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Vintage Guitar magazine
"The Fastest Necks" - Originally a three part publication in
Vintage Guitar Magazine
- is reproduced here with permission from the respected author:
Michael Wright - "The Different Strummer"
- Vintage Guitar M
agazine.

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There is also new information since the original publication, [which will be added in brackets] to indicate an update note by Hagstrom UK.

Note: We will not be replicating the batch history listings, as this detracts from the sale of the Hagström Gittarer Blue Book, donated to Bälgdraget by Hagström in order to finance their activities in association with former Hagström employees. The link to the site to your order copy is:
The Hagström Book - PLEASE DON'T JUST PUBLISH THE LIST (Info)

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Part FIVE of SEVEN! - [ ONE - TWO - THREE - FOUR - FIVE - SIX - SEVEN ]
BACK  HOME    
Swedish Hagström Guitars -
by Michael Wright

[THE ORIGINAL SEQUENCE OF THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN CHANGED TO HELP CHRONOLOGY]

More Bjarton-made acoustics

Hagstrom has never been known for making acoustic guitars but in ’66 Merson/Unicord began promoting a line of steel-string acoustic and acoustic/electric guitars bearing the Hagstrom brand name.

These were again probably made by Bjarton, the factory Hagstrom had used a couple years earlier in the decade.

Acoustic Hagstroms offered in the ’66 Merson catalog included a concert and grand concert-sized folk, two jumbos, and two 12-string dreadnoughts.

The glued-in necks all had the patented Hagstrom “H” expander rod. All had rosewood fingerboards, rosewood-pin bridges and line rosettes.

The H-11 Concert Folk Guitar (141/8”) had a natural spruce top, mahogany body, an open book headstock, dots and large tortoise guard.

The square-shouldered H-22 Grand Concert Folk Guitar (151/4”) was spruce and maple in a sunburst finish, otherwise similar to the H-11.
 


 

The round-shouldered jumbo H-45 Country Western Guitar (16”) was spruce and mahogany in sunburst, with bound fingerboard, block inlays, a wide center-peaked three-and-three headstock, and smaller tortoise guard.

The H-45E was the same guitar with a Kent pickup at the end of the fingerboard, with a volume and tone down on the lower bout. H-33 12 String “Folk Singer’s Favorite” dreadnought came in spruce and mahogany, with open book head and dots.

The H-33E was the same with a Kent pickup tucked up under the end of the fingerboard. In ’67, the great Frank Zappa appeared in an ad with H-33E 12-string acoustic/electric.

[Both 6 and 12 string models were available with either peg bridge or harp tail, and the model names often showed with the Bjarton model names H-33/BJ-12 and H-45/J-45.

There were different versions of finish, and levels of decoration. Many other Acoustic models mentioned here plus others - including a 3/4 size model called a Jimmy(!) - can be found by clicking the link to open the Acoustics page.

Many Famous players played these guitars including Cat Stevens, David Bowie, Mike Rutherford, some like Gordon Giltrap and Guy Davis own at least one Hagstrom acoustic to this day! ]

 

Here we see an extract of one of the U.K. leaflets dated 1978:

 

 

[You will read in the original article below that Bjärton closed in 1968. This is not correct. Bjärton were still producing guitars until around 1980. These examples come from 1978, produced exclusively for Hagström.
 

Earlier examples - like further above, could be purchased in the Hagström Scandinavian Retail Stores as true Bjärton models, elsewhere they were branded Hagström. Very confusing I know, but essentially either brand name is the same model, but the Bjärton branded model may well be rarer than the Hagstrom brand in some models!]

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Hagstrom distribution
Hagstrom guitars were distributed in the U.S. originally by Hershman from ’59 through ’61. In ’62 distribution switched to Merson, which became Merson/Unicord in late ’65. Merson/Unicord distribution continued until around ’70, perhaps trickling in beyond that.

By that time Merson/Unicord was more interested in its line of Japanese-made Univox guitars. A press notice for the ill-fated first D’Aquisto [Next Item] from December ’71 listed DAQ Musical Distributors, Inc., of Huntington Station, New York, as the source for information. However, between ’70 and ’73, the majority of Hagstrom II and III guitars were exported to Arc in Canada. Beginning in ’73, exportation mainly shifted to the Selmer Company in Elkhart, Indiana, then the owner of Ampeg.

The Ampeg and Hagstrom names would be joined in advertising from this point on. Ampeg began an aggressive promotion campaign which focused on the Swede, [Further down this page] positioning it as a high-quality, low-production Swedish instrument. Fairly accurate, I’d say. During this latter period, a fair number of Hagstrom guitars also went to DEMUSA in East Germany.

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Jimmy D’Aquisto
In ’68, Hagstrom hired the bold luthier James L. D’Aquisto, the New York apprentice of D’Angelicos, to design archtop guitars. The result was a pair of jazz boxes and a redesign of the Viking thinlines. The first Jimmy jazz boxes were made in ’69, but it actually took Hagstrom some time to get them into production and market. The full D’Aquisto line doesn’t appear until ’76. As seen in later ’70s Jimmies, there were two models, one with f-holes and one with an oval soundhole. The delay on the Jimmies was due to the fact Hagstrom had intended to have the Bjarton guitar factory build the guitars, but the factory closed down before the Jimmies could get into full production.
[ Whoa.. Bjärton was still around until approx 1980 - exact date awaited from Torgil Hagman a former Director during the seventies. Torgil did confirm that the Jimmies were made at the Hagstrom production unit in Älvdalen]

In ’69, 480 Hagstrom Jimmy guitars were produced. These first Jimmies were the f-hole [or even 'S' hole] archtops. They were very similar to later models, with an arched spruce top, bound f-holes, birch body and neck, and bound ebony fingerboard. This had the asymmetrical D’Aquisto head, large pearl inlay, block fingerboard inlays (double line at the octave), twin pickups, and large cast trapeze. The principal difference with later versions seems to be a smaller, more Florentine pickguard. Half of these were produced in blonde and half in sunburst. The serial number on these ’69 Jimmies was [removed respecting the Bälgdraget booklet.]

[The 1970 Hagstrom leaflet referred to above also describes the first Jimmy as a Jimmy H N Custom - indicating the 'N' stands for the new pickups or pu's - what were these ones? They had standard adjustable bridges. Go see!]

[It is interesting to read about Bjärton's demise so early on often quoted, but considering there were new versions of the folk-rock acoustics in 1978 (See comment above) it never seemed feasible that re-jigging would have taken place on all the different models. It is certain that the later Jimmies were produced by Hagström, but other acoustic models did still came from Bjärton...

At this point we should also expand on the early Jimmy story -
The prototypes, the context of the leaflet above, and some excellent presentations on Rob's Hagstrom Canada site.
There are stories of Two (above) Three (Ron Chapman) and Five (various places) prototypes for the Jimmy model.
It is accepted that these were all with direct involvement of James D'Aquisto.

There is one hand carved model completely built by James L. D'Aquisto.

In July 2005 my son and I were treated to the opportunity
 of holding and playing this very guitar!

Many thanks to Ulf Zandhers for this rare treat (read the story of our amazing visit to Sweden HERE)

Kwinn Kastrosky (the originator of the Hagstrom USA website) had heard about 480 bodies supplied to Hagstrom by Bjärton.

This seems to be true, and if you find a production model with the double toggle switch on the body - then the acoustic tone will be superior to the later models.

This wood was specially selected for the originals, then, due to a marketing issue, the model didn't initially sell very well.

So the locally marketed Jimmy HN Custom models were made, to finish up these bodies. When the model reappeared in the late 1970's completely made at Hagstrom's factory you'll see a laminate birch ply body instead.

To complicate things further there appears to be two types of body from this initial 480 run (recorded qty). Another mystery still, yet they are definitely different. The very early ones are spruce topped, and the later of this initial quantity are a high grade ply. The finishes are different too, with the early ones being a fine - almost classical - finish (Bjarton's old speciality) and the latter more like the 1970's Hagström Älvdalen high gloss production. This second type of the original bodies produce a dry unique tone which is extremely attractive. The 1970's models capture most of this latter style, and in addition some special ones had bound 'F' holes instead of the plain 'S' hole.

The leaflet from Sweden (1970/1) shows this HN Custom production version complete with second (tone) toggle switch, but plain headstock and a non-jazz Hagstrom metal and rosewood micro-adjustable bridge.

Here are three other Prototypes
(Click pics below to open presentations in Canada - external links*)

You will see two of these had GOLD binding and hardware, plus a nitro-cellulose pickguard.
The third one is different again, very different, and with a final design tailpiece and no apparent soundhole.

The question now is have we accounted for the three some people talk about, plus a more modern proto, Or are there still one or two to be found?

*We can not verify or guarantee the continuity or safety of any external links
The original HAGSTROMCANADA site is being republished here - in parts, at Rob Morritt's request, (work in progress)

The Jimmy story continues later in this series... ]

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“New” models
Now we enter a period of some speculation on my part, because reference materials are spotty. The Strat-style headstock seen on the Hagstrom II and III guitars was still seen in ads, mostly in Sing Out! magazine, through ’67, tending to confirm the numbers seen in the production logs, going up to the early ’70s. However, we also know that at some point Hagstrom started making versions of these guitars with the new winged three-and-three (two-and-two) headstock design similar to the one that appeared on the ’67 8-String bass.

Beginning in ’69, the logs start showing the H II N guitar and H II N B [H-II-B-N] bass. “N” was Hagstrom’s code for “ny” or new, denoting a style change. From this point on Hagstrom is shortened to H, and the guitars are often referred to as such. A flyer for the Hagstrom IIBN (different order of letters) pretty much confirms this conclusion of headstock debut. [The production logs do not bear out this change in sequence of lettering, all were listed as H-II-B-N. The 'N' stood for new electrics. There is evidence of guitars having a change to new electrics in 1970 before a change of headstock shape as shown in the previous page. There were 200 'new electrics' basses made in 1969 - they may have been transition models too? However a 1970 Swedish Hagstrom leaflet shows the Bass with the 'new' headstock shape, but the guitar (shown left) with the transition new electrics and Strat shape head - it's OK the text has very kindly been translated for us by Anders Karlsson, phew!]

So the Hagstrom or H II N and II N B [II-B-N] debuted in ’69 with the new heads. Otherwise these were very similar to the older Hagstroms, with offset pointed double-cutaways and the taper along the edges. Pickups were metal-covered humbuckers mounted in a black laminated pickguard, otherwise similar to the Hagstrom II. The guard extended a bit further and the Strat-style jack was mounted on it. The on/off slider remained, but switching got more modern, with a three-way select on the treble horn and two volume and two tone controls with knobs. Again, I’m going to guess that the H II N was a stoptail guitar.

Another model is listed as being made from ’71-75 was the H II N OT, which I suspect were models made with an optional vibrato (i.e., “optional tremolo”), thus the “OT.” The H II N lasted through ’76 after 4,016 were made. It appears that these guitars were called the HG800 in the U.S. There were 863 of the vibrato versions. [OT actually indicated WITHOUT tremolo so this was the stop tail version, the other way around. Also notice the damper unit on the tail of the first run of new basses - yes, originally sent to Canada - see the visitors page to see examples of 'OT' and damper unit basses, or go to Manfred Graeder's page for fuller details on the damper unit.]

The Hagstrom IIBN (or II N B) was essentially the same pointed offset double cutaway with the edge taper. These had a large laminated pickguard with the Strat-style jack, two volumes, two tones, and three-way select. Pickups were metal covered and mounted on surrounds mounted on the ’guard. The 20-fret fingerboard was unbound with dots and the new winged two-and-two head. The bridge was a heavy cast tail assembly. Some 3,483 of the basses were made until biting the dust in ’76, as well.

Between ’74 and ’75, ten  H II B NV basses were also made. I’ve no idea what these were, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the NV had to do with fretless, but that’s just a guess. [My guess would be Hagstrom 2pu Bass New and Five String - going on other conventions, but yes I haven't seen one either!]

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The Scandi
At the end of the H II N run in ’76, 207 H III Scandi guitars were built. These were basically the H II N with three single-coil pickups. The Scandi body was made of ash and had rounded edges, more like a Strat with extended horns.

The neck was also made of ash, with a 20-fret maple fingerboard inlaid with black dots. The headstock, too, was very Stratish, but a bit exaggerated.

The headstock decal [on the later run] read “Hagstrom Scandi” along the lower curvature. The three single-coil pickups were mounted on a black laminated pickguard in Strat arrangement. Controls included three sliding [rocker] on/off switches below the pickups, a master on/off bypass above the pickups, plus a volume and three tones. This had a finetune bridge and stop tail. In ’78 the H III prefix was dropped and until ’80 another 257 guitars called simply the “Scandi” were produced. In ’77-’78 some 18 models called the Scandi [Swede] De Luxe were made, again, presumably, with the usual deluxe appointments. No other information is available on these relatively rare birds. [The Scandi is very respected by owners outside the USA. Why? The Scandi was never exported to USA and Canada due to an agreement with Fender..... Hmmm. Shame eh? It was available in a range of colours, but I love natural woods and I can personally vouch that this and the later version are superb 'Strat killers' - despite the unusual rocker switches more asociated with 70's hi-fi for controlling the pu's and on/off. Take a look/open this link; There is a full critical assessment of the late Scandi on the dedicated page, written by renowned expert Stephen Delft and reproduced with permission].

[Extract from a catalogue: "Take a close look at any Hagstrom instrument and you will find the difference between our handmade guitar and their highly machine produced guitar. When you buy a Hagstrom you get your money's worth".. which leads us nicely into the next section...]

Click To See an original Scandi and Scanbass Dealer Leaflet from 1978

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The Swede
D’Aquisto’s influence was seen immediately, [after the original Jimmy production] however, in the introduction of the Hagstrom Swede solidbody. Just as the lucite/vinyl Kents were the quintessential Hagstroms of the ’60s, the Swede would become the signature guitars of the Me Decade. This guitar featured the new asymmetrical headstock designed by Jimmy D’Aquisto, though adapting it to the new solidbody was Hagstrom’s idea, and D’Aquisto was not involved in the development of the Swede. Ads touted the D’Aquisto-designed tuners, which featured art deco-style buttons and were similar to, but slightly more complex than, stairstepped Grover Imperials. Initially these were made by Van Ghent, but later on, in the late ’70s, however, Hagstrom tuners switched to Schallers, still with D’Aquisto-designed buttons.

An elegant single cutaway solidbody in a Les Paul mode, the first 505 Swedes built in ’70-’71 were actually called the Hagstrom L.P. By ’71, however, going counter to the prevailing contemporary trend toward copying American guitars even down to the name, the Hagstrom L.P. had officially become the Swede. [The LP had a different - smaller - neck attachment evident from the reverse - see example, but there is an interesting story that it was the Canadian distributor at the time who coined the name "Swede", referring to the model when they first saw it, and the name stuck... and became adopted. Hearsay maybe, but it is documented in a Hagstrom Swedish 1970 leaflet - yes that same one... oh-boy, am I glad to have that specific piece of paper!!!). There is no similar naming claim for "The Scandi" above, but then that model was not exported to USA and Canada as we read above. So, you make your mind up about the naming conventions, but it gives an individuality to these mature models.]

The Hagstrom Swede was a single-cutaway solidbody made of mahogany. It had a bound top and a bolt-on mahogany neck. The head, as mentioned, was pure D’Aquisto. It had a fleur-de-lis inlay. The 22-fret neck was unbound ebony with celluloid block inlays. This had an elevated pickguard like a Les Paul, with two metal-covered humbuckers mounted on plastic surrounds, a finetune bridge, and covered stoptail. Controls were a three-way select on the treble horn, two volume and two tone controls, and what seems to be a three-way tone switch on the bass shoulder. Color options were natural, cherry, white, or black. In addition to the L.P.s, some 7,041 Swedes were made until the end of the run in ’82. [As shown in the cherry version above the later version of the Swede had an upgraded bridge as well, allowing perfect intonation through individual adjustment. The upgraded tail-piece for better set-up, and to segregate the cross-over from one string to another - a design used on a number of the later Hagstrom models close up detail can be seen HERE. The Swede is based on the Gibson scale; we meet the SuperSwede - which adopted the longer Fender scale - later. Both models ran right at the end of production.]

[It is also said that the Swede would be supplied in any colour you choose, and there are many variants of colour shown around the site!]

Introduced along with the Swede guitar was a bass version. As seen in ads from the time, these were pretty similar to the guitars, including the block inlays. The Swede bass was available from ’71 to ’76, during which time 1,479 were made.

From ’77 to ’78 Hagstrom made 373 basses called the Scanbass. It’s not known what this is, but the ’77 Ampeg catalog showed a Swede-style bass, so I suspect this is yet more name game and they are one and the same. [The Scanbass was based on the Scandi model, and was originally named the Jazzbass. It was also available as a fretless version, - we meet it on the next page...]

Click To See an original Swede Dealer Leaflet from 1978

 

Next Time: New Vikings, Jazzbass/Scanbass, Patch 2000 series, D'Aquisto Jimmy part two!

Part FIVE of SEVEN! - [ ONE - TWO - THREE - FOUR - FIVE - SIX - SEVEN ]   HOMEPAGE

Vintage Guitar magazine
"The Fastest Necks" - Originally a three part publication in
Vintage Guitar Magazine
- is reproduced here with permission from the respected author:
Michael Wright - "The Different Strummer"
- Vintage Guitar M
agazine.

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There's nothing like a REAL original Swedish made Hagstrom (and there are loads around), but if it 'floats your boat', or you can't find an original then who are we to say?

Plenty has been said already and
will be said forever forward probably.
Only you know what's right for you!