Zemaitis Guitars

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Zemaitis guitars slogan logo.png
Product typeMusical instruments
OwnerKanda Shokai Corp.[1] (2010)[2]
Introduced1955; 68 years ago (1955) in London, England
Related brandsGreco
MarketsJapan, United States
Previous ownersTony Zemaitis
Registered as a trademark inUnited States, Feb 9, 2010 [2]

Zemaitis Guitar is a guitar brand owned by Japanese Kanda Shokai Corporation,[2] which manufactures the instruments in Tokyo. Kanda Shokai is also owner of Greco, another guitar brand.

Zemaitis's guitars are based on designs by British luthier Tony Zemaitis, who died in 2002. In the United States, Zemaitis is distributed by the "Zemaitis Guitar Company" based out of Paso Robles, California. Current products by Zemaitis include electric and acoustic guitars.

Zemaitis is globally known for its unique metal[3] and pearl[4] front guitar designs. The brand's slogan is "The Elements of Tone".[1]


Born Antanus Casimere Zemaitis, of Lithuanian descent, Tony Zemaitis (as he is known to his friends), began a five-year apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker in 1951. He repaired his first guitar in 1952 and built his first instrument –a classical nylon-string guitar in 1955.[5] Zemaitis started to build guitars for his friends, selling them the instruments at lower prices. After doing the military service, Zemaitis improved his methods to manufacture guitars. His instruments became popular in blues and folk music musicians of London, gaining good reputation among them. During the 1960s, Zemaitis made 12-string guitars for notable musicians including Ralph McTell, Spencer Davis, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.[6]

After starting to build acoustic guitars, Zemaitis began to manufacture electric models, with some prototypes used by George Harrison. Other musicians that asked Zemaitis for guitars were Mark Bolan, Ron Wood and Ronnie Lane.[6]

Pearl front guitar

Zemaitis' characteristic metal front guitar was designed to reduce the humming of the electric guitars. His first metal-front was made for Tony McPhee, of The Groundhogs in the late 1960s. Inspiration for metal-fronts came for his observation of Fender guitars, upon which he considered they have design faults relating the position of the pickups in relationship to the strings. Zemaitis took the model from a radio magazine, where he noted that every unit had a metal chassis with the components mounted on it. Applying that principle to his guitar, he produced the first metal-front guitar.[5]

Metal front guitars also included an engraved designs made by his friend and customer Danny O'Brien,[6] who had started engraving plates for guitars headstock until Zemaitis himself suggested O'Brian to engrave the fronts, as well.[5] Zemaitis' guitars became popular among rock artist and consolidated as a landmark of Zemaitis guitars.[7] In the mid-1970s, Zemaitis made his first "mother of pearl" fronts for Ronnie Wood and James Honeyman-Scott.[6]

Although Tony Zemaitis died in 2002, the demand for his guitars continued increasing, as well as their prices. The "Zemaitis" licensed guitars started to be manufactured in Japan, while many guitar makers worldwide copying Tony Zemaitis' designs to their own products.[6]

Notable players[edit]

Zemaitis has had many notable players use their guitars throughout the years such as Ronnie Wood, James Hetfield, Ronnie Lane, Keith Richards, Rich Robinson, Keith Nelson and Gilby Clark. In his later years, Zemaitis worked with a variety of influential guitarists like Joe Louis Walker, Christian Martucci, Ashes, Clay Cook and Ken Mochikoshi.


  1. ^ a b Brand's slogan on Zemaitis Japan website
  2. ^ a b c ZEMAITIS Trademark Information: USPTO serial #77725224, registered 9 Feb 2010 on Trademarkia
  3. ^ Metal front guitars on Zemaitis website
  4. ^ Pearl fronts on Zemaitis
  5. ^ a b c Tony Z and the Cult of the Zemaitis Guitar by Adrian Ingram on Vintage Guitar magazine, August 1997
  6. ^ a b c d e A.C. Zemaitis guitars history on Zemaitis.de
  7. ^ Legacy on Zemaitis Japan website (translated from Japanese), 28 Oct 2019

External links[edit]