In a world awash with Tele and Strat remakes, it’s fun to stumble across quirky outliers.
Are you obsessed with guitar books? Those coffee-table tomes that feature gorgeous photos of vintage guitars or explore the history of different genres and great players? Even as a kid I was fascinated with guitars and guitar design, and to feed my passion I made a “guitar section” on my bedroom bookshelf—right next to my prized comics. I remember having quite a few books by Tony Bacon (you rule, dude!), but the first book that truly blew me away was a Japanese offering called Bizarre Guitars of the 60s by Hiroyuki Noguchi. It was written almost entirely in Japanese and only sold in Japan, but a Japanese friend bought it for me and brought it to the States to blow my mind. Seriously folks, if you haven’t seen this, you need to find a copy. [Editor’s note: This 226-page book is out of print but is occasionally available from used book sellers at a price that reflects its scarcity.]
I’m riffing about my all-time favorite guitar book because after its publication in the early ’90s there was a small resurgence of adventurous vintage guitar designs, and this coincided with the renewed interest in such brands as Teisco and Guyatone. One of the more obscure yet cool offerings from this period is exemplified by the two FujiGen guitars shown in Photos 1 and 2.
At that time, FujiGen was building most of the Fender Japan guitars, and that’s when they decided to branch out and introduce their own unique designs. Among some of the first guitars to actually feature the FujiGen name on the headstock, these are often referred to as “PP” models, based on the neck stamps and catalog designations. They offered a retro-cool headstock and body design that combined elements of Valco, Galanti, Teisco, and Danelectro.
I remember reading that Kurt Cobain admired the band Shonen Knife, and as it happened, the first time I saw one of these FujiGen guitars, it was strapped around the band’s guitarist, Naoko Yamano. FujiGen designed these instruments in part as a signature model for her, and the red one here is an example of her preferred 6-string.
These FujiGens were offered in various gloss and matte finishes, and with different components, but they all featured basswood bodies and maple necks, high-quality tuners, good electronics, and really interesting pickups. There were even bass models available, which are now particularly rare. These lightweight instruments feature the attention to detail that’s typical of all the guitars that come from the FujiGen factory.
Looking back now, these guitars were just a blip on the timeline of music history, as they were only made for a year or two. In fact, the oddball vintage guitar resurgence of the ’90s didn’t last very long, but it was a great time to be buying weird guitars on the cheap. (You may recall that back then even Fender Mustangs and Jaguars fell into this category, and you could score them for a fraction of today’s vintage prices.) If you want to feast your eyes on page after page of quirky, yet intriguing instruments, track down a copy of Bizarre Guitars of the 60s and prepare to be amazed.
Watch the video demo: