|Period||1967 — 1977|
|Bridge||Tune-o-matic style with Jaguar-style Tremolo (Phase 1-3); Stoptail (Phase 4)|
Two P-90s (Phase 1-2)Two humbuckers (Phase 3-4)
|Orange sunburst, black, white, natural|
The Univox Hi-Flier was an electric guitar manufactured by Univox (later Unicord) from 1968 to 1978. It had a similar appearance to the Mosrite "Ventures" guitar, though was somewhat different (and much cheaper). The name is often misspelled (e.g. High Flyer).
The Hi-Flier went through many changes, generally divided into four "phases." However, the changes that define these have "transitional" periods, where characteristics from an older phase carry over into early production of a new phase. It is impossible to date these guitars by the serial number as it is uncertain whether records were kept on their production.
The Hi-Flier model debuted around 1968. It was loosely based on the Mosrite "Ventures" model, and featured two P-90-style pickups.
The very first Hi-Fliers had a three-tone sunburst finish, pearloid white pickguard and truss rod cover. These very early Hi-Fliers are distinctly different from later models, having thicker bodies and necks, a "bar" type string tree that covers all six strings, larger fret markers for all frets except the two on the twelfth fret, dual black rocker switches on the pickguard, and a chrome raised-plastic "Univox" headstock logo.
Sometime in late 1968/early 1969, a limited special version, the Hi-Flier Custom, was produced. With this new model, a black finish was offered along with the standard sunburst finish. These are very similar to the earliest Hi Fliers, except that they had a red tortoishell pickguard and truss rod cover, often slimmer neck/body (which became standard for all Hi-Fliers around this time period), and a badge that read, "Univox Custom."
In addition, there were Hi-Fliers made that had all the characteristics as the Custom version, but were fitted with a standard "Univox" badge, with no Custom tag. This is likely due to the Hi-Flier Custom being created simply to use leftover stock badges from the previous Univox Custom model (a hollowbody 335-type guitar built in the early 1960s). The factory presumably had many badges left over, and used them up on the Hi-Fliers until they ran out, and resorted back to the standard "Univox" badge.
A Phase two Hi-Flier retained the P-90 pickups, and early transitional models also retained the plastic "Univox" headstock badge. Changes to the model at this time included:
- string trees changed to separate metal pieces
- fret markers smaller, and uniform in size
- three-way toggle switch replacing the earlier rocker switches
- addition of white finish (options were now: sunburst, black, white)
- pickguard no longer pearloid or tortoise shell, but rather plain white three-layer (w/b/w)
- midway through production of the Phase Two models, the headstock logo was changed from the plastic "Univox" logo to a 1970s-style block-letter "UNIVOX" decal under the lacquer finish between the tuners. This would remain throughout the rest of production
Around 1974, the Hi-Flier was updated with a new finish option (Natural), and twin humbuckers replacing the single coil P-90 type pickups. These pickups were already in production for the Ripper (Strat copy) and Gimme (Les Paul style). They are extremely high output pickups, with a distinctive open-top cover and three-screw mounting. Though these humbuckers strayed significantly from the Mosrite design the guitar was based on, their unique tone and high output have made them a sought after Phase of the Hi Flier.
Production of the Hi-Flier reached its peak in the mid 1970s. Consequently, Phase Three Hi-Fliers are the most common variety found today.
In addition, the natural-finish guitars and many later Phase Three guitars (in Black) were fitted with maple fingerboards.
Around 1977, the Hi Flier was once again changed. The white and black guitars retained their white pickguards, while sunburst and natural guitars were fitted with black pickguards.
Many had the pickup surrounds in white plastic (from the previous standard black ). The knob layout was changed from in-line tone and volume knobs to a horizontally-opposed knob layout.
Most prominently, Phase Four Hi-Fliers saw a hardtail Gibson-style stop-bar bridge/tailpiece replace the pre-existing Fender Jazzmaster-style separate vibrato and roller bridge setup.
- Kurt Cobain of Nirvana
- Paul Raimi of The Kill Raimi's
- Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth
- Dexter-X (Hayden Thais) formerly of Man or Astroman?
- E (Mark Oliver Everett) of Eels
- Asa Osborne of Lungfish
- Joey Lennon of The Punkles
- Justin Trosper of Unwound
- Dimitri Coats of Off!
- Jimmy Flemion of The Frogs
- Som Wardner of My Vitriol
- Chris Summerlin of Felix and Lords (Gringo Records).
Univox guitars were produced by a Japanese guitar factory called Matsumoku. This factory produced a variety of guitars for many manufacturers, including big names like Epiphone, Aria, Univox and later Westbury. They would often take a standard "house" model they made, and apply a variety of brand names to the same guitar, depending on the market the guitar was headed for.
Contemporary models identical to the Hi-Flier have been seen under various brands, including
- DeArmond — rocker switches, P90-style pickups, tortoiseshell pickplate, "DeArmond" on headstock as decal (black lettering) under clear finish
- Unicord — Late models shipped to Canada. Raised plastic Unicord logo.
- Raven — Very early models shipped to Canada. Identical to the Phase 1 Univox Custom except for a peculiar integrated bridge/tailpiece that was also used on the Epiphone ET-270. Raised plastic logo with raven bird
- Aria — part of Aria's "Diamond" series, as the 1702T model. Identical to a Phase 2 Hi-Flier with "ARIA" decal under the finish, horizontally at the top of the headstock.
- DIA — possibly short for "Diamond." Identical to Phase 2 Hi Fliers, mostly sunburst, with an inlaid DIA logo, or circular Dia decal.
- PAN — three types - One early variety identical to a Phase 1 Hi-Flier with a small black decal of the pan figure playing a set of pan pipes, and "Pan" text. Another model similar to a Phase 2 Hi-Flier with a gold decal the same as described previously. Later versions had an inlaid M.O.P PAN logo, and were mostly sunburst phase 2 models.
Modern copies include
- Danelectro The 64 — modified Phase 3, with switch high on pickguard, and Bigsby-style vibrato; double-coil pickup at bridge, P-90 style (in humbucker configuration) at neck. Also a bass version.
- Danelectro Hodad — similar body outline, but otherwise a three-pickup Danelectro-style instrument.
- Danelectro The 66 — related Mosrite-style semi-hollow version with shorter horns and F-hole.
- Eastwood Sidejack — Phase 2; also occasionally issued in deluxe (bound top), baritone, and bass (four- and six-string) versions, as well as left-handed
- Eastwood Univox Hi-Flier — Phase 4
- Eastwood Hi-Flyer Phase 4 — actually, a Phase 2 copy
- Aria DM-380
- Aria DM-01
- Gill, Chris (20 February 2016). "The Definitive Kurt Cobain Gear Guide". Guitar World. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q4Qcqpu02A | YouTube video featuring Wardner playing a phase 1 Hi Flier.
- Mitchell, Brian (April 2013). "Guitarist Interview with Chris Summerlin of Kogumaza". QRD.
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