Ibanez guitars are part of the Hoshino Group. Hoshino Gakki is a Japanese musical instrument trading company. The earliest records of Hoshino Gakki company state it was originally founded in 1908, however, the actual starting date was a little before this date. The first Hoshino Company was a distributor of books in Japan. The store is still there in Nagoya Japan, rebuilt after World War II, but this was branched off and separated by another member of the Hoshino Family.
In 1908 Hoshino started selling organs and this was the official start of the Musical Instrument Company. The founder and first person to head the music department was the late Yoshitaro Hoshino. He fathered four sons, Ryohei, Jumpei, Masao, and Yoshihiro, each of whom have played an important role in the development of the company. The fourth son, Yoshihiro Hoshino, is at the present time, the president of the company.
Hoshino Musical Instruments was originally located at 8 Chome, Miyuki Honcho, Nishiku, which is now 3 Chome, Nishiki of Nakaku. The Hoshino Bookstore occupied a large two story wooden building on the main street called Miyuki Hondori. Large scale wholesaling of musical instruments within Japan was initiated in 1928. It took twenty one (21) years after it’s formation before the Hoshimo Gakki Ten Inc. was to become established. The reason for the long delay was that the demand for musical instruments was insufficient to fully support the company.
Under the direction of Yoshitaro Hoshino, organs were displayed and sold from the bookstore. A great deal of time and effort went into cultivation the desire for his customers to purchase his musical instruments
Yoshitaro Hoshino’s first son Ryohei, was a graduate of the prestigious Nagoya City Nagoya Commercial High School, popularly known as CA. Even before graduation, he had acquired a good command of English starting in his middle school and had used this skill to help his father in the importing of musical instruments. Ryohei’s knowledge of English allowed the Hoshino Gakki Ten Inc. to increase their sales of imported musical instruments. In 1926 they started to import a variety of musical instruments such as wind and string instruments, reeds and accessories from Europe and the United States.
In 1929 for business reasons the family decided to split into two areas, one being the current store and the other being Hoshino Gakki Ten musical instruments, founded by Yoshihiro’s Mother and Father, Yoshitaro, now age 39. Although this was for him personally the most energetic time of his life, it also coincided with the onset of the worst depression in world history. Many banks as well as established companies were going bankrupt at an ever-increasing rate. How difficult a decision it must have been for the manager to decide to aggressively launch a new business venture in this time of deep economic depression. It speaks well of the bravery of the manager to make his decision in view of the bleak economic climate.
After Ryohei’s graduation from CA, he traveled to Shanghai which was one of the liveliest cities of its day. He told his father that he intended to learn the ways of foreign countries. It was in Shanghai that he discovered and became interested in a table game played by four people called Mahjongg. His interest in the game led him to buy a quantity of the playing tiles and to bring them back to Japan with him.
Upon his return to Japan, he told his father of the huge popularity of the game in China and decided to sell the tile sets in Nagoya. It was Ryohei’s belief that ordinary merchandise would not sell during the depression. He reasoned that the people needed something that would divert their attention from their daily drab existence. His idea proved to be true. Mahjongg began to grow in popularity in Nagoya and throughout the country to the extent that by 1929, the first National Mahjongg tournament was held in Tokyo.
The present president of the company, Yoshihiro Hoshino, credits his brother Ryohei as being instrumental in the spread of the popularity of Mahjongg in the Nagoya area.
One of the things that Ryohei did was to set aside a section of the bookstore for the display and sale of Mahjongg tiles. A sign placed over the tiles read, “ We have all items needed to open a Mahjongg parlor”. The tiles proved to be a tremendous seller.
It is safe to assume that not many of today’s many Mahjongg fans are aware of the role that Ryohei played in spreading the popularity of the game in Nagoya.
After the establishment of Hoshino Gakki Ten company they began the Importing of musical instruments into Japan. Around 1929 the Japanese government wanted the schools to start teaching music education as a basic curriculum. Before the government intervention, musical education was not thought of as a basic course in schools. During that time the only popular instrument was the organ, and Hoshino’s organ business was good.. The organs that Hoshino Gakki sold were actually Japanese Yamaha organs. These organs had no motor but used a foot powered air blower.
Hoshino Gakki saw this opportunity for an increase in sales since music stores where few and far between. They made a decision to increase importing musical instruments into Japan. During that time the Hoshino music store also sold various school supplies such as books, pencils and paper but the heart of the business was in the musical merchandise so this is what they decided to concentrate on.
Initially, in 1929, when Hoshino Gakki Ten Inc. was first established, string instruments were imported directly from Ibanez Salvador. The success of the imports from Spain led to subsequent imports of wind instruments from Czechoslovakia and parts for string instruments from the United States. Mr. Yoshihiro Hoshino also stated that they started importing Black Diamond Strings and various other instruments such as drums from outside Japan.
During the days of the economic depression, there was a great deal of unrest and civil disobedience in Japan. In 1930 alone, more than 400,000 people became unemployed. The then Prime Minister, Hamaguchi, was attacked in the Tokyo train station. In the years that followed, the Manchurian incident of 1931, the Shanghai incident and the assassination of the then Prime Minister Inukai in 1932 and Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations, all took place. All of these occurrences as well as the spread of militarism led the Japanese people to turn to music, the arts as well as other forms of entertainment as a form of diversion.
All of this unrest helped to promote and popularize musical instruments in Japan. When a song “Kage wo Shitaite (Missing the Image) became a big favorite in 1932, many fans were moved to buy mandolin’s and guitar’s to play the song.
The first musical instrument catalog under the Hoshino Gakki Ten company was made in 1931 this catalog had many types of instruments from brass instruments to drums. There is only one copy of this catalog that we know of because during World War II the entire Nagoya area was bombed, and all the records were destroyed. This catalog was found buried in old books from the time still intact at the original bookstore location.
To find new instruments throughout the world to import into Japan another family member Ryohey Hoshino was traveling around the world looking for instruments to import. He started going to Europe to get mandolins, drums and accessories from Italy and Germany. As for local production of instruments, The Hoshino family found a few hundred miles north of them. A small city named Matsumoto. Matsumoto City had many small violin building companies that had good craftsman building violins by hand. Many smaller builders where branching off and going independent, opening their own production facilities. The Hoshino Family asked these small builders start making some small quantities of instruments for them. To this day Matsumoto Japan is still the main center of Ibanez guitar production.
As the demand for musical instruments began to grow and stabilize, Hoshino Gakki Ten Inc., in 1935, decided to manufacture their own line of string instruments. There a main emphasis was on guitars. The first manufacturing plant was located at Yasuda Dori, Showa-ku, in Nagoya and employed about thirty (30) craftsmen. Nagoya has come to be known as the cradle of string instruments due to the many manufacturers that are located there. This was a possible incentive for the Hoshino Group to locate their manufacturing plant in that city.
Although Hoshino was to get off to a late start as a manufacturer, they quickly established themselves as a primary producer of high quality instruments. By the late 1930’s Yoshihiro Hoshino states that they were producing 1000 guitars every month. The high quality of their brand “Ibanez” was such that many people thought it to be imported from Spain.
At that time, Hoshino Instrument occupied a large store at 8 Chome, Miyuki Honcho consisting of a wholesale and a retail department adjacent to each other. They were one of only a few wholesalers in all of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka to cover just the domestic sales.
Hoshino Gakki was also the first exporter of musical instruments from Japan and they started their official export business in 1935 the first countries they where shipping Ibanez guitars to many South Asian countries like Taiwan, Indonesia, Indo China, Burma, and Korea.
By the late 1930’s Hoshino began importing Ludwig drums, They were also producing their own drums in Nagoya called Star Drums, named after the family, Hoshino means star in Japanese.
The imported products to Japan were shipped from other countries by ship to the Nagoya port. The port was located about 10 miles away. This was before there was any transportation in Japan so, Hoshino Company people would take handcarts to the port and stack as many guitars as they could and pull them back to the store.
Sometime around 1938 or 1939 the plant in Showa-Ku was destroyed by fire. Although they were able to relocate and restart their manufacturing operation, the output was scaled back. It was at that time that the country was plunged into World War II. The government regulated the manufacture of all non-essential goods, which were considered luxury items. Musical instruments headed the list of non-essential items and their manufacture was severely restricted. In addition to the restrictions, material required for the manufacture of the instruments was in very short supply. In order to survive, Hoshino Gakki Ten Inc. turned to the manufacture of items other than musical instruments. At one point they used their acquired manufacturing knowledge to manufacture wooden handles for bags.
As the war continued, things became increasingly more difficult .One after another each of Hoshino’s sons was called for war duties. At that point Hoshino Gakki Ten Inc. had no choice but to discontinue the business and lease out his plant in Showa-Ku An air attack that took place on March 10, 1944 burned down all of the Hoshino property including their 4000 sq. ft. store in Nagoya. Although as a result of the war Yoshitaro Hoshino lost all of his property, to his good fortune, all of his sons returned home unharmed.
After loosing everything due to the war, Yoshitaro restarted his store in a shack built in Motoshige-cho Nakaku in 1948. It was not easy to restart the company from nothing. It took five years of desperately hard work on a daily basis in order to survive.
Yoshihiro Hoshino, the present president recalled those days. “ There were so many companies in the music business all in competition with each other that it was difficult for any to survive. Compared with the pre-war period it was completely different. I was a recent graduate of CA (1947) and it was a most difficult period both emotionally and physically for all recent graduates or any young people just returning from the war. In a way I can now say that I really had a good experience. Because we could not only do domestic business, just like pre war, we turned our attention to foreign countries as our next market.”
Using the unburned business list that was used before the war, Hoshino started to communicate with foreign countries. In order to do this, a typewriter was needed to write order forms in English. Yoshihiro was able to locate a typewriter repair shop along the moat of Nagoya castle. In exchange for a small gift, he was allowed to use some of the recently repaired typewriters.
For a period after the war, the company temporarily manufactured items such as ceramic desk lamps and molded paper punches. This was necessary in order to address the shortages of food and other daily necessities.
By the early 1940’s World War II had started, and Japan was right in the middle of it, as we know. The United States bombing of Japan was severe and most of the cities including Nagoya where completely destroyed. Hoshino’s main operation was destroyed in 1944 causing a complete stop to all operations. The company was basically out of business until 1948 when they started to rebuild the business.
Just after the war the current chairman and current president, Mr. Yoshihiro Hoshino was working with another company that made chinaware for exporting . His job was preparing shipping documents for export. Around 1940 when his brother became ill, Yohsihiro was called back Hoshino Gakki and he started doing the shipping documents for export products.
Because of the war and politics the amount of paper work needed to ship anything to the USA was very difficult. It seemed no companies wanted to do that type of busy work but the advantage Hoshino had was his past experience in export records so he began taking care the paperwork allowing Hoshino Gakki to start exporting again.
By 1950 all Hoshino operation were back in full swing and they again began exporting musical products into the USA. Before World War II Hoshino had started shipping into the USA small quantities of products and had started some relationships with companies in the USA. Companies like National guitars, David Hanser, Grossman in New York, Cleveland and other companies no one can remember.
The very first export product that Mr. Yoshihiro remembers, as being really successful was the real solid tortoise shell picks that were made in Japan and exported. Most other companies made picks from nitrocellulose that simulated a tortoise shell look, but in Japan they actually were making the picks from turtles. These picks were very expensive but sold very well. The first shipment of picks to the USA was in 1951 to a company called B&J in New York. As soon as the deal was made they went to the Trade Corporation under the auspices of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in Tokyo and requested the necessary material. The material was sold to Hoshino and the manufacture of the picks was started.
Hoshino expanded their export from parts to musical instruments gradually. One of the problems facing manufacturers in exporting their products was that of lack of experience of the affect of weather and climate on the instruments in a foreign country. Wooden products are affected by humidity however; nothing was being done to protect the instruments against this problem. Naturally there were many customer complaints concerning the problem. It took Hoshino a great deal of hard work over a twenty-year period to fully overcome this problem.
After the war, Hoshino Gakki Ten Inc. worked desperately to rebuild the trust in their products they had established in the 30 years prior to the war. In 1955, in their continued rebuilding effort, they purchased a 4620 square foot lot. It was on this site that they built a one story wooden structure. It is the present location of the corporate office at 3-22 Shumokucho, Higashiku, Nagoya.
In 1951, Hoshino started to wholesale their musical instruments to retail stores throughout Japan. Following the success of their domestic business, they started exporting to the neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. By the late 1950’s, they had expanded their exports all over the world including the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa.
In the process of expanding, they strived diligently to prevent their earlier customer complaints. Their efforts resulted in their gaining a great deal of customer trust and satisfaction. The company instituted a policy of a 100% inspection of each instrument prior to shipment. This was a new concept that had never before been done by any exporting company. The inspection plan was criticized by some as being a waste of time. But, the efforts proved to be successful and greatly improved customer satisfaction. Hoshino’s long experience in recognizing and satisfying their customer’s needs was invaluable toward the growth of the company in the difficult post war period.
In the late 1950’s, after recovering from the war damage, people regained their leisure time and more time was being devoted to entertainment. As more time was invested in leisure activities, the desire for musical instruments increased. The Rockabilly added to the growing demands for musical instruments and in particular electric guitars. This movement had a major influence on the company’s growth.
Yoshihiro actually had nine brothers of the nine Three brothers took over control of Hoshino Gakki company. Junpei Hoshino was still traveling around the world looking for markets. The Hoshino’s mother’s name was Tama. Note the name on the Tama drums. Tama factory is owned and controlled by Hoshino, and they originally started making electric guitars.
Yoshitaro Hoshino, the founder died in January 1963. Prior to his death, his first son, Ryohei, who had been so supportive of his father, died in 1960. Yoshitaro’s supportive wife, Tama died in October 1959. For the Hoshino Gakki Ten Inc., it was now time for the second generation to replace the original family founders. At this time the position of president was assumed by Yoshitaro’s second son, Jumpei. His main focus was to develop new overseas markets. Jumpei, a graduate of Osaka University of Foreign Language, used his knowledge of English to aid him in his efforts.
As president of the company, he decided in 1962 to reopen their manufacturing plant for the production of electric guitars and guitar amplifiers. The plant was named Tama Seisakusho Inc. to honor the wife of Yoshitaro who had played such a very important role in the company’s growth. Yoshihiro, the fourth son of the founder, also a CA graduate took the position of President. A modern plant for the production of musical instruments was also built on a 1.4-acre lot purchased at 136 Ishihara, Minami-harayamacho, Owariasahi-shi. One of the items manufactured at this plant were drum sets under the brand name “STAR”. This has been a brand name familiar to foreign customers since 1965.
The first actual electric guitars that Hoshino produced where under the Star name. The catalog from 1957 states Spanish electric guitars. Color selection on these was black, or natural and they featured one or two pickups and basic controls. These were crude electric models, but this would lead the way to Hoshino getting into the electric guitar market.
Joe Hoshino the son of the second brother started working for the Hoshino family in 1960 Hoshino was purchasing guitars for around $2.00 from and selling them for around $2.50. By the early 1960’s Hoshino was exporting musical products to many companies in the USA and these models were sold under any name that the jobber would ask for. A Company in Los angles California “European Craft” was the only company that was caring the brand name Ibanez. Other companies used their own names on the models.
Yoshihiro Hoshino, the current president, who was leading this movement, recalls those times:
“When we restarted our export operation after the war, we were only concerned with delivery time. As our business continued to grow, we realized that we had to rethink the way we were doing business. It was then that the idea of an agency system came to me. At that time we were also handling sales of a few imported musical instruments. We were buying the same items from many different manufacturers. To be competitive, they reduced their prices more than we ever anticipated. We learned a bitter lesson because there was no service after the sale and we could not be responsible. We did not want to export our merchandise under the same circumstances, so we devised the agency concept and established a separate one in each country. The last country that we considered was the United States”.
Before the copy days, Hoshino was only making original guitar designs but by the early 1970’s the US Jobbers asked for Hoshino to make actual copies. Hoshino agreed and all copies that came in the USA where made by Hoshino’s sub factories. So this answers one important question, all copy guitars in the USA where exported by Hoshino Gakki and made at the same factories as the Ibanez models? Actually up until 1965 or 1967 Hoshino was the only company bringing any Japanese guitars into the United States.
In first days that Hoshino guitars were coming to the United States people from the jobber companies would go to Japan, or the Hoshino people would visit the USA to discuss the actual models that the jobbers wanted and to talk about the details for the models and take orders. There were no fax machines so the orders where usually forecasted for at least a six-month period to one year.
These guitars were made in small factories around Matsumoto area cost around $20.00 and they would take the orders to fill for Hoshino. Fuji-Gen Company business started around the late 1960’s and is still the main company that produces Ibanez guitars.
According to Yoshihiro, although there were 40 distributors established in America, each one was concerned with their own interest. The market was too large and people tended not to think about the overall business. It was difficult for Hoshino to understand the circumstances and movement of the market in the United States. Because of this, as the orders were received, the goods were exported as requested.
Yoshihiro visited the United States in 1971 for the purpose of researching the market. He sought the advice of the president of a successful Japanese firm and was told, ”Success in the American market depends on you”. Yoshihiro made the courageous decision to open his own company in the United States. By doing so, it was necessary that he stop supplying the 40 distributors that were distributing Hoshino products. He received many complaints and objections as a result of this action. He was criticized and told that it was a mistake to expand his business to the United States. He had however already made up his mind. He believed that the expansion into the world’s largest market would be the best for the American music lover as well as the company.
One company that sold Hoshino Guitars was Harry Rosenbloom’s Medley Music in Ardmore PA. Rosenbloom met with the Hoshino group and told them that they could sell the new improved versions of the guitars, also the jobber business was getting to difficult controlling in the Untied States. At this point around 1971 the Hoshino Group had to make a decision, their decision was to make only one major brand of guitars to ship to the Untied States under only one brand name. (Ibanez), This was a big change of direction for the group but it had to be done. Harry said he could help start the distribution center so the Elger Company was born. This would become the main distribution point for Ibanez guitars and was established in 1972 at 1041 Lancaster ave Ardmore PA near Philadelphia.
Elger Company management consisted of Harry Rosenbloom as president, Toshitsuga Tanaka (Tom Tanaka) as Treasurer and Shoji Yoshida (George Yoshida) as Secretary.
Around 1973, Joe visited the United States and the dealers complained that the guitars were not that good to sell and that people preferred the US made guitars because of the quality level. Hoshino started sending Japanese company personal into the USA to ask what was acceptable for US models that could easily be sold in the stores. They would bring improved guitars to the states and ask are these frets good, is this neck shape good, how about hardware the storeowners would give their comments and the information would be sent back to the factories. They would purchase US made guitars and bring them bring back to Japan and take them apart to see how they worked. The reason they did this was because in order for Hoshino to survive they felt the US market was the key and the factories new they needed to improve the guitars, or else they would close.
Hoshino Gakki first sent Fritz Katoh to the USA for a short time to start working on quality issues. Then later Niro Ando replaced Fritz and finally In 1973 Roy Miyahara came from Hoshino Japan to the Elger Company and was put in charge of quality control. He decided that they needed to make the guitars not only as good as the American guitars but better. So when he went back to Japan, he bought so many tools to bring back to the US. He said that he had so many things that the duty to bring the tools into the US was so much he actually spent his own money to pay the duty. The weight of the bags were very heavy because of the sharpening stones.
October 1973 Elger company moved from ArdmorePa to Cornwells Heights Pa. (Soon to be renamed Bensalem). By 1974 all Harry Rosenboom’s stock was purchased, and the company became the sole owner of Hoshino Gakki.
When the distribution first started they had no repair people in Philadelphia. So they asked the Fuji-Gen factory to send some skilled factory people in the United States to repair defective guitars, and second to inform the factory of the problems that they found. The factory felt that this was good chance to study the United States guitar market and send the information back to Japan. Joe said that as soon as Elger was started the sales of Ibanez guitars were great, and the company took off. To compete with US Guitars it was decided that every model needed to be completely setup before shipping. Most other companies would just send the guitars. Ibanez guitars need to be better than what else was available. They found that the guitars were good from the factory, but the factory did not understand the basic setup and finish details needed to make the guitars really attractive.
Around 1974 Roy set up checking stations in the warehouse. Before that they were working on cardboard boxes with no light. He purchased tables and started really detailed setup, Actually this was not just setup but completely going over ever detail on the guitar. They would replace all the strings. Level, sand, steels wool and buff the fretboards. Scrape all the binding clean, tighten everything and do complete setups on all the models before they where shipped. (If guitars were rejected, they would be sent to the repair department to be fixed by the Fuji-Gen factory people.) The factory was also starting to get involved with the quality improvement and in June 1974 they officially started to polish the frets. This makes the frets like glass. In the same month during the Namm trade show (National association of music merchandisers) Hoshino sold 9 pieces of the 2402 double neck at $1500.00 List.
As time went on Roy was working with Jeff Hasselberger, and they were started making more copy model. The quality level of the Ibanez models was increasing, and the US makers started to notice what was going on. It is said that the factory closely copied everything so that they would have the same type of production problems that the real ones had like twisted necks.
Roy visited a Greatfull dead show at the Philadelphis Civic center and back stage Roy talked to Gerry Garcia, and he said I played Gerry’s guitar and said this is terrible, let me take this to our shop and fix it. Roy felt that the action was really high and the guitar was so hard to play. Gerry said " That is the way I play, I like it like that” So Instead Roy said he would make a sample model for him”.
The year 1975 tuned out to be a very important year, as you will read. On a letter dated 1/21/75 Roy asked Fritz Katoh in Japan to make an Explorer copy, later to be called the destroyer, Roy sent a photo from a magazine. This was also before maybe the greatest invention of the business world, The fax machine, so all correspondence was by either mail or telephone.
Elger company was breaking away from the Japan side mainly because of a difference of direction between Japan and The USA. and in 1975 Yositada (Yoshi) Hoshino took over as president of Elger company, Allan Silverberg became Vice-president and Ken Hoshino became Secretary.
One of the first unique Ibanez body shapes was the Iceman, but this guitar has a strange story. Back in the 1975 a few companies that made or distributed Japanese guitars got together, and Joe Hoshino said we need our own model from Japan that is strictly a Japanese guitar like a Lespaul or a Strat.
They got together and designed the Iceman shape. From what I heard it was mainly drawn by Fritz Katoh but the body design is owned by three companies each with different distribution. First, Ibanez or Hoshino had all rights to the body in the Untied States and foreign markets and the Japanese market Kanda Shokai, was the biggest company that distributed the electric guitars. Also, Fuji-Gen the manufacture was involved with this Joe said that they idea was to make one world wide launch in the world market. All these companies can use the same body shape, but they can’t use the same names. Joe said the agreement was only verbal and there was no written contact, this is the way business was done before and this contract still holds true today. The Iceman was officially debuted at the Frankfurt Messa show in Germany in April of 1975.
Hoshino Gakki was also working on their manufacturing, They had opened their own manufacture for guitars back in 1962 called Tama Seisakusyo (Tama Manufacturing) and they had been producing guitars and drums under the brand Star since 1962. They were interested in the Acoustic guitar market, and the best-made guitars were Martin. They figured they already made used solid woods on drums so how hard could an all solid wood acoustic be? The construction on these guitars was not such a problem, but it turned out they did not understand exactly how solid woods shrink depending on the moisture contents. In Japan they decided that they could make the Tama’s even better than the Martin by keep tighter tolerance’s so when making the bracing they fit the bracing right up to the edge of the sides, Then glued the top on. This looked good at the factory but after being on ocean the guitars arrived in The USA with the braces actually sticking out the sides, right through the binding? It was time to make some adjustments and study more about climate, temperature and moisture changes and they’re affect on woods.
The first few production runs had problems so it was decided to send the head builder at the Tama factory to the USA to visit Martin guitars and get some idea. Mr. Honda as we know him today was working in Japan at the Tama factory.
After visiting the Martin Guitar company Mr. Honda returned to Japan ready to build some improved all solid guitars.
Meanwhile, back in the States the Roy was leading a major campaign to keep the quality up and the Fuji factory people and Roy were both staying in the same apartment. Roy said that they never stopped talking about the quality improvement, and they would stay up all night talking about this. Finally Roy moved into his own apartment so The Fuji Factory personal could have some free time at night.
The detailed improvements on the guitars were starting to show up in the USA, and the guitars were getting better with each shipment. Still, as Elger company was finding out the details of the production was what mattered so as they looked at each detail on the guitars they would make a note and send them to Japan for the factory to improve, Things like the edge of the nut needed to be rounded; total fret finish. Fret edges smoother, and better quality hardware. A serial number was also added on the guitars, and the first ones arrived in Bensalem in Sept of 1975.
By December of 1975 Elger Company was shipping around 80 guitars a day with 8 people setting up the guitars. At 10 piece per day these guitars were reworked from when they came in. Models were being made almost daily back in Japan from the information seen in either US magazines or information sent from Elger Company. By the Chicago Namm show in June of 1975 a slew of new models where shown. Including the 2387 Custom bass, The Explorer copy, The Thunderbird bass 2409B, original Strat copy, Johnny smith copy L5 copy, Birdland copy and the debut of the Iceman.
Later in 1975 the Endorser front was looking good and Ibanez guitars were getting easier to get player to use. They had already shown guitars to Bob Weir, Jeff Beck, Glen Campbell, Jim Messina, and even a Gibson style mandolin to Bill Monroe. Bill Monroe was sometimes known as Stone face because he never cracked a smile, but records show that Fritz met with him in Japan and while trying to get him to smile Fritz, put on Bills cowboy hat and Bill smiled and laughed for maybe the first time. This year they had also signed the New York Dolls and (Felix Papparlardy)(Check Spelling)
Near the end of 1975 the first Explorer, V and Modern samples were produced and made it to the states by December of that year. The Explorer was actually Mahogany with a 40-mm nut, but this would be corrected for production. The reason was they borrowed a production model from Kanda Shokai and copied it exactly, after it arrived in the states they found that the model they borrowed was wrong. Also, it was decided to make the Artist models like the 2611 and 2616 to have 24 frets instead of 22.
By 1976 Ibanez was moving at fast pace. They added 2 new Bob Weir Models to the line the 2681 and the 2680 standard model. January 1976 was the West Coast Namm show and Ibanez was ready to show their new products. The deal with Bill Monroe for a mandolin was set, and a model would follow. At the Namm show even Bobby Cochran of Steppen Wolf showed interest in the Ibanez models, Some guy from a band called Kiss, Paul Stanley purchased an Ibanez Destroyer at the Guitar Center store, This guitar was originally made for Carlos Santana. Hoshino Gakki contacted Pat Simmons of the Doobie brothers and actually produced a poster with him playing a 2671.
Also in January for the third time since Elger moved to Bensalem a shipping container was broken into, and many high-end models were stolen, even the thieves were taking a notice to Ibanez guitars. In New York in mid January Aerosmith had a party at the Rockefeller Center and people from Ibanez went to meetRick Derringer who was opening for them. Rick was already playing a Destroyer and Brad Whitford was also using an Ibanez. Everyone was an open game to play Ibanez so late in January Elger asked the Fuji factory to make a solid top acoustic with detailed shell work for none other then the King himself, Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, this after the guitar was finished they had a hard time contacting Elvis Presley’s management and just before it could be delivered to Elvis the King passed on.
Not only was Ibanez becoming more famous but also it seems that Gibson themself’s were taking a notice; they actually reissued the original Explorer. Word had leaked to Elger that Norlin (Gibson) would start trying to stop the Japanese makers from copying their models. Of course, Ibanez was at the front of this so they were first on the hit list. Actually Ibanez had already started redesigning the headstock’s and bodies because they wanted to become more original. This could easily been seen by the Iceman and Artist models that they had been working on. By April 1976 the East Coast Namm show was under way and Ibanez debuted the Golden oldies series or the V, Explorer and Modern copies. These gained much attention at the Namm show, and it is stated that many Gibson people came to the Ibanez booth.
Not only was Ibanez interested in the guitar business but also they saw a growing demand for electronic pedals and pickup devices. In Matsumoto there was a small electronic manufacture called Nissin onpa that was making some electronics under the brand name Maxxon. Ibanez decided to use this factory to produce effect copies of popular American electronic companies.
In 1976 they released the first US effects catalog, actually it stated Electrified Accessory. One interesting thing was the BUG. A piezo ceramic contact pickup used for acoustics. The incased element was attached to the bridge and allowed the acoustic to be amplified through an amp.
They also made various other sound hole style pickups for acoustics, Harmonica’s arched tops and even Violins and Cellos.
In effects they released the Jetlyzer that was a phase shifter meets an airplane engine sound. The Phase-Tone compact effect and the Phase-Tone Pedal that adjusted the phase rate with the pedal. An overdrive, Stereo pedal, compressor Fuzz, Wau Wau, Wau Fuzz, Double Wau Wau with an adjustable Fuzz control. Even mini boosters that used a 9 volt battery to increase the output from a standard jack. The line was rounded off with a few equalizers; The Mini Pops Junior Rhythm Machine and a few microphones, Echo units and guitar cables. Roy says that the first Wau Wau pedals arrived here, and the pedal worked backwards, when you pushed down the sound went up, This was quickly changed.
Also in 1976 the first replacement parts catalog came out with everything from Bridges; Tailpieces and machine heads to pre-wired pickup assemblies. Ibanez even sold Alnico magnets and shielded pickup cable.
Back in Bensalem the total employee count was 23 people. 4 people doing repairs, one American and 3 Fuji factory people. 9 people in the warehouse doing guitar setup and 10 office personnel. Simultaneously in Japan they decided to make the 3-point pickup-mounting ring. The idea was to improve the current two center screw style that caused the pickups to tilt forward. The Idea was to ad two screws on one side to adjust the tilt and keep the third screw on center. Inside the company we calle dthis the Three point mounting system. Fritz was also working on a new headstock and new truss rod cover and they decided to make the Artist a regular high model line, For a neck they would copy the shape of Fritz’s favorite shaped neck a Gibson ES335TD.
By May of 1976 Elger was growing and need more room so just up the street there was a larger building up for sale at 1716 Winchester road and it was decided to relocate. During the move to the new building Japan was hard at work making new models as samples for the Summer Namm. This was the debut of Ibanez original models under the Artist series. This was the debut of the Actual Artist and Iceman models: 2420, 2420CW, 2464, 2453CW, 525, 525CW, 2617, 2680, 2454Old, 683, 684L, 756, 592GFB 2670w/Finger Fly, 2671w/Finger Fly, 2617w/Tone Circuit, New 2625B, Artist Semi-Acoustic w/Finger Fly, 2352 Old, 2619, w/Finger Fly, 2618 w/Finger Fly. (The Finger Fly pickups became know as the Flying Finger’s) Elger was asking Japan about some type of way to make a player feel that the guitar was very sensitive or easy to play. The idea came about of a Butterfly landing on the strings, Being that a butterfly was so light. To do this they combined a finger touching the strings with a butterfly and this was the first Super 80.
The Artist of that year was slightly different then what we think of today but
it had the main characteristic of an Artist the double cutaway. The Iceman or actually Artist models the current body shapes in solid mahogany with a few alternatives the 2663 had molded almost Gretch looking humbuckers. The 2663SL had a triple coil pickup that slid back and forth from the neck position to the bridge position. The Idea was to fine-tune your tone. Finally, the 2663TC had a standard triple coil pickup mounted at the bridge but used a rotary switch to control the pickup coils and add some tone character.
By Summer Namm all the products where in place and when the show opened Ibanez displayed over 100 guitars many all original models including the Pro series, Artist and Custom made series. This was the buzz of the show, and even Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir visited the Ibanez booth for three days straight they were in town playing two nights in Chicago. Looking around the show they found that other Japanese companies wanted to take a share of the pie and Aria introduced copies of the Ibanez copies. One was a Destroyer copy, and the other was a 2405 double neck copy. Even Gibson was back and brought back the Explorer, Thunderbird and Firebird calling them the oldie series.
After Namm business was good and the Artist relations was run at full fo
rce. Jeff Hasselberger went to the West Coast to meet with some artists for possible models and returned with good news. The Beach Boys had a 2618, Pat Simmons from the Doobie brother was playing an Iceman 2663-3P, Steve Miller was also playing a 2663-3P and Terry Cath of Chicago was also interested in a 2663-3P. And none other then George Benson himself started talking to Ibanez about some type of model. Actually at a local TV show called the Mike Douglas show George was appearing, and it was just in downtown Philadelphia. George was already playing a 2355 L5 copy, so Ibanez approached him to talk about some signature models.The meeting was very detailed and this began the GB model that would appear later.
1976 was a good year but it was now January of 1977 and back in Japan they were working on still improving the current models. It was decided to make some all brass hardware to improve sustain. Roy states that they were really trying to figure out how to make a guitar sound better by mounting the bridge into the body and using lock screws to stop any possible movement. One idea was if they added a sustain block under the Gibraltar bridge, this would increase sustain on the models. But after the brass nut was made it had a rusting problem and the tone was too harsh so they decided to go with the half and half nut. (Half bone and half brass)
The final design for the George Benson model was finalized in the USA and the drawing for the tailpiece and headstock logo arrived in Japan. At the same time that the machine head knobs and original Sure Grip knobs for the GB samples showed up in Bensalem. The Idea for the sure grip knob was researched with many players and was an improvement over the standard speed knobs, Actually Jeff Hasselberger brought in samples of Radio knobs because it had a rubber cap that was easier to turn. This knob is still available today.
With the rising amount of new models and many endorsers coming through Bensalem it was decided that they needed some type of sound room in Elger for testing all the new things that were coming in. It was decided to take the Namm show display and use the parts to construct a sound room. The sound room was very loud so Roy tool empty Egg cartons and attached them all over the room to sound proof it.
Japan was also finishing up some new models for Endorsers to be sent to the USA. The list contained a #2670 for David Sanches, 8 string Bass for Steve Miller Band, Custom (Flat Fingerboard) for Jerry Garcia, #2670 for Denny Lane, 2663 for Kiss, 2675 for Carl Jackson, Semi-Acs for George Benson
In August of 1977 it came. Gibson officially filed a lawsuit against the Elger Company for trademark infringement of the headstock. Before you could blink an eye Hoshino Gakki already had set new models into production. For sometime they had been planning a change, but it looked as though it needed to happen fast.
By April 1977 George Benson was becoming more famous and in this month he was on the cover of Newsweek magazine giving a GB10 guitar to Jimmy Carter. The first sample of the GB10 was finished, and it was sent to New York for a photo shot with George. This way he could get some ideas before his upcoming Japanese tour later scheduled for that month. In Japan he was very happy with the models and other than a few details the model looked as though it would happen.
By October 1977 the new models would be in production.
It was also decided that Ibanez needed to be all original not just with models but all the hardware as well so from that month Ibanez would make all their own exclusive hardware. They did not want anything looking like the Gibsons so they changed the machine head knob to Schaller type, removed the toggle switch plate, changed the pickups to Super80’s, and changed the pickguard design to a more original shape. Changed bridge to an Ibanez exclusive design improving a Gibson bridge, this would include a new tailpiece, and finally use the new Sure Grip knobs w/rubber.
The new lineup was set, and the catalog would begin production. The new line consisted of all original models or what they would call model series. This consisted of a new lineup - Pro series, Artist series, Iceman series, Musician series, Concert series, Live series, Semi-Acs series, Full-Acs series, GB. There was also a model with a Bamboo neck called an AZUMI and another manufacture Cho-Shin Gakki was planning too make this an original model. But it never panned out.
Also in Sept 1977 the Grateful dead was playing a concert at English Town with the Marshall Tucker band and Purple Sage. However, the attendance was over 150,000 people and Roy was with Bob Weir at the time, He said there was no way for them to get to the concert site because traffic was so backed up and it was a mad house. So Roy and Bob Weir actually flew into the concert by helicopter over the massive crowd.
In December of 1977 for the Musician guitars and basses they wanted something that looked very modern or high tech so the Super 88 and Super 77 pickups were made with a molded plastic cover that followed the string radius. These pickups would be potted in epoxy to keep them quiet and feature a direct mount system like a bass with no need for a mounting ring. The Musician guitar would also have a through neck construction. Active electronics were becoming popular mainly because of Alembic so in Jpan they designed some active EQ’s to be used on the Musician and Artist models. Mainly Three band EQ’s with a master gain. When the first guitars arrived in Bensalem and they were checked the active electronics picked up local radio stations and sent the radio through the amp. The circuit need to be redesigned before anything could ship.
When the Musician guitars where released there was a big push to get some players to use these and samples were sent to Jeff beck and also Gerry Garcia.
At the end of December just before new years Paul Stanley asked Elger for a new Iceman, but he said he wanted the neck set at the 17th fret instead of the 16th fret. This would make it play and balance easier for him so the order went to Japan and so began the PS10. Details went back and forth on this model and finally early 1978 finalized it. They also had a request from Alphonse Johnson for an 8 string bass.
Quality control was still among a top priority, and all the guitars were still being setup at the Elger before shipping. However, it still seemed like more work should have been done at the factory so February 1978 Fuji sent the Chief of production Mr. Fujimori to the USA to stay at Elger for a few months to study the product, Climate and standard needed of the US market. He would take all this information back to the factory so they could continue to improve the products.
The Paul Stanley PS10 was now finalized, and they wanted to make some big splash with this model. It was decided to make a 1/2 size Paul Stanley Doll and a PS10 miniature guitar that would be exactly the same as the production piece. This could be used at shows and some music stores.
Another promotion Idea from Jeff Hasselberger was the solid Brass Artist that Sam Ash still has to this day. Brass parts were a big craze back then and it is said to have been made as a joke for the Sam Ash store in Manhattan at 48th street because 48th street back then was known for people running in and grabing guitars and run out. The Joke was to put this guitar in the front of the store it weighted 76 pounds so if someone tried to grab it they would not be able to lift so easy. This guitar was milled from solid brass in Japan and it sounded thin but played great.
Other new models released in 1978 where the Artist with the sharper horns and more symmetrical outline. Still using model numbers without letters the higher end models included a 2622, and a 2640 6 and 12 string double neck had an active EQ with the simple name Ibanez EQ Tone system. Basically a treble, bass and mid -boost cut. Also, they featured an On/off switch so you could bypass the EQ. These models also featured the new Super 80 pickups with the flying finger cover.
Keeping up with improving products and trying to stay one step ahead Hoshino Gakki had a special fretwire made that was harder then most available but had a crown shaped into it for improved intonation. People where noticing that flat tops on frets caused poor intonation and as electronics and amplification were getting better people started noticing their guitars were playing out of tune.
From the bridge side the Ibanez final version of the Gibraltar bridge made its debut with easier height adjustment then the spinners on a tune-o-matic and it used two lock down nuts to keep it in place. For added sustain these models featured a solid metal sustain block that the bridge was bolted into.
Another interesting feature that appeared this year was what Ibanez felt would be an improvement on an old idea tension adjustable machine heads called the Velve-Tune’s. This machine head allowed the player to tighten or loosen a thumbscrew on the tuner that would make it easier or harder to turn.. For the standard models Ibanez introduced the Smooth Tuner II machine heads. All the upper models used the Ibanez half bone/ half brass nut.
In July 1978 the PS 10 was released, and the list was 799.00 and the dealers went crazy for it. Things were looking better for Ibanez and Elger generally, but instead of just waiting for the national sales shows like Namm they thought why don’t we make a traveling showroom. They could drive to the dealer’s parking lots and show them the latest models. So Elger purchased a 23 foot Winnebago that would be modified into a traveling road show. The plan was to unveil this to the outside sales reps at the upcoming sales meeting in August and then start driving around visiting dealers.
By Sept 1978 George Benson already approved GB10 that he received but asked whether they could also make a slightly bigger one so Hoshino Gakki started designing the GB20. The idea with this like the GB10 had a floating pickup but just at the neck, A slightly larger body size and the controls on the pickguard. While the specs for the GB were just being finalized .
Gibson again complained to Ibanez that the body shapes of the models SA/FA 2629 and 2630 were too close to the Gibson’s and that we should change these bodies within one year.
Elger was finally completely in the new building and everything was settling in; They did however needs a buffing machine for the checking department because they were buffing everything by hand. One of the outside sales reps John Lufkin hand built a buffing machine and delivered it to the warehouse. (This machine is still in use today). It was also decided that the Elger company checkers needed more training and some type of production quota because it was getting busier and they could not just hire more people continually. Roy started making detailed manuals for step by step setup. Before this it was just taught with no manual.
The Jazz market was good now George Benson was on board, and they started looking for some new Jazz guys; One being Lee Ritenour and they started working with him for a new model. Within 10 days the design was completed, and the sample was on order. This model had a Jacaranda fret LR special pickups and a foam/plastic insert in the sound holes to eliminate feed back and Lee really wanted a non-symmetrical shaped neck that would need to be hand shaped.
All was looking good but there was one problem that would appear over and over in the Ibanez history books, The exchange rate of the Yen. The Yen was stable for some time but even the slightest shift in its rate would make the cost of the Japanese guitars higher. Also, other companies like Hondo where making copies of the Ibanez models at lower prices.
Joe Hoshino states that Guitar player magazine was just getting started, and they were having a hard time getting anyone to advertise but Ibanez said they would. So guitar player gave them the inside cover for the magazine. For along time Ibanez guitars always appeared in the inside cover of guitar player magazine. This was great for Ibanez because they would become a well-known guitar fairly fast
Ibanez had a deal with Earl Scruggs and released a complete line of Artist series Banjo’s in 5 string, tenor, and plectrum models as well as a complete line of replacement parts.
In Oct 1978 the MC900 Musician bass was introduced to the dealers with great reception all while Roy was out traveling with the Wiinabeggo traveling through Ohio, New York and Michigan. Roys said that the Winnabegga kept breaking down. The windshield wipers didn’t work; the generator stopped working so it had no power in the showroom section plus a host of other problems. He said it was a big headache.
Hoshino Gakki was also trying to get more professional artists to play Ibanez and they made prototypes for Jeff Beck a musician guitar, Janis Ian a ST300, Stanley Clark and Genesis’ guitarist Daryl with a MC400ZB. While ABBA was in Japan Hoshino Gakki presented them a double neck 2622 and they took it to England. In the Studio that they were recording in Jimmy Page was also in there and it was said that he played the 2622 and liked it so much he took it home.
Back in Bensalem saleswere increasing and the warehouse is working overtime everyday and all day Saturday until Christmas but the Yen was still going higher, and this was beginning to have a major effect on the prices. The PS10 was increased up to $825.00 list this would be effective from January 1979. Also, to be released in January was the Vault flight case
Just before Christmas 1978 a new bridge sample arrived from Fritz in Japan called an Accu-Cast B, This bridge had an easy string change and a diecast bridge plate. The reason was they wanted a more stable bass bridge then what was available on the market at the time.
1979 was here things looked well, Disco was still going strong and there was some oil troubles around June with long lines at the gas pumps. This caused some troubles at Elger, and they would close one day a week to help the crisis. Roy Miyahara was officially made the warehouse manager to help coordinate between the workers in the warehouse and the management.
To meet the market of the bolt on neck market 1979 introduced the first roadster model a sort of stripped down Stratocaster. The models of course had a few new modifications to the old standard. They were either mahogany (RS100) or Ash (RS300) Elger company and Hoshino Gakki were always trying to improve the standard so the Roadster models available that year had some interesting features. First, they wanted a bolt on neck that was more stable so they designed what is called a Quadra-lock system. This neck joint has metric nuts installed in the neck, instead of wood screws to hold the neck on the Quadra-lock system incorporated actual bolts to tighten the neck on. Of course after they made these they found it was difficult for everything to line up in a production setting so this was a sort lived project.
Other interesting features on the Roadster models were a new single coil called the super 6. A very over wound pickup stated as the hottest single ever. One feature on the RS300 was the Tap or Super Tap 6. This pickup was wound halfway, and a lead was installed then they continued the wind, The idea was that to get a traditional tone you could remove half the wire on the coil by sending it to ground and brighten up the tone. To give the pickups a hotter look they made plastic mounting rings for each single pickup. Sort of mini pickguard's visually you could they looked more powerful then a standard single coil pickup.
Also, available were the Roadster bass models the RS 800 and
RS900 that featured the Quadra-lock neck joint; To eliminate dead spots these necks had two steel rods inserted under fretboard. The Accucast B bridge with a diecast bass plate and the super 4 pickups. The RS900 also had the new B2EQ with a bass and treble boost.
The Musician bass continued but with a slightly more defined body still with the ash/mahogany body with a 5-pc maple neck through construction. The MC900 used a 3 band EQ and the MC800 used the B2 two-band EQ.
Keeping up in the electronics area Ibanez unveiled the first Multi Effects Rack mount foot switch-able effect of all time the UE700 This was actually a request from the Greatfull dead for an combination effect unit. This was a combination Phase, Compressor, Distortion, Flanger and Graphic Equalizer. The idea was to eliminate patch cords from the floor and just wire all the effects internally under one case. The standard effects were narrowed down in more sellable feature products like Flangers, Phase Tones (Phase Shifter) Equalizers, Overdrive, compressor, Delays and of course, the Blubber, Who could let a name like that go.
Ibanez Semi hollow body business had been having an effect on Gibson and after Gibson asked them to change the body style the SA models. These where redesigned with shaper horns and a smother bout. By 1979 the AS Artist Semi Acoustic Series would debut with the AS200 with a curly maple top and the AS100 with a Birch top. These models still used covered super 70 pickups but the AS200 had the modified tri sound switch. The first tri sounds had an out of phase position, but this feature was not so popular so they changed it to parallel wiring on the neck pickup, So the switch functioned as a Series/Parallel/ Coil Tap.
The Yen was causing more and more affect on Elger business and as it continued to climb. Joe Hoshino States that by late 1970’s Ibanez guitars were getting more expensive Joe talked with the manufactures, and they said that the paint was the hardest part. Joe asked the factory to make the guitar, the best they could but to seal or stain the wood so that it was easier on them to keep the price. This would be the new Blazer’s basic idea.
The Blazer series when first introduced utilized pickguard mounted electronics because it is easier to wire the pickguard and drop it in just ask Leo fender. The bodies where Sealed ash body and brass bridges. The Blazer bridges were milled solid brass; The Blazer also incorporated a standard bolt on one-piece maple neck. The BL300 had three single coils, the BL200 had two humbuckers and the BL700 bass was also available with a single Super B4 bass pickup that had 8 polepieces.
The Roadster and Musician basses continued both series with the top of the line 824 and 924 models. With both series have 8-string version the 980’s. These featured 4 bass tuners for the fatter string and guitar machine heads for the high thinner strings. They featured the Quadralock neck system as well as the TR added Steel bars as neck support.
To make some model’s more affordable the IC, AR and ST models featured the 50 series or Ibanez Jr. electric models, Stream lining cost in production as well as part like Chrome hardware. Basic pickups and Dark Stained or Black finishes, The reason is wood that was not Ok for standard production model because of some knots, or uneven grain patterns could be used. This term is known as Rescue models. The Three models available where the IC50, AR50 and ST50. Also in the hollow body area the Semi Hollow AS50 was being produced using a more Gibson style mold that was easier to shape then the sharp cutaways of the standard AS series. All the AS model headstocks where slightly reduced making them more distinct from a Gibson.
The Artist series was also more defined with the AR100, AR300 AR500 AR3000 and the AR5000. The AR500 had a Curly top and a Mother of Pearl tree of life inlay while the AR3000 has a Curly maple top with Abalone Block inlays. Because of Brass being so popular it was decided to upgrade the AR models with more brass hardware so Japan had parts made mostly milled from brass for the truss rod cover, nut, toggle switch cap, Pickguard, Knobs, Jack plate and cavity plate. These models were deemed the Brass Beauties. The parts were also available so anyone could upgrade their standard artist to a Brass Beauty. The Phase “Catch The Tiger” was also used with a picture of a Tiger in a flame to promote the Flamed maple top Artists.
The success of the Iceman because of its radical look and larger body size spawned the idea for a new model sort of like an Explorer but because of the Lawsuit it needed to be slightly different so The Destroyer II was designed. Two models were introduced the DT50 with a solid alder body and a bolt on neck, The upper end model the DT400 had a set neck with a Flamed top over a Mahogany body. Because of the popularity of Dimarzio replacement pickups many people were changing out the bridge pickup on their guitars, so to get the same vibe a V2 exposed polepiece humbucker was put tin the bridge and a standard covered super 70 pickup was in the neck position.
1980 was also the first year that the FA100 was introduced a sort of L5 style full acoustic model with a laminated maple top. And new plating called Nichrome or Nickel chrome plating.
For acoustics the 1980 model line saw an introduction of the Vintage series
acoustics, more straight ahead basic acoustic models along with the Maple series all maple M340, The lower piece Champion acoustic was also available.
For the upper end acoustic models the Artwood Series was introduced all featuring solid spruce tops and the upper end AW60 with solid back and sides and a satin finish. Finally, the Ragtime R400 model that was an original design single cutaway with an exclusive fan-bracing pattern.
Mace Bailey started working at the Elger Company in 1980 just after high school Mace after a few interview’s Roy asked Mace to come back in. Roy took him around the company and asked mace what he wanted to do. Mace told him he wanted to work on guitars and needed to know whether he had to cut his hair, and Roy laughed and said no problem.
The model line up for 1981 remained almost the same in 1982 The Blazer now was available in Solid and metallic colors still with brass bridges. Adrian Belew showed up the 1982 catalog playing a BL500FR. The musician also had solid Polar white and Pearl red colors with passive electronics the MC150. The MC350 featured a natural Maple top and the introduction of the Super 58 pickups with Alnico 3 magnets.
By mid 1981 the Elger company name was changed to Hoshino USA Inc. The president of Hoshino was named Kimihide Hoshino or as we know him Ken Hoshino. Vice-president was still Allan Silverberg, and Roy became general operations and secretary of affairs.
The Studio series was slimmed down to a more basic model with laminated mahogany bodies still utilizing V2 pickups. Two double necks were available this year the ST1200 and the AR1200.
The Iceman headstock was changed to 6 in a line and the models now became the Iceman II with Basswood backs to keep the weight down. The same idea as the DTII an IC50 low end bolt on and the IC400 with a basswood back/ flame maple top and pearl/ abalone block inlays.
1982 would also see the introduction of the Rocket Roll, the first model was really close to a Gibson V with the RR50 in the low end as a bolt-on and the RR400 with a flame maple top/ basswood back set neck. All these models had the V2 exposed pole piece in the bridge, the Super 70 cover in the neck and a Gibraltar bridge and tailpiece. The artists on the catalog for these models were Dave Murray and Adrian Smith from Iron maiden, Phil Collen from Girl (Now Def Leppard), and Richard Stoots from the Plasmatics
The Musician bass was narrowed down to the MC824 and MC924 and two new Jazz guitars were introduced the Joe Pass JP20 that featured a laminated spruce top maple back and sides and a wider nut spacing of 45mm. The pickup that was further away from the neck for less bass response.
The other new Jazz model was the finished version of the Lee Ritenour model, The body was a semi hollow AS shape with a Flame maple top, maple back and sides and a three piece mahogany maple neck. The pickups were LR10 specials (a modified Super 58) and the fret fretboard was Jacaranda. This model also had internal soundhole covers to cut down on feedback.
Dicky Betts of Allman Brothers was a one of many Ibanez Endorser playing Ibanez Artist guitar and Tama Acoustic guitar. One day in Civic Center (NJ). Roy was in dressing room talking with Dicky Betts, Dicky showed Roy his Gold top Les Paul (Les Paul Delux) and Roy noticed it had a very dirty fingerbord. Since Roy was used to cleaning fingerbords, He told Dicky that he wanted to make the fingerbord clean and neat. Dicky immediately said to Roy "No". Dicky explained to Roy that the dirt on the fingerbord is a part of his guitar sound. “ It will affect on the tone.”
Roy also said in story-wise 1981 Jaco Pastorius was the one I can never forget. He was exceptionally talented Super bassist and I had a pleasure working with. He was such a character that I have to mention a few things in my experience. Jaco, visited company without any advance notice driving from New York. He called me from public phone asking me to come pick him up. He was about 5 minutes away from company and he was so drinking and intoxicated. Mace also remembers this time and he said Jaco had been drinking and came into the repair room. Mace pulled out his personal bass to let Jaco try and, Jaco decided he wanted the bass and refused to give it back to Mace. Mace said he did not know what to do. Mace states that Jaco had a bottle of tequila and he kept trying to get everyone to drink. Finally Mace got his bass back before Jaco left.
Another time when Roy went to Fort Lauderdale to meet Jaco. Roy said he picked him up and after having a lunch with him at Thai food Restaurant, ( Jaco loved spicy food but it was not spicy enough and he asked owner of restaurant to spice it up "All the way") They went to Jacos house where they was greeted by his Jaco’s wife and his twin sons. He was showing me his equipment and trying some of Ibanez products, but he also disappeared in the back room time to time. When he didn't come out after I was waiting about 30 minutes, I went back and called "Jaco", I found he was sleeping on the bed. I woke him up and he said, "why don't you stay here tonight." It was still day time around 4:00PM and I had flight to catch so I said Goodbye and left.
Mace wanted to go into the repair department. Then the repair room was staffed by either two, or three Japanese factory people, ("the Fuji Guys.") There was also a repair room boss that made all the final calls and communicated with the stores and customer service in English, most of the Japanese guys spoke very little if no English at all. Mace was asked to take over control of the repair room but did not have allot of repairing experience, but the Fuji Guys were very experienced and enjoyed training people on working on guitars. Mace said he started doing the customer returns receiving the defective guitars.
Now the newer original models began to sell; Jeff Hasselberger had left the company in the fall of 1981. The president then was Yoshi Hoshino, and then Ken Hoshino was Vice-president. Back then there were really no instructional videos so most of the learning of working on guitars was just taking them apart and learning to fix them by trial and error.
The first custom Ibanez that Mace remembers was an IC210 that had been made a few years before for Steve Miller that had a sliding pickup. “It sat around for a while, in a flight case, The problem was that they could not ship it to Steve because of Mount Saint Helen erupting."
Ibanez in the USA was getting out of the small parts and accessories and concentrating on Guitars, Basses, and Electronics including Microphones, using Tama to make the mic stands. Acoustic model production was stopped at the Tama factory and the standard models were moved to the Katoh factory near Nagoya Japan.
Ibanez was still making some Banjos like the Mountaineer with a clear head, the Hunter and the Blue Mountain all the models were available as tenor’s 5 strings. The Artist mandolins also continued all with solid tops. Models were available as the Artist mandolins, Flat back and round back models.
Back in Japan in 1982 the Japanese Domestic market had been picking up and Hoshino Gakki was concentrating deeply on exports. They decided it was time to tackle the Japanese Domestic market and they established a small operation in Tokyo called Hoshino Gakki Domestic Sales. , Tom Tanaka said “The main thing I was looking for in a building in Tokyo was parking because it is so expensive to park in Tokyo”, also there would be many trucks coming and going from the building.
Yamaha Lawsuit. Date!!!
Roys explained that Yamaha guitars had introduced some models with headstocks very close to the trademark Ibanez ones. Roy said that they contacted them and Yamaha opinion was that the headstock did not matter. Hoshino company decided to take them to court and Roy prepared many pages of evidence he also brought in as character witnesses John Schofield and New York builder Rodger Sadowsky (SP. Roy showed at the court room in New York and he remembers the attorney for Yamaha did not have anything and he said to Roy “ You did all that”. Ibanez won the case.
Another guitar product that had just hit the market was the double locking tremolo systems. There were two basic models the FloydRose® and the Kahler®. These guys were in court trying to prove which one actually had the patient rights to this. Most of the FloydRose® tremolos were being used on Kramer guitars and being produced by Schaller in Germany. Of course Ibanez was also now working on its own style of double locking tremolos that would be released a year later.
In 1983 Ibanez, still trying to be inventive released a few new hardware options with the release of the updated Roadstar II models, The Artist models and the Roadstar Bass. The major improvements where the release of the New Gibraltar II bridge that was a big improvement over the Gibraltar. It incorporates a set-screw for locking the bridge down after adjusting the height with a wheel spinner; also each saddle has an individual intonation lock for each string. This bridge uses a tailpiece the Quick Change II.
The Short Stop Bridge took the Baddass bridge and made major improvements, These improvements included easier string changes, And better intonation adjustment with locking intonation screws.
One bridge that would turn out to be a short-lived was the Hardrocker and Hardrocker pro tremolo. The only difference between the two was that the Pro had little string lock blocks that screwed in above the saddle, These were difficult to install and not necessary to hold the string in the saddle but did keep the string from moving during tremolo use. This bridge was more in the vein of the Floyd Rose tremolo.
This year Ibanez also release the RS135 models in many colors and started the Color the Music Campaign, the models did not have a catalog but a two sided poster that showed all the models and colors on one side and a full size picture one the other side. The a dealer could hang this on the wall with either side showing. The RS135 models featured the new Power rocker tremolo that had a single fulcrum point that ran across the entire front of the bridge. On the body was a fixed plate with the knife edge built in. The RS135 also had matching color pickups and was available in Black, White, Comet Red, Comet Green, Comet Blue and Comet Yellow. These were actually called the Comet Series.
The model line up included the new Roadstars with sharp edges or no round over with binding on the top these included the RS505 and RS1000, The RS 1400 model showed a redefined Roadstar body with a carved top.
In 1985 Ibanez released the RS1010SL Steve Lukather model that was an updated version of the RS1300. The body was had a carved maple top a 24 fret ebony fretboard with Jumbo frets and an overwound version of the Super 58 the SL Special pickups and used the Ibanez double locking Powerrocker tremolo system.
Another signature model released this year was the Allan Holdsworth AH10. This model had a Basswood body and a tone chamber undr the pickguard. Allan said he could tell the difference between a standard plastic pickup cable and the old style braided cables. For this a new AH Special pickup was designed. Actually this is one of my favorite Ibanez pickups. This model also featured an ebony fretboard and for the first time Dunlop USA made 6100 frets. The tremolo was a powerocker but the tremolo block was milled from solid aluminum.
Around 1985, Rich Lasner started working as he Ibanez artist relation’s person. At this time the repair room was doing only small paint repairs, re-frets and electronic repairs. Rich had allot of energy and allot of new ideas, Mace said that Rich had worked or hung out with great builders, He new the concepts but Mace was the hands on builder.
So the first custom guitar that Mace made was for Charlie Burchell of simple minds. This was when the song “Don’t you forget about me” was popular. Rich talked to the artist and transferred the information to Mace. The first guitar they made for Charlie was just a RS530 model and hand shaping the standard neck to a V neck, Rich told him to use a rasp to make a V.
The next guitar for Charlie was the same model, but Charlie asked for it to be a semi hollow like a Tele thin line also with the V-neck. Mace of course, really had no idea how to do this. Mace was not capable of making a full body because the shop had only a belt sander a buffing machine and some small hand tools, but there were no major construction facilities around.
Mace took a standard RS530, and stripped the parts.
To make it hollow he used a hand router the “Sears hand router and routed out the back to make it hollow. One problem was the comfort cut on the back so Mace took a junk acoustic and filled in the comfort cut before gluing a new back on. Then Leon Reddell finished the guitar.
Still, this was around 1985 or early 1986 and they where setting up guitars for the endorsers but not really making any production custom guitars from scratch. I remember working on replacing pickups and setting up a guitar for 38 special.
Rich Lasner was looking around for some great players that we could become associated with; the reason again was the Yen to dollar exchange rate. The Yen had lost about 30-40% over a few months period and the actual guitar sales were dismal at best. The prices continued to rise every few months just to balance out with the exchange rate. This caused the Price of Ibanez and other Japanese guitars to raise almost as much as some of the American guitars. I also remember being in the checking department and Fender Guitars was in bad shape and was up for sale, Rumor had it that many Japanese companies including Ibanez were looking at purchasing them. I don’t believe it to be true, but this was a rumor throughout the business. For Ibanez to survive they again needed something or someone special that was totally different from the other guitars available on the market.
Back then I was checking guitars, and there were three of us checking, each checking 50 guitars a day. My first day I was told by the other checkers. The quota is 50 guitars a day. Some days do 49, and some days do 52, but never go over or they will raise the quota. Checking the guitars back then was fairly simple because the quality level of the Japanese products was great. We were only using two factories for our production Fuji-Gen and Katoh for acoustic guitars. Some other small factory models would come in from time to time like the Axstar models, First with a start shape and then becoming sort or Steinberger guitars, Headless but one problem, No Graphite for stability.
I remember sales were so bad of our guitars because of pricing that we were only shipping a few guitars a day. Ken Hoshino was the president then, but a new person showed up straight from Europe, Mike Shimada that
was to become president soon, He was in training for the job and Ken would go back to Japan.
One of the next guitars that Mace made was a guitar for Stanley Jordon. Stanley had just hit and was playing using tapping with both hands. We were also working with Modules Graphite on some replacement necks and Stanley Jordon wanted a neck that was stable so they used a Modulus graphite neck.
The body of the guitar was a basic carved maple top RS1300 in black, but because of Stanley’s playing style he wanted a mute at the first fret so when he did pull off’s the open strings would not ring. Many other companies offered mutes, but Stanley needed to control each string so some would ring open, and some would be muted so Mace designed a new mute system for Stanley’s guitar. The device was a T shaped unit that sat between the first fret and the nut closer to the nut Mace used Neoprene and an adjustment for each string. Stanley liked this guitar but also wanted a Jazz guitar because of his style. So Rick told Mace to take a LR10 model pull the frets and sand the fretboard flats (Remove the radius) then re-fret the model. They delivered this model to Stanley in mid 1986 or so.
Also around this time Ibanez was recruiting many people from local bands like Greg Davis (Beru Revu) Lou Franco (Pretty Poison), Vinnie Moore, Blue Saraceno, and Richie Kotzen. But, it seemed that Hoshino USA and Rich Lasner wanted to make a new guitar design to show Japan, This was what we called the (Potatocastor) The guitar became known as this guitar because Ken Hoshino said after it was made I looked like a Big Potato.
The concept of the guitar was a semi hollow model like a thin line but without and sound hole. Rich told him what it should be and Mace started from a block of wood and set up a workstation in the parking lot. He then began to rout out the center of the block using the trusty hand router. Then cut the block of wood into a guitar on a band saw. Because the guitar was hollowed out, the body needed to have a back cap on it so they used a solid spruce back. The final sanding of the outside shape was done on the belt sander and to do the round over on the edge, Mace used a hand Dremel tool and a small sanding drum. The sample had actually Led light switches from an old mixing console. The switch would light up and tell you what pickup was on, This guitar had two humbuckers and a 22 fret painted neck and was finished in Fountain Blue (FB)
Rich was always a big fan of Mahogany. So the next guitar was mahogany and the same model but with 45-degree cuts all over the body this guitar also sounded great but needed more refinement, this was the first Maxxas guitar.
The goal was a guitar that was sexy so Rich told Mace this is great, but we need to make the guitar look good so. The actual body shape was drawn on paper,then a prototype was made in clay and the details were explained to Mace and he proceeded to make the sample. Rich also hated the neck plates on bolt on necks so they thought of a way to bolt the neck on without any plates, This was the invention of the all access neck joint. Of course, they worried about the stability of the neck so Mace glued a piece of wood on the end of the neck, routed out a cavity under the neck pickup and installed threaded grommets on the neck to hold it in place.
Japan was not capable of making a full hollowed out guitar. The first production Maxxas was the MX2 that was solid with a Floyd Rose tremolo the second model was the MX3 released a year later and was hollow and used a HQ Takeuchi Tremolo with Stainless steel saddles and a milled stainless bridge plate both used Dimarzio IBZUSA pickups..
Going back a little to 1984 when the sales were doing well, the Ibanez building Hoshino USA was getting small for Ibanez and Tama together. The building next door was actually connected this was The Craft-Matic Adjustable bed warehouse and they were moving so Hoshino jumped on this and purchased the other building.
They would build a new office, Lunchroom and complete art department. This was finished in 1985 but by 1986 still with the Yen causing financial problems for Hoshino and guitar sales being slow, Hoshino had no choice but to divide the warehouse and office into two separate building’s. They would rent out the old office and half of the warehouse to Roburn company. This meant up and moving the Repair department from the front we call 1716B back to the old drum production storage area. They brought in some carpenters and just erected some walls quickly; it was so bad that even to this day you have to change the light bulbs through small holes outside the room.
Around this time was the Live aid concert to benefit the starving people of the world, It was announced that it would be in two places Wimbley stadium in England and in Philadelphia at JFK Stadium. Rich worked out some details and had working passes for Mace, himself and a few other people.
We decided to take a bunch of guitars down just incase someone needed one to play. The only person that used one was John Paul Jones with Led Zeppelin used our least expensive bass for the show, an RB630 P bass copy. After he returned the bass one of our employees Dennis Benson bought it for his brother. Mace was so blown away when he first cam back he said, Black Sabbath was playing 10 feet from me.
Hoshino Gakki had been working on there own project that they started called the Midi Guitar. The idea was to jump on the Roland bandwagon, Midi and sequencing were just getting going and Hoshino Gakki did not want to be left behind so they started designing the IMG midi guitar. This of course had two departments working on it on was the guitar R&D, the other was the Electronics R&D that was needed for the Midi part. Hoshino Gakki did not want this guitar to look like a standard guitar so it was decided to be headless.
Many parts need to be made. A new tremolo bridge that pitch shifted instead of working like a tremolo, a new top lock system to hold the strings, tuning machines would be relocated to the bridge like a Steinberger and a HEX pickup with a PC-board would need to be made. Hoshino worked on this project but it was very difficult. Some us felt that when finally it was released in 1986 it was already outdated. The reason was because Roland had a bigger R&D staff, and they were improving the technology so fast, there was no way Ibanez could keep up. The midi guitar from Ibanez had a short one, and a half-year life and it was decided we could not afford the investment to keep upgrading the technology.
Ibanez Electronics did release a great Digital Reverb unit called the SDR2000 (True Stereo Digital Reverb) that was made by Sony for us. This Delay was very successful; however, the minimum orders to a company like Sony were very high, and the quantities we could purchase were not so great so the cost was very high.The shred guitar players were becoming more popular and there was another local Guy Vinnie Moore that was also featured in the Mike Varney column; he was from very close to the office in Delaware. Vinnie would come in every few weeks and work with Rich on a new model. The VM1 and VM2 models.
These had the Dimarzio pickups just showed up because Rich had been working with them for some time. So they struck up a relationship with Dimarzio, The first models that used the Dimarzio pickups were were the PL1770 model’s that we actually swapped out the pickups in Bensalem, I did all of them.
The PL1770 model also introduced a Pre-set switching system. The purpose of the Pre-set system was so that you could set two different sounds on with a Five way, and then one with a preset that you could turn on the pickups using the Pre-sets. The first PL models that came in had a new hardware color called White Gold but for some reason on ocean the plating started to change colors. When it arrived all the plating was changing colors. We sent the information to Japan, and they contacted our hardware supplier and made all new hardware for the stock we had. One of my first jobs when I moved into repair was to change all the hardware over.
The 1996 catalog actually had all new models many featured the New Ibanez Edge Tremolo. Roy worked with FloydRose to license the FloydRose tremolo system so we could make our own version at Gotoh in Japan to our Specs. We were concerned about delivery from outside of Japan plus we always prefer to use our own designed hardware. So the Edge tremolo was strarted. This bridge would feature a Diecast base plate with hardened steel knife edgs. Our own arm socket and unlike the real FloydRose that needed different size saddles to make up the string radius, (The FloydRose uses three sizes) with a mold we could actually have the bridge plate staggered to accommodate only one cast saddle.
By his time the Jackson models were getting really popular. About this time there was a certain competition that was brought about by the main office in Japan for the world to design three models of guitars, This is where the Saber, Power and Radius came from. Japan set the direction and a standard.
The models were designed buy Hoshino USA and Chesbro music in the USA Chesbro made the Radius guitar that was brought about by Mark Wittenberg. When Hoshino USA took over the Territory of California Mark left and went to work as Fender’s artist relations person, Mark passed away in the Mid 1990’s of a brain annurisum and is deeply missed. Hoshino USA decided to make a guitar that had more taper all around Bill Reim, Bill Cummiskey, and Rich Lasner again worked on a piece of clay like the auto companies do, to make the body shape and then they gave the clay model to Mace and told him to make it.
Final production of the S would have three mini-switches two on/offs and an on/on off. And would be released with two other models designed by Japan, the Radius and the Power. Around this time I remember that the Japanese liked to name everything so. The necks for these models were the Wizard and the Ultra. The wizard was the thinnest production neck every made at 17mm at the first fret, So thin that Japan needed to make a special truss just so they would not sand through the back of the neck. The Wizard was used on the Saber and Power while the Ultra that was based on a Strat neck was used on the Radius.
These models would come to the USA without pickups and Dimarzio would send the pickups over here to Hoshino, and we would wire the guitars up here. Roy came back to me one day and said, “Can you take care of this project”, We need to hire temporary workers to come in and wire these. Of course, I said yes so we bought the tools, set up some tables and I contacted a temporary service and they sent me about seven people, All from the same family and I trained them to do the pickup installation. The only problem was that if one of them did not show up the entire crew did not come in, so later I just did all the pickup installations myself.
Guitar Player magazine had a column by Mike Varney on up and coming Guitarists and most were playing as fast as they could, Ingwai Malmstein (SP)was also popular. In one of the columns was a story on Paul Gilbert a 15 year old that was tearing up the LA club scene in a Band Called Racer X. Rich Flew Paul in and we worked on a Radius model guitar for him.
Paul was mainly playing an Old Epiphone set neck model, Paul like the position on the neck pickup because it played a f#, He told us we had top put the pickup in that exact location. Mace made a dead copy of the Epiphone for him and sent it out there. Paul played it, but it was not an Ibanez so we wanted to get Paul to play one of our body styles. So we made him a 540R model in fluorescent pink, Steve Blucher at Dimarzio mounted a Fret on the neck pickup so we could duplicate the f# note, Paul also preferred the Kahler tremolo back then so this was also installed. Mace increased the depth of the upper cutaway so he could reach the fret on the pickup.
After The S, R and P models were in production, an issue of Guitar Player released the old sound page. This was a sort of plastic 45. We heard the song called “The Attitude Song”from some young man from Long Island that played with Frank Zappa, apparently we were told that he did allot of transcribing for Zappa. (Mostly his solos.). By this time Eddie Vanhallen was really helping Kramer guitar sales and these models were dominating the market. Bill Riem said that they had a meeting upstairs at Hoshino USA with Joe Hoshino and Japan had noticed what Vanhalen was doing for Kramer. He suggested that we find some great player the same caliber and work on some guitar ideas for a new model. Hoshino USA staff recomended Steve Vai. Rich told Mace that they wanted to make a guitar for Steve and give it to him for Christmas as a surprise, no strings attached.
We studied all we could about Steve and found things as he needed 24 fret jumbo frets, A Floyd Rose Tremolo and Dimarzio pickups. This guitar was a 24 fret Maxxas guitar with all the ingredients. The finsh was a Green and Pink Snake skin that was painted by Leon Reddell using a technique our custom drum painter Brian Whalen devised using the Bink’s spray booth filters stretched out and placed over the guitar then sprayed. After we listened to the whole album Flexible and spoke with Steve we realized that the tremolo system would need to be routed so it could actually be pulled up a fifth when the G string harmonic was played at the 5th fret. Mace did this, but one thing bugged him was that the intonation set screws on the original Floyd were a deep socket. Whenever Mace pulled the tremolo up the strings would hit the Allan heads and kill the note, I remember Mace filing these down so the notes would ring. Steve received the guitar for Christmas in 1986 and started a dialog with Ibanez. Mace remembers that many companies went after Vai, but could not really produce a guitar that Steve wanted because it had too many custom features.
Steve had most of his Jackson guitars stolen during the Eat Em and smile tour and had quick replacements made with some parts from a company called Performance. These parts were modified for Steve’s needs with deeper cutaways and 24 frets.
Rich and Steve talked, and it was decided to make three models all Fluorescent green for Steve and then send them to Steve to see what he thought. The first one was Mahogany, and the second was maple with sound chambers in it. One chamber was an entrance and was a sort of output, however, this did not work and Rich was afraid that it would feed back so he had Mace fill the holes with an expanding foam. Mace had to be careful because the foam kept expanding for a few minutes after it was injected, and they did not want it t crack the finish. The foam just kept pouring out of the holes for a while, but the guitar was ok in the end.
The guitars were sent to Steve, and he liked them, It was decided to go ahead with the models and have the factories make so some samples. The Fuji-Gen factory thought that these where just prototypes for Steve. Prototypes are easy to make, but they had no idea that Hoshino wanted to produce such a guitar in production, So Fuji proceeded to make the samples to send to Steve for approval. There were a few details needed to be added for the samples and Bill Reim was working on some inlays and came up with the disappearing pyramids. Once the samples were approved by Steve production was to start, the factory actually almost rejected this project because the guitars were almost impossible to make in production there were so many details involved like the monkey grip, Lions claw. Hoshino Gakki asked for the factory to please try to produce these models. After much discussion it was decided to proceed with the actual Jem models. The start would be three colors, one in Desert Sun Yellow, one in Shocking Pink and the Lochness green. The Lochness green was to be limited to 777 pieces world-wide and Steve would sign each one.
For a product launch it was mid year and the Chicago Namm show 1987 was around the corner, and it was decided to launch these models at that show, this was to be the largest product launch in Ibanez history. Advertising for the product launch was decided to be a sort of what’s coming ad so in the months before the product was launched Ibanez teasers ads were placed the major guitar magazines in three consecutive months the first was just a headstock. The second was a little more and finally a full two-page ad.In Chicago that year the guitars were placed under a curtain and an an
announcement was made when the unavailing would take place.
When the time came, a large crowd formed, and the guitars were covered by a black cloth with a guard posted, When the time came Steve pulled the cloth and industry people where standing around. Bill said the Kramer Company corporate executives where also there and their faces just dropped when the guitars were unvailed.. This was to change Ibanez from a guitar company of semi original almost copy style guitar company into the next era of Ibanez as a top leader in the guitar world. The Jem took off from that point and there was no turning back..
Around the same time the RG550 was to be released this was the same basic Body style as a JEM or the New RG but at a better price. This
year also saw the release of the new Soundgear bass this was an updated version of the RB800 that was released a year before.
Around the same time we were working with many local artists and since trying to get information from these people what things we could do to make better guitars. Out in Hollywood the Guns and Roses thing was just getting going in Full swing and every you could see all these bands that were playing the regular bars in Hollywood like the Troubadour, Roxy and
places like this.
By 1988 things were looking good again although the Yen was still moving the Ibanez sales were picking up and Ibanez was becoming the Players guitar for many players. It was time to think about some USA production.
Back in 1986 actually the first USA models appeared made by RA Gresco in California. These were the American Master series. These models featured the Gresco top-o-graphic construction. This type of construction inserts the neck and center block into the body from the top by routing out the body area and gluing the neck/body block into the body base. These featured mahogany backs and depending on the model figured maple tops.
The RG700 series model was an upgraded RG550 models with bound rosewood fretboards, Sharks-tooth inlays and Dimarzio pickups. This was around the time that the Dimarzio F space pickups came out. What this meant was normally there are two what we call spacing on guitars bridges the Humbucker was always a Gibson bridge space that was narrow and the wider spaced of a Fender Strat bridge. The problems that humbuckers had were that they were being used with FloydRose tremolos and these bridges were based on a Strat. Many players were complaining about the high e string not being in the polepieces field. When the F spaced pickups finally came out the wider space field of the FloydRose tremolo was addressed.
So later in 1998 four Japanese showed up in Bensalem on a joint venture between Fuji-Gen manufacturing and Hoshino Gakki in Japan.
The company was called H&S guitar technology; this stood for HeartField (Fuji-Gen) and Starfield (Hoshino). The back part of the Hoshino USA warehouse was cleaned out, and production equipment from Japan was shipped in to start USA production.
The basic idea was to have Fuji-Gen produce the bodies and necks, paint them and ship the parts to the USA for assembly. Once production started the customers could order custom pickup, neck, hardware or finish. From Japan they shipped a pin router, Complete workstations, a joiner, band saw, buffer and various hand tools. They made an office in the back of the warehouse out of plywood and started production.
A year before in Japan Joe Hoshino designed and had many outside artists work on a sort of custom line using some of the best graphic artists in Japan, There was a poster made with all these models on it and these models were sent out to all the distributors. So actually the sort of custom guitar thing had already started. In the USA H&S started their first production of the S, P and R bodies that would be sent from Japan and assembled in the USA.
This turned out to be good so they made a custom order sheet that the dealer, or even customers could fill out and send the information or spec sheet to Hoshino and have the guitars custom built to there specs.
The options included either a Power, Radius, Saber or RG body shape, Colors were available from stock colors but custom graphics would be added later. The necks could be ordered with some options like Fretboard type, neck shape, Inlay or binding options. This was the start of the neck identification system; Actually it is an easy system if you know it and people that take necks from these older models would see a code like WALR or WALM. The first letter was the neck shape so at the time we used only two
in the USA the Wizard that was the thin flat neck with a 43mm nut width and the Ultra or U, The Ultra had a thinner 42mm nut width and a thicker rounder feel The neck letter A stood for angled or a scarf joint tilt back neck (There was no straight headstock option then), Next the R, E or M for rosewood, maple or ebony. The next letter was for an inlay T for sharks-tooth and O for oval. If the neck were 22 frets it had no designation but if the neck were 24 fret it used a 24 after it and some necks later had an all access neck joint so this added a letter A. So some examples are
WALR Wizard angled locking Rosewood
WALM Wizard angled locking Maple
UALE Ultra angled locking Ebony.
Later it got a little more complicated like WALRJT24A
This was Wizard angled locking rosewood Japanese sharks-tooth 24 fret all access. Later we made a joke about what would be the longest number and I believe that Sammy Bruestedt in Repair came up with this for the reversed headstock 12-string neck (540STW). It was something like WANLRJT22RTWR48Or Wizard, angle non-locking, rosewood Japanese, sharkstooth, 22 fret, Twin neck, Reversed headstock, 48mm nut, or something like that.
The good news about H&S was that they brought machines and knowledgeable factory people that knew how to make guitars. This was great for Mace and myself because now we could actually see how real guitars are made and then start making some models ourself’s. The best thing was the Pin router but not only did they send a Shoda Japanese pin router (One of the best in the world) but they had all the router bits and pins for every size rout. A pin router works by following a template attached to the bottom of the wood, and the router head is on the top. So what ever the pin underneath follows the top copies, On the Shoda machine the table moves up and down to control the depth of the rout.With the machines and all the templates that Fuji had sent it was easier for us to start making more custom guitars in the shop.
Bruce (Toshiro Idei) that had a great sense of humor, would teach us anything we wanted to know, The first day they came and introduced them Bruce said they call me Bruce because Bruce Springstein looks like me. Soon, the orders were coming in and we they started looking for some painters to do graphics on painted bodies; In Los Angeles they found Dan Lawrence and Pamilina that were already doing some custom graphics for other companies. We asked them to make some sample that we could pick from. The idea was to have maybe 8 graphics that people could pick from.
It was around this time that Rich Lasner left the company, and another artist relation person was hired from Texas that had worked at Robin guitars. It seemed that they had put an ad in some magazine using Charlie Burchell he was an Ibanez endorser so Rich contact them and spoke with Chris Kelly. Soon, Chris flew up for an interview and was hired. Rich has also hired another person a few years back Bill Cummisky that worked for 8th street music in Philadelphia, Bill was first hired for electronics but later would switch to guitars.
Back in those days once a year Hoshino Gakki would yearly have a meeting and bring the certain people from their distributors to Japan for a week or so of going over the direction. Actually, as I write this I am on a train in South Korea going to one of our factories. This is the year 2000 meeting, and we usually take advantage of being in Asia to visit our factories.
Hoshino Gakki was also getting concerned about the week Yen and it was continuing to drop so they decided to start looking into off shore production. They had not actually done this since the 1930’s when they imported the Ibanez guitars from Spain. They sent some personal to Korea to search out some factories and have some production models made. The Acoustic guitar business had been dead for Ibanez in the USA since around 1985 and we were only carrying some small amounts of PF10 models, Most of the PF models were still made at Kato factory in Nagoya.This was the birth of the EX series, and it appears in the 1988 catalog as the EX series with the lower price locking tremolo models the EX350 with pickguard and the EX360 without pickguard. Also, two basses were added the EXB404 and the EXB405 (4 string) this model had two P pickups. These models would be the start of off shore production and continued to this day.
Korea then had over 50 factories all over mostly in the Seoul/ Inchon / Padjue and Pusan areas of Korea. There were a few big factories like Samick, Cort and Young Chang and many small ones all over. The larger factories could produce anywhere from 7000 to 20000 guitars and (Samick actually more) and the magic number for the small factories was 1500 to 3000 pieces per month.
Hoshino was not the type of company to jump on any factory for their business was always to have some type of relationship, get to know the people and the factory and support that factory with steady orders. The Korean factories were taking guitar orders from anyone and this would cause many of them to go out of business in the early 1990’s because companies would switch factories because of a price war that started.
Rich and Bill went to Japan and were totally blown away by the cultural difference, One of the things I remember their saying was that the hotels had whet we called (I can’t say it) but the S&P stickers. These were instructions on western style toilets with explanations on how to use the toilet. They got a kick out of this and they asked one of the Japanese to get a few of these stickers because they wanted to use them on a guitar. Rich had actually been talking a little to George Lynch from Doken and somehow this sticker came up in the conversation. So we made a Black and white large Crackle finish RG with the S&P sticker on the top. Unfortunately, George had started playing ESP around this time so the guitar was never delivered.
It was around this time that Mike Shamada was called back to Japan and Tom Tanaka would come back as President. Chris had a friend (Actually many friends) in Texas that also did some graphic work, Pedro Cruz, so we started also using Pedro to do some graphic work, A few months later Pedro moved to New Jersey so it worked out well for us to get some graphics done locally.
H&S wanted there own designs and I remember that Hiro one of the Hoshino Gakki people that worked at H&S drawing anything on paper to come up with some original design they also tried to have some of their employees do the same thing. Finally, Japan side designed some models that would be exclusive to the H&S these were the 580 series. The 580T and 580B. Both models were a sort of Tele shapes the 580T (Tolbot) had a contoured top and back like the S guitar and the 580B (Bowl Back) had a rounded back.
These guitars did not do well at all. The reason could have been that they had a separate flyer for them, and they never appeared in the USA catalog. But, these models were only around for a few months.
We made a lot fluorescent model back then, and I remember the carts for the bodies that H&S used had slots on them for holding the bodies. The windows in the warehouse are up at the top of the building and when the sun cam in one morning .The sunlight caused the bodies to get actual lines from the carts on them wherever the sun hit. So one morning H&S could not make the Radius models, and they called the factory to see what they could do. The factory said to lay the guitars in direct sunlight for a few minutes so we did. It took around 30 seconds, but the bodies actually came back to normal. And the guitars were assembled the same day.
After Steve Vai started playing Ibanez so many players contacted us for endorsements and the Repair room was a sort of wood be custom shop .So many people would come to our office for guitars or to have work done. Two guys Blues Sariceno and Ritchie Kotzen were both technical players. Ritchie was kind of local and his father owned a vending company. At their house that had an entire room of nothing but Pinball machines. Th
is was what they used for the Ritchie Kotzen Full Tilt ad. Blues I remember was from Connecticut and was recommended by one of our outside sales reps Bill Mckenny. Blues was around 15 and his father was a player so he was brought up with guitars. He was so hyperactive I remember he could not stand still, When he came to have work done, or a guitar built he would pace around us while we worked. He soon released the album Don't’ look back.So many other players came in then it was crazy,
We were taking an order in the morning and finishing the guitars that night and these guys would show up the same night playing somewhere with the guitars we made them that day. We would sit in the audience and cringe waiting for something to happen like the guitar to cut out. Way too much pressure to sit there.
Steve Vai requested a triple neck Heart shaped guitar that would have a six string, 12 string and a Baritone neck. Mace thought about this and I told him make it like I did in elimentary scholl. Mace said asked me what I was talking about . I said we would take a piece of paper fold it over and cut out half the heart when you open the piece of paper the heart is symetrical, Mace did this and sure enough there was the heart shaped body.
Mace was concerned about two things, First how can you carry around such a big guitars and second it would be heavy. So they decided to make it in two halfs that would bolt together with wing nuts. After the bodies where connected a small plug would plug in to connect the electronics and a plate would be screwed on the back (This later was just velcroed on). To cut down on the weight mace hollowed out the body with chambers all in the back, This really help to make the guitar almost bearable weight wise. Steve showed up with this guitar on the “Just Like Paradise” Video and also toured with it on the David Lee Roth Skyscraper tour.
Actually in Bensalem we were working on another request from Steve Vai he asked them for a seven-string guitar. Steve wanted a low B string so he could have more range, but he did not want the strings too wide apart. So Mace took two six string bridge and cut them with a hack saw one with 4 and one with three, Super glued them together and did the same with the top lock. Steve Blucher at Dimarzio did the same with the pickups, and a proto type of the Universe was made. Steve asked it first to be called the Axis, but Musicman already had that one so it became the universe.
Steve had been working with the GEM guitar company in New York, and they did a special process called multi color in which the guitars were actually swirled each one different. Darren Johansen had somewhat worked with Joe Dispagni at GEM guitars but was now independent so some bodies were paint white and shipped to About Time design to have them swirled. The first swirl was to be the Multi Color UV77MC that would be released in the winter Namm 1990.
About Time Design was In the USA and production was in Japan so Fuji-Gen found a local person that could do the Multi Colors, and they started to produce them. Steve was on the White Snake tour playing in New York, and I was sent up to get approval of the UV77MC model from Japan. The problem was that the colors were not bright enough and Steve said he felt as if it needed to be more like the ones he was playing. So they figured there was no other way then to shipped white bodies to Darren at ATD and have them swirled and ship them back to Japan for clear coating and final assembly. This turned out to work well, but still time for the production needed extra 4 months. (It takes one month on ocean both to and from Japan
Hoshino Gakki had been working on a newer version of the Edge tremolo system, FloydRose had actually come out with the FloydRose Three that had a lower profile that a player could actually have his palm resting on the bridge with less chance of the tremolo going sharp. Fritz Katoh met with Floyd and checked over the news bridge and started to make some drawings for a new designed Edge, The Lo pro edge tremolo, This bridge like the Edge had a diecast base plate and hardened steel knife edge inserts. On this floating tremolo the studs are actually a little softer than the bridge pivot inserts, the reason is so the studs will wear out before the tremolo knife edges. One the Edge and Lo-Pro edge tremolo the knife edges are inserted into the side or pressed in, They look as though they can be replaced but actually once you remove the old ones it stretches out the actual bridge plate and new ones will not stay in.
The cost of the Lo-Pro Edge was significantly higher so they first decided to put it on the signature models, and then we moved it in the RG700 series. These models were now coming from Japan without pickups in them and we were still installing pickups at Hoshino USA. However instead of hiring and
recently, we had acquired the California Territory from Chesbro music and we had set up a sort of office in Hollywood as an artist relation office that worked with current or prospective endorsers.
Our artist person then was Chuck Fugigawa All the custom work on the west coast was being done by a local person near Burbank Mike Lipe that had his own business the Guitar Doctor. He was taking care of almost all the West Coast guitars. But, the artist relations and custom shop being so far from Bensalem did not seem to make any sense because all the artist activity was in Hollywood. So it was decided to open a warehouse in North Hollywood for a custom shop, Artist relations and shipping of some drums because the freight cost and shipping time to California was too long. They asked Mace and Chris Kelly if they wanted to move to Hollywood and of course they both said yes. Mike Lipe also decided to close his business and work for Hoshino in North Hollywood, He said it was too much having his own business and he just wanted to settle down.
So the first custom shop actually was opened in North Hollywood or Burbank in a strip mall. Mike sold all his equipment like his Pin router that he had acquired actually from Mighty Mite Parts when they closed their doors. So the custom shop was born and now all the local LA artists could come by and talk guitars.
Back in Bensalem, Hoshino USA hired another guitar builder from Texas Scott Swestka and purchased some more equipment for producing prototypes. The Idea was that all Artist Models for endorsers would be made in California and new model proto type production would be done in Bensalem.
Around the same time it was decided to move H&S out to Hollywood too. It seemed to make sense to have a Hollywood California address on our USA made guitars instead of the Bensalem address. So H&S loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly (Hollywood that is). One problem with making anything in Hollywood is the strict air quality standards because they ar
e in a valley, Painting of any kind is discouraged but with the proper booths, Permits and restrictions you could paint there. H&S would need to invest much money into the facility to get it up and running.
Once H&S was in California they started working with a few outside companies Wildwood and Hosono to get some extra bodies, and necks made. Wildwood made the American Master through neck guitars and basses and Hosono made bodies and necks for the USA custom wood series.
In North Hollywood they were looking for a location for an office so that they could also ship some drums from that location. The reason was that the delivery from the East Coast was one week so they figure maybe it would reduce the shipping time to the west. However, guitar’s because they each needed to be setup and checked would continue to be done is the East Coast operation. Within about 6 months an office was found on Case Ave in North Hollywood and hired a warehouse manager and some small staff that had actually transferred over from the old Chesbro operations in California.
The first Building was an old strip mall location and a shop was set up, Mike Lipe had closed his shop the guitar doctor to come to work at Ibanez full time. Before that Chuck Fuggawa had kept a large quantity of parts, necks bodies and hardware at mikes. Mike also had some paint facilities and so first they were doing the painted at his location and then after he closed shop he subleased an auto body shop that was in the same mall. Mike had acquired many tools and machinery over the years and the Pin router that had actually come from Mightymite where he had worked making bodies and necks a few years before. Hoshino decided to purchase most or all Mike's equipment.
By 1990 The Ibanez sales were strong and the Fuji Factory was producing many models. Ibanez guitars had more features than other companies like matching headstocks, Colored inlays, reversed headstocks and many other features. To make a Stratocater is fairly simple that is what Leo designed it for bolt on neck, Pickguard mounted electronics and simple assembly. If something were bad throw it out and get another one.
Gibson however had set necks and through necks this was not so easy to toss out. Now it was Ibanez’s turn with so many different body configurations and necks it was amazing that Fuji could keep up. But, this was always Ibanez’s strong point the guitars that changed with the times or not locking into tradition just giving the market what it needs to survive. For 1990 we finally introduced the JS model as the JS1, This model was a modified Radius Body that we worked on with Joe for quite sometime, Joe had been playing the one model nick named Black Dog that we modified often, Joe did not like a tilt back headstock and preferred a sort of Krammer Pacer neck. So the first few necks we made for Joe were actually modified Korean guitar necks from one of our factories in Korea Peerless that was mostly producing our acoustics. Joe would draw all over the guitar with glow in the dark markers and whenever it would wear off he would draw all over it again.
The 12th anniversary model GB12 would also appear in 1990, This model was 1.2” thicker than the standard GB body size, also a flame maple top, back, sides and pickguard with a special 12th anniversary inlay of the fretboard.
At Hoshino USA for about two years we had been working on trying to Chrome plate a guitar for Joe Satriani. These models had a problem because of amount of heat needed for chroming, The metal would stay straight but if the wood moved the chrome would buckle or peel off. We worked with Peter Rich Associates a company that was doing our Namm displays. Finally, we felt that we actually had it down so the JS2 model showed up with Joe on MTV and we also placed it in the 1990 catalog with no list price (TBA) However, this guitar would never ship because we just could not guarantee the quality of it. There are however, a few real ones out there that were pre-production samples.
During the designing of the JS models from around 1998 until 1990 we met with Joe many times talking about the body style and what need to be done. Basically the model was based on a R body shape. During the recording of Dreaming #11 Bill Riem remembers meeting with him going over the details of the guitar. The neck needed to be set deeper, Extend the cutaways and some special arm bending for Joe. I remember myself when Joe came in and I needed to bend the arms for him, I was so nervous, I placed the arms in the vice and kept breaking them in half in front of him, the look on his face was like who is this guy.
The dialog for the JS went on and on and finally the model was finished, Bill also remebers meeting with Joe during a rehearsal of Mick Jagger that was going to tour Japan, Joe would play guitar on this tour and needed a more strat style guitar. We actually did not have anything that he could use, we tried to quickly make some models for him but we did not have enough time. When we took the samples to him the fretboard radius was too round for the high frets and when he bent the string the notes died. Joe also talked about how to get the tremolo to flutter better, (This is when you pull up on the arm and let go causing the bridge to vibrate). Basically what we found is that the tigther the tremolo arm is in the bridge the longer the flutter will last.
Also for 1991 was the JS3 model that each was hand painted by Joe’s friend. Donny Hunt. The bodies would be sent to Donny, and he would keep them all over his shop and house and whenever he was sitting around he would constantly be working on these drawing the detailed skulls. The JS3 would continue through 1993 and would later be joined in 1992 by the JS4 Electric rainbow and the JS6 Rain Forrest would be painted by Joe’s sisters. Joan Satriani painted the JS4 and Carol Satriani painted the JS5. These were very limited production models and less than 50 total were produced.
For 1991 the Universe line was full with four models the UV7BK, UV7PWH, UV777GR and the Multi Color UV77MC. The standard Jem Line also added the JEM77BFP. Blue Floral Pattern model.
Another Artist that was working with Ibanez was Reb Beach from the band Winger, He had been working with the LA office playing around and modifying the RG body to come up with something that he could use for two hand taping. After a few years the RBM model was introduced in 1991, Reb wanted to call it the Voyager but the name had already been copy written in Japan so they could not use it. However, a few models did sneak out over the years with the Voyager Truss rod cover.
Reb Used EMG’s and real Floydrose tremolo’s when we first met. Finally, Reb switched to the Edge tremolo but needed to have some arm modification don’t to it. The First Ibanez RBM models were the RBM2 that had a mahogany back. Koa top, Soil Bolivian rosewood neck and EMG SA/SA 89. The SPC control was wired in the circuit so that when the switch would turn it on and off, There was also a coil tap for the 89 bridge pickup. Along with the RBM2 was the RBM1 that had Ibanez designed Single blade pickups and also the HB blade/pole bridge pickup. These bodies were solid Mahogany.For 1991 H&S guitars was working at full stepped up production with the New American master series neck though models in both Guitar and bass, These were very expensive all American made models with figured woods and laminated body construction. The USA Custom series now featured Figured maple tops and mahogany back model Exotic wood series and they also continued a full run of the custom finish USA custom models called the graphic design series. Still, these models were being painted by the same people like Dan Lawrence, Pamalini and Pedro Cruz.
The final USA Customs were the Metal design models that had laminated fabrics over basswood bodies. The finishes included The Grey snake, Serpent and Silver Peacock. This idea came from Joe Hoshino in Japan. He wanted to have an Animal series as a sort of new approach to guitar graphics.
Ibanez Japan was now producing the RG770DX models that had maple fretboards and matching inlays, What a nightmare in production trying to hide the routed area around the inlay. This is simple with and dark wood like Rosewood or ebony but maple was a difficult task.
Another reason was that the inlays themselves were hand made so they also had a sort of tolerance to size so even if the inlays routs were done by CNC the inlays themselves needed to be exact. Making an inlay fit as tight as possible is not necessarily a good idea because would shrink so it the inlay was really tight and the neck shrank from loss of moisture the inlays would crack. One idea would be to make an injection mold for all the inlays so they would be exact each time.
The RG565 was also introduced this one had a reverse headstock, matching dots and the HB/SB series pickups. The first models had a standard three-way, this was later upgraded to a new switch that Ibanez designed that was a 4 pole 5 way. The VLX91 switch, this would allow more wiring combinations, A 4-pole 5 way has 4 independent sides and each lug is independent of the other.
In the electronics section for 1991 Ibanez came out with the Chubby Tanks, This was the original name but Hoshino USA protested the name and they became the Sound Tanks. These were effects built on the premise one mold one cast. So we could do what ever we wanted as long as it had only three knobs?
Ibanez also released an updated version of the S body for Frank Gambale the FGM model that had a deeper neck set and a lower string profile for sweep picking.
Tom Tanaka was the president of Hoshino USA, Tom was very worried about the Yen Dollar exchange rate so Tom decided we may need to move more production into Korea if the yen continued to drop. We were working with a few companies already, and the idea was to find the best factory and develop a relationship.
One day before Lunch Tom called me on the phone in the repair room and asked me to stop in before lunch, he said it wasn’t important so I stopped in. He asked me whether I wanted to go to Korea and work with the factory to teach them how to setup guitars for us. I was sort of stunned and I said of course, no problem when do I leave? It was decided that I would go every two weeks back and forth from the USA to Korea and help the factories understand what we needed in the USA.
I first met with the factory people at the Namm show in January 1991, and my first trip was scheduled for Feb 1991. I packed my bags and without any idea of what I was in for I got on a plane to Korea, Tom Tanaka accompanied me on the first trip and it was a long flight on Japan Airlines from JFK to Tokyo and then to Seoul something like 16 hours.
The first day we drove to the factory and traffic in Korea was real bad so even travelling a short distance in Seoul would take hours. When I went into the factory for the first time, I remember it seemed very unorganized and kind of crowded. There were so many people just standing around. When I asked them about this they told me Korean Unions are difficult, and it is impossible to lay off workers, A year before they combined two factories into one and they had to keep on all the workers. We use to call the annual strike in Korea because every June the factories would strike for more money or benefits, and this would stop production for up to two months or more.
After going around Korea and visiting many factories I finally was invited to our main factory in Japan Fuji -Gen Gakki. When I went to Fuji I was blown away. Fuji factory was very innovative, and they had been suffering from the Three D’s or it was hard to find people to work In Dirty, Dangerous or difficult work environments. Working with Pin Routers or painting was this type of job so Fuji invested heavily into computer controlled equipment like CNC Routers, Static painting systems and even Robotic Buffers, This allowed them to produce the best quality consistent products while keeping a steady labor force.
After going there I almost thought Korea could never catch up. The one thing I did not realize was that it took Japan almost 20 years to get this far and they already did most of the research and development. Many machines they were using were readily available in Korea so the Korean guitar companies had an edge in some ways that would allow them to produce better guitars with a shorter learning curve.
Korea seemed eager to learn how to produce better guitars and many companies guitar companies were already there so Ibanez was getting a late start. Still, the smaller factories were playing price wars and most guitar manufactures would bounce around from one company to another just for price, Not caring about quality. Ibanez however did not use this practice so we decided to pick the best factories and lock in. Hoshino Gakki was also looking for some factories so it was a kind of test we would run the USA, Australia and Canada production from one factory and Europe and Japan from another factory and see what factories were the best, just as Tom had predicted the Yen continued to drop and it was getting very expensive to bring the Japanese guitars into the USA a good price.
Tom was a good business man, and he also loved to design new models so every month when I would go over to Korea Tom would ask me to have samples made. The factory was quick with samples so we could actually have the samples produced and finished for me to bring back to the USA with me before I returned to the USA. Of course, this kind of bothered Hoshino Gakki that Hoshino USA was making there own models without there help, but Tom said to them that they are waiting too long to get serious about Korea and we need to move much faster.
The first Hoshino USA designed line appeared in 1991 summer in a sort of Flyer for the Namm show. The models were EX models that had more features like binding, gold hardware and transparent finishes. The first production model I ever designed was the EX1700F that was a semi hollow body model with an F hole. The sales were not great, but it was a cool guitar.
To try to make the Korea production more playable we worked on a few details like adding harder Jumbo frets so it would be easier for a beginner to play, Thinner necks, new truss rods, Better colors and better hardware. The Current double locking tremolo that the Korean factories were using was kind of a problem so we decided to import some tremolos from Takeuchi in Japan. We had been using Takeuchi for some time, and Fritz had actually worked with them on a Low profile version of there own tremolo that we would call the Low TRS bridge. We had somewhat used this bridge on some Japanese production and decided to import the bridges into Korea for the updated EX series line that would debut in 1992.
Other models for 1992 that we were working on were a new Bass the CTB a sort of sound gear bass and the ATL10 (Acoustic thin Line sort of Ferrington style guitar.)Another model in the bass section that made its debut was the Affirma bass, these were co designed by Rolf Spuler from Europe. He had worked with Fritz for a few years designing the AFR basses, These basses had a built in piezo pickup under each saddle, The four-string model featured a patented flip up d tuner on the E string. A Full thumb rest, Straight strings pull tuners (The tuners were actually put on upside down to allow even string tension.) The models were available in with different woods like saman, mahogany, flamed maple and walnut neck through construction. These models had there own brochure printed so they never showed up in the standard Ibanez Hoshino USA catalogs.
For 1992 we had been working with our artists to come out with the Interview catalog, This was one of the most popular catalogs Ibanez produced. This catalog had interviews with all our artists asking them what they were doing musically. Playing and their future plans. However, MTV Unplugged was very popular, Nirvana,”Nevermind” had been released in 1991 and the entire music seen was changing, The word was Shred is Dead,
Many bands that Ibanez was working with were having problems selling albums against the Seattle Music scene. Music was changing, and it seemed that no one was so concerned about technique, maybe some guitar players had been getting a little tired of I can play faster than you. Now anyone could play a guitar just by hitting a few chords. Out of tune guitars seems to be coming back as well as Fender sales picking up. Dealers said Ibanez makes the pointy headstock models. The bands that were showing up on MTV were using whatever old beat-up guitar they could find, So the old looking sort of 50’s 60’s guitars were making a come back. People were showing up with Harmony’s again. This was causing some more problems with the Ibanez sales, Not that sales were going down but they were not increasing at a steady rate.
It was again time to rethink the line up.1992 models stayed on the same direction as the past the JS1 model was changed to a Single in the middle, but the number stayed the same; Another JS was the non-locking tremolo mahogany body JS6. And finally production of the JS4 and JS5 graphics by Joe’s sisters. The S line stayed almost the same, but we did add the 24.75” scale mahogany body 470S. We actually called it the 470SG. This was because of the features like a standard SG. We were trying to appeal the
Non-locking tremolo people so we introduced a modified R body the 442R and 542R; This was another try at a traditional market sort of Strat.
For bass we were trying to get back into the traditional market also so we came out with the TR series basses (Traditional).With an updated sort of Jazz bass mentality. For the Jem we introduced two new multi colors the JEM77PMC, (Purple Multi color) and JEM77GMC (Green Multi color) Ibanez electronics showed the new Rock and Play systems the RP200, RP204 and RP202 were released in 1991. These allowed the player to use a cassette and play along and learn songs. For 1992 we added the RP50 came out this allowed a digital sample up to 15 seconds that could loop, All the rock and plays allowed slowing down the song to half speed for figuring out the solos.
The PUE5Tube was an effect processor that had a built in Tube distortion, This was an update on the PUE5 from 1990, The tube was a 12AX7, New for 1992 was the Power Trio effects PT3 and PT3B.
For acoustics a few of us we were traveling quite a bit to Korea working with our factories to try to get back into the acoustic market. After the Mid 1980’s Ibanez acoustic sales were down, and we almost gave up in the USA. But, Tom hired a new acoustic Buyer Josh Nathan and he was aggressive to get back into the acoustic market. We worked with the factories and contacted Fishman for electronics. The cost of shipping the electronics to Korea then did not make financial sense so we also decided to install the pickups and eq's here in the states for the USA models.
For 1992 we released our first all acoustic catalog in some time. This was starting to get confusing because of the US Marketing was different from Japan and Europe so many models we worked on were carried under the AE name in Japan and Europe. Because of the exchange rate Hoshino needed to divide the models more throughout the world. There is always a difference between the music trends, popular artists and guitar sales from country to country but it seemed time really split up the markets. For the 1992 acoustic line we jumped back in full throttle with the Nomad (AE in
Europe), Ragtime, and all new Performance acoustics. The Nomads featured Fishman pickups with the high end N900 using also a Fishman Matrix EQ and a solid top.
The Korean manufactures were producing Solid top acoustics, but he had many bad memories of Solid top guitars so we wanted to be very careful getting back into the solid top market. I was still traveling to Korea every other month or so and the products were starting to show the improvements,
The USA music scene was still the Seattle Rock sound and everyone was scrambling for next big thing. Hollywood was out for music and people were starting to move from of California. With all the new music and the no flash guitar thing the graphic business went south causing many problems with the North Hollywood operation of H&S. No one wanted the type of guitars that they were making. The High end business was going away, and it was too expensive to keep trying to produce guitars in Hollywood, So it was decided to close down the H&S production in North Hollywood.
For me I wanted the Pin Router back so I contacted H&S and asked them to sell it to me. When I tried to find out how I could ship it this became a big problem because the cost to ship it was over $3000.00. And I did not have that kind of budget, but I did think of one thing how about shipping it back with the Namm show? So at the 1993 Winter Namm show closing we rented a Truck and loaded it on. drove up to the docks, asked the forklift person to take it to the booth. I tagged it like regular product and when the show and products got shipped back to Bensalem, My pin router and all the templates and bits were on board, Sort of free delivery,
One model that came out in 1993 was the JEM7VWH model. Back in the late 1980’s this guitar was actually made as a gift to Eddie VanHalen but never delivered to him, It sat around in the LA custom shop until we decided to make a model out of it. This body was actually Alder instead of Basswood and would have Steve’s new Dimarzio Pickups in it the Evolutions.
The Seven string business was going away, and we had stock of seven strings that we could not give away. For 1994 only one seven string remained in the Line the UV7BK. For the 1993 EX model we updated them to a Japanese made Lo-Trs tremolo system and 24 frets. John Lomas at Ibanez visited Korea with me a few times working on new pickups and 1993 we released the first custom wound Ibanez Korean Pickups, The XH series pickups.
Still, the players market seemed to be in the traditional market and we were working on some idea to make a guitar for this market, the first one was
to make the RG more traditional by removing the locking tremolo, and tilt back neck. We decided to use the Viper shape neck that is a sort of modified V-neck. The model we released was the RT series (Retro). The RT150 was a Japanese manufactured basic model with 24 frets an alder body and a standard fulcrum tremolo.
The RT450 used a Tortoise shell pickguard that was very wide spaced, some people complained about the first one, I remember one dealer saying it looked like a satellite photo of a turtle, We later changed the pickguard to a tighter shell look. The upper end was a gravier flame top; This is a process of laminating a film over the top that simulates a type of wood. Fuji-Gen had a new Gravier-laminating machine so used this over an alder body, Toped off with Gotoh locking machines and a Mother of Pearl pickguard.
Another Retro model we worked on was the RV, This model took the standard R body and made it into two dimensions so we could put a pickguard on it, These models also used a Gravier flame top. The problem some people complained about Gravier were that it was too perfect, and you could almost tell it was not real. The yen at this point was dropping below 100 so Hoshino USA orders to Fuji were dropping and we were actually moving more models into Korea because the USA market could not afford the cost of the Japanese guitars. In Korea we decided to make a mold for a new double locking tremolo the Lo-Trs-II.
For 1994 the Yen was causing us to move more production to Korea and we were looking at ways to keep the Japanese guitars strong in the market. Joe Hoshino is always working on new ideas and was working on the new retro models that were a sort of Jazz master, Explorer feel. We saw the first samples and started changing a few things;
We felt that we should head in the Dan Electro style. In Korea there was a small pickup maker Sky that was working with Kent Armstrong making Danny pickups, These were the real deals, Other companies were just putting single coils under Lipstick covers and calling them Lipsticks, But SKY was winding them just like the originals to Kent Armstrong’s specs. So we decided to use these. For body wood it seemed to make sense to stay away form wood, plus to keep the cost down we might be able to try some other material.
There was a type of almost particle board available that was said to contain alder wood chips in it, It was an MDF material and once we tried it sounded vintage. So the Talman was born. So times the names we use for models seem strange, but one reason is that every worked in the Webster’s dictionary is trade marked by someone in Japan, So there are not words you can use. So you either need to make up a word or we actually have a list of trade marked names that we can pick from, Talman came from this list. So 1994 the Low end RG models were moved to Korea, The EX series was discontinued, Locking tremolo models would be RG and non locking models would be RX. The SR800 bass would move to Korea, and the Talman series would be introduced for the retro player. The Universe sales were also very low, and we had some stock in the warehouse that did not move.
We did re-release the original TS9 pedal. The reason was these were very popular in the vintage market. John Lomas of course had a few original new ones still in the box so he worked on this project. Another effect that was released was the PT5 Programmable digital multi effects processor.
One day in 1993 I was listening to the radio, and I heard about a company in
Pennsylvania that makes guitars called PBC guitars. I checked all around and found the location of the company did some research and decided to visit them. Since we closed our North Hollywood production facility we did not have any US production. So One day I drove up to Coopersburg PA about 2hrs away and visited them. This company was making many types of instruments, and the president was Dave Bunker; He was a genius when it came to guitar design from an unconventional sense. As soon as I walked in he showed me the Hex Mute system he designed on a double neck touch guitar. This guitar had a wide guitar neck for playing with your right hand and a standard bass neck. The system had a circuit board installed, and the frets were wired to ground so if you took your fingers off the frets. The circuit would cutoff.
I checked out the production met a few people and decided to take Tom and a few inside guys up to meet them to see about getting some of our models made there. Dave had a patient on the Tension Free neck system that allowed the neck to float free from the string tension buy utilizing a steel rod that was attached at the heel of the guitar and the headstock. So I gave them a few drawing’s worked out some details and ordered some samples. These guitars would come out in the 1994 catalog also. We just finished them in time for the shoot.Another new model for 1994 was the Ghost Rider,
the LA Custom shop had designed this model and Alex Skolnick and Shawn lane were already playing this model. We released the set neck models in 1994 the GR520 that had an alder back, maple top and the GR320 that had a retro Tele humbucking bridge on it. The horns on the GR are actually the same length, but for some reason the lower horn looks longer.
These models used the John Lomas designed AH series (AXIS) pickups.For 1995 we wanted to streamline a little and try to cutback on some models, Ibanez strong point has always been our ability to keep the market feed with new ideas.
We had been working again with Paul Stanley and in 1993 we reissued a PS10 model and brought back the Iceman, These models did not make the catalog but did show up at the Namm show in 1994. The model was an IC500 that was known as the Kiss 20th anniversary model. The 1995 Catalog had two new PS10’s the PS10LTD that was made in Japan with a set-neck and gold hardware. This guitar Featured the original Gibraltar Bridge.
Actually from the day I had started at Hoshino we never had any of these bridges because they had been discontinued back in the early 1980’s and they ran out of them. Fritz was working on a line of reissues. The 2681 Bob Weir, MC300, AR300 and MC924 Musician bass. For this Fritz wanted to get make these models as original as possible so he contacted the original hardware company that made the Gibraltar and sure enough he still had the original molds from the 70’s. So Fritz had some bridges made for these models. Once I heard about this, I ordered hundreds of these bridges and parts to keep in stock for customer sales; finally after 14 years we had bridges in stock again.
The other PS was the PS10II Korean made set neck reissue of the original PS10 complete with mirror pickguard, tailpiece plate and truss-rod cover. For the standard line the IC300 was released as a standard Iceman along with a Bass the ICB300 and a locking tremolo version the IC350.
One band that was popular then The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the because of Flea the Music-man bass was dominating the bass market. This was a type of bass we did not make so we did a little R&D and came out with a model to meet this market the ATK bass. This model had a large bridge plate and a triple coil passive pickup with an active EQ section. The Korean factories did not have any light Ash so it took some time but they finally agreed to import it.
The UV model was discontinued so Ibanez no longer carried any seven string models, However, there was just starting to be a surge from underground bands like Korn and even John Petrucci from Dream Theater showing up with Seven string models. In Japan we never actually made a full mold for the seven strings just what we call a temporary mold. This is a sort of limited production mold, and the one we had for the Low pro edge seven was worn out. For us to make any more seven strings we would need to spend much money to make a new mold.
1996 The Yen was still causing problems and I don’t remember the date, but on one trip to Japan I actually traded Yen at 85 to $1.00, I did not eat well that trip. So this further caused so models to need to be shifted to Korea, We would need to move a few of the Talman models into Korea and switched the tone woods to Alder or light Ash. The TC420 and TC620 would be made in Korea, and we would make an upper end TC830 in Japan.
One trend that was picking up was the Sparkle finish; this is the large Metal Flake we call Global. This is the largest flake you can spray through a Bink’s spray gun without drilling out the tip. For the 1996 Namm show I made a 5 special models to show as customs. A few heavy flake models. Actually, the year before we showed Kevin Shields guitar from my bloody valentine, This model was a full sparkle with a Bigsby on it and people really like it.
For the summer show we would want to ad some sparkle models from Japan but this type of painting is very bad for the environment and Fuji would need to invest in an Oil paint booth. This type of booth has an oil waterfall that the excess flakes get trapped in during spraying. Fuji agreed to purchase the new equipment so by summer 1996 we showed the TC820 model. For this we were buying the Bigsby directly from Bigsby and shipping them to Japan.
Other models for 1996 we showed the new Pat Metheny models; We had worked with Pat for over 15 years on this model. On thing about Pat Metheny is that he is always on the road, so it’s always difficult to track him down. For quite a few years we would send him some samples, and he would send them back telling us what was good or bad. We would send the changes onto the design department, and finally the PM100 was introduced with a double cutaway maple body.
The Iceman shape still was popular, and we showed the PS10CL classic that was a dead on PS10 made at the same factory, Also we introduced the ICJ100WZ as a signature model from J of White Zombie. Also after some hard negotiating we remolded the Lo-Pro edge seven tremolo and the UV7BK Seven string was back in the line.
It seemed that the music scene was starting to change again and many alternative, or grunge bands were becoming the standard for popular music. As with any trend, the younger generations need there own style or trend, Music was starting to become more tuned down and Korn was at the top of the up and coming underground front.
Rob Nishida our LA office artist relation person had been friend’s with Korn for a few years, and they were already playing seven strings that they found used in music shops. This allowed them to get more bottom.
For 1996 the electronic department introduced some new retro Effects the AD99 analog delay, RC99 rotary chorus and the USA made Tube King that
was manufactured by Tube Works for us. For basses we also introduced the USATK bass made by PBC guitars and this one the Bass of the year at the Namm show Music sound retailer awards for best new bass product. Although the Yen was still causing price problems the Japanese products were beginning to pickup sales again, and we reintroduced the standard RG570 model. This had been a standard model in our line from the late 1980’s until the mid 1990’s when we discontinued the standard model. We added some features on the RG570CT that had gold hardware and maple tops.In mid 1996 we started a custom shop project with Fuji;we really wanted to show the quality that Fuji could produce.
Fuji-Gen is one of the best guitar manufactures in the world, and we wanted to show the Japanese Quality. Ibanez was one of the only companies still producing guitars in Japan for the US Market. Most guitar companies jumped ship to move to cheaper models in Korea, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and India. For the Japanese market these types of custom models were already being sold but because of the cost and the exchange rate most of these models were not available in the USA they were just too expensive.
For the Namm show in 1996 we displayed the Custom shop models but the prices had not been finalized. Joe Hoshino’s Ideas on some of these models were to find some specialists in Japan outside the factory to do custom finishes or custom woodwork. Model that we displayed that year were the RG-Metal a guitar with a metal coating, The RG Gear that had inlayed gears and a scalloped type of enhancement to the top. A few S models the S3040, S5400NT and S 3040PL a High-end Soundgear the SR8100AM and a RGART that had inlayed shapes of different exotic woods in it.
This project would also lead to the Prestige series that was not quite as expensive as the J-customs but used the same builders and certain key elements. I was working with the Hoshino Gakki and Fuji on many details of the Prestige models like Fret Finish and quality of the woods to be used.
We were still trying to get some type of traditional guitar into the market instead of only making the heavy rock models. So A few of us worked on the new Blazer model that was a super Hot-rod Strat. For the neck samples I bought quatersawn maple blanks, Slotted fret boards, Truss rods, Fretwire and working with Japan we can out with the basic neck dimensions. The drawings were sent to me, and I made templates for the outline of the neck and we sent the materials to Gary Brawer in San Francisco and Ron Ruggiero in Philadelphia to have them shape the neck s to what they felt was the best shape.
I also made about three neck shapes myself. After all, the necks were completed we strung them all up and made a decision on the best one to produce. For this neck we would use a digitizer and a ball mill to make the necks exactly the same as the sampl. For pickups John Lomas worked closely with Bill Cummiskey to come out with the Alnico/ Ceramic JLD pickups, This standard for John Lomas Di-Sen-sei, or in Japanese the big teacher. (John’s Japanese Nickname).
The tremolo system we worked with Wilkinson and used the VSV bridge. And finally Locking Sperzel machine heads. This model was introduced in 1997, but it seemed that the Vintage craze was just ending, and the music scene was going back to hard rock metal, Or Rap Rock. Bands like Rage against the Machine, Korn, and The Offspring,
Late in 1997 we were working with one of our suppliers on a material that they had been designing. Their idea was to make a molded guitar to try to keep the cost down, In the end making a standard body did not make sense because the cost still involved sanding, painting and buffing. Tom Tanaka asked us to work on some unique bass design because bass players are willing to try new things, whereas guitar players are more built on tradition. So we began work on the new Luthite Ergodyne basses.
There was some discussion on what way to go Japan side was maybe thinking the standard Soundgear shape, but we wanted something new. For the first model we worked on some basic body shapes. Then to make the bass body fit comfortable to a player I took a piece of clay and shaped it to the bass, Picked it up laid it across my stomach and chest as though I was playing it and bent the clay to fit my body. This is the original EDB bass body. This model would be introduced in mid 1997, I was also working on another Bass design that would be over the top; No holds barred! We had some basic ideas, but I decide to get nuts with the bass, and we started working on the EDC bass.
For these bass we all got together at Hoshino USA and talked about what we should do, I started making prototypes from foam. Adding some style to each, the first was a longer horn for balance that came from Bill Reim, Then I added a thumb rest built in, A scooped area for popping, the 3D back, A raised area for electronics, and a diecast jack plate. John Lomas was working with Japan on some new pickups that were passive and an update to the Vari-mid 3 band EQ to make it work with passive pickups.
This model was finalized, and we showed it at the January 1998 Namm show,1997 Ibanez sales started to increase, and we began moving more products back to Japan, and started getting ready for the 1998 year.
This year would be Hoshino Gakki’s 90th anniversary and Hoshino Japan wanted to make a big splash so we worked with our endorsers to come up with the 90th anniversary models for Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai. Joe Satriani and John Petrucchi. For these models we would have a big show at Namm with our endorsers playing.
Once we had the Luthite material, we wanted to try again to make a chrome plated guitar for Joe Satriani; Joe had always wanted us to do it since the late 1980’s. Finally, we could so out came the JS10th, Chrome boy. Although this guitar would still cause many problems in production, we could release it. The first sample I found a few small imperfections on the body and during a visit to Fuji we talked about it. They said that there is no way to change the process because metal holds a static electric charge of 10000+ volts and if they try to buff them, the person could be seriously injured. Still, these guitars were great and they were released finally after some 10 years of R&D in 1998.
Another model we had been working on was a low-end artist style double cutaway. This would be the GAX70 model. This guitar would become one of our best selling models in our history over the next few years. The reason it is a basic no frill great playing guitar at a great price. With the music trends and our Japanese production quality in our favor, we could also strengthen our RG line with new models featuring many two humbucking models with our new easier to wire Special 5 way switching system.
On the high end RG we came out with the RG3120 Prestige model for the mid to high price range player. And finally the RG7 string model was introduced into the catalog. The sales went off the roof for these and again Ibanez was ahead of the pack. Soon, other guitar companies would make seven strings either as our copies or as an extension to their own models.
The seven strings would become like the 5 -string bass. While the 5-string bass would actually almost equal sales of the 4-string basses. We asked people why the 5-strings are selling so well, and we found that first the music trends. Bass players need to go lower also many students taking lessons were starting on 5-strings?
For the 1998 Namm show it seemed like other guitar companies came to our booth because the seven strings was doing so well. For the 1998 Namm show I worked on a few ideas of my own the affordable seven string Jazz guitar the AF207 and a standard seven string acoustic model. These were well received. From the beginning of 1998 sales took off and our
back order continued to grow.
We continued to check and setup every guitar that came in, although sales grew we did not want to rely on other factories to make fly by night products. Instead, we stayed on track with mostly our current factories continuing to increase the quality level of our guitars and keep the prices in an affordable range.
During 1998 Ibanez grew in both sales and popularity but we never could rest on this type of idea, We have been through so many music changes with trends that we would continue to develop models for other music styles and different generations. Continuing our quest for the perfect bass, Tom Tanaka asked us to research the upper end bass market to see what was going on. It seemed that in the high-end bass market, bass players did not by production basses. Instead, they preferred small builders custom basses.
This was different then the guitar market so we began work on the BTB Bass (Boutique Bass). For this I really got into it and actually turned myself into a Bass player. I practiced the bass every day listening to great bass players in all types of music. We met with a few local bass players and checked out some high-end basses, and I started building proto types.
We found that increasing the scale to 35” would help the string tension for the low strings ring better, String spacing for a pro player could be wider for finger picking and the neck shape was important so I hand made some neck samples using the thumb on my left hand to guide the center line of the neck. John Lomas worked with me on the EQ and pickups, We added a few features like the Nuetrik locking jack that Bill Reim was very strong about and the BTB bass was born.
We showed this finally in 1999 Namm, with two models a high End BTB1000, BTB1005 and the mid price BTB500/ BTB505.For 1999 They asked me to right a book to be released for the year 2000, I started getting this together but with my busy schedule we decided to make it more for the year 2001.
In 1999 I met with Fuji and they were opening a new custom shop that would produce production model custom pieces. Masashi my boss gave this job to me designing models for them. The Tough job to make a quantity of high-end models that would have an almost certain sales amount. My idea first was to use our endorsers to come up with some strong models for the year 2000 Y2K line. For the signature models Masashi said to me, design this from a guitar freak point of view ", or make these things really intense. While in a greeting card store I notice on a card a UV77MC model with a sky background and wording that said, “ Happy Birthday to a unique individual”
Then I looked around and almost every card had this type of color scheme on it. So I called my old friend Darren Johansen from about time design and asked him whether he wanted to do some swirls. I said we would fly him to Japan for one week all you need to do is create the swirls we will do everything else. He agreed, then to make it a little more special I thought we could add some of Steve DNA into the mix. Then I could call it the Y2KDNA.
For Joe Satriani Rob Nishida said to me what about a Crystal Planet acrylic model. Great Idea so we started on this model, and I worked with Dimarzio to get them to produce a clear bobbin, We looked all over and found clear pickup wire, a new color hardware and some special materials. I was so behind schedule on these and it was already November 1999 and nothing was final. I had them airfreight me a sample of the Acrylic body just to check the sound, I was very worried that the material would be too bright and we would need to make a special wound pickup in a short time. When the sample arrived I put it together and when I plugged, it in I was amazed; It sounded great. This guitar had so much sustain it just blew me away.
For the third model we wanted to make a real solid spruce top GB10. I wanted a theme for this so I thought about George’s career, and the first song I learned from George Benson was “This Masquerade “ So I thought this would be a good tribute and we could work on a Masquerade theme for the GB2K.model. We worked really hard back and forth by email, fax and phone getting these models together and all three were carried from the custom shop to the Namm 2000 show. These models were so popular that they were on the internet within hours of the shows start, and dealers that did not attend the Namm show were paging out sales reps at the show trying to get orders in for them.
After the show we still needed to produce the Multi color samples and there was a lot involved, Fuji needed to get everything ready like a tank and all racks and carts that Darren would need. I needed to get all the paint materials shipped from the USA to Japan, Darren needed to block time out of his schedule and we needed to get some DNA from Steve because he was in the middle of the Ultra-Zone tour. Finally by mid March we were ready to go, I went a few weeks early to visit some of our factories and thanks to Email I could keep in touch with everyone just as though I was home.
I picked Darren up at the airport we went shopping for some last minute material and went to Matsumoto to make the JEM2KDNA models. First, we had a few small problems with water temperature but Fuji bought a heater for the water. Darren is the best I felt privileged to watch him work. Many people are trying to learn this system but after watching it I don’t know whether anyone could possibly be able to pull it off like Darren. So here we are in the year 2000, Ibanez came along way. Not because of the name but because of a select group of people that love these guitars and are always working on something to make the music business new and exciting. Who knows what tomorrow will bring but one thing that you can be sure of, Ibanez will always be trying to be ahead of the game?
1. Ibanez USA Elger company
2. Ibanez Electric Guitar imports
3. *Ibanez Effects Started (Wah/Fuzz, Booster)
4. *Ibanez Lespaul (2350)
5. *Ibanez ES335 (2370)
6. David Bowie Th e rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars
7. Ibanez Jazzbass (2365BSB)
8. Led Zepplin Led Zepplin
9. Derric and the Dominos
1. *Ibanez Tele Copy (2352)
2. Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon
3. John Mclaughlin Birds of Fire
4. New York Dolls Debut
5. Kiss Kiss
6. Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holly
1. *Ibanez Compact effects (Distortion/Phaser)
2. *Ibanez Flying V (2387)
3. Dimarzio Super Distortion Pickup
4. Lynyrd Skynyrd Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd (Free Bird)
5. Genesis The Lamb lies down on Broadway
6. John Denver #1 guitar Player
7. Grateful dead Live from the Mars hotel
8. Frank Zappa Apostrophe
9. John Denver #1 guitar Player
1 *2616 model Ibanez Full acoustic model
2 *Ibanez Gibson Thunderbird Bass (2463B)
3 Kiss Alive
4 Jeff Beck Blow By Blow
5 Aerosmith Toys in the attic
6 David Bowie Young Americans
7 Bruce Springsteen Born to Run
8 Eagles One of these nights
9 Bad Company Straight Shooter
1. *Iceman Model under Artist name (2663)
2. *Ibanez Artist Series First Appears (2618)
3. *Ibanez Artist Professional Models (2676)
4. *Ibanez Destroyer Exployer (2459)
5. *Ibanez Rocket Roll (2387CT)
6. George Benson Breezen (This Masquerade)
7. Thin Lizzy Jailbreak (Phil Lyn
8. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
9. Peter Frampton Frampton Comes alive
10. Boston Boston
11. Sex Pistols (Nevermind the Bolocks)
12. Stanley Clark School days
13. Jeff Beck Wired
1. *Ibanez Gibraltar Guitar Bridge
2. *Ibanez Super 80 Flying Finger pickups
3. *Ibanez Rackmount Delay (AD230)
4. Steve Miller Fly like an Eagle
5. The Clash The Clash
6. Saturday Night Fever
7. ELVIS DIES
1. *Ibanez George Benson (GB10,GB20)
2. *Ibanez Iceman (IC210)
3. *Ibanez Paul Stanley (PS10)
4. *Ibanez Musician Series (MC500)
5. *Ibanez Performer Series (PF400)
6. *Ibanez Concert Series (CN200)
7. Van Halen Van Halen
8. George Benson (Song) On Broadway
9. Devo Are we not Men
10. Rolling Stones Some Girls
11. The Cars The Cars
1. *Ibanez Musician Bass (MC940)
2. *Ibanez Roadster Series (RS800)
3. *Ibanez Studio Series (ST300)
4. Ibanez First Rackmount Multi effects (UE400)
5. *Ibanez EQB Active bass Circuit
6. *Ibanez 8 string Bass (MC980)
7. Steve Vai starts playing with Frank Zappa
8. Floyd Rose Bridge Patent
9. Pink Floyd The Wall
10. Cheap Trick Live in Budokan
11. Ozzy Osbourne leaves Black Sabbath
12. Joe Jackson Look Sharp / I’m the Man
1. *AS models (AS200)
2. *Brass Hardware trend (AR5000)
3. John Lennon Dies
4. Bon Scott dies
5. AC/DC Back In Black
6. Led Zeppelin Disbands
1. Ibanez Blazer Series
2. *Ibanez Destroyer II (DT400)
3. *Ibanez Iceman II (IC50)
4. *Ibanez 9 series compact effects (TS9)
5. Pat Methany playing artist series in catalog
6. MTV Broadcast for first time
1. *Ibanez LR10 Model (LR10)
2. *Ibanez JP20 Model (JP20)
3. *Ibanez AM205 Model (AM205)
4. *Ibanez Effects (DM1000)
5. Home portable 4 track cassettes become affordable
6. Michael Jackson Thriller
7. Duran Duran Rio
1. *Ibanez RS1010 (Steve lukather)
2. *Ibanez RS Standard Models (RS100)
3. *Ibanez Bean Bass (MC999)
4. *Ibanez Roadstar Bass (RB924)
5. *Ibanez X Series Destroyers (DT150)
6. *Ibanez FG Models (FG100)
7. *Ibanez HD1000 (HD1000)
8. *Ibanez Hardrocker Tremolo
9. U2 War
10. Toto Toto IV
11. Iron maiden Peace Of Mind
1. *Ibanez AH10 Model (AH10)
2. *Ibanez Pro line series (PL1440)
3. *Ibanez Pro Rocker Tremolo
4. *Ibanez XV500 (XV500)
5. *DT555 (Phil Collens Model)
6. *RS Models (RS440)
7. Steve Vai Flexible
8. Floyd Rose Fine tuner patent
9. Prince Purple Rain (When Doves Cry #1 Song of Year)
1. *Ibanez GB30 Guitar (George Benson)
2. *Ibanez Axstar (AX75)
3. Steve Vai Joins David Lee Roth
4. Live Aid
1. *Ibanez Edge Tremolo System
2. *Ibanez RG series Guitars (RG440)
3. *Ibanez DG Guitars (DG350)
4. *Ibanez Midi Guitar (IMG2010)
5. *Ibanez Effect SDR1000 (SDR1000)
6. David Lee Roth Eat’em and smile
7. Joe Satriani Not of this Earth
8. George Benson While the city sleeps
9. Metallica Master of Puppets
10. Beastie Boys License to Ill
11. Paul Simon Graceland
1. *Ibanez Jem series (Jem777LG)
2. *Ibanez RG550 series (RG550)
3. *Ibanez S Series (540S)
4. *Ibanez R Series (540R)
5. *Ibanez P Series (540P)
6. Ibanez introduces IBZ USA Pickups made by Dimarzio
7. Ibanez opens USA Manufacturing in Bensalem H&S Guitar Technology
8. *banez Soundgear Bass (SR1000)
9. *Ibanez RB800 Bass (RB800)
10. *Ibanez Maxxas guitar (MX2)
11. Guns and Roses Appetite for Destruction
12. U2 Joshua Tree
1. *Ibanez RG700 Series (RG750CA)
2. Ibanez RG560 Model (RG560BK)
3. *Ibanez EX series (EX350MB)
4. Ibanez Jem7FP (Jem7FP)
5. Joe Satriani Surfing with the Alien
6. David Lee Roth Skyscraper
7. Sonic Youth Daydream Nation
1. Ibanez Jem 777VBK (Jem777vbk)
2. Ibanez Jem7PBK (Jem7PBK)
3. Ibanez Maxxas Hollow Guitars (MX3)
4. Ibanez 540SLTD (540SLTD)
5. Ibanez SR800 Bass (SR800)
6. Ibanez New power guitar (540P)
7. Ibanez AM400 (AM400)
8. Ibanez Paul Gilbert model (PGM100)
9. Ibanez Rock and Play (RP100)
10. Joe Satriani Flying a blue dream
11. Mr. Big Mr. Big
1. Ibanez opens LA office and artist custom shop
2. Ibanez Guitar production moves to North Hollywood
3. Ibanez Universe Guitar (UV7MC)
4. Ibanez Low Pro Edge Tremolo
5. Ibanez Joe Satriani Models (JS3)
6. Ibanez GB12 model (GB12)
7. Ibanez American Master series (MA3HSH)
8. Ibanez S Series bass (SB900)
9. Ibanez Accucast BIV Bass bridge
10. Ibanez Multi Color finish
11. Steve Vai Passion and Warfare
1. Ibanez FGM Model (FGM100)
2. Ibanez RBM Model (RBM2)
3. Ibanez Affirma bass (A104)
4. Ibanez Jem 77 BFP (Jem77BFP)
5. Ibanez S Seven string (540S7)
6. Joe Satriani appears on MTV Unplugged
7. Mr. Big Lean into it
8. Nirvana Never mind
9. First Lollapalooza
10. Metallica Metallica
1. Ibanez JS4 and JS5 models (JS5)
2. Ibanez RT Series (RT650)
3. Ibanez SR2000 Basses (SR2000)
4. Ibanez TR Series basses (TRB200)
5. Ibanez ATL10 (ATL10BN)
6. Ibanez CTB Bass (CTB3BK)
7. Eric Clapton Unplugged on MTV
8. Joe Satriani The Extremist
9. Suicidal Tendencies The art of rebellion
10. Testament The Ritual
11. Ministry Psalm 69 The way to succeed and the way to suck eggs
12. Pearl Jam Ten
13. REM Automatic for the people
1. Ibanez GB100 (GB100)
2. Ibanez Vari Mid 3 band EQ
3. Ibanez SV470 Model (SV470TR)
4. Ibanez RV Series guitars (RV470)
5. Steve Vai Sex and religion
6. Joe Satriani Time Machine
7. Mr. Big Bump Ahead
8. Rage against the machine Rage against the machine
9. Smashing Pumpkins Siamese dream
1. Ibanez Talman Series (TC530)
2. Ibanez Ghost Rider series (GR320)
3. Ibanez USRG Series (USRG30)
4. Ibanez SR1200 Series basses (SR1200NT)
5. Ibanez IC500 (IC500)
6. Ibanez Jem7VWH (JEM7VWH)
7. Ibanez GB5 (GB5)
8. Ibanez RX20 (RX20)
9. Ibanez ADX Pickups
10. Ibanez PGM500 (PGM500CA)
11. Korn Korn
12. Dream Theater Awake
13. Suicidal Tendencies Suicidal for life
14. The Offspring Smash
1. Ibanez ATK Series Basses (ATK300)
2. Ibanez PS10LTD Model (PS10LTD)
3. JPM Series (JPM100)
4. Steve Vai Alien Love Secrets
5. Joe Satriani Satriani
6. White Zombie Astro Creep 2000
7. Smashing Pumpkins Melon Collie and the infinite sadness
1. Ibanez Pat Methany Model (PM100BK)
2. SR5000 (SR5000)
3. Ibanez PS10CL Model (PS10CL)
4. Ibanez Jem10 anniversary model (JEM10th)
5. Ibanez JEM7BSB Model (JEM7BSB)
6. Ibanez JS700 Model (JS700)
7. Ibanez TR Bass (TR500)
8. Steve Vai Fire Garden
9. G3 Tour
10. Kiss Reunion Tour
11. Ibanez Pat Methany Model (PM100BK)
12. SR5000 (SR5000)
13. Ibanez PS10CL Model (PS10CL)
14. Ibanez Jem10 anniversary model (JEM10th)
15. Ibanez JEM7BSB Model (JEM7BSB)
16. Ibanez JS700 Model (JS700)
17. Ibanez TR Bass (TR500)
18. Steve Vai Fire Garden
19. G3 Tour
Kiss Reunion Tour
Ibanez Effects Started (Wah/Fuzz, Booster)
Ibanez Compact effects (Distortion/Phaser)
Ibanez Rackmount Delay (AD230)
57 Wah/Wau Pedal
58 Wau-Wau Fuzz Pedal
59 Fuzz Machine
Double Sound Wau-Wau Fuzz Peadl
85 Bass Booster
86 Power booster
87 Treble Booster
88 Distortion Booster
95 Renometer EQ
CP 830 Compressor
ST800 Stereo Box
ST810 Stereo Pedal
PT1000 Phasetone Pedal
Ibanez First Rack mount Multi effects (UE400)
AD202 Analog Delay
AD100 Analog Delay
UE405 Multi Effects Unit
UE400 Multi Effect Unit
AF9 Auto Filter
84 Double sound Wah/Distortion
AD9 Analog Delay
GE9 Graphic EQ
PQ9 Parametric EQ
TS9 Tube Screamer
SD9 Sonic Distortion
CS9 Stereo Chorus
DM1000 Digital Delay
GE1502 2/3 Octave EQ
GE3101 1/3 Octave EQ
HD1000 Harmonics Delay
UE300 Floor Effects
UE303B Floor Effects
UE305 Floor Effects
DM1100 Digital Delay
DM2000 Digital Delay
DM500 Digital Delay
FC40 Foot controller
DUE300 Digital Multi Effects
DUE400 Digital Multi Effects
EPP400 Effects patching Programmer
Master Series Effects
STL Super Tube
AFL Auto Filter
BCL Stereo Chorus Modulation
BPL Bi-Stage Phaser
SML Super Metal
GEL Graphic EQ
PQL Parametric EQ
MSL Metal Screamer
CSL Stereo Chorus
ADL Analog Delay
GE1500 2/3 Octave EQ
GE3100 1/3 Octave EQ
IFC60 Intelligent Foot Controller
DD1000 Digital Delay
DD700 Digital Delay
MIU8 Midi Interface Unit
FS1M 1 Channel Foot Switch
FS1L 1 Channel Foot Switch
MFC60 Midi Foot Controller
RM80 8 Channel Stereo Mixer
RM80 8 Channel 4 Out Mixer
SDR1000 Stereo Digital Reverb
PQ104 4 Band Parmetric EQ
CP200 Compressor/ Limiter
GE131 2/3 Octave EQ
GE215 1/3 Octave EQ
DD200 Digital Delay
DD100 Digital Delay
VL10 Stereo Volume Pedal
DCF10 Digital Chorus/ Flanger
TS10 Tube Screamer Classic
DDL10 Digital Delay II
CD10 Delay Champ
DS10 Distortion Charger
DML10 Digital Modulation Delay
PH10 Bi-Mode Phaser
MS10 Metal Charger
LS10 Loop Selector
CP10 Compressor Sustainer
BE10 Graphic Bass EQ
PC10 Prime Dual Chorus
GE10 Graphic EQ
SC10 Super Stereo Chorus
TC10 Twin Cam Chorus
DCF10 Digital Chorus Flanger
BP10 Bass Compressor
LM7 LA Metal
DCP Digital Controlled Processors
PDM1 Modulation Delay
WH10 Wah Pedal
SS10 Session Man
MA10 Multi Amp
DL10 Digital Delay
SDR1000+ Stereo Digital Reverb
POD1 Overdrive/ Distortion
PPE1 Parametric EQ
NB10 Noise Buster
DML20 Digital Modulation Delay III
SS20 Session Man II
FC10 Fat Cat Distortion
SF10 Swell Flanger
RP100 Rock and Play Guitar
TM5 Thrash Metal
CM5 Classic Metal
PL5 Power lead
CR5 Crunch Rhythm
SF5 60’s Fuzz
MF5 Modern Fusion
RP202 Rock and Play Bass
RP204 Rock and Play Vocal
PUE5 Guitar Multi Effects
PUE5B Bass Multi Effects
PUE5 Tube Tube floor effects
CS5 Super Chorus
DL5 Digital Delay
RP50 Digital Phrase Sampler
PT4 Acoustic effects
PT5 Guitar Multi Processor
MT10 Mosfet Distortion
DPL10 Digital Pan Delay
DSC10 Digital Stereo Chorus
BC5 Bass Chorus
Aw5 Auto Wah
TK999 Tube King
EC40 Dual Sweep Chorus
EC50 Amp Speaker
VA3 Virtual Amp
PT3DX Guitar Multi Processor
AD99 Analog Delay
RC99 Rotary Chorus
TK999US USA made Tube King
SP5 Slam Punk
TL5 Tremolo Pedal
FL99 Classic Flange
PH99 Classic Phase
EM5 Echo Machine
RP300 Rock and Play
RP302 Rock and Play Bass
RP500 Rock and Play with Record
SM7 Smash Box
TS7 Tube Screamer
CF7 Chorus Flanger
The following list are the name of musicians we had contacted for endorsement of Ibanez
Blue is the artists we used their picture in our catalog / poster/ advertisement
Michael Rhodes (Dolly Parton - Bass Player)
Bobby Cochran - Steppen Wolf
Pat Simmons - Dooby Brothers
Bay City Rollers
Gary Sonny-American Tears
John Anderson - Yes
Gerry Beckley - America
Dickey Betts - Allman Brothers
Brad Whitford - Aerosmith
Stanley Banks - George Benson
Adrian Belew-King Crimson
Roger - Bassist for Pat Benetar
Greg T Walker - Black Foot
Cub Koda - Brownsville Station
Peter Cetera - Chicago
Tony Levin - King Crimson
Mike Mathis -Captain & Tennile
Al Di Meola
Dale Sellers - 2350 SL
David Sanchious - (2670 Artwood Twin)
Patrick Simmons - Doobie Bros.
John Entwistle - Who
Earth Wind & Fire (Black Eagle Bass, 2402 VI, 2366B, 3563, 2616)
Don Ciccone, John Paiva, Joe Long - Four Seasons
2454, 2402SDX, 2365BL, 3558
Billy Gibbons - ZZ Top
Kathey Valentine - Go-Go's
Howerd Leese - Heart
Nancy Wilson - Heart
Garry Beers - INXS
Joaquin Liezano - Jeon Luke Ponte
Phil Lynott - Thin Lizzy
Alex Lifson - Rush
Phil Collen, - Def Leppard
Jim Messina - Loggins & Messina
Gene Miller - Barbara Mandrell
Charlie Bundy - Barbara Mandrell
Marlo Henderson - Minny Riperton
Hall & Oates
Tom Rutridge - Dolly Parton
Richard Stodts - Plasmatics
Sting - Police
Bruce Wayne - Rufus
David Spinozza -NY Studio Player
Tommy Shaw - Stix
Freddie Stone - Sly & Family Stone
John Tropea -Studio Musician in NY
John Patti - Edgar Winter Band