Here's another story about a great guitar company.
Written by Nate DeMont of DeMont guitars & Guyatone
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. Matsuiki 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. Strangley, they also began to make amplifiers and cartridges for record players. In 1952 the name of the corporation was again changed to "Tokyo Sound Company."
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 or more rarely seen "K" logo. 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.
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. The Burns 'Weill Fenton', 'Fenton Weill De Luxe and 'Sonic' all bare similarities which are hard to dismiss as coincidence.
In America the Supro Dual Tone and LG60 as well bare strikingly resemblance to each other. Having been introduced about the same time, it is unknown which is likely the inspiration for the other, though not many American manufacturers at the time seemed to be paying much attention to their overseas counterparts.
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 before again contracting companies like Fujigen Gakki to manufacture their instruments. The relationship between the Guyatone and Ibanez headstocks and necks remains a mystery. Even after Hoshino started to produce their own instruments the necks and/or headstocks remained exactly the same as Guyatone. This is possibly due to the 'shadow factories' all around Japan, which in reality were families working production line style on guitars parts in their garages. These parts would eventually make it to larger factories for assembly. It is possible that both Guyatone and Ibanez acquired necks from the same source, or that Ibanez continued to purchase necks from Guyatone after 1962.
Many vintage Japanese guitars can be hard to trace back to one manufacturer simply because there was not just one manufacturer. Nearly all hardware was produced by a single unknown company. Likewise all pickups in the late 1950s-60s were products of one single company: Nisshin Onpa, also known as Maxon. Maxon was sold to Fufigen Gakki sometime in the 1980's. It is unknown if each guitar manufacturer commissioned its own pickups' production or if they were simply given a choice. This is why many vintage Japanese guitars end up with the same pickups and hardware. Certain guitar manufacturers seem to stick with a certain type, or line or hardware and pickups, but no one item seems to be particular and definite of any one company. Guyatone is particularly know for their "Gold Screen" pickups, as they are called by the english speaking enthusiasts. According to collector Anthony Guerra, in Japan they are called "Diarumondo," though it is not know if this is a translated reference to the "Gold Screens" or a proper noun to identify the manufacturer or style of pickup
As seen in The Official Vintage Guitar Magaize Price Guide 2010 "production and exports slowed after '68," though definitive data on Guyatone in the mid 60's is scarce but according to Bill Menting, owner of www.oncevlectrum-undervlectrum.com and moderator of www.IbanezCollectorsWorld.com '50s and 60's World' Forum, Guyatone went through some financial troubles, which may have included bankrupcy or refinancing in 1964, though instruments appear to have been produced up until 1966. "They may have just shortened up production to just make their own product..." Menting says. Referring to the fact that they may have used up existing stock and parts under their own Guyatone brand while no longer subcontracting production to other distributors. Guyatone was in full swing in the '70s and 80's though, marketing some of the highest quality Japanese instruments at the time, including the Sharp Five and increasingly grew their line of effects pedals.
More information regarding this time period is being looked into, and any additions or corrections are greatly appreciated.
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 relabled under the 'Nady' (also model TD-1) and 'Westbury' (model TO-2))names. Guyatone severaly cut back production of guitars, but today mainly produces amplifiers and effects pedals. Guyatone does still have a few guitars in production including small runs of limited production Sharp 5 re-issues with neck-through construction.
*According to Allan Evers, Guyatone was the exclusive manufacturer for: Capri, Guyatone, Guya, Fandel, Imperial
*..and non-exclusive manufacturer for: Apollo, Audition, Decca, Domino, Futurama, Hondo, Kent, Kingston, Ibanez, Orpheum, Silvertone & Suzuki
*Guyatone-made guitars may have also been sold under the following names, though not all guitars under the following lable have been made by Guyatone: Barclay, Beltone, Broadway, Capri, Crestwood, Elko, Feather, G. Rossi, Howard, Hi-Lo, Ideal, Johnny Guitar, Kimberly, Lafayette, Lindell, Maier, Marco Polo, Marquis, Maximus, Melodies, Montclair, Omega, Orpheus, Prestige, Recco, Royalist, Royal Artist, St George, Silhouette, Sorrento, Toledo, Vernon, Victoria, Zen-On (though this is of much debate, and thought to be incorrect, as Zen-On was its own factory), Zenta, Saturn, Crown
Other guitars known to have been made by Guyatone made be labled: Raven, Lafayette, Broadway, Futurama