Saturday, December 15, 2007

Childhood Guitars - Conn and Ibanez

I thought it was appropriate to write a few words about two other guitars I had in the 1970's, since I covered the Univox High Flyer a few weeks ago.

Peter Frampton was all the craze in the mid 70's, and so were black Les Paul Customs. Of course, getting a real Les Paul was out of the question, so I found this little plywood gem, a Conn Drifter. It was actually a nice guitar, with fake humbucking pickups and a bolt on neck. I painted the plastic white to look like Frampton's Les Paul, and even added white paper to the neck to make it look like a set neck! That is something a 13 year old would do! I recall being very proud of this guitar and sold the Univox to buy it. I have found very little information on Conn, other that it was Japanese made and probably made by Aria Guitars. Here is one link I found on Japanese guitars from that era. And another interesting link on Asian guitars, the VintAxe Forum. Most of us young guitar players started out on Asian guitars. They had a bad reputation of being cheap copies.
Until I got this one - an Ibanez Stratocaster. I traded the Conn for this. It was my second choice as the real Fender Stratocaster, used and selling for $192 (!) in 1977, was sold when I went back to the store. The strat was a great guitar, with a laminated maple fingerboard on a maple neck. I bought an Ampeg VT-22 amp along with the guitar for a total of $250. The Ampeg was loud, which my dad did not appreciate. It did not have a master volume, so to get any distortion you had to crank it up. I have tapes of me playing this setup, and for a ninth grader in 1977, it was not too bad! These stat copies are highly regared today, as quailty copies, at a time when real Fenders were having quality problems and did not have a good reputation. Are these collectable? I can't seem to find the answer that. People do collect Ibanez guitars, so I am sure they have gone up in value over the years. Here is a link to an Ibanez collectors page. This guitar had a cross between a matte and glossy finish, which had cracks in it soon after I bought it. I do not know what the body wood was, as I probably did not care one bit back then.
As I view this site, I remembered getting Ibanez catalogs back then, and seeing that they made dead-on copies of Gibson Flying V's and Explorers, which are very expensive these days. Tommy Bolin and Ricky Medlock played the Destroyer (Explorer copy) as did Eddie Van Halen, who took a saw to his. Bob Mould of Husker Du used the Rocket Roll (Flying V copy) for many years. These guitars are known as "Lawsuit" guitars, as Gibson supposedly sued to stop them from making them to sell in the USA.
I own four Stratocasters today, and I as I listen to the tapes of me playing the Ibanez with the Ampeg cranked, I can say that it sounded like a Stratocaster should.
I traded this guitar in late 1978 for a 1978 Les Paul Deluxe in wine red, another guitar I wish I had today. I wonder where the Ibanez is today. Probably somewhere down in southern Minnesota or Northern Iowa, perhaps?


Barbara (aka Layla) said...

Have you heard of a guy named Marc Seal? He's a local near me and is an awesome guitarist. Your post made me think of him cause he has an Ibanez

The Road Traveler said...

No, I have not heard of him. If you can get me a website, I will check him out.

Ibanez of this era are well thought of, so I am not suprised to hear of a professional using them.

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

Hi. Finally got around to adding Tommy Bolin to my blog and here is a link to Marc Seals:

Let me know what you think