and features, plus a Split-Sound effect utilising a centre pickup which provided frequency and volume adjustment for each string. A further development of this idea was another three pickup solid, resplendent with no less than 18 controls, which when partnered to its matching amplifier produced a staggering array of tones — some more effective than others. On the acoustic-electric front the Fret Jet was retained, but the New Sound had been drastically re-styled with an offset waist/body shape shared by the new Television and Golden Television models. These instruments boasted what was probably the longest vibrato arm in the world, a rather ungainly monster around 12in long. New basses included a six-string solid, plus TV Star and Golden TV Star models, the latter complete with organ-effect device.
During the latter half of the 1960s, new models and even more modifications were introduced, some existing designs being revamped almost beyond recognition. New additions included the unusual Big 18 12- and six-string double-neck solid, and a long-scale six-string semi acoustic bass. The Star bass was redesignated the Stone model, in accordance with its Bill Wyman connections. In 1969 the BL series was launched, incorporating Bill Lawrence-developed Hi-Fi pickups.
In the early 1970s, Framus followed market trends and introduced various copy models based on Fender designs, followed by the inevitable Les Paul copy and other Gibson-styled instruments. In distinct contrast, however, was the very original Triumph solid electric upright bass, an idea that has recently enjoyed a revival of interest. Later additions to the Framus range have included the prestigious Jan Akkerman model and the up-market Nashville series, followed by various others such as the unusual blunt-horned Memphis solids.
Although sometimes unappealing stylistically and often incorporating hardware of a somewhat weird and wonderful nature, Framus instruments have always featured quality components and construction; a certain clumsiness of design is belied by typical Germanic efficiency of operation.
Framus products have never featured in the forefront of the British market, but of course have enjoyed considerable popularity in Europe for many years. However, recent times have seen a change in financial fortunes and after a very uncertain period the company underwent various changes, emerging in 1983 with a new range of traditional-style electrics, now bearing the Warwick brandname, hopefully destined for a secure and successful future.
Feature by Paul Day
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