Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 32

NON-COPY
CAT
The Ibanez Artist 2616CS
G

BY MICHAEL WRIGHT
THE DIFFERENT STRUMMER

uitarchaeology, like the real science that studies dinosaurs, keeps
excavating examples that make us reconsider history. Ibanez's 2616
Artist jazz box was a catalog model, but it's rarely seen - and revises notions that Japanese guitars of the "copy era" were intrinsically inferior to
American models.

VINTAGE GUITAR

32

January 2018

Ibanez is arguably the most successful
Japanese brand to emerge from post-war
reconstruction. Its Nagoya-based parent,
Hoshino Gakki Ten, had been in the music
business since 1908, when its bookstores
began selling musical instruments for use
in school programs. In the '20s, Western
music (with its classical guitar and mandolin) became popular and traditional
Japanese musical modes began adapting
to its tempered scales. In '29, Hoshino
began importing guitars made in Spain
by the Salvador Ibanez factory. Circa '35,
Hoshino began selling guitars - acoustic
flat-tops, of course - made in Japan carrying
the Ibanez label.
After World War II, Hoshino joined
other Japanese companies in exporting
acoustic and electric guitars to the U.S. and
elsewhere. By '68, it was sourcing electric
guitars from Fujigen Gakki and Teisco, but
from 1970 on almost all electric guitars
were built by Fujigen, which had begun
in 1960 as a classical-guitar workshop.
Most Japanese trading companies
were content to find American importers/distributors for their products.
Hoshino was unique in that it wanted
to establish a subsidiary in the U.S. In
'71, it did just that with Elger, a small
acoustic-guitar maker operated by Harry
Rosenbloom in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
In late '74, Rosenbloom sold his interest in Elger and the company became a
wholly owned subsidiary of Hoshino. In
the early '80s, the name was changed to
Hoshino U.S.A.
One can't reference '70s guitars without
acknowledging the "copy era," when Japanese makers made versions of American
designs and sold them at a fraction of the
price. This really annoyed American companies... but there's subtlety to the picture,
and Hoshino took the lead in pushing the
quality of its copies. It also pushed the form
to new territory.
The notion of copying - or at least
emulating - the competition evolved
throughout the '60s, the pivotal moment
happening with the introduction of the
Plexiglas Ampeg Dan Armstrong "seethrough" guitar in '69. This was the first
guitar from a major company to qualify
as revolutionary; copying a Les Paul or
Strat was one thing, but jumping on a new
concept was altogether different.
By 1970, most major Japanese companies
had a variation of the Armstrong, including
Ibanez. Subsequently, virtually every guitar
introduced at NAMM was copied until the
practice was ended in '78 thanks to legal ac-


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