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Weird Guitars: Vintage Freak Show

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Teisco T-60
Guitar-playing Glen Campbell fans often wonder what kind of 6-string he played in the early ’60s. Take a look at any old photo or video of Campbell, and you’ll probably spot this unique guitar churning out all sorts of great rockabilly and country licks. The guitar was the short-lived Teisco T-60. The well-loved example shown here was found in a Dallas pawnshop. Naturally, it had been hanging there for years.

Teisco began in the late 1940s in Tokyo. The company initially focused on guitar pickups and lap steels. In the ’50s, they began producing large hollowbody guitars and small solidbody electrics, but in 1959 the designers pushed hard for the freedom to introduce an original, high-quality design that could hold its own against any other guitar. In 1960, Teisco experienced much growth as demand for electric guitars rose. Just as Teisco moved into a larger factory in Tokyo, they decided that the top-of-the-line T-60 was ready for release.

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The T-60 was entirely handmade and very ambitious for its time. It features a fine set-neck design with a deep-V neck profile and solid-wood construction. The pickups, designed and produced in house, feature adjustable pole pieces. They measure in the mellow 4kHz range, but sound quite lively The rotary switch permits individual pickup selection, and each pickup offers nice, round tones with a touch of twang—somewhere between a Stratocaster and a Telecaster. Probably the most striking feature of the T-60 is the “monkey-grip” body cutout and the headstock that echoes it. This was the first instance of this signature Teisco feature, and on the T-60 it was carved completely by hand.

T-60s were produced until 1961, but then disappeared. By ’62, Teisco was cranking out electric guitars destined for North American shores. Early Teisco electrics like the T-60 rarely made it to the U.S., and the guitars that did arrive here usually came home with American servicemen stationed in Japan. It makes you wonder how Campbell found his T-60, huh? But after he moved to Los Angeles in 1960, he was soon showing off his skills on one of the finest early Japanese electrics.

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