Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 30
THE HEIT DELUXE V-2
BY MICHAEL WRIGHT
THE DIFFERENT STRUMMER
n the mid 1960s, as babyboomers were reaching adolescence, there was
a seemingly insatiable demand for guitars - and an almost unlimited
number of people lining up to sell them.
Alongside familiar brands were exotic
names used by importers, distributors, and
retailers such as Audition, Cipher, and ZimGar, whose origins are more obscure. Among
them are guitars branded Heit Deluxe.
Heit Deluxe guitars were brought to the
U.S. by G&H Imports Inc., Lodi, New Jersey.
The company's original facility - a small,
single-story warehouse with a decidedly
'60s look - still exists, in a largely residential
neighborhood. Who "G" and "H" were is
unknown, but the "H" almost certainly
belongs to Heit. Evidence suggests they were
importing something before '65, because
on either January 11 or November 1 of that
year, G&H Imports officially changed its
name to Heit International, Inc. (though
brochures printed as late as '67 identified
them as "GHi/Heit"). Heit International
is still registered as an active business
entity, but there's no evidence it has
done any business for years.
The one known Heit catalog is
#3, from '68, copyrighted in '67.
Assuming such catalogs were
published annually, that would
suggest they began in '65 or '66.
However, an internet search of
Heit Deluxe guitars will predominantly reveal images of guitars
seen in catalog #3, or the guitar
seen here. All those in the '67-'68
catalog are Kawais with features
found between '65 and '67. Many
other importers of Japanese guitars at
the time - Kent (B&J), Norma (Strum
and Drum), and TeleStar - offered the
same guitars for multiple years, so it's possible this brochure accounts for most of the
Heit Deluxe line.
Kawai was started by Koichi Kawai in 1927,
as a piano manufacturer in Hamamatsu,
Japan. It gradually added other instruments
to its portfolio and became both manufacturer and trading company; in Japan,
trading companies control most business,
providing financial support for associated
factories and handling domestic distribution as well as exports, among other things.
Kawai began making acoustic guitars circa
1954. When the guitar market began to loom
large in the U.S., Kawai approached Teisco
to make its electrics in '63, then decided to
manufacture them on its own. In '65, Kawai
attended the NAMM show that June, where
it likely hooked up with GHi, which then
ordered most of the guitars we see today.
The core of the Heit Deluxe (Kawai) line
consisted of bolt-neck solidbodies with a
distinctive asymmetrical scallop on the
butt-end, a sort-of Strat-style headstock,