The Lawsuit Era

October 11, 2012

By Daniel Brooks

The big American guitar makers, Gibson, Fender and Martin, earned their reputations as creators of the finest, most coveted instruments through decades of innovation, a consistently high level of craftsmanship and painstaking attention to quality materials. A handful of their original designs became essential, iconic guitars as high-profile musicians of every genre used a relatively small variety of these instruments to create the majority of musical moments that made up our collective popular culture.

Tokai and Fender headstocks, image credit Stratman323

But by the early 1970s, the perception among many guitarists was that the fabled quality of the old reliable manufacturers had begun to decline. Many believed corporate ownership was making questionable design modifications and profit-inspired, cost-cutting manufacturing decisions that reduced the essential quality of their favorite guitars to cheap imitations of themselves, with the same expensive price tag. This perception might not have been entirely unwarranted. It was not uncommon in the 70s to come across a new guitar, with its new price tag, that featured a defective finish, less-than-premium hardware and questionable construction. They just didn’t feel right.

But the show must go on, and the search for professional quality gear led some guitarists to seek out the old guitars from the 1950s and 60s. Long before the market began to reflect the value of old guitars as collectable vintage instruments worth tens of thousands, or, in some rare cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars, any guitarist of average means and above average knowledge could find affordable access to all of the quality used gear he or she needed, for less than it cost to buy it new.

a Vintage 1974 Ibanez 2344-M, image credit LA Guitar Shop

Others found a wealth of performance-worthy gear in the growing abundance of Japanese imports. In 1964 Harry Rosenblum, owner of the Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania music store called Medley Music and the guitar manufacturing company, Elger Guitars, found that he could no longer keep up with the demands of a rapidly expanding market. He became the exclusive North American distributor of the Hoshino Gakki Gen Company and began importing Japanese guitars marketed under the intentionally Spanish sounding name of “Ibanez.” With access to relatively inexpensive labor and high-quality woods, Japanese guitar makers dedicated their focus on an ever-increasing level of manufacturing quality that could be measured in ever-increasing sales in the U.S.

In 1971, Hoshino had become successful enough to buy Elger Guitars and their North American distribution rights. Rechristening the whole venture “Ibanez USA,” they made free use of the classic guitar designs that were, and still are, very much in demand. Just as the quality of American made instruments was making the descent into the unsatisfying, companies such as Ibanez, Tokai and Greco had begun to offer good looking, inexpensive and quite serviceable copies of Les Pauls, Stratocasters, Telecasters, Flying Vs, ES-175s and 335s that were, arguably, equal to if not better than the originals. There were, of course, plenty of shoddily-crafted knock offs, but many budding guitarists who simply couldn’t afford a new Fender or Gibson found they could buy a perfectly good Ibanez and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of guitar they got for the price.

To their credit, it must be recognized that Ibanez did introduce many original designs of their own, and were well on their way to becoming an innovative company in their own right by the time the case of Gibson Vs. Elger Co. was filed in the Philadelphia Federal District Court on June 28, 1977. The “lawsuit” for which all Japanese-built copies of the 70s are somewhat inaccurately named, was over one specific design feature. It demanded that Ibanez stop marketing copies of their guitars, more specifically, the “moustache” headstock that Gibson claimed was their trademark feature. The case was resolved quickly as Ibanez had already redesigned the headstock that was the actual basis and focus of the trademark infringement case. In 1978, Ibanez stopped making copies and began to establish their own iconic guitar designs with the release of the Artist and the Iceman.

A “Gibson” with with no headstock logo at all, image credit SoundsCheapInc

It may be argued that the Lawsuit Era continues to have an impact on today’s guitar market. Gibson and Fender both have “Vintage” reproduction models of their classic designs as an essential part of their catalogs, each with the authenticity of materials, manufacturing details, design specs and components offered as featured selling points. Gibson, Fender and Martin each have an official line of quality foreign-made, relatively inexpensive copies (Epiphone, Squier, Sigma, respectively) for the budget-minded guitarist, each of which offer a suprising level of quality for the price. The Lawsuit Era guitars, regardless of any real claim to the title, are now valued as vintage instruments, with guitars in good, playable condition not only still in existence and playable but actually selling for respectable prices to collectors and, of course, budget-minded players. And Gibson, Fender and Martin returned to making high quality instruments.









  1. Chris Sterr says:

    How about the Taka-Martin lawsuit acoustics. Was that right? I saw one in an antique shop for $500… It had pickup over the sound hole, and in mint condition.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:09 am
  2. Jaydn Turley says:

    Chris, those taka-martins are amazing! I have one and it’s the best acoustic I’ve ever owned. So loud, the bracing doesn’t seem amazing though, the top is a little warped.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:14 am
  3. Bram Claes says:

    Yeah these lawsuits are great. I own a 1975 Ibanez rocket roll sr (a 58 flying v copy) Plays and sounds terrific. So great that Phil X is planning to release a signature humbucker based on the Ibanez super 70’s alnico 8 humbuckers!

    But I think we should make some nuances when it comes down to Gibson/Fender quality in those days. Keep in mind that they made some cool innovations back then. The Gibson V2 for instance had noiseless single coil pickups, we’re talking late 70’s here!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:20 am
  4. MIchael Spitz says:

    You forgot FERNANDES!!!!!....

    I have one of the very first ‘54 Strat replicas, identical in every detail (except that I truly souped it up, since)....that Fender sued Fernandes over…..Why no mention of them????

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:20 am
  5. marcus says:

    U can still get “Lawsuit” guitars brand new in Japan, they really never stopped making them, just stopped importing them to US.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:21 am
  6. Ralf Caetano says:

    wow, this got me thinking of the guitars of today… and i feel gibson is going through a new lawsuit era if i may call it that (fender isn’t because fender sells 400 dollar quality guitars and high end squier guitars costing at least 250 dollars equal up to fenders)... sure gibson has epiphone which isn’t bad but there are details on epi guitars besides the headstock that don’t make them true to gibson counterparts dimension wise… gibson on the other hand has exagerated a lot on the price of their guitars… a decent gibson is over 1000 dollars not to mention the less expensive models don’t have certain details on them like binding… which is kinda stupid… nowadays the biggest alternative to getting a gibson is getting a good chinese counterfeit and change up all the parts so it’ll sound amazing…  and all that for the price of an epiphone… seeing things this way kinda makes you wonder what to do now if you were gibson… though the new epiphone pro series seems to be more promising in terms of quality and dimensions… i gotta try one out…

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:22 am
  7. Decibolic says:

    When Ibanez redesigned the headstock they modeled it initially after Guild and were sued for that as well as the body shape of the Les Paul.

    Sigma is now its own company “working closely with a Korean manufacturer”

    George Fullerton was quoted as saying “I don’t believe we ever made them (guitars) that good”.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:28 am
  8. Austin says:

    I just bought an early 70’s Lyle 335 lawsuit, complete with Bigsby style tremolo, off of eBay for $300. It sounds terrific and with a little intonation work I’ve got it playing pretty well too. It has the open-book headstock design, pearloid inlay and body, headstock and neck binding. It has to be the best $300 I’ve ever spent on guitar gear. I’m fixing to do some demos of my effects pedals with it very soon.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:32 am
  9. rob says:

    This article should have mentioned Ventura guitars or do a separate one on them.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:34 am
  10. Craig Wiper says:

    I bought an Ibanez Artist EQ in 1978. Wonderful guitar, which has an inscription silkscreened on one of the back plates, “Made by the proud craftsmen of Ibanez, Japan” on it. Still have the guitar today. It even came with a phantom power supply, which makes use of a ‘stereo’ guitar cable to run power to the active electronics, and an all-aluminum bodied case.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:38 am
  11. Louis says:

    A couple years ago I got a mid-70’s Taka-martin HD-28 in pristine condition for $250 (don’t kill me). “Sublime” is really the only way to describe it.  For those of us who can’t afford to drop $2k to get the sound we crave deep in our bones . . . keep hunting for those gems . . . they are out there!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:56 am
  12. Dave says:

    Hoshino was the Japanese distributor for Ibanez in the 1930’s.Factory was destroyed in Spanish Civil War.Hoshino bought the rights, name ,etc.My Univox has the “mustache”, is HEAVY&nice;.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 12:59 am
  13. Tom says:

    I have an ‘81 Ibanez artist, picked it up for 500 bucks.
    I just hope everyone sticks to the Gibson/Fender thing, so I can keep pick up 70’s and 80’s Japanes beauties for cheap!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:07 am
  14. Rick R says:

    Funny – I bought my first Gibson Les Paul in 1974. Saved up for years to get it. Sadly, the neck warped on it within 6 months. Really poor craftsmanship and bad wood. I was crushed. I returned it to the store I purchased it from and was give a blonde Strat. That was the last Gibson I owned until this month. I recently purchased a Les Paul and ‘61 Reissue SG. Both are great guitars. But I still see a lot of poor quality stuff coming from Gibson and Fender. They can still make them great when they have the will to do so. The sad thing is they still seem intent to release poor stuff. That mindset allowed Ibanez, PRS, Music Man, G&L, and a huge number of small, independent builders to get a strong foothold in the marketplace. The Japanese did a one-two punch on the guitar industry. They started building better instruments than the US companies, and they bought up many of the vintage guitars out there, driving the costs up insanely. The idea that a guitar made in the 1950’s can cost the same or more as a violin built in the 1700’s is ludicrous. But that’s what this combination of scarcity of old instruments and over abundance of modern, mediocre instruments will create. It’s strange to see instruments created today that get beat up to look like old guitars, selling for these insane prices. It’s a free market, for sure, but a really strange one.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:07 am
  15. Matthew Mann says:

    I have a “Lawsuit Era” Tokai Strat replica,made in the early to mid 70’s, which feels and plays as good or better than any Fender I’ve ever played!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:07 am
  16. Jeff Bourque says:

    Don’t forget the Electra brand with guitars made by Matsumoku.  I have 2, one the MPC Electra Outlaw model (original owner from 1979) and a Les Paul copy - Super Rock model with “hot” humbuckers!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:08 am
  17. Voidoid says:

    I bought a 1982 Tokai copy of a 63-64 Strat on eBay early this spring, basically because I’d tried one very briefly (for about 30 minutes) some 30 years ago, and never really got over it. It’s (I think) the ninth Strat I’ve owned since the early 70’s, and by far the best. It was followed very quickly by a great ‘87 Burny (Fernandes) LP Custom, and now I’m hunting for a Japanese ES335, and a shop I know has this incrediible Greco Ricky 330, and… and….
    All in all, being a Jap fan is a very affordable and satisfying strain of GAS. We’re talking often extremely well-built instruments with 25-30 years-of vintage mojo and ridiculous pricetags in bang-for-bucks terms. Gotta love it.
    But I don’t really mind it being a bit of a niche thing. Keeps the prices down. :-)

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:11 am
  18. MitchP says:

    My first guitar was a Bradley Flying V. They had just about every kind of guitar you could ask for. This was early 70’s as well. I give some serious $$$ for a Tokai “Love” LP….

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:14 am
  19. colakeith says:

    I have a 1983 Takamine that looks like a direct clone of a Martin D-18. Darn thing plays and sounds sweet. Like a vintage instrument should. BTW, There never was a lawsuit in the Martin situation. Just a cease & desist order. Gosh, I still love this guitar!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:53 am
  20. Dave says:

    Sam Ash had a few “in house” brands during this era that were awesome. I wish I still had my Carlo Robelli SG with those ridiculously hot single coils. I do still have my Angelica acoustic with a stunning 3 piece back and a balanced sweet tone that could make C.F. cringe.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:54 am
  21. tdclns says:

    Try finding one of these guitars nowadays, & IF you find a decent one in good shape, you’re going to pay as much, if not MORE than the name brand. Tokai, which is now based out of the U.K., is still going; as is Edwards, Burny, & of course Ibanez ( but they don’t make knock-offs any longer, of course). Problem is with the knock-off brands today, they aren’t cheap if you want a well made one. They also aren’t easy to get. I know someone that paid $500 some dollars for what he thought was a ‘good Les Paul Standard’ knock- off,  & got a piece of crap sent to him. Quality-wise, the guitar might have been as good as a ‘Hondo,’  & certainly he could’ve bought an Epiphone for about the same price & got a decent player.  According to the ‘catalog’ on-line, if he would’ve ‘opted’  for the more expensive model, for about $1300 +  shipping charges he could’ve gotten a ‘much better’ guitar.  At that price-point, why deal with the shipping $$$ & hassles… just get the ‘name’ brand!  Agile is a quality guitar company; their L.P. style guitars are a hell of a bargain.  I did my homework on them a couple of years ago, & got myself an excellent LP style…the parts were all tone -pro’s & the quality was just as good if not BETTER than Gibson’s newer guitars.  All’s I had to change was the p’ups to DiMarzio’s—-all tolled with the pick-ups $300!!!  In my opinion, the guitar stands toe to toe with my Gibson’s.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:57 am
  22. Pizza Dough says:

    Those lawsuits back in the 1970’s are nothing compared to what is going on today.

    Just look at all the knock-offs Gibson LP and Fender Strats that are coming from China these days.  Some of them are garbage while others are pretty well constructed. The Chinese are getting better and better with copying these guitars and soon they will have the perfect version of, let’s say, a 1959 model, etc…..

    How is Gibson and Fender going to sue these manufacturers from China then???

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 2:27 am
  23. Yendor Segrub says:

    I have a Taka 12 string that is identical, in every aspect, a Martin D12. It is as good as my D35, and cost me used about $175. If there were no headstock or paper visible through the sound hole, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The Taka was made in 2003,

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 2:33 am
  24. walker says:

    I have also had great luck with univox guitars. I also picked up a 50s strat replica with the name “art” on it…...killer tone and a 2 piece swamp ash body with a 1 piece maple neck….$180 on Craigslist

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 2:48 am
  25. T.O.Young says:

    Guitars from Asia a quite good.  I purchased my 2008 Epi Signature Slash Les Paul Standard Plus Top (Quingdao, China)  in 2010.  We A/B’ed it against a GREAT sounding Gibson Custom Art & Historic Oxblood. The Epi Slash held its own and sealed the deal. A bone nut (...w/ Buzz Feiten) & PLEK fret dress by Joe Glaser really set it over the top.  I purchased my 2010 Epi Signature Slash Appetite (Quingdao, China) in 2011 and took it to Joe Glaser for for a bone nut (w/ Buzz Fieten) & PLEK fret dress.  Afterwards the sales-person and myself A/B’ed the guitar against a Custom Art & Historic Aged/Signed Slash Les Paul…tone & weight were SPOT ON.  The “aged” LesPaul did “...feel” less sticky, but did not play any better.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 2:50 am
  26. Mike Kavanaugh says:

    Hi all. I have seen & heard some Chinese Gibson LP copies (both a Standard and a Custom) and, while they were pretty good they were not anywhere near as good as recent Epiphone copies. One commenter stated that he or she felt Gibsons are way over-priced and I absolutely agree - especially the electrics. It is such a shame that vintage reissues have to carry a price tag of anywhere from $5000 to over $10,000.  I moved to the midwest (Michigan) in 1992 and am being told that bands are being paid no more than what they were being paid back in the 1970s. Yet the name brand U.S. made guitars they bought and played back then have increased in price 10-fold or more.  So, who can afford new Gibsons these days?  Perhaps musicians who “make it” big, devout players willing to invest a fortune (locally, a person can buy a couple houses for the price of a Gibson Collector’s Choice) and, I suspect, a great percentage of these pricey Gibsons are going overseas to collectors and investers.  It is very disappointing and it causes me to perceive Gibson as totally indifferent to the very market portion that put them on the map in the first place. I can’t afford a Gibson Peter Green/Gary Moore ‘59 LP so I ended up buying a Wilkinson Vintage copy for under $600.  I’m happy with my guitars but just end up shaking my head in wonder when it comes to thinking of Gibson.  Seems like the only way I will own one is if I win a contest… Oh well…

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 3:01 am
  27. Johnnie Cash says:

    I own a 76 Ibanez les paul… plays better than ANY Gibson I have tried and ive been playing guitars for over 35 years..

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 3:08 am
  28. Monte says:

    In 1985 I was in the market for a Stratocaster. I lived in Amarillo at the time and Billiy’s Band Aid was the happening music store in those parts. Walked in and on the wall was a decent selection of Fenders and Strat looking guitars from a company that I knew little about: Tokai. I sit there and played on just about all of them and the Tokai TST-56 I endded up buying whooped them all! Those Fenders were crap. The fit, finish, hardware and playability of them thar Fenders had gone down hill fast. Even compaired to a Fender I bought in 1975, those mid-1980s real Strats were a pale copy of Fender’s own creations. They screwed the pooch as far as I’m concerned. Still have that Tokai, looking at sitting right next to me. Love it. Don’t get me started on Gibson!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 3:09 am
  29. Frenster says:

    I have a ‘78 Greco L5 copy with a solid carved top and signed by Tamura, who was apparently the guy who oversaw the “super real” series. Looks and plays as good as any L5 I’ve played. The carved top helps, but laminated sides and back limit the acoustic tone somewhat. Still, one of my favorite guitars. I have also owned an Ibanez lawsuit era L5 and Johnny Smith, both of which I sold. The Greco is twice as good.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 3:24 am
  30. Mark says:

    I picked up a Morris acoustic in a little shop in Misawa, Japan for $165 in ‘75.  It’s a decent clone of a Martin dreadnaught, even the font on the headstock is the same.  It’s no wonder why they got sued.  Anyway, the Morris still plays good after 37 years.  The only thing I’ve had to do is replace the tuners, put Grover’s on it and a Tusq saddle.  Next upgrade will be the nut since the grooves are getting wore down a bit.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 3:33 am
  31. BR says:

    I miss Medley music in Bryn Mawr. I bought my first electric guitar and my first tube amp there. I also inheirited a 60s Japanese nylon folk guitar that my mother bought there.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 3:48 am
  32. Noah says:

    I have two identical Charvel So Cal Style 1 2H guitars. The ONLY differences are that one is white and made in Japan, and the other is green and made in the USA.

    9 times out of 10, I reach for the Japanese one and when it’s gig time, that’s my #1. It’s lighter, the neck feels better (less finish and rolled edges), and all in all, I prefer it to the USA one.

    I tried. I told myself 100 times the USA one was better, but man, it just isn’t.

    The Japanese can craft a hell of a guitar.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 4:06 am
  33. RCSBlues says:

    I agree with Jeff Bourque in aprevious comment about the Electra models - I have 2 MPC models from 1977 (original owner) stil own and play today - excellent axes - also have owned a Ibanez MC300 NT in the past.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 4:06 am
  34. James Demestihas says:

    no mention of Univox?

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 4:16 am
  35. Bill Collett says:

    It’s spelled “Squier” not “Squire”... but I kinda hate that I know that.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 4:24 am
  36. T.J. says:

    I own two Japanese made guitars a Bradley Flying V and a 85 MIJ Fender Contempary Strat , Love both of them just as much as any of my other guitars

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 4:47 am
  37. Daniel Lang says:

    I have lawsuit era Fernandes Stratocaster.  It vibrates from the head stock to the butt end of the body.  I honestly think I’ve played only 2 American made Strats that come anywhere close to it.  Both of the American guitars were very expensive Relic’s.  On the non-lawsuit side of Japan, my Fender Robben Ford Signature and Fender Flame came from Japan, and in the case of the RF guitar the American made ones don’t even come close to it sonorously .

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 4:59 am
  38. Jeffrey says:

    I own a Fernandes Revival 62 Strat LPB, Ibanez Custom Agent (Super 70 pu’s) and (how funny) a 2355-M like the one pictured above, a Greco SA800 W (335 model walnut) and some non-lawsuit Fenders Japan: 2 Fender JV ST57 2TS and ST62 BK and two Squiers Vintage 57 Export OW and a SST57 CAR domestic. Also a Fender E-series MIJ ‘66 Jazzmaster OW. All of them are unbelievable great guitars! he Japanese knew what they were doing! No other ones for me (except for the real vintage ones, but unfortunately I can’t afford these ones).

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 5:30 am
  39. Jim H says:

    I worked in a music store in 1978 that sold Gibson and Ibanez. A very excited teenager came in one day with some money he had worked very hard saving and wanted to buy a Les Paul. All we had was a new Deluxe with the mini humbuckers, not a great guitar. He and his father played it for quite a while and thought it was OK, but with the money he had could only afford the guitar, not an amp to go with it. I then showed him a gorgeous sunburst Ibanez Artist. They were blown away. He left very happy with the Artist and a very nice practice amp. The Japanese guitars of that time were of very high quality.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 5:40 am
  40. Nigel Benjamin says:

    ..and yet no mentions the “Seville” Les Paul..the best of all of them..and Ive got one.!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 5:54 am
  41. Don Myers says:

    I had a Taka-Martin sunburst D-28 clone from 1977-mid nineties. I was stupid, stupid, stupid to ever have let go of it. GREAT guitar!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 6:07 am
  42. andrew says:

    I’ve been lucky enough to scare up two Ibanez lawsuit guitars, a double cutaway junior with a single p90 and a les paul standard. The bonus of both,......set-necks!!!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 6:22 am
  43. pman59 says:

    tdcins, You are spot-on about the Agile LP’s!! I have several of them, and they’re an incredible value: ebony ‘boards, Grover tuners, KICK-ASS Alnico V pups, and they sound and play SO sweetly!! The quality of the tonewoods and craftmanship and the attention to detail just flat leaves Gibson in the dust. And for a fifth of the price!!

    Gibson needs to see the handwriting on the wall and start building the quality back into their instruments again. Eventually, players are going to stop paying through the nose for sub-par guitars. I stopped LONG ago; I work too hard for my money to waste it on junk.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 7:16 am
  44. Kyle Alm says:

    I have an Aims Les Paul, which I think were made in USA, I can never find any information about it anywhere.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 7:23 am
  45. Hendershot2009 says:

    I’ve been playing a ‘76 Cortez Les Paul (a nice copy of a Gibson Deluxe) that I will always consider better than any modern Gibson, and some older Gibsons. I’ve played a lot of guitars, but this Cortez takes the cake without a doubt. As far as I know, Cortez was a short line of guitars (manufactured by Ibanez) in the early 70’s. But really all that I truly care about is the quality of the parts and wood that it was made with; I still kept the original Gotoh humbuckers, but I replaced them with vintage Gibson humbuckers (sorry, the stock pickups in these copies aren’t really too much to brag about) and have taken care of it. I use this les paul for blues, and some R&B stuff. Ever since I have found this les paul, I would give just about anything for another one of the same model, and color; although I would still love the one I have now more!

    Proguitarshop - you guys should open a page for all of us to post photos of our (copy) guitars!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 7:25 am
  46. David Leigh says:

    I have a Les Paul copy made by a company called Crown that I bought in the mid 70’s at a Ludwig Aeolian in a mall in St. louis ( I was going to be a rockstar?). Has the open book head stock and even has a crown inlay on it. Haven’t been able to find any info on it. I had put an original Gibson Dirty Fingers PU in the bridge position right away, it has 1976 stamped on it. I had a friend in the 70’s that had 2 real Les Pauls that was amazed at the quality of it back then. It still sings but stays home for practice. I had also bought a Fender Deluxe Reverb at the same time. That was some pair too bad I didn’t know what I was doing back then. Come to think of I still don’t. Maybe I’ll get it in this next 35 yrs!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 7:27 am
  47. Bunn says:

    I just picked up a 1976 Yamaha Studio Lord and its better than any Gibson short of a custom shop ive picked up and right on par (neck and fret work ) with all the PRS’s ive played/owned !!!  Sounds great upgraded to all US electronics and has a birdseye top to boot !!!!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 7:45 am
  48. Keith says:

    Burgs played a Love Rock for some time before selling it not to long ago

    Problem is most young people in US today listen to Hip Hop, Rap, and vocalists trying to mimic success seen on X-factor, American Idol, etc.. mostly solo vocalists.  Not completely, but it does seem like live music doesn’t focus on bands very much any more… more like canned music.
    What live music gigs there are you don’t want to take a $3k guitar to and risk getting it damaged or stolen.  Problem is that American companies can’t make cheap guitars in the USA any more.  Why?  State, federal, property, sales and use, workman’s comp, payroll, and unemployment taxes are a burden their overseas competitors aren’t saddled with.  Their overseas competitors also aren’t obligated to pay fair wage, give their workers safe working conditions, provide health care, or buy their woods and other materials from responsible ‘legal’ sources.  Probably get some of them with wonderful IVORY features and woods that were clear cut from the Honduran forests.  May even be true of some of those law suit guitars.  I’m not telling anyone here anything they don’t already know, but for all the hating on Gibson, let’s remember that Fender went down to CBS first and that was probably because they were based in what the CEO of Intel said of California this past week “The most hostile place on earth for business”.  Fender and Gibson have both been crushed under the mounting burdens of a ‘do the right thing’ society that continues to let competitors from abroad sell into our markets without following the same rules.  Will there be a resounding cheer sent up from those on this board when Gibson folds?                        Just trying to stir debate.  We need to have some serious discussions in this country or we’re all going to be outsourced.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 8:19 am
  49. Keith says:

    My apologies for that rant.  I couldn’t stop myself.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 8:22 am
  50. Nigel Benjamin says:

    I have MANY guitars..I have NO Gibsons…reason…?...overpriced wonderful machines mass produced for HUGE profit.I have other AMERICAN guitars that are worth what I payed,,are not mass produced…and they deserve what profit they Gibson…after they bought out Epiphone and stole the whole idea.No Gibson idols in my studio…nice tho.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 8:36 am
  51. Geoffrey says:

    I recently picked up a Shine Les Paul copy. It was made in 2011, so not a lawsuit era guitar. However, I’ve enjoyed it more than the few Gibsons I’ve played. Granted, it does need new pickups. 2011 was basically the first year Shine started building their own brand of guitar, ans their pickup source is pretty sub-par. (They also build Epiphones out of their factories, though that division has since moved to China.)
    Pickups nonwithstanding, the instrument required much less set-up than a friend’s AMERICAN Les Paul purchased the same year. At the end of a days work, the American Les Paul is still slightly off on intonation on account of the bridge being improperly placed.
    Soon, I plan on putting two top-of-the-line Seymour Duncan STK P90s in it, as well as a more robust toggle and higher grade potentiometers. (There isn’t a standard control cavity. It’s a semi-hollow style that you have to mount the electronics through the pickup routs. So I figured I might as well upgrade everything that might cause a problem later.)
    All told, I’m planning on dropping close to $400 (including a hard case) on a guitar that cost me $250 originally. Seems ludicrous until you compare that to the price a brand new American Les Paul that will still need to be set-up, and I think the cost is justified.
    If you own a vintage Gibson, don’t ever replace it. Fix it, because it is worth more and plays better than a new one. However, for those of us who don’t have the capital to wrest on of these beauties from the hands of the collectors, don’t shy away from the “Knock-Off” market.
    Now for the other side. I feel I cannot knock the American Fenders. Maybe last year I could. Definitely four years ago. But not this year. This year Fender has rebuilt itself and is building a killer product that I feel justifies the price in most cases. All U.S. made Fenders are being fitted with CUSTOM SHOP pickups. The models introduced this year (And last year too) have been stellar. I’ve been drooling over the Black Paisley Strats and Teles. I’ve been down to the guitar shop and played on a few 2012 models. While their Signature series has always been good, I picked up a US Standard, and could find no fault, other than needing a little action adjustment. In Oregon, action adjustment is something all guitarists go through every few months, so it isn’t considered a drawback.
    And the Squier series. Yep, made overseas, but in the last few years Fender has upped the QC. Even the lowly Starcaster guitars (Not to be confused with the awesome hollow-bodies of the 70s) are decent playing guitars with better-than-average pickups. I see by reading above that Gibson’s lack of responsibility is costing them a lot of fans. Maybe they should take a page from Fender and hire a CEO that really loves guitars. Put Billy Gibbons or Jimmy Page in charge of quality-centered decisions. Something, anything. While introducing new guitars that are made better and priced reasonably in accordance with their materials will undoubtably tick off those that just ought one last year, thus making the value of theirs drop, today’s market cannot bear these over-priced and basically unfinished instruments. If you spend $5,000 on a guitar, all it should need is an action adjust and new strings. Not hours of work from a technician.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 11:32 am
  52. D Pilar says:

    I have a 1975 Fullerton jz-175. It looks like an L-5. I researched it with several makers in Japan and they say they didn’t make theirs until mid or late 90s.  This guitar remains a mystery. No serial number or label inside. Some one told me it was probably sold in Ward’s. I just popped in some P-90s and flatwounds and the smoky silky jazz tones are amazing. The guy who appraised to me not to sell it under any conditions. Comments or info welcome. By the way I am the third owner. The guy I got if from had it since 91. I’ve had it 2 years now.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 11:42 am
  53. Paul D'Amato says:

    Wow. I didn’t know anyone had even heard of Medley Music outside of the suburbs of Philadelphia. I spent every weekend in that store, playing the guitars and trying out the Moog, Oberheim and Prophet synths. They had two stories and you get get lost in there among all the gear…sadly, they shut their doors a few years back

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm
  54. Martin says:

    I have an El Degas Gibson EB-3 bass copy. Though it sounds like it was made in Mexico, it is Japanese that some think was made in the same plant a Ibanez and others. I got it for Xmas in 1974 (to replace my Kingston P-bass copy, which I still have). I had asked my parents for a Gibson EB-3, and was sooo excited when I got the box under the tree. Imagine my face when I saw it was a copy! I was so disappointed, but I couldn’t say anything. I played it in a band in high school , and have still have it. Still, ever since that day I have wanted an original Gibson that I was denied, so I recently bought a 1969 Gibson EB-3. The El Degas is a perfect copy in every way, and if it doesn’t sound better, it sounds just as good. My Degas is still almost mint, plays easy, is powerful, versatile, and stays in tune. I own some very expensive vintage guitars (do I dare tell you I bought my ‘62 Strat for $440?), and the Degas is right up there in quality and performance. Thanks, Mom and Dad! Now, I wish I still had that monster Standell bass amp…

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm
  55. Scott Perry says:

    Either way, too pricey. Have a great battle…

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm
  56. TomCat says:

    I have quite a collection, including CS Gibsons but the best Les Paul I have (by far!) is a Greco EG400 which was in fact a low-end model with not even a solid maple top.
    It is superior in playabillity, weight (duh) and most important SOUND. I must say I realy like those vintage tones. It’s excelent for bluesy rock etc. I don’t do metal or the likes of such.
    What also makes it special to me is that I bought it on e-bay and it was shipped from Fukushima a week before the great tsunami struck there, destroying all life and matter in a 100 mile radius or so..
    She just needed to be rescued I guess…?

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 4:54 pm
  57. Tom A says:

    Have a very mint condition Aria Pro II TA-100, exelent reincarnation of a es335 and a drewam to play with a sound to match!! Late 70s / early 80s. The walnut colored marble still shines and plays like new!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm
  58. Dave says:

    Yamaki are great guitars (Martin copies). Old Aria Pro are fantastic.I had a Lero LP Custom that was pretty bad, though. El Degas made great basses.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm
  59. Mike Kavanaugh says:

    Last year I bought a Squier std. Telecaster from MF as well as picking up a maple fingerboard neck from a Squier 50s Classic Vibe Tele through eBay. I flipped the control plate so it’s away from my strumming hand and replaced the control knobs with black skirted Tele Custom knobs.  The guitar looks cool - a cross between Muddy Waters’ and a modern hot-rodded look. I had every intention, when buying the guitar, to replace the pickups with StewMac’s Golden Age Tele pups but, while waiting to save up the funds for the new pups, I fell in love with the sound of the stock Squier pickups! They sound absolutely gorgeous! Quite a change from Squier quality about 10 years ago (as well as Epiphone). Back then I ordered a Squier Tele Thinline (made in India) as well as a std Epi Casino that ended up being boxed back up and shipped back to the seller the day they arrived, the quality and sound was so poor. Now? Well, let’s just say I did a search and found both Squier and Epiphone Les Paul T-shirts to wear, I’m that proud of their instruments I own. My other Squier is a 50s Classic Vibe Strat. Again, I planned on replacing the pups but love the stock units with alnico 3 magnets - sweet!

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm
  60. Mike Kavanaugh says:

    BYW, anyone here have any experience with Bill Lawrence Swampkaster guitars? I visited a friend’s shop in Massachusetts last month and ended up putting one on layaway. I’ve always appreciated BL pickups. I’m curious if anyone here owns or has owned something from the BL Swampkaster series. I am considering cancelling the layaway but haven’t made a solid decision yet.

    posted on October 12, 2012 at 10:09 pm
  61. Michael Spitz says:

    To MIke Kananaugh’s comment about Squiers….:

    I own 3 Squier basses and two Squier Strats, 1 Jeff Beck white Strat and a severely souped up very first run, lawsuit Strat (bought from a great guitar player who sold guitars at Rudy’s Music on 48th St. Those that know….KNOW….the legend says that Mark Knopfler tried MY Fernandes out but, did not buy it….his loss, my gain….actually sold my 70’s Strat to buy it).

    While I COVET my JB model and the Fernandes…they mostly lie in commemorative tweed case coffins, in favor of my metallic red Strat from China with the Alnico V’s (and locking tuner, nut and saddle upgrades, plus push-pull pot for more pickup combos) and my newly acquired “Blem”???? WHAT BLEM”....???? sea foam green strat with the Duncan lipsticks, for $240, upgrades to follow….from Indonesia…..these guitars are my daily GO TO guitars…..absolutely love them.

    I scratch my head to near bleed-status when I see these prices for new Gibsons and Fenders….boggles the mind….these Squier look, sound and are built great at very approachable prices….

    Next axe?: Squier Tele with a rosewood neck and single coils (just doesn’t seem natural when I see humbuckers on anything even alluding to Fender/Squier….price?....$229….I rest my case…

    posted on October 13, 2012 at 12:38 am
  62. Gavin Lloyd Wilson says:

    Squier is spelt “SQUIER” and not “SQUIRE” - it’s easy to remember because it ends in “-ER” just like FENDER.

    posted on October 13, 2012 at 1:12 am
  63. A. Wayne Parker says:

    I received one of those Elger guitars as birthday present back in ‘66 direct from the store in Bryn Mawr. It had nylon strings and I think my parents probably paid $50-60 for it. I suspect that was a hefty price in the day.

    It traveled with me all over the world as I served in the Navy. Sadly in time all the travel and change in climates took its toll and the top was severely warped. I traded it in on a ‘76-77 Ibanez from the lawsuit era, but it was not of the headstock in question. In ‘11 I traded it in on a D1 Maritn. I know someone purchased my old Ibanez from the shop where I traded it in. I paid around $249 for the Ibanez, new.

    Medley Music is still in the same shop in Bryn Mawr, PA to my knowledge. I just may stop to see if it’s still there the next time I’m in the area.

    posted on October 13, 2012 at 1:44 am
  64. Moustyk974 says:

    Salut a tous, moi j’ai une Fender Pink Paisley, crafter in japan, superbe model, tout est beau sur cette guitare, avec un manche confortable, entierrement satisfait, bonne continuation

    posted on October 13, 2012 at 1:48 am
  65. patrick says:

    hello all. Aint PGS a great site??? here’s my take:
    Aria Pro II - single pickup, a wicked blue colored guitar for my teenage years . I had it routed for a rhy. pickup, and i went with EMG’s (remember them?) The guitar sang before and after the mod…Originally it was $200.
    My next axe, for about $500.00 was a 85 Fender Contemporary Strat, MIJ. This guitar had a wicked tremolo & an easily used nut lock system, which was very dependable. The trem. was NOT a copy of FR or Kahler. 1 HB & two single coils, it felt & played great. Never an issue with tuning… I had this guitar for years- it got ripped off tho…Today, i scan eBay waiting for it to pop up- Im still angry about losing her.
    I have an 89 Cherryburst LPC- a friend installed push-pull coil splitter tone control pots - it sounds very Tele- like w/ both pots on. A beautiful guitar, but the neck has gotten a lil’ funny. it seems to have twisted a little bit. my luthier friend told me he may have to steam it, but he was able to cut the nut a little bit and make it all good. But still…this leaves me unsettled. I’d probably pick the other one…the other Gibson i have is a arctic white 91 LPC. i changed the lead pick up to a pearly gates, this guitar really, really sings. BUT THE FINISH HAS TURNED SMOG YELLOW. Thats not the color i bought!!! BAH! Bums me out…
    The next Strat i bought was the SRV model in 94 , i guess? The big, thick neck is what sold me on it. Yeah, she sounded sweet, nice and stratty, but i wasn’t floored by the “Texas Special” it wasn’t long before i traded single coil pickups from another jap strat called a “Fresher Straighter”- i have no idea what kind of pick ups are in my SRV today, but she sounds real good…The guitar absolutely smokes; im afraid she’ll need some fretwork soon. I paid about $750 back in the day.
    i didn’t buy another guitar for 11 years or so. i bought a BC Rich Mockingbird which has a wood stained finish and a wicked shape…but she turned out to be kinda junky. the frets are not level with each other, she got dead spots for certain frets, it kinda sucks for a $600 axe. In 08, i got a Schecter C1 Classic with the cool vine inlays on the fretboard. Dbl HB’s but a 5 way pickup switch so strat sounds are definitely capable. This guitar was WELL worth $600, the finish alone is gorgeous- playability- tuning and feel are all top notch on this one.
    I also found an Epi SG a few years ago at guitar show. Tobacco Sunburst, and a gigantic neck!! Decent tone, no problems with staying in tune, but she’s a little neck heavy. I consider changing the lead pick up to a Pearly Gates too…Well made, and for $250.00 w/ case- thats a great deal for me.LOL
    My main guitars are two other Strats i built myself with necks by USA Custom. I dig REALLY big necks. Imagine taking a baseball bat and splitting it down the middle? Thats what i find comfy. If i play Jacksons or an Ibanez the neck feels like a a long floor tile…
    To wrap this up, I own (or owned) 5 mij/mok guitars, and 5 usa made guitars. (if you count the ones i built as usa made) here’s my verdict:
    The Gibsons, as beautiful as they were on the rack, did NOT stand the test of time 100%...Most people who pick ‘em up and play say they’re fantastic guitars, and I agree…but the horrible yellowing of the finish & the weird neck issue with the other one bums me out. They were the most expensive guitars i ever bought 20 years ago at $1200.  In todays market, LPC’s go for $3,500-$4,000!!!! Thats INSANE, and i won’t be getting a Gibson again, unless I win the lottery.
    The SRV Strat today goes for $1,500 or less. I paid $750.00. Thats inflation, and I claim that it is worth it, if you have the cash. Fender has made sooooo many great “Artist” series guitars to choose from, the USA made, the Mexico made…if you cant find a Strat you like - you don’t need one! And HB’s in a Strat doesn’t look as bizarre as single coils in a Gibson LP or SG…but thats just my opinion.
    The Epiphone is a real winner, as is the Schecter. Tone, feel, finish and details made both those guitars well worth every damn time!!
    The real loser of my collection, unfortunately, is the BC Rich. BCR in the 70’s was one of the first custom shop guitars, with some of the most original shapes-other than fender-and gibson. I was hoping this series in 2005(?) was reaching beyond the 12 year old metal heads reach. I was hoping for more quality from the one i bought…
    So expensive USA made the best?? Not necesserily.
    Cheap Jap or Korean all garbage?? Not by a long shot…
    When are decent prices AND the made in the USA sticker gonna happen???WHEN?
    Peace out

    posted on October 13, 2012 at 10:34 am
  66. Grec says:

    Wish I still had my mid 70s Aria Les Paul Black Beauty. That was such a sweet guitar -but in the 80’s it became ‘uncool’ to own a copy and sadly got rid of it. Now there a a gazillion Les Paul copies…. and no one seems to think it’s uncool.
    I thought that ‘moustache’ design was supposed to be an open book(?)

    posted on October 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm
  67. Ryan says:

    I think everyone forgot to mention even Eddie Van Halen used an Ibanez Explorer. A korina one which later got mutilated into the “Shark Guitar” yes the lawsuit guitars were and still are to this day far better.

    posted on October 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm
  68. Rodney Burgess says:

    While I’ll agree that some knockoffs and lawsuits are better than the original, I cannot see complementing the Chinese just yet. Most of what they do is reverse engineering and it doesn’t always turn out like it’s supposed to. I have a LP and SG, both made in China, and I’ve just about doubled what I paid for them to make them playable—new wiring harness, new toggle, better pups, etc. But I’ve gotten used to the feel and the weight, so it ain’t all bad. And you just might get lucky on a Chinese-made rig that starts sustain right out of the case. I’d be darned surprised, but it could happejn

    Oh, and Gibson, I’m talking about Epis here. I know why you use Chinese labor at $2 a day, but you are slowly making the Epiphone name synonymous with poor workmanship. Heck, you might even sell some Epis out of desire for one rather than the Epi-because-I-can-afford-a-Gibson mantra.

    posted on October 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm
  69. Michelle Rose says:

    I had a red Goya Les Paul in the mid-70’s. It was an amazing axe. It had a head and neck that was identical to a Gibson and was just as heavy. The inlay on the headstock and the neck binding were beautifully done. It’s only problems were weak pickups and really worn and pitted hardware. (The frets were in great shape, tho.) I liked it but my boyfriend Mike had an Ibanez double neck that I thought was really cool, so we traded. He got the better deal, I think. He pulled off all the hardware and replaced it with genuine Gibson pieces, rewired it, dropped a pair of DiMarzio PAF’s intro it and had a perfect Les Paul. On the other hand, I could never keep that damned Ibanez in tune, especially the twelve string top and both necks were a little warped. It buzzed too, and turned out to be so uncomfortable to play that I sold it and bought an Gibson SG. He still has the Goya. He played it at his wedding reception (not OURS!) a few years ago and it sounded great.

    posted on October 14, 2012 at 8:02 am
  70. Alan McGaughey says:

    I have a late 70’s Tokai goldtop love rock les Paul clone with their own P90’s and it kicks big time but. Lush tone, fantastic neck ...way better overall than the 2004 Les Paul Supreme Ijust got rid of. I also have a Tokai strat clone that is awesome. Great wood, electronics tone, fantastic neck. $250 a few years ago and one of the best soinding, playing guitars I own and that includes two $5000+ custom mades by a very well known luthier. These old Tokais are super deals.I also have an 80’s MIJ Fender that was super cheap and again, excellent craftsmanship. Snatch these up while their still cheap.

    posted on October 15, 2012 at 2:47 am
  71. Colin Williams says:

    Wow some crazy comments here, the asians only ever made those guitars for a reason, where as Gibson and Fender had a vision, to begin with. There is nothing like picking up a USA made guitar, it has the history and mana of their name, sure the law suit guitars were ok and shook the foundations of those company’s complacency but having played a s..t full of gats I know what guitar I’m going to play night after night.

    posted on October 15, 2012 at 5:51 pm
  72. Keith says:

    Not a ‘law suit’ company but would like to point out that Hamer was born as a response to the decline in quality from Fender and Gibson back in the 70’s… 

    To this day my fave guitars are Hamers.

    posted on October 16, 2012 at 2:13 am
  73. FU says:

    The Ibanez PU’s from the Rocket Rolls and the Destroyers were incredible. It was only a matter of time before some figured out that the Super 70’s need to be cloned!
    Despite some obvious construction differences, I haven’t found a guitar made at the same time, by Gibson which compares to the Rocket Roll

    posted on October 17, 2012 at 5:32 am
  74. BassMan55 says:

    The lawsuit was all my fault.  The feds promised me new Fender gear if I squealed and told all I knew—sorry that I ruined it for everybody ahahaha

    posted on October 18, 2012 at 12:14 am
  75. marcus says:

    At the time the Japanese started making “lawsuit” guitars, they had superior knowledge, because Japanese collectors and musicians had previously acquired the majority of 50’s / 60’s vintage guitars and the word was on the streets that those instruments were superior to current production US instruments at the time. So they started copying those old guitars, because there was a market for it. They met a demand that could not be met by us manufacturers at the time both in Japan and in the US and Europe. It took Fender and Gibson a long time to figure out what players wanted.
    Still not sure if they entirely get it. If you want a plain and simple 1956 Les Paul with P-90s, you have to spend close to 4K? What is that markup for in terms of features? If you just want your plain canoe paddle 52 style, you have to pay close to 2k? For some wood and wires, as Keith used to say. He and Ron played ESPs.
    Why do you think the Reverend BFG played and plays Tokai Les Pauls, he has the money to buy just about any guitar? Why do you think the original “Slash Appetite” Les Paul was not a Gibson but built by a luthier? Why do you think SRV played Tokai Guitars? Because those Guitars were great Guitars. If a guitar does not speak to you, you put it down no matter what is written on the headstock.

    posted on October 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm
  76. Keith says:

    Marcus.. I didn’t know SRV played Tokai’s.  Not saying you’re wrong, but where did you read that?  Very interesting!

    posted on October 24, 2012 at 8:08 am
  77. Dave says:

    Yes, there are several different Tokai promos featuring SRV…

    posted on October 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm
  78. KD says:

    I bought a Gibson J45 made in USA, $1200, been playin and beatin it up every week, 2 or 3 gigs since.
    My partner bought an Estaban, same time, for $100. Who knows where it was made, sounds as good as mine.
    It’s not who makes it, it’s how how it sounds and feels.

    posted on October 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm
  79. Keith says:

    Oh-so… I see grasshopper.  ;-)  I never realized he did an endorsement deal with them.  A quick Google (should have done that before bothering you) shows that the cover of the Texas Flood album was a painted rendition of a non-descript Strat shaped guitar that was obviously based on a Tokai promo poster.  Same page was full of people debating if SRV actually PLAYED their instruments but me personally I wouldn’t doubt it for a second.  Stevie was a very practical person and would have played a 2x4 if it sounded good to him.  JMHO.  Anyway… thanks for the edumucation.  Learn something new every day.  In my case typically a few things I forgot the day before as well.  ;-)

    posted on October 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm
  80. iaalbilzper says:

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    posted on October 25, 2012 at 10:42 am

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