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Wizard of Odd: Late-’60s TeleStar Doubleneck

Here’s another beautiful weirdo from the Kawai Enshu factory.

Let me take you back to a time when an entire band could plug into one amp. Yes, back in the day, amplifiers were often multi-purpose devices, designed to handle guitars, basses, microphones, and accordions. This kind of thinking spilled into the ensemble itself: Seeking more versatility, players could grab a doubleneck instrument that combined guitar, bass, 12-string, or mandolin, and execute several parts within a song.

One example of these multifaceted instruments is the late-1960s TeleStar 6/4 doubleneck shown in Photo 1. I’ve owned this Japanese doubleneck for several years. It really appealed to me because doubleneck guitars were not common in Japan during the 1950s and ’60s. In fact, I believe this model was the only dual-purpose Japanese guitar from that era.

The extreme designs that came from the former piano factory in the late ’60s would make a fascinating book.

I was reminded of this TeleStar watching a recent Premier GuitarRig Rundown with Jared Mattson of the Mattson 2. In it, he used a looper to great effect to layer some really cool lines with his TeleStar. His doubleneck is modded with newer pickups and a few other upgrades, but essentially, it’s the same as mine. I was tickled to see a touring musician playing something so quirky.

This TeleStar doubleneck was made around 1967 or ’68. The laminated neck design, pickups, and tremolo are dead giveaways for this era of guitar production at the Kawai Enshu factory. The extreme designs that came from the former piano factory in the late ’60s would make a fascinating book. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the Kawai designers and employees from that era, and they all seemed perfectly normal—certainly not gonzo enough to imagine some of the insane guitars they created! But hey, it was the ’60s.

We have to thank the New York-based Laboz family for the TeleStar name. Starting around 1965, Maurice Laboz, with his brother Charlie and Charlie’s son, Jamie, imported intriguing guitars to the U.S. Their little company sold all kinds of instruments and accessories, and they used quite a few different Japanese factories for production. Almost all their guitars carried the TeleStar brand name, and some very rare models feature a Laboz emblem.

This 6/4 doubleneck is built pretty well for 1960s Japanese instruments. The pickups have a cool, airy quality and are just microphonic enough that they can really take off with a little fuzz, but run clean, they sound mellow and totally vintage. Though the body appears to be solid, this one is mostly hollow. I was lucky enough to buy mine with the original case and a beautifully insane “sock” that the original owner’s mom made for all his guitars (Photo 2). It’s like a psychedelic gig bag! Kudos to Jared Mattson for playing such a cool, old guitar.