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Showing posts with the label 1970s

1970s Electra Fujigen Electric Guitar With Built-In Rhythm Machine

Sometimes, the coolest guitars are the ones that are the mutants. You know, some guitar mad scientist came up with ideas of merging the DNA of two guitars together, or better yet a guitar and something not-guitar. In this case, it was a drum machine. There isn't anything much more gaudy than a guitar that has more than four knobs. (Knobs on a guitar are like breasts. More than two is excessive.) Other than an image I saw that someone Photoshopped showing a Les Paul with 11 pickups and 22 knobs, this Electra is close to the maximum allowable knob count.  It's one of those practical kind of things, like the Cordovox. When I was in high school, I taught guitar lessons at a music store owned by a guy who was an accordion player. He was fairly renowned, back in the time before the Beatles, when accordions were the top-selling instrument in America. This guy had an electric accordion called a Cordovox that plugged into a pedalboard. He could play walking bass lines with his feet whil

Mid-1970s Ovation 1251 Breadwinner Solidbody Guitar

Ovation made a big splash in the 1970s with their round-back acoustic-electric guitars. They also produced a line of solidbody electric guitars named Deacon and Breadwinner. These guitars were oddballs in almost every way, but they were an extraordinarily high quality instrument, if you could figure out how to use it. Let's start with the body, which the line's most identifiable feature. The asymmetrical design was driven by ergonomics primarily. If you play a Les Paul seated for any length of time, you know how it likes to slide off your lap. The Breadwinner/Deacon body shape allowed you to hold the guitar comfortably in two seated positions. You could play it on your right leg or you could balance it comfortably on your left leg, the way a classical guitarist might hold a guitar. The strap buttons were placed where the guitar balanced nicely for playing while standing. The long "fin" on the upper side of the guitar gave you a comfortable place to rest your picking a

Mu-tron Phase II by Musitronics

One of the signature sounds of the 1970s was the phase shifter. Musitronics made the Mu-tron Phase II in the mid- to late-1970s. Phase shifters were intended to sound something akin to the rotating Leslie speakers that organists used, which create a Doppler effect of sorts. The additional controls of depth, feedback, and speed allowed a wider variety of tones, some of which were quite extreme.  The Mu-tron Phase II came in a brushed metal casing that was surprisingly heavy and robust. A lit rocker switch informed you if the pedal was on or off, and it could act like a mute switch to turn off the signal chain when you were taking a break. The effect was AC powered, so you had to provide an outlet for it. At least you never had to worry about a 9V battery dying in the middle of a gig. The Mu-tron was a bit more expensive and it seemed to have a more high-fidelity sound than the popular MXR phase shifter of the time. It had more stages in the phase process and a wider frequency range. It

Travis Bean TB1000A Guitar

The Travis Bean guitar’s have become very collectible over the years. The idea was to have an all-aluminum path for string vibrations from nut to the bridge. This model is the upscaled “Artist” model with a carved top and block inlays. The aluminum neck prevents warping or shifting of the neck. Players reported that the TB guitars were “lively” and responsive. I’m not sure I’d want to play one on an outdoor gig in temps below 70 degrees, though. According to, only 755 of these were built. They are far from cheap, but they are a unique historical example of an innovative period in the instrument’s evolution.

1970s Epiphone ET-280 Bass

This is the companion bass to the Epiphone ET-270. That particular guitar languished through the speed metal Eighties until Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain appeared playing one. All of a sudden, grunge music fans wanted them again. Unfortunately, the bass in that series didn’t enjoy the same resurgence in popularity. That’s a shame. The ET-280 is a unique-feeling short-scale bass. It has a fat, substantial neck with big frets on its rosewood fingerboard. The budget tuners do a good job of keeping things rock solid. The bridge is adjustable, but you have to watch the action height. Too low and the string will make contact with the long  screw! The finish is nothing to write home about. Most of the ones you find are red, but I have seen clones by other Japanese manufacturers that were sunburst.  The pickups is where the story is with this instrument. The pickups are almost microphonic in their chrome covers. The bridge or neck pickup alone are kind of bland, but when you put the selector in the mi

1970s CBS-era Fender Stratocaster

As mentioned previously, the 1970s was a tough time for the guitar industry. Fender, Gibson, and some other manufacturers were acquired by larger corporations that tried to apply efficiencies to their manufacturing process. The results were mixed. To these companies, a guitar was just a piece of furniture; therefore, the process ought to have been succeptible to process improvements that were used to make furniture faster and cheaper. That didn't always work out so well. The Fender Stratocasters in the mid-to-late 1970s underwent some changes. Their necks became thicker and more rigid. The headstock size increased. The necks were attached with three bolts instead of four. A lot of Fender purists at the time were pretty skeptical with the results. For those of us who grew up in that time, these 1970s were the first Strats we laid our hands on. I suppose that makes a difference in the way we perceived them.  The guitars of this time were heavy. It was a common thought that a heavier

Gibson Les Paul Triumph Bass

You have probably seen Les Paul playing a guitar that bears his name. You may have noted that it bears little resemblance to the stock Les Pauls Gibson markets today. The instrument has low-impedance pickups and the controls look like a mixing console. Les Paul, a brilliant showman and guitarist always touted the benefits of low-impedance pickups for their sonic fidelity and noise rejection. Gibson sold this model briefly in the 1970s. During that time, the company also produced a fantastic bass in that same series. The Gibson Triumph bass has a mahogany body with a rosewood neck. The short-scale instrument is very comfortable to play for a guitarist who doubles on bass. The low-impedance electronics include various knobs and switches for phase switching, tones, and pickup selection. The instrument covered a wide range of tones from deep to funky. One of the benefits of the system is that you can run a really long cable to a mixing console without a direct box. The Triumph bass was

1974 Gibson USA Model S-1

The big guitar manufacturers all underwent a tumultuous period in the mid-1970s. I was a high school student during that period, but I had an after-school job teaching guitar in a music store. I got to see firsthand the guitars of that period and the adjustments they had to make to compete in those times. Many of the guitar companies were bought up by huge multinational conglomerates. Fender was gobbled up by CBS. Gibson became part of Norlin. To these big companies, building musical instruments out of wood was just like building furniture. They tried to force the guitar manufacturers to adopt non-traditional methods of guitar making and cost-cutting measures. A lot of the guitars of the Seventies were junk as a result, but there were some unusual instruments that had a lot of personality. One of them was the Gibson S-1. Gibson wanted something with a strong single-coil sound that could compete with Fender, head-to-head. They got Bill Lawrence, famous pickup designer extraordin