History

Nate DeMont

One of the earliest guitar manufacturers in Japan, Guyatone began production in 1933. According to Mr. Hiroyuki Noguchi, editor of Japan’s Guitar Magazine, “Matsuki Seisakujo” was founded by a cabinet maker’s apprentice Mr. Mitsuo Matsuki and friend Mr. Atsuo Kaneko, who later became a famous Hawaiian & Spanish guitarist, as well as help with the formation of the great Teisco in 1946.

Mr. Matsuki had been enrolled in electronics classes, studying nights after his cabinetry apprentice job. Hawaiian music becoming increasingly popular at the time led Mr. Kaneko to inquire to his friend Matsuki about building an electric Hawaiian guitar using his wood working and electronics skills. In the late 30’s the “Matsuki Joiner” company (“Matsuki Seisakujo” in Japanese) was formed producing and selling mostly American style (Rickenbacher) guitars under the Guya name.

In 1940 Matsuki was drafted into the war between China and Japan and production halted for several years. After returning back home, Matsuki formed his own company, “Matsuki Denki Onkyo Kenkyujo,” translated means: “Matsuki Electric Sound Laboratory.”

In 1951 Matsuki began to use the Guyatone name on his instruments. They also began to make amplifiers and, though it seems odd now, cartridges for record players. These cartridges found a large market after being routinely used by NHK – a government-owned broadcasting station.In 1952 the name of the corporation was again changed to “Tokyo Sound Company.” Eventually it was changed “Guya Co, Ltd. ” and then back to “Tokyo Sound Co.” once again. In 2013 “Tokyo Sound Co. Ltd.” closed their doors to business and transferred ownership of the “Guyatone” name to Hiroshi Matsuki, son of the founder of Tokyo Sound Co, and brother to the president of the company, re-opening and re-organizing a short time later that same year.

original place of factory on meigji street in tokyo History

Site of original Guyatone factory on Meigjhi St, Tokyo Japan.

Hiroshi Matsuki, son of the founder (left)

Copyright 2013 Frank Meyers, Drowning in Guitars

According to Toshihiko (Toshi) Torri, R&D at Guyatone, the Tokyo Sound factory began large-scale production in 1956. Guyatone’s own records indicate them as being “Founded” July 16, 1956. Apparently with ‘Founding’ being softly defined as major manufacturing. It is unclear when the opening of the factory in Maehashi happened, but in that factory of 9,720 sq ft, they produced the largest amount of audio goods in their history. Yielding, at times, 1,500 slide guitars, 1,600 electric guitars & basses, 2,000 guitar amplifiers, and 5,000 microphones a month!

Kent Guitars

Kent Musical Instrument Company satallite photoSMALL History

Recent photo of the former Kent Musical Instrument Company

a subsidiary of Buegeleisen & Jacobson

20 E. 15th St., New York City

guyatone logo History
kent logo History
Guyatone was the first known Japanese guitar manufacturer to directly offer their product line to the American public. The first ad for Guyatone Guitars appears in 1959 and depicted the EG-80B/60B & EG-80H. Later, Kent Musical instrument Company, a subsidiary of Buegeleisen & Jacobson, became one of the largest distributors distributors of Guyatone guitars sporting the “Kent” name badge. In April of 1962 Kent/B&J announced their line of imported Japanese guitars under the “Kent” house-brand name. By the Fall of 1962 Kent’s imported line of guitars was put together in two sub-groups. The lower end produced by Teisco (later Kawai / Teisco after their merger in 1967) called the Standard Series was made up of 5 guitars and one bass. The Pro-Series, however, was made up of higher end instruments from Guyatone including 4 guitars (with a choice from two to four pickups) and one bass. This original line of Kent/Guyatones were marketed with a “K” logo strikingly similar to Guyatone’s “G” logo. “By 1964 it appears that all Kents were made by Guyatone and they all had model numbers in the 500s.” says Dennis Kent, expert on vintage “Kent” brand guitars. “The three-pickup 560 Copa and the four-pickup 595 Videocaster models from 1963 had offset-waisted bodies similar to the Fender Jaguar and Jazzmaster guitars. In 1964 the Copa became model 532 and the Videocaster became became model 533 and they both had the same slab bodies as the rest of the line. The 1965 solid-body line-up consisted of the same six 6-string guitars and four bass guitars.” In 1965 they expanded to the hollow-body “Americana” series, produced by Guyatone. Though not well documented, in late 1966 Kent offered 600-Series solid body Guyatone-made guitars win the same configuration as previously, but adorning a new script headstock logo. Though the Americana series was only ever cataloged with the “K” logo, examples exist with the same script emblem. As of 1967 the Guyatone models disappear from the Kent catalog; being replaced by other manufacturers instruments.

 

Although American guitars are arguably the beginning of the new era of rock instruments, Guyatone made it to Britain first. J.T. COPPOCK (LEEDS) LTD began importing Guyatone guitars under the ‘Antoria’ name presumably around the same time they were brought to the US. One of the most popular models, the LG50 design was actually duplicated by the legendary Burns guitar company. Henry Weill made this guitar uses many extra Guyatone components, but also other various and non-consistent parts. The pickups and assembly were done at Weill’s Acton, London factory. The Burns ‘Fenton Weill’, ‘Fenton Weill De Luxe and ‘Sonic’ all bare similarities which are hard to dismiss as coincidence. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Rose-Morris of England, began importing parts manufactured for them by Guyatone for their line of guitars called “Broadway.” 1961 began Guyatone’s line of solid mahogany ‘Broadway Plectric’ models. In 1962, the budget line model for Broadway became a variation on the the Guyatone LG-40 made of plywood, still called the ‘Plectric’ available with one or two pickups, as oppose to the LG-40’s two pickups. The optional tremolo units were manufactured in England and attached before sale. The budget model also lacked the frills of full body and neck binding. Guyatone’s role in Broadway ended in 1963.Some may notice that these early models resemble the Supro Dual Tone, or variations. This is because of popular touring musicians in Japan in the early 50’s playing Supro guitars. This was Japan’s first vision of the electric guitar.

burns fenton History

1959 “Weill Fenton”

Ibanez’s early relationship to Guyatone is apparent in some of their early solid body electric guitars. The exact dates may be slightly off, but from ’57 to ’62 Guyatone sold guitars to Hoshino Gakki Ten to market under their name ‘Ibanez.’ Models of some Guyatones are available with both the Ibanez logo and the Guyatone logo. In 1962 Ibanez opened its own factory and produced its own guitars from ’62-’67 (Hoshino / Tama) before again contracting companies like Fujigen Gakki to manufacture their instruments. The relationship between the Guyatone and Ibanez headstocks seem to simply be a carry-over from the Guyatone designs in which Hoshin simply didn’t see a need to improve on (though the quality of the Hoshino made instruments was definitely lacking compared to Guyatone).

bills collection History
(Bill Menting)Left to right, EG-90,Model 1840 large body, extra volume and tone,set neck model 1202 bass, 1830 small body, 1830 large body/headstock, set neck model 1860

Models of Ibanez guitars manufactured by Guyatone include:

Models: 1830, 1840, 1850(three pickup), 1860, 1880, EG-80, EG-90, EG-1800, EG-1810, EG-1580, EG-1590

Many vintage Japanese guitars can be hard to trace back to one manufacturer simply because there was not just one manufacturer. However, most, if not all, pickups that were OEM for guitars manufactured completely at the Guyatone factory had original Guyatone-made pickups. Matsuki’s son, Hiroshi Matsuki, says that although Guyatone owned their own factory, they also consigned work to other companies who specialized in guitar production. Subcontracted work included, but was not limited to: bodies, necks, hardware. Guyatone is particularly know for their “Gold Screen” pickups in the US, as they are called by the english speaking enthusiasts. According to collector Anthony Guerra, in Japan they are called “Diarumondo,” which roughly translated is a reference to the “Gold Screens.”

man with guyatone and amp History

photo from ’60s Bizarre Guitars’

Guyatone subcontracted some of these bodies to be made by Matsumoku.

 

As seen in The Official Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide 2010 “production and exports slowed after ’68,” though definitive data on Guyatone in the mid 60’s has been scarce, Frank Meyers, author and historian of vintage Japanese guitars, unearthed some facts indicating that even though Guyatone had its most successful years between 1965-67, with more than 300 factory workers day and night, monthly sales in 1969 sunk to less than $100,000 a month from its peak of around $500,000 a month. The company went bankrupt near the end of August, 1969. By Early 1970, Mr. Matsuki had begun to rebuild his company and by the mid 70’s Guyatone was in full swing, marketing some of the highest quality Japanese instruments at the time, including the Sharp Five and increasingly grew their line of effects pedals. Unfortunately many of the guitars from the 1970’s onward did not make it to the United States.

Guyatone began the 1970’s, for the first time, contracting work to another factory, and producing instruments of spectacular quality. Several factories were used during the same period of time, including Uni Musical Instruments & Cyushin Musical Instruments. It is around this time that the sheet metal truss rod cover, often with a black screen printed design, is a tell-tale mark of the new factories. By the 1980s Guyatone no longer produced any guitars in their own factory, but contracted all production. Although the initial idea was to only produce a single model, the LG-1200 & LG-2100M were contracted to the Tokai factory.

Soon after, Fujigen Gakki became the sole manufacturer for Guyatone guitars with on and off production until December, 2013 when Dyna Gakki finished production of the Excelsior 5 (E5) and Spearhead 7 (S7), using USA & Brazilian made DeMont pickups.

1984 SHARP FIVE History

1984 Sharp Five

 

TD 1 HistoryTD-1‘true’ Tube Distortion pedal
By the 1980’s Guyatone had produced the worlds first true tube distortion pedal; the TD1 which used a single 12AX7A tube packed inside of a metal case. This pedal was also relabeled under the ‘Nady’ (also model TD-1) and ‘Westbury’ (model TO-2))names.
Mr. Mitsuo Matsuki passed away in 1995, leaving his sons in charge, with Koichi Matsuki acting as President and CEO and brother, Hiroshi Matsuki, as Head of Business Sales. In 2013 Tokyo Sound Co re-formed, dropping many of its other brand names and products to focus on the Guyatone brand, with Hiroshi Matsuki as CEO and Toshihiko Torii heading research and design. Guyatone severely cut back production of guitars, although occasionally releasing re-issues of some of their designs with partnerships with factories like Fujigen Gakkis, but today mainly produces effects pedals- Previously Tokyo Sound Co brands included:, PA systems & wireless mics – “Rexer” and home audio tube amplifiers – “Sound”. In 2013, DeMont Guitars (Chicago, IL), partnered with Guyatone to handle sales and representation of Guyatone in the United States. DeMont Guitars & Malagoli Captadores (Brazil) will engineer and manufacture new Guyatone pickups.Today Guyatone has one of the most competitive effects pedal companies in Japan and still does research & development and sales near Tokyo, Japan.

The last incarnation in Guyatone guitars is the “S-5 Mine” signature model of Japanese guitarist, Nobuhiro Mine. This guitar was very strictly modeled after the ‘Sharp 5′ , though officially Guyatone had little to do with it’s re-release in the late 1990’s and produced by the Fuji-gen Gakki Factory in Japan. Though this was suppose to be a numbered, limited run, subsequent runs have been manufactured.
s 5 mine History

nobuhiro mine History

Nobuhiro Mine & signature S-5 Mine guitar

Current Research & Developer, Toshihiko Torii has recently been assigned the task of recreating modern prototypes of vintage Guyatone Guitars in hopes of revitalizing the stringed market for their brand.
The Excelsior 5 (left) and the Spearhead 7(right) were created by Toshi Torii & Ryo Shida.

With a two piece book matched Ash top and a Mahogany back, the Spearhead offers much greater stability than vintage instruments made of a single material.The Excelsior resembles the vintage “Mallory” model but introduces a more advanced technology. Top & back consist of maple, with an ash core with basswood sides.

toshi prototype History
*Guyatone-made guitars may have also been sold under the following names, though not all guitars under the following label have been made by Guyatone:

Confirmed:
Broadway, Conrad, Conqueror, Delta, Empire, Feather, Futurama, Ibanez, Kent, Kingston, Hy-Lo, Lancer, Lake, Lafayette, Marco Polo, Musician, Nobco, Noble, Orpheus, Orpheum, Raven, Regent, Roamer, Royal Artist, Saturn, Silvertone, Star, Starlite, Univox, Vox
*NOTE: “Musician” & “Julian” were model names used on some of their respective models, but are often mistaken for a brand name.

Unconfirmed: Barclay, Beltone, Capri, Crown, Crestwood, Col Joye (Australia), Custom Kraft, Elko, Empires, Futuramic II, G. Rossi, Howard, Imperial, Ideal, Johnny Guitar, Kimberly, Lindell, Maier, Marquis, Maximus, Melodies, Montclair, Omega,Prestige, Recco, Royalist, Royal Artist, St George, Silhouette, Sorrento, Toledo, Vernon, Victoria, Zen-On, Zenta
References:
Noguchi, Hiroyuki. Echo and Twange: Classic Guitar Music of the ’50s. Miller Freeman Books, 1996Wright, Michael. Guitar Stories: Volume One. Bismarck: Vintage Guitar Books, 199560s Bizarre Guitars. Guitar Magazine Mooks. Rittor Music, 1993Bill Menting; www.oncevlectrum-undervlectrum.com , www.IbanezCollectorsWorld.com 50’s & 60’s World Forum

Wright, Michael. “Teisco Guitars, PartI: Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams, Part I” Vintage Guitar Magazine. 25 April. 2002. 16 March. 2011<http://www.vintageguitar.dreamhosters.com/1745/teisco-guitars-part-i/>

Greenwood, Alan & Hembree, Gil. The Official Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide 2010. Bismarck: Vintage Guitar Books, 2009

theguitarcollection.org.uk. The guitar collection of Guy Mackenzie. 17 March 2011 <http://www.theguitarcollection.org.uk>

www.tokyosound.co.jp. 2011. Tokyo Sound Corporation. 17-20 March 2010 <http://www.tokyosound.co.jp>

www.Sebastian.virtuozzo.co.nz. 2009. Guyatone/Antoria LG50 – The inspiration for the Burns-Weill Fenton. 23 June 2011

www.BroadwayGuitars.co.uk. A History of Broadway Guitars.

Snowball, Steve. Interview with Nathaniel DeMont.  2014. Email.

<http://sebastian.virtuozzo.co.nz/gitbox/wiki/index.php/GuyatoneAntoria>

www.firstflightmusic.com. 1999. Sold. 16 July 2014

<http://www.firstflightmusic.com/iframes/content_sold_gtrs.html>

Dan Wollock; First Flight Music, Owner

Hiroshi Matsuki; Head of Business Sales Tokyo Sound Co. (Guyatone)

Toshihiko Torii; R&D, Tokyo Sound Co. (Guyatone)

Nobuhiro Mine; www.mine-s5.com, Guitarist

Barry Gibson; Owner, Burns of London

Frank Meyers; Author & Webmaster, DrowningInGuitars.com

Steve Snowball; Webmaster, BroadwayGuitars.co.uk

Dennis Kent; Webmaster, KentFoto.com

Anthony Guerra

Conan Rose

 

*Special thanks to Tetusya Nishiyama for help with translating

 

グヤトン