THE GUITAR GURU IS THE MOST KNOWLEDGEABLE EXPERT ON STRANGE OLD ELECTRIC GUITARS THAT THIS PLANET OF OURS HAS EVER SEEN. UNDER THE GURU'S CAREFUL SCRUTINY THIS MONTH ARE:
An Orbit four-pickup solid from Max McKee of Telford, Shropshire; a Hofner V3 solid from Eric Maycox of Newport, Gwent; a Futurama II solid from Robert Evans of Warley, W Midlands; an Antoria Les Paul copy from K Stewart of Edinburgh, Lothian; an acoustic labelled 'Ibanez Salvador' from Colin Harrigan of Chilwell, Notts.
Good day, and how're you all doing? Anyway, enough of pleasantries, space is valuable. Max McKee from Telford writes: "I have an Orbit 4 guitar, its four pickups controlled by what can only be described as lightswitches. The body is covered in a mass of chrome. Apart from looking crap, it sounds and plays crap."
Welcome to the Orbit Owners Club, Mr McKee! I'm pleased to hear how much you appreciate the innate quality of these instruments. They were made by the Japanese Teisco company, appeared under a variety of brandnames (including Kent in the US), and were brought into the UK by Rose-Morris who decided to call them the Orbit series — there were two and three pickup versions in addition to this top-of-the-range four pickup model.
Mr McKee's Orbit 4 was imported around 1966-67 and originally retailed at some £35. In accordance with the Guitar Guru Now-and-Then Rule Of Thumb Guide To Realistic Values For Cheapo Electrics, current price is about the same — if you could find a buyer apart from me, that is. But use and enjoy. It's got to be fun, if nothing else.
Robert Evans from Warley says: "I have a Futurama Mk II Deluxe serial number 5431327, with light blue vinyl-covered back, and blue and white plastic front which incorporates five controls and two pickups. It has a tremolo arm."
I see. Well, Futurama guitars were made by the Swedish company, Hagstrom, and imported into the UK by Selmer London in 1963: in fact Futurama was an in-house name of the Selmer company, used on earlier and subsequent instruments of varying origins and quality.
The Mk II that Mr Evans owns was available in red as well as blue, and the styling, including the headstock, was later altered (go on, have a guess) to a Strat-like design. Original retail was £35 and that's roughly its current market value, despite what many dealers would have us believe. In Sweden these models appeared with the Kent brandname (nothing to do with the Teisco guitars mentioned earlier); in the US they had the Hagstrom logo slapped on. Confusing, isn't it?
Mr K Stewart from Edinburgh writes: "I have an excellent Antoria Les Paul Custom copy: someone told me that Hank Marvin had an Antoria before his first Strat. True?"
The Antoria brandname has been in the UK market for almost 30 years — quite a long time by guitar trade standards. It's actually a westernised name affixed to various importers' instruments and was brought in originally by the Leeds-based J T Coppock company (now no more), and more recently by J L Music (also of Leeds).
Hank Marvin did indeed use one of the earliest Antoria branded Jap-made solids in his pre-Shadows days, as did many of the pioneering electric players of the late 1950s. But the boom time of the Les Paul copy was the early to mid 1970s, and many variously-priced guitars appeared bearing the Antoria name with fluctuating degrees of quality. Some were virtually identical to certain Ibanez-branded instruments, leading me to assume they originated from the same Japanese factory. Examples still abound today — so we can deduce that the best survived.
Now then, a lot of attention has recently been centred on Hofner semis (see our easy recognition chart in last month's issue), but their solids haven't attracted the same enthusiasm. Eric Maycox from Newport tells me: "I've got a Hofner solid, serial number 414, with three pickups, four-way selector (1, 2, 3 and all), slide switches, plus a volume knob. The trem is missing, otherwise it's in super condition."
Now this Hofner is a particularly nice model in my ever so 'umble opinion, originally designated, thanks to importers Selmer, as the V3. Single and double pickup versions were also available, the V1 and V2 models, respectively — if you think about it, a somewhat unfortunate set of names for German-made instruments. These solids appeared over here in 1960 and originally sold at around £50, and once again current value is about the same. The clumsy styling was soon revamped to a more Strat-like design (have we ever been without it?), and model names were amended to something less, shall we say, sensitive.
Last, and in some respects least, to a letter from Colin Harrigan from Chilwell. "I have an old steel-strung acoustic with fancy red crazed marble (yes!) fingerboard," he tells me, "with no name anywhere on the body. The label inside says 'Ibanez Salvador copy of Raffaele Callale Model No 7, fabrique en Japon'. It's fun to own and good to play."
Not my department, I'm afraid. This is a good opportunity to point out again that my specialist subject is electric instruments, so can I please dissuade future correspondents from writing to me about acoustic guitars and amps. Mind you, I like the sound of Colin's fretboard, which must look really tacky and tasteless — right up my street, but well out of place on an instrument like this, surely?
I suggest that owners of strange acoustics seeking information should approach a dealer specialising in this area (such as Ivor Mairants, (Contact Details) — and if you know of others, do write in).
If you want some old tat (ie: valuable guitar) identified, write to: Guitar Guru, (Contact Details).
Feature by Paul Day
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