Hagstrom Guitars Ha gström Gitar

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Copies Copies Copies - or the Real Thing?

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Well those who just think of Hagström as another copy company is sadly missing the point. You may have read, on this site too (hopefully) of the efforts the Hagström family went to make a mark on the world of music. Pioneering by making new ideas into reality, providing educational support for schools, retailing throughout Scandinavia, distributing the biggest names or smallest names in and out of many countries. The other fact that people are now realising they generally provided a quality that was unrivalled anywhere for the price point you looked at.

You could argue the same for the biggest brands you still find today, but one or two things were different for Hagström. They were in the wrong country to make it stand the test of time, and did not like to compromise their principles or quality like most of the big names today. So, this was the problem. Just as they were making a name for themselves and gaining respect, so the real copy era started...

Lets go back to the late ’50s... Kay products and National were being distributed through St. Louis Music (SLM) along with its Custom Kraft brand name. Valco products appeared with the same brand name in the mid-’60s. SLM began importing bizarre guitars carrying the Apollo name in around ’67, but Valco/Kay were just about to break up. Chicago’s Strum & Drum bought the National brand in the 1969 break up, and were rearing to put it to good use...

Meanwhile at the '68 NAMM show Mr. Shiro Arai,Arai and Company (Aria, Aria Diamond, and Arai Diamond brands, plus various importer names), viewed a reissue Gibson Les Paul Custom. He didn’t realise it was still being made, and seeing it was a copy of the original, he had a brilliantly simple idea...

...the Japanese designers soon whipped up their own version with bolt-on neck and deliberate points of difference including blade pickups. These Aria copies appeared in USA in 1969 along with a Merson Univox version. Ibanez followed soon after, and the Les Paul copies took off...

The National brand "National Big Daddy" Les Paul copies launched in late 1969 with massive promotion. The Lucy, a copy of the Ampeg Dan Armstrong appeared in 1970 with again, several versions including Aria, Univox, Electra (St. Louis Music) and Ibanez.

Ah-ha.. Electra: Saint Louis Music used the Electra brand from 1971-1984 for their copies. The first guitar was a solid Clear plastic / Lucite (Lucite See more) bodied copy of an Ampeg Dan Armstrong, a classic in it's own right! By 1972 SLM had two Telecaster copies, another SOLID BODY…(Hagstrom maybe???  Nah, they were just another copy company themselves eh? ), and a thinline semi-acoustic combination model with f-hole in glossy woodgrain finish similar to the rosewood Telecaster designed for George Harrison and the Rossmeisl Telecaster Thinline. Now most of these brands were doing good business in an importing frenzy, making a few Japanese companies very powerful in the process. When we blame Japanese production for the demise of brands and production, we must remember we also fueled it!

SLM was even competing with itself. Bernard Kornblum's Saint Louis (SLM) Electra brand competed with his own brother David Kornblum's California based "Pacific Music" Electra brand yet the two were not connected!

Pacific Music's Electra logo was nearly identical to the SLM Electra logo from 1972 to 1975 except instead of the SLM gold text, a black text on a white background.

Indeed both companies often imported from the same source! Pacific Coast often have an X on the headstock or the pickguard. Given all this, some opinions favour the SLM versions to the Pacific ones, but then it seemed like a family feud or at least a line in the sand that wouldn't be crossed, so you have to take sides eh?

So where am I going with all this... read on. Well we often see what looks to be a Hagstrom whammy bar on an old Univox guitar, they are copies and have slight differences to those made by Hagstrom. You often see whammy bars and even pickups on Guild, now these really were made by Hagstrom! So it is all very confusing to be totally sure what is what!

Barry contacted me recently to enquire about his H-II, and asking about the connection with Electra.... (What?) Yes it seems there was a lot of respect for what Hagstrom created, and this presented itself in the pictures you see below.

Here's another one sold on EBay by Olivia's Vintage in April 2005





This Electra copy is a tribute to Hagstrom, made in Japan, that attempted to cash in on the style
even the tremolo unit was made in Japan - there is an example unit shown further below.

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Some examples of the REAL THING!
 

Here's Another copy (auctioned on eBay 2005)

"1970's Univox Electric Guitar Guild/Hagstrom Copy. I believe this guitar to be a 1975 from research on the serial number, but I am not 100% certain. The guitar is in perfect cosmetic condition with low action, and plays great.There are no dents, dings, nics, or scratches".

Here's a Japanese version of the Hagstrom Trem Unit:


(A NOS and rare "spares" copy)

...and here's a real one

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And Finally...

If THIS was a reissue we'd all be saving up our pennies!

It comes from a supplier called First Act, made for Aaron North from Nine Inch Nails.
See the page here: http://www.firstact.com/studio/guitar-details.asp?guitar_id=25
and in case you don't believe me.. here's the pictures and details!

Aaron North, touring guitarist with Nine Inch Nails plays a First Act custom electric. North's guitar features a uniquely shaped double-cutaway body equipped with two fat humbucker-sized Kent Armstrong P-900 pickups and a custom-designed 3-ply pickguard. A phase switch and surf guitar-style vibrato tailpiece give this guitar plenty of versatility to shape and bend tones as needed, and the kill switch allows for pulsating tremolo effects or complete, abrupt silence during quiet moments. The flame maple neck with First Act's signature ebony strip is not only stylish, but also adds snap and bite to help cut through the mix.

(Thanks to Tim from the UK for bringing this to our attention through the Hagstrom UK Forum)

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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!