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more... GuitarsGearArchtopHollowbodyHollowbodyArchtopHumbucker-equippedTrash or TreasureNovember 2010

Fusion Blues Jazzbox

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Fusion Blues Jazzbox
Hi Zach,
While trolling my local music store, I stumbled on a jazz box I had never heard of before: a Fusion Blues. It looked, played, and sounded fantastic, and had a $239 price tag. Although I was not in the market for yet another guitar, I couldn’t leave without it. It blew away a number of other used electrics I played in the store, all made by the big boys. Finding info on this brand is like finding a banjo in a philharmonic! I’m not as much interested in its dollar value as its backstory, since I have no intention of parting with it. Can you fill in the blanks? Thanks.

Carl
Dallas, Pennsylvania


Hi Carl,
Some of my American guitar-building colleagues hate to hear this, but sometimes a great playing guitar has one of the least expensive price tags. This guitar, like many others on the market today, was built in China, and I’ve noticed that Chinese and other Asian-made guitars are becoming increasingly well built. There’s no question that information is scarce on this brand—as it is with many other Chinese guitars—but this makes the chase more thrilling.

I encounter a lot of guitars every year, whether at trade shows, in catalogs, or online, so it is difficult to remember or keep them all straight. I have to be honest that I started with an internet search, since I couldn’t find anything under the “Fusion Blues” trademark in my archives. I found two reviews on Harmony Central that pretty much reiterate the same thing you said—it is a great playing guitar. However, I saw someone mention Switch Music being the distributor, and lo and behold I had a catalog from Switch Music about the Fusion Blues from the 2006 NAMM show.

According to the catalog, you have a model FB600 (also called the Metropolitan Deluxe), which was built in China during the mid 2000s. The guitar’s features include an arched Sitka spruce top, flamed maple back and sides, two bound f-holes, faux abalone top body binding, maple side and back body binding, a maple neck, rosewood fretboard with faux pearl/abalone block inlays, Grover Imperial tuners, two Alnico 2 “Cool Blue” humbucker pickups, two pickup volume knobs, a master tone knob, a master volume knob, a rosewood-based Tune-o-matic-style bridge, a trapeze tailpiece, and gold hardware. The finish on your guitar is called vintage sunburst, but a natural finish was also available.

Fusion Blues was a trademark of SwitchMusic.com, Inc., and it appears that Switch is no longer in business, meaning the Fusion Blues brand probably went away as well. The last time Switch Music exhibited at the NAMM show was in 2006, their website is no longer active, and most reviews I’ve read online indicate the company was out of business by 2008 or 2009. Switch started out by importing the Switch brand of electric guitars that used Vibracell technology—a resin used in the body and neck, different from wood, designed to increase sustain. Later, they introduced the Fusion Blues brand of electric archtop “jazz boxes” and the Cedar Ridge line of flattop acoustic guitars.

Along with your guitar, Switch also offered a plain version called the Metropolitan Special (FB500), an oval-soundhole model with a Florentine cutaway and single floating mini-humbucker pickup called the Villager (FB400), three versions of the semi-hollow ES-335 called the Beale Street Collection (FB100, FB200, and FB300), and two top-of-the- line models called the Soho (FB700) and the Manhattan (FB800).

Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain any kind of price list showing Fusion Blues guitars while Switch Music was still in business, but based on Switch’s other brands and what I’ve read from reviews online, I suspect the retail price for these guitars ranged somewhere between $400 and $700. With the amount of ornamentation this guitar has, as well as the attention to detail, it is easily worth the $239 you paid for it, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this guitar worth up to $500 in the future. You wouldn’t be able to touch an American-made guitar like this for less than four digits—making it an instant treasure, since it plays so well.

Many players and collectors are afraid these Chinese-built guitars are going to take over the entire American market, and I share some of this fear. However, it is all an example of how we must remain competitive and stay one step ahead of the next person to survive in this volatile guitar market. There is a fine line between tradition and moving forward that many guitar builders struggle with. Competition among builders—regardless if they build in America or overseas—allows the player to obtain the best possible product out there for a reasonable price, which in my mind is another treasure onto itself!


Zachary R. Fjestad

Zachary is the author of the Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and the Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers. For more info, visit bluebookinc.com or drop an email to guitars@bluebookinc.com. You can submit questions to:
Blue Book Publications
Attn: Guitar Trash or Treasure
8009 34th Ave. S. Ste #175
Minneapolis, MN 55425
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