This 1971 Univox model was one of the Nirvana frontman's favorite pawnshop guitars.
Don't even ask me how I found out about this, but on a recent night while stumbling around the internet in a whiskey haze, I discovered an auction for some of Kurt Cobain's hair. Yes, six glorious strands of bleached hair were neatly encased in plastic and accompanied with all sorts of provenance to assure any bidder that this was the real deal. Of course, I immediately set to thinking about the economic ramifications of placing a bid (starting at $2,500), and after a few drinks I was set to put in a last second snipe. Alas, I fell asleep and quickly forgot about it. When I checked back a few days later I saw the final price was … $13,800!
Heck, I saw Nirvana live several times back in the day and I sure wasn't thinking about Kurt's hair. But I was always impressed by how such a small guy could have such a powerful presence. I also marveled at his choice of gear, which always seemed sort of random. I mean, Kurt would switch out all manner of Fender guitars, but then there were always these oddballs that he would use. Among his early favorites were Univox Hi-Fliers, which I really liked, because one of my early favorites was also a Hi-Flier.
There are all sorts of great players who've swung these around on stage, including Lee Renaldo and Dexter X, but it was Kurt and his Hi-Flier that really resonated with my young self.
Back in the late 1980s, I saw Nirvana for the first time in Hoboken, New Jersey. The night was mostly fuzzy, but Kurt playing a Hi-Flier really blew me away. Like, here I was … some goofball kid who was obsessed with cheap, weird guitars, and then there's this little powerhouse of a guy playing really heavy riffs on a pawnshop guitar. It was a life-changing moment. I felt validated by seeing another guitar player with one of my bargain-shelf favorites.
In 1968, the Westbury, New York–based Unicord Corporation was importing some very interesting Japanese gear, which was rather amazing and affordable. My original, longtime setup consisted of a Hi-Flier and a Univox Super-Fuzz, both going through an old Harmony 420 bass amp. Each component in that chain was more than I probably deserved as a player (I was always more of a noisemaker), 'cause all the Univox guitars from the late '60s and early '70s were consistent, sounded fine, and could pretty much hold tuning.
Simple but effective, this 1971 Univox has just one control each for tone and volume, hot single-coil pickups, and a Jazzmaster-like vibrato bridge that holds tune far better than most budget imports of its day.
Univox guitars were built in the Matsumoku facility in Matsumoto City, Japan, in a former Singer Sewing Machine factory which was repurposed in the mid-1960s to make some of the country's better electric guitars for about 20 years. Univox-branded guitars were really common on the secondhand market of the 1980s and could be had for a song. Heck, even the list price on a Hi-Flier was only around $90 in the early '70s. (Today, old Hi-Fliers tilt up to a grand!) That was really the dawn of the copy era, so, to outdo the American competition, Univox products were priced much lower and had much cooler names. Les Paul copies were called the Gimme and the Mother, their 335 knock-off was the Coily, and the Dan Armstrong plexiglas copy was dubbed Lucy. I really need to write a book on weird guitar names, and I really need to honor the hype-writer of the day who described the Hi-Flier 6-string and bass as:
Lets ya feel free … with curves where ya want 'em. Loose … Flat … Light. A guitar to fly with, slide with, bend with, and a bass that gets funky!
Yo, dig that! Throughout the 1970s, the Hi-Flier went through a few changes, such as a switch to humbuckers, but the general layout and feel stayed true to its Mosrite roots and it was quite the player—with one volume and one tone control, and a 3-way pickup switch. And yes, the pickups on my '71 are single-coils, but they're way overwound and read hot, at about 9k. These P-90 look-alikes just scream and are always on the edge of exploding when some fuzz or distortion is added. The neck profile on Matsumoku-made guitars tends to be a bit flat in the shoulder, à la early Epiphone/Gibson electrics, but these Hi-Fliers are thinner across the nut. As for the vibrato, it has a really tight, Jazzmaster feel. Japanese twang-bar bridges are not usually that great, but this unit was one of the first good ones.
I don't think you could go wrong with any Hi-Flier version, although there are people who swear by one model or another. There are all sorts of great players who've swung these around on stage, including Lee Renaldo and Dexter X (Man or Astroman?), but it was Kurt and his Hi-Flier that really resonated with my young self. Oh, and if any of you have any of Kurt's hair, give me a call, dig?
Univox Hi Flier Phase II Guitar Demo
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Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.
The new finish, according to Lava Music, is “inspired by the beauty of the golden hour,” a shining time just before sunset and after sunrise when photographers covet to capture stunning pictures.
With bright and warm golden hues, the new finish adds a brilliant metallic glow to the surface of Lava ME 3, complementing its AirSonic 2 carbon fiber unibody which features L3 Preamp with FreeBoost 2.0, delivers industry-leading sounds by breakthrough acoustic technologies, and houses a multi-touch display powered by Lava-developed HILAVA system.
Speaking of the HILAVA system, Lava Music also added four new effects: Nebula, Desert Rose, Cassette, and Edge of Breakup. As unique as their names sound, they are very much different from what we normally know about effects. Programmed into the HILAVA system, each of the four is powered by the company’s latest ArctanDrive algorithm and incorporates effects like Pitch Shift, Delay, and Reverb. And every one of those incorporated sub-effects comes with various parameters that players can adjust to design unique, overdriven sounds by just tapping on the multi-touch display. That said, those effects enable users to play with overdriven tone on an acoustic-electric guitar without even plugging in any external gear.
LAVA ME 3 | Now in Golden Hour | LAVA MUSIC
Lava Me 3 in Golden Hour is now available starting from $999 on LAVA MUSIC, Amazon, and local guitar dealerships near you.
For more information, please visit store.lavamusic.com.