Greco guitars

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Greco
Type Private
Industry Musical instruments
Founded 1960
Headquarters Japan
Area served Global
Products Electric guitars
Owners Kanda Shokai

Greco (Japanese: グレコ Gureko) is a brand of electric guitars produced by Kanda Shokai (Japanese) 神田商会. Kanda Shokai (Shokai means trading company) is a musical instrument wholesaler mostly known for being part of Fender Japan.

History[edit]

Kanda Shokai was established in 1948 and the Greco brand name was started in 1960.[1][2][unreliable source?] [3][4] It was not until 1966/1967 that Kanda Shokai began marketing Greco Telecaster-like models.[clarification needed] Originally, Kanda Shokai used the 'Greco' brand name for the solid body models and used the 'Canda' brand name for its Acoustic models, baseing this on the company name Kanda (Canda). In the mid/late 1960s, Kanda Shokai also exported some Greco branded guitars based on Hagström and EKO designs for Avnet/Goya in the USA.[citation needed] These guitars were made by the FujiGen and Matsumoku (and possibly Teisco[citation needed]) guitar factories and were very similar to the late 1960s Ibanez guitars based on Hagström and EKO designs. Kanda Shokai also marketed a few original designs in the late 60s including the Greco Semi-hollow "Shrike" guitars which were imported and marketed first by Goya and later by Kustom. The "Shrike" model was unusual in that it had a pair of weird boomerang "L" shaped pickups. These "Boomerang" shaped pickups predate the Gibson Flying V2 "Boomerang" shaped pickups by over 10 years.

In the early 1970s Kanda Shokai marketed Greco Gibson-like models, but with bolt-on necks rather than the set necks of genuine Gibson guitars. These were very similar to the Ibanez Gibson-like models available at that time and most of these models had a Greco logo that looked more like "Gneco". By the mid/late 1970s most Greco Gibson-like models were being made with set necks and open book Gibson headstock designs. Some other Greco Gibson-like models from the 1970s had a different headstock design, more like a Guild headstock design, that had a Greco logo with equally sized letters.

Starting in 1979, the Greco "Super Real Series" was introduced which made available high standard replicas of Gibson and Fender models. In 1982 the Greco "Mint Collection" was introduced, which continued the high standard of the "Super Real Series". In 1982 Kanda Shokai and Yamano Gakki become part of Fender Japan and Kanda Shokai stopped producing its own Greco Fender replica models. Since the end of the Greco open book headstock Gibson replicas in the early 1990s, Kanda Shokai have produced various models using the Greco brand name such as the "Mirage Series" (similar to the Ibanez Iceman), various Gibson copies (not using the open book Gibson headstock design), Violin basses (VB), Zemaitis Guitars and addition to various other models.

Some notable guitar players who have used Greco guitars include Ace Frehley who used Greco Les Paul replicas when his band Kiss was on tour in Japan, and Elliot Easton of The Cars.

Electric guitars[edit]

Greco has marketed a lot of different models over the years. Below is an incomplete listing of the most common models.

Gibson-like models
A Greco Super Real EGF1200
  • EGF - Les Paul Flametop models.
  • EG - Les Paul models. (Number after EG corresponds to what year the design is based upon, e.g.: 59- A 1959 Les Paul)
  • EGC - Les Paul Custom models.
  • PC, RR, JS - Les Paul Custom (Phil Collen, Randy Rhoads, John Sykes) models.
  • EJR - Les Paul Junior models.
  • EGS - Les Paul Special models.
  • SS - SG models.
  • JP - SG (Glenn Tipton Judas Priest ) model.
  • FV - Flying V models.
  • MSV - Flying V (Michael Schenker) model.
  • FB - Firebird models.
  • TB - Thunderbird Bass models.
  • EB - EB-3 Bass models.
  • MM or MG - Melody Maker models.
  • SA - ES-335/ES-345/ES-355 models.
  • FA - ES-175 models.
  • L - L-5 models.
Fender-like models
  • SE - Stratocaster models.
  • TL - Telecaster models.
  • JM - Jazzmaster models.
  • JG - Jaguar models.
  • JB - Jazz Bass models.
  • PB - Precision Bass models.
Other Models
  • 975 - Greco "Shrike" model with "L" shaped boomerang pickups. Thin Semi-hollow body.
  • M - Greco Mirage/Ibanez Iceman models. Also other Greco/Ibanez models such as the Korina 58 Flying V and Modern as well.
Greco Explorer (EX-800)
  • EX - Greco/Ibanez Explorer (Destroyer) models as used by Eddie Van Halen. The Greco Destroyer used U-2000 pickups and the Ibanez Destroyer used Super 70 pickups.
  • BM - Brian May-based models.
  • RG - Rickenbacker-based models.
  • RB - Rickenbacker-based Bass models.
  • VB - Violin bass models.
  • RJ - Gretsch-based models.
  • WF - Gretsch-based models.
  • AP - Dan Armstrong (Ampeg)-based guitar models.
  • GO - "Neck Through" guitar models. The Greco/Roland G-808 guitar synth is very similar to the GO1000 model.
  • MR and MX - Mick Ralphs models. Theses were the forerunners of the Ibanez Artist models.
  • BG - Boogie Fender-based models.
  • N and *S - Gibson ES-175 natural and sunburst models, which were produced in first half of 70-s before FA series.
  • GR - Roland Corporation (or Fuji-Roland) partnered with Greco [clarification needed][5] to produce their GR line of 24 pin guitar synthesizer controllers, the G-202, G-303, G-505 and G-808 models, used to control the GR-500, GR-300, GR-100, GR-700 and GM-70 guitar synthesizers. The manufacturer of the G-707 model is less clear.

Timeline[edit]

1960–1961
FujiGen, an early manufacturer of Greco, was established in Matsumoto city by Yutaka Mimura and Yuichiro Yokouchi in May 4, 1960, and started to manufacture the classical guitars for Kanda Shokai and Kamano Gakki. In 1961, with the great technical help of Anthony George, a buyer of St. George Music Stores in Hollywood and New York, FujiGen's production quality was dramatically improved, and they started to export their guitars.[6][7]
1962–1968
FujiGen began to manufacture the Greco guitars for Goya Guitars, Inc. in New York City. However, their early fragile heads were sometimes broken during long transport, and several of orders seemed canceled. These dead stock were then sold in Japan by Kanda Shokai, and it was the beginning of Greco guitars dealt by Kanda Shokai.[6][7]
1965–1970
Hershman Musical Instrument / Goya Guitar Company in New York City (later Avnet/Goya, originally US distributor of Levin guitar) dealt Greco acoustic guitars manufactured at European factories.[4] Also, electric guitars manufactured in Japan were seen in a Goya catalog ca. 1968.[8]
1967
Gibson Telecaster-like Greco models start.[9]
1968
"Shrike" model with "Boomerang" shaped pickups. Distributed first by Goya and later by Kustom. (1968 to 1970)
1969
VB (Beatles Violin Bass) models start.
1970–1972
Kustom Electronics in Chanute, Kansas. Mainly known as an amplifier manufacturer, bought the US distribution rights from Hershman Musical Instrument / Goya Guitar Company
1970
EG Gibson like models start with the EG-360 with mostly set neck models from 1977.
1973
SE Fender like models start and the SE-800 models are produced from 1976 to 1982. The SE models end in 1982 when Kanda Shokai and Yamano Gakki become part of Fender Japan.
1976
Engraved "EXCEL" pickups on SE models were released which are the high-end pickups for SE models.
1978
M Mirage (Ibanez Iceman) models start. EX Explorer (Destroyer) models start. MR models start and MX models start in 1979. They end in 1981/1982.
1978
GO and GOB (bass) models start. They end in 1981/1982.
1979
The "Super Real Series" models starts in 1979. They end in 1982.
1979
GOII models start. They end in 1981/1982.
1980
GOIII models start. They end in 1981/1982.
1982
The "Mint Collection Series" with an open O Greco logo start (an O letter with the top part of the O letter removed). Most of the "Mint Collection Series" models with an open O Greco logo end in 1990. In the early 1990s most of the Greco guitars return to a closed O Greco logo but there were some open O Greco logo guitars made in the early 1990s as well.
Early 1990s onwards
Various models are produced with an Ibanez like headstock design.

Model Characteristics[edit]

Early Greco Electrics

1968 Greco Shrike model 975

The Japanese made Greco guitars were initially being distributed in the US through Goya and later by Kustom (known for their amps). Prior to that, Goya sold Electric guitars made by Hagstrom . Among the Electric guitar models that Greco offered during this period, were two thin semi-hollow bodystyle that were equipped with the Patented “Shrike” pickups. These were the 950, and 975 models. A 12 string version for both bodystyles were available as well, and were labeled models 960 and 976 respectively. Those models with the Boomerang “L” shaped split coil pickups were called “Shrike” models. The “Shrike” pickups were advertised as producing that distinctive “Shrike” sound. The Shrikes had a single volume pot and a group of slide switches to control the 4 split coil pickups in the 2 L shaped enclosures. So you could switch between high and low strings on the pickups. The 975 model and its 12 string brother the 976 model were the top of the line imported Grecos in 1968. These were initially available only in the Shrike version, and later a more conventional 2 standard pickup version appeared. The models with standard pickups were not called “Shrike” models. Standard pickup models had the common 2 volume, 2 tone pot controls and toggle switch for the two pickups. These are very attractive and well made guitars. Bound semi-hollow bodies and bound neck. Diamond shape sound holes, rectangular shape fretboard inlays with headstock truss adjustment. Tuners are the same as the Teisco Spectrum 5 of that period, and the Neck-plate had the L shaped pickup patent number stamped on it. The zero fret and thin neck is reminiscent of a Mosrite. The 975 model “Shrike” were several notches above the entry level Japanese guitars that had flooded the market earlier in the decade, but by 1970 the 975 style models were gone, a victim of the decline of the 60’s guitar boom. Soon Greco would move toward copying Fender and Gibson products and ushering in the Lawsuit “copy” era of which Greco and Tokai are so well known.

Lawsuit "Copy" Era

The Greco Fender replicas from the late 1970s and early 1980s are similar to the early Fender Japan guitars as Kanda Shokai own the Greco brand and are also a part of Fender Japan. The Greco Fender replicas made by Matsumoku have Matsumoku stamped on the neckplate and the other Greco Fender replicas were made by Fuji-Gen Gakki. Most of the Greco models included the original selling price in Japanese Yen (Japanese) 円 in the model number (EGF-1800 = 180000 Yen). The "Super Real Series" date from late 1979 to 1982 and the open O Greco logo "Mint Collection Series" date from 1982 to the early 1990s. The "Mint Collection Series" have an open O letter in their Greco logo (an O letter with the top part of the O letter removed) and the "Super Real Series" usually have a closed O letter in their Greco logo.

The Fuji-Gen Gakki guitar factory were the main maker of the Greco guitars in the 1970s and 1980s [1]. Fuji-Gen Gakki obtained a CNC router in mid-1981 for making guitar parts and also began to manufacture their own pickups starting in late 1981 [2]. The Fuji-Gen Gakki CNC router and Fuji-Gen Gakki made pickups were used for the "Super Real" and "Mint Collection" series starting from 1981 to the early 1990s. Up until 1981/1982, Nisshin Onpa (Maxon) made pickups were used in the Greco guitars including the "Super Real Series" and the guitars were made in a more luthier style with no CNC machines used. The Cor-Tek and Tokai guitar factories were also used to make some Greco models due to FujiGen not being able to make some lower priced Grecos in the late 1980s.

There were also some transitional Greco models from 1981/1982 that have a mixture of "Super Real Series" and "Mint Collection Series" features such as a "Super Real" model with an open O letter in the Greco logo instead of a closed O letter. The Super Real EGF (flametop) and EG series higher end models featured nitrocellulose lacquer finishes and fret edge binding and some of the Super Real lower end models also featured fret edge binding.

Medium tenon neck joints with dowel reinforcements were used up until 1981 and standard Gibson style long and medium tenon neck joints were used after 1981. The medium tenon neck joints with dowel reinforcements were very similar to the Gibson long tenon neck joints that were used in the early 1970s before Gibson switched to using a short tenon neck joint. Some Greco models featured chambered (not solid) body designs up to the early 1980s which weighed less than a regular solid body model and also had a slight semi acoustic quality. Some of the current Gibson models also use chambered bodies such as the Gibson Les Paul Supreme.

Some Greco Les Paul guitars up until 1982 had laminated pancake bodies and were based on the similar Gibson Les Paul laminated guitars from the 1970s. The lowest priced Greco Les Pauls sometimes had different woods to the regular Maple and Mahogany combination. Up to 1980 the lowest priced Greco Les Pauls such as the EG450 model have Birch bodies. The lowest priced Super Real and Super Power Les Pauls such as the EG450 and EG480 models from late 1979 to 1982 have Sycamore tops.

The EGF-1800 (flametop), EGF-1200 (flametop) and EG-1000C (custom) models from the 1980 and 1981 catalogues (as well as very early 1982 models) featured "Dry Z" pickups (PAF like pickups made by Nisshin Onpa (Maxon)). The type of pickups vary depending on the guitars original selling price and the Nisshin Onpa (Maxon) made "Dry Z" or Fuji-Gen Gakki made "Dry 82" pickups were reserved for the top end models. The lower end models such as the EG-500 mostly used 3 piece maple tops while the higher end models mostly used 2 piece maple tops. "Mint Collection" models with a K after the numeric price designation (e.g. PC-98K) came with factory installed Kahler tremolo (vibrato) bridges.

The "Mint Collection Series" features vary with price with some of the higher end models such as the EG58-120 model having most of the same features as the "Super Real" higher end models. Most of the "Mint Collection Series" had long tenon neck joints but some had medium long tenon neck joints. There were also some Greco "Super Sound", "Super Power" and "Rock Spirits" Gibson replica models made as well. The "Super Sound" models were mid priced models from the "Super Real" years (1979-1982) and the "Super Power" models were lower priced models from the "Super Real" years (1979-1982). The "Rock Spirits" models were lower priced models from between 1979 and the early 1990s

Serial Numbers[edit]

Greco guitars have been made by Matsumoku, Fuji-Gen Gakki [3], Dyna Gakki [4] and others as well.

Greco Gibson replicas started using serial numbers around 1975 and pre 1975 models had a Greco logo that looked like "Gneco".

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s Greco models have mostly used 2 serial number formats for non Acoustic models.

The first format is MYYPPPP.

  • M = production month (A=January B=February ... K=November L=December).
  • YY = year (79=1979).
  • PPPP = production number.

The second format is YPPPP.

  • Y = year (9=1979 0=1980 or 1990).
  • PPPP = production number.

Sometimes a month letter is used in an MYPPPP format.

Since the mid-1990s Greco models have used other serial number formats as well.

Most of the Greco open book headstock Gibson replicas were made by FujiGen Gakki. Some Greco open book headstock Gibson replicas starting from around 1988 had no serial numbers. The lower priced no serial number Greco Les Paul and SG models were made by Cor-Tek (Cort) and usually have Cor-Tek (Cort) potentiometers. The Cor-Tek made Greco guitars have square shaped, brick like nuts with no slope and also often have shielding paint in the pickup and control cavities. Other higher priced no serial Greco Les Paul and SG models were made by Tōkai and the Les Paul models have an EG-75 or EGC-75 model number stamped in the pickup cavity and sometimes have fret edge binding. The no serial Greco guitars made by Tokai have square shaped routing holes at the bottom of the pickup cavities whereas the no serial Greco guitars made by Cor-Tek (Cort) have thinner rectangle shaped routing holes at the bottom of the pickup cavities. Kanda Shokai stopped using the open book headstock design on Greco Gibson replica models around the early 1990s and then concentrated on their other model lines and Fender Japan. Atlansia have supplied body and neck parts for Greco models as well. Tokai currently make the Kanda Shokai Zemaitis and Talbo models.

Pickups[edit]

1980 Greco Super Real models and pickups made by Nisshin Onpa (Maxon) sample.

Pickup prices.

A Greco/Maxon Dry Z
A Greco/Maxon PU-2
  • DRY 20000 Yen
  • PU-2 15000 Yen
  • U-2000 12000 Yen
  • U-1000 10000 Yen

Models and pickups.

  • EGF1800 DRY
  • EGF1200 DRY
  • EGF1000 PAF
  • EG1000C DRY
  • EG900 PAF
  • EGF850 PU-2
  • EG800GS HOT LICK
  • EG800C PU-2
  • EG800PB U-2000
  • EG800PR U-2000
  • EG800 PU-2
  • EG700 U-2000
  • EG600PB U-1000
  • EG600PR U-1000
  • EG500 U-1000
  • EG500C UD
  • EF500J U-1000
  • EG500GS UD-DX
  • EG480 UD
  • EG450 UD

1984 Greco Mint Collection models and pickups made by Fuji-Gen Gakki sample.

Pickup prices.

  • DRY 1982 20000 Yen
  • DOUBLE TRICK 18000 Yen
  • THE GROOVE 16000 Yen
  • SCREAMIN 14000 Yen

Models and pickups.

  • EG58-120 DRY
  • EG-59-70 DOUBLE TRICK
  • EG-56-60 HOT LICK
  • EG-59-50 SCREAMIN
  • EG59-45 SCREAMIN
  • EJR54-50 HOT LICK
  • SS63-70 DOUBLE TRICK
  • SS63-50 HOT LICK
  • EG59-65 SCREAMIN
  • JP-55 SCREAMIN
  • EGC95K DRY
  • EGC68-50 SCREAMIN
  • JS-98K DRY
  • JS-65 DRY
  • JS-55 SCREAMIN
  • RR-95K DRY
  • RR-65 DRY
  • RR-55 SCREAMIN
  • EGC58-100 GROOVE - only first year, after that DRY 1982
  • EGC68-80 DOUBLE TRICK
  • EGC57-60 SCREAMIN
  • PC-98K DRY

Greco and Ibanez Nisshin Onpa (Maxon) pickup serial number format consisting of 5 numbers up to and including 1977. Ibanez Super 70 pickups have the same serial number format.

  • First number = Nisshin Onpa (Maxon) pickup code (1, 2, etc.)
  • Second number = Year (7=1977)
  • Third number = Month (0=Jan ... 9=Oct then .=Nov, X=Dec)
  • Fourth and Fifth number = Day of Month (01-31)

Greco and Ibanez Nisshin Onpa (Maxon) pickup serial number format consisting of 6 numbers from 1977 to 1982.

  • First number = Nisshin Onpa (Maxon) pickup code (1, 2, etc., 8)
  • Second number = Year (9=1979)
  • Third and Fourth number = Month (01=Jan ... 12=Dec)
  • Fifth and sixth number = Day of Month (01-31)

There are also Nisshin Onpa (Maxon) pickups from the early 1980s that have serial numbers that start with a 5 and these serial numbers follow a reverse serial number format.

  • First number = Nisshin Onpa (Maxon) pickup code (5)
  • Second and Third number = Day of Month (01-31)
  • Fourth and Fifth number = Month (01=Jan ... 12=Dec)
  • Sixth number = Year (1=1981)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Greco official site by Kanda Shokai" (in Japanese). Kanda Shokai Corporation. "1960年に誕生したグレコの歴史は、... (In English: History of the Greco born in 1960, ...)" 
  2. ^ "A History of GRECO Guitars". Music-Trade.co.jp, a division of Dai-Show Corporation, Japan. 2007. 
  3. ^ Since the early 1990s or before, Kanda Shokai claims “Greco (brand was) established in 1960”. However, this claim has not been verified because no evidence such as catalogs, advertisements, trademark registration records or in-house documents from that time have been produced. It is possible that the origin of the claim may be traceable to early supplier FujiGen (established in 1960; began to export electric guitars in 1963) or possibly Teisco String Instrument, Company in Toyoshina (also known as Matsumoto Teisco), established in 1961. Incidentally, another earlier supplier, Matsumoku, had began its manufacture of string instruments in the early-1960s (or possibly mid-1950s), and supplied wood parts or finished guitars to other guitar brands including Guyatone, Ibanez, Aria, Vox, Univox, Yamaha, and also FujiGen (probably before 1965 for FujiGen).
    See also: "Excerpt of histories from the Japanese guitar brands official sites". Easy Guitars (in Japanese). 
  4. ^ a b "Greco Guitar Catalog in 1965, 1968, 1970". Hershman Musical Instrument Company, New York. 1965–1970. 
  5. ^ The company that produced early Roland guitar synthesizer products is known to be Fuji-Roland, a joint venture of FujiGen and Roland Corporation. Although this joint venture was probably supported by Kanda Shokai, and model name "GR" may be possibly abbreviation of "Greco-Roland", however, the role of Greco brand on this joint venture is slightly unclear.
  6. ^ a b Yokouchi, Yuichiro (1983), グレコの仲間たち―富士弦楽器物語 [Buddies of Greco — A tale of FujiGen], Matumoto: 電算出版企画, ASIN B000J7471C 
  7. ^ a b Yokouchi, Yuichiro (1994), 運を掴む―弱小の会社を世界一にした男の物語 [Get the luck — A story of a man who grown a weak company into the top of the world.], Tokyo: Gakken, ISBN 978-4051060671 
  8. ^ "Greco acoustic/electric", Goya catalog, c. 1968 , Posted on "Greco 921 (1967)", Pastrana Guitars 
  9. ^ "Greco & Arai Diamond electric guitars", catalog, c. 1968 

References[edit]

  • Paul Specht, Michael Wright, Jim Donahue (2005). Ibanez, The Untold Story. U.S.A.: Hoshino. ISBN 0-9764277-0-2. 

Further reading[edit]

  • 60's Bizarre Guitars. Guitar Magazine Mooks (in Japanese). Tokyo: Rittor Music. 1993-03-01. ID:4-69771-02. 

Sources[edit]