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December 2014
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Weird Guitars: Vintage Freak Show

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Avalon AV-2T
This guitar became legendary for its extreme design and cool looks—and for its infamous association with the Shaggs. One could write a lengthy, fascinating history of the Shaggs and the value of their music, but let’s focus here on the guitar they made famous.

The AV-2T dates from 1968 and was made by Fuji Gen Gakki Manufacturing Corp. (later renamed Fujigen) in Matsumoto, Japan. Yuichiro Yokouchi founded the company in 1960, and the Fujigen factories make high-end guitars to this day. Fuji Gen Gakki was one of the largest manufacturers of electric guitars during the ’60s, and this Avalon model was an original design. At that time, guitar design was primarily left to the engineers, or to the American importers who were looking for a specific style. But this Avalon was actually designed by Mr. Yokouchi. This truly unique guitar was one of only two of his creations to make it to market.

In the late ’60s, Fuji Gen had a new factory, and this model exhibited some of the latest techniques made possible by the facility, such as a thin, highly figured maple veneer over a sandwiched body core. The factory employed some of the finest woodworkers in Japan, and this was a guitar made to look sleek and sweeping at a price point American importers would like. With a wholesale price of $47.50, the guitar was described like this: “Professional quality and workmanship go into this ultra slim necked beauty. Newly designed!”

Watch a demo of the Avalon AV2T

The AV2Ts extreme, sweeping curves were among the last of the adventurous Fujigen designs of the ’60s. The neck has a slim, fast feel, and it’s a lightweight guitar overall. The low-output pickups have a bit of Strat-like tone, or maybe closer to an old Gibson Melody Maker, but with extra twang. There’s an ever-present echo-like quality that lends itself well to surf music. The all-in-one bridge/tremolo, designed at the famous Matsumoku guitar factory in Japan, was quite a popular unit in the late ’60s, even finding its way onto the era’s Valcos.

Because the ’60s guitar boom was in serious decline by 1968, the AV-2T had a very short run. Around 1970, Fuji Gen Gakki pulled out of the export business and focused solely on domestic sales and a partnership with Hoshino Gakki (parent company to Ibanez guitars, Tama drums, and others). This Avalon guitar represents one of the last great Japanese guitar designs.

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