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Weird Guitars: Vintage Freak Show

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Greco 950 (aka “the Shrike”)
If you grew up playing guitar in the ’60s, there’s a good chance you started off with a Japanese electric. They were affordable, flashy, and available just about anywhere, including drug stores, department stores, and mail order catalogs. But after a few lessons, many would-be players consigned these guitars to some closet, forgotten to time. I often come across guitars from this era in mint condition. American servicemen stationed in Japan were another source of new-old-stock guitars—they’d send guitars back to the States, only to forget them in the turmoil of returning to civilian life. That’s how I found this old Greco in an Arizona storage space.

The neck plate on this beauty is stamped with a “Patent Applied For” number, but the instrument was only available for a year or two, which accounts for its patent application being abandoned. The guitar was known as model number 950, but most people call it as “the Shrike,” though that name actually refers to the split-coil pickups. Because of this, two different guitars are referred to as Shrikes, both featuring these bizarre, V-shaped pickups.

Two complete, three-slug coils reside in each V, and you can turn each coil on or off. The pickups have a balanced tone—and some cool options. You can get thin, ’70s-funk sounds, mellow jazz tones, or aggressive blues sounds. The tremolo is a passable Bigsby substitute.

This guitar was made at the old Teisco factory in Nagano, Japan. From 1967 to 1969, the factory continued to make guitars, even though the association with Teisco was severed in 1966. The old factory was named Teisco Gen Gakki, and it became very popular with American importers in the late ’60s for its competitive prices and high quality. In fact, the first Japanese-licensed Mosrite guitars were produced at the old Teisco factory in the late ’60s.

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