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A TRIO OF TASTE !
Hello and greetings from Canada!
I stumbled across your respective sites while researching a guitar, and since the content on both was so helpful to me, and because you have invited people to submit their Hagstrom pictures, I wanted to share some quick pictures of my modest collection of three Hagstroms, along with my Hagstrom story, a story in three parts with nothing but a happy ending. Sorry for the exuberantly long email, I can see I've gotten carried away by Hagstrom again... :^D
Part I: The Jimmy
Back in 1988 or '89, when I was a teen-aged kid who decided he wanted to
learn to play guitar, I headed down to the local used guitar store to buy my
first guitar. Now, for a first instrument, most teenagers would probably pick up
a cheap acoustic, or a cheap solid-body/amp combo with which to annoy the
parents. But upon entering the store I was immediately struck by a blond
hollow-body electric with S-holes, the unusual brandname "Hagstrom", and and a
most ornate and elegant Deco-style headstock, easily the most distinctive in the
store. Not even knowing any chords I could only pick it up and turn it over in
my hands, then plug it in and hit the strings (it sounded so cool!!), but I was
drawn to this strange but classy-looking guitar, and after looking at everything
else in the store within my limited budget, and despite the urges of the staff
to get a more sensible "beginner" guitar, I bought the blond Hagstrom simply
because it was cool and the price was just cheap enough. Another reason may have
been because a well-known Canadian country/rockabilly guitarist walked in as I
was thinking about it, and started to give the Hag a serious once-over and
looked like he was giving serious thought to putting down some money. Since it
was apparently good enough for this guy, it had to be good enough for me! Upon
buying it one of the store staff said "you know, I was kind of looking at this
one myself and if you ever want to sell it, just bring it back, it's cool". And
it certainly was, especially to a kid who'd never played or owned a guitar
I then proceeded to try and teach myself how to play guitar on this poor old
Hagstrom, for the first few months with no amplifier! This was the guitar on
which I learned how to strum with a pick, basic chords like G and C, how to
barre, etc. I dragged it to high-school to play in bands (at a time when
everyone else had heavy-metal guitars with fluorescent/day-glo finishes and
locking tremolos). I plugged it into all kinds of amps and made terrible noises
with it, I played it (badly) with a slide, in short I used this poor Hagstrom
for everything for several years. Eventually I took a few lessons and my teacher
of the time convinced me I needed to get something that would be easier to keep
in tune and play (my early heavy-handed "technique" was not really compatible
with a floating bridge), and easier on which to progress. Being in
Hendrix-wannabe-mode at the time, I bought a US Fender Strat and the Hagstrom
was relegated to second-guitar status.
I graduated from high-school, moved away for university and continued playing
in my spare time (actually, I think most of second-year university was spent
playing in my room, haha). As I slowly progressed I acquired other instruments,
but never got rid of the Hagstrom, which followed me from one budget appartment
to another. Even when I was primarily playing silly but entertaining rock and
metal for laughs with friends (on guitars shaped like Vs and Xs, haha), the
blond Hag still had a place of honour amidst the guitar stands, even if it
remained dormant most of the time.
After university and college I began my professional career, but never stopped playing for fun, and over the years have perhaps matured just a little by moving into fingerstyle and jazz, in recent years taking more lessons to expand my limited skills and musical understanding. As I've found deals on affordable, interesting and good playing/sounding instruments I've slowly acquired a small but enjoyable collection of Gibsons, vintage Fenders (on the extremely rare occasion that I've found a good one at a non-ludicrous price), as well as examples from Hamer, Gretsch, Ibanez (including an outrageous and fantastic "lawsuit" double-neck) and other sometimes strange and interesting electric guitars and basses, as well as a number of acoustic guitars, banjos and ukeleles (I love trying to play just about anything with strings made out of nice wood). But until recently I had not seen anything further of the Hagstrom brand, although I thought I spotted one played by Pat Smear in a Foo Fighters video (which of course turns out to be true). The Hag hollow-body has remained a cherished instrument for almost twenty years, and is now back in service strung with flatwounds and is used for its intended purpose (jazz!), but until recently I was no wiser about its origins, and except for one or two used Swedes and one Fender-ish solid I hadn't seen another Hagstrom, certainly not one like mine.
Fast-forward to early 2007, when upon walking into that same used guitar
store one day, I spotted...
Part II: The Swede
On the wall was an early '80s Hagstrom Swede in transparent red/wine finish,
apparently with all the original knobs and other bits and in played but very
nice condition. I'd heard of these Swedes, had seen one or two when younger, and
had been told they were great players, but have never tried one myself. So, I
asked to see it, plugged it into an old '70s Fender Twin similar to my own, and
was floored by the effortless neck and the incredible tone. I loved the second
tone/boost switch, it seemed to provide many usable tonal options in combination
with the pick-up selector. My crappily-executed little jazz standards sounded
lovely (it was definitely the guitar and not the player, haha), and when played
with fuzz/distortion the Swede just sang. To me the guitar had a wonderfully
dark and elegant "jazzy" look, because of that classy headstock with the
fleur-de-lys, the rounded cutaway horn, the ebony board with the block inlays
just like my old hollowbody (in fact, I felt the whole guitar really captured
the elegance of my original blond Hagstrom, but as a mahogany solid-body model).
This coupled with the the gorgeous wine finish and the intelligent body contour
on the back all made for a beautiful and functional guitar, with a level of
quality far exceeding its used price, and with a tone all its own. A lovely
guitar with all the appointments of a Les Paul Custom but a style of its own,
the playability of the fastest "player's" neck, tone to spare and all for less
than some of the uninspired new instruments available today.
Considering I already have more than a few guitars at home and many other
demands on my modest discretionary income, I couldn't bring myself to buy it on
the spot. But, I started looking up Hagstrom on the web, where through web-sites
such as yours I started to learn about the company history and production, as
well as the origins of my "Jimmy" (so that's what it was called!). I was
completely unaware that there were so many other Hagstrom guitars out there, and
so many aficionados who appreciated them! I also had no idea that my old Jimmy
was such a relatively rare instrument with such a distinguished history. Not
knowing anything about either Hagstrom or the guitar itself, I'm embarrassed to
say that I'd always thought the D'Aquisto-designed reference on the headstock
was fanciful marketing exaggeration that was probably stretching the truth; well
happy to say I stand corrected! Accordingly, I hope my Jimmy will forgive me the
occasional abuses it endured when I was a stupid kid trying to learn how to
play. I did try to be careful with it, nothing really bad happened and it is
still in fine form today with no cracks or issues, but I'm sure the Jimmy was
knocked around a bit more than it deserved to be.
Getting back to the Swede, as weeks went by I found myself drifting back to
the used guitar store, asking to try it out again and again, and finally I
brought an acoustic down for trade-in and started haggling. In the end I walked
away with the Swede, having payed a fair price for a very clean and straight-up
instrument, at least compared to some I'd seen on ebay and other sites. Every
time I pick it up to play I'm sure glad I was lucky enough to find it, it's a
great guitar and without question a keeper like the Jimmy.
I figured that I was lucky to have two Hagstroms from the company's final
days (pretty sure that both the Jimmy and the Swede are later examples because
of the Schaller tuners), and my only thoughts of further Hagstroms were that
wouldn't it be nice to stumble on a second 'beater' Swede for a bargain some
day. It might be fun to replace the pick-ups, or at least have a more heavily
used Swede for taking out to jams, where a few more dings or scratches from
enthusiastic playing wouldn't make much difference.
This past Saturday, while on a mission to drop off my old Telecaster for some repairs and a setup, I got my wish, in fact I got far more than I bargained for, when I found...
Part III: The Super-Swede
Upon entering the guy behind the counter pulled out an old case and with a
gleam in his eye said "this just came in this morning and you're not going to
like it at all". When he opened it, I actually started to feel just a bit faint
and light-headed (dead serious), as before me sat a vintage maple Hagstrom
Super-Swede in a sunburst finish that seemed almost as bright as the sun itself.
I'd vaguely heard of the Super-Swede as a kid and then recently had learned
much more of them through my Swede research, but had never seen one in the
flesh. Based on sites such as yours, I figured that the Super-Swede was one of
those almost mythically rare birds that I would only ever see in books and on
the web. Their relative scarcity, plus the way their "owners" speak and write of
them in such reverent tones (is one truly the "owner" of such an instrument, or
is one "owned" by it?), seemed to preclude the likelyhood of one ever becoming
available locally, let alone at a reasonable non-ebay price. So, it took me a
couple of seconds to regain my composure, but once done I asked if it was for
sale, and when told it was I said I'd buy it on the spot, although they had not
yet processed it and set it up... then I asked 'how much', dreading the answer.
To my surprise it was only a few hundred dollars more than the Swede had been
several weeks earlier, much less than half of some of the past ebay auction
prices I'd seen quoted on sites such as yours! Was it my lucky day?
Upon inspection the guitar had certainly been played, but was in super-clean
shape (better than the Swede), with only a few very negligeable bumps and nicks,
no real scratches, no belt-buckle wear, and none of the usual chipping on the
top of the headstock, where guitars always get bumped! Someone had obviously
cared for this guitar, and looked like they might only have played it on Sundays
dressed in their pyjamas or something. I plugged it in to a modern Twin and was
immediately struck by how *bright* and how *loud* the Super-Swede was. It was so
clear and focused in tone (not muddy at all), and seemed to sustain forever! The
neck felt different from the "regular" Swede because of the longer scale and
wider frets, but was equally lovely, this was definitely another Hagstrom
"player's" neck (the sunburst finish *on* the neck didn't hurt either!). The
overall impression was one of wonder and awe; this guitar was far more than just
another excellent "Les Paul copy", and maybe more even than just another
excellent Hagstrom, this Super-Swede felt like something very special indeed.
After putting a deposit down I waited a few days for the store to process the
guitar and give it a proper setup, all the while trying not to have an anxiety
attack from thoughts of the deal screwing up somehow; after all a deposit
receipt in a wallet is nice, but a guitar in a case at home is better. Was the
guitar stolen, about to be seized back by the police? Did someone somehow get
wind of it and offer more money? Irrational thoughts perhaps. But, three days
ago the store called to say that the guitar's provenance was on the level, it
had been set up and was ready for pickup. I rushed down, paid my balance (thank
you Mr Credit Card!) and brought the Super-Swede home.
In the past seventy-two hours the Super-Swede has simply blown me away.
Either Hagstrom built the run of Super-Swedes to an unprecedented level of
quality and "yummy guitar good-ness" (even exceeding their usual standards), or
the universe was aligned just "so" the day this particular beauty was built way
back when in Sweden, because this guitar feels "magical". The kind of magic
where the wood was just the right density and age, cut just right, assembled
with care with just the right amount of glue, pickups wound just so many times,
etc., because it is an outstanding and frankly unparalleled looking, feeling,
playing and sounding instrument. Are they *all* this good? I don't know, this is
the only one I've ever seen or played, but from the sounds of what others have
written though, I'm guessing that they are! How did Hagstrom do it? How much did
these things cost when they were new?
The appearance is simply exquisite. That classy headstock and ebony board
look sooo nice with the sunburst body, and I swear the finish changes with the
light. The 'burst practically radiates energy in a way I've never seen on any
'burst Les Paul, and I didn't even notice the subtle tiger stripes in the flamed
maple top until I got it home, put the guitar on a stand and just looked at it
for a while... or was it only then that the guitar chose to reveal its inner
beauty? ;^) Although I don't at all mind the earlier Swede bridge and tailpiece,
I think the Patch-derived heavy duty anchor blocks and big chrome cover look
great and are so distinctive and "Hagstrom", on this guitar as on the later
Swedes. They, along with the other nice details like the roller bridge and zero
fret, and in tandem with the solid maple, add up to a guitar that rings like a
bell and keeps on sustaining. As in the store, I had to turn all of my amps
*down* in volume when I first plugged it in because it's so loud. The neck is
such a joy to play and I cannot get enough of the tone, it sounds beautiful
played clean with fingerstyle, comping jazz chords or playing blues with just a
hint of dirt, or screaming and wailing when played with a pick and outrageously
high gain. Can I find any flaws with this guitar? The only thing that comes to
mind is that it's a heavy-weight, but I guess that's part of the fun of an
all-maple guitar, and probably part of the reason why the Super-Swede sounds
To me, this Super-Swede feels like one of those rare instruments whose whole
is far greater than the sum of its parts and manufacture, one of those
guitars-of-a-lifetime that has that extra mojo of its own or is somehow
otherwise "touched" in a way that most are not (unless they are Hagstroms!).
Again, it would not surprise me to get confirmation that all the Supers are this
spectacular; I'd sure love the opportunity to even try a different one out but I
think I might've used up all my Hagstrom luck in finding this one. For me, after
almost twenty years of playing, on all kinds of quality instruments, including
some impossibly expensive "legendary" vintage classics from "the big Two"
manufacturers that only a rockstar or a banker could afford, I don't think it
gets any better than this. Of all the instruments I've ever owned or have had
the opportunity to play, I think this may finally be the "one", the benchmark
against which all others will have to be tested. My humble opinion is that this
Super-Swede is likely the single finest electric guitar I've ever played,
So, the end of my story is a happy one, because after starting out on guitar
on my venerable Hagstrom Jimmy almost twenty years ago, I've managed to come
full-circle back to Hagstrom, with a return to my faithful old Jimmy in recent
times, and by lucking into not one but two lovely Hagstroms in the past month,
both amazing and inspiring instruments to be treasured forever alongside the
original Jimmy that started it all. I don't have nearly as many as some of the
folks out there, but I like to think I have three of the best. It's also nice to
find out that there is a whole community of players and collectors out there who
appreciate these amazing Swedish instruments from the past, instruments which I
humbly submit are and forever will be some of the best ever made, and which
deserve to be preserved, treasured and most of all played.
Attached are some quick pictures of my three Hags, plucked from the rest of
the crowd. The bad lighting and ancient digital camera really don't do any of
the guitars justice, but hopefully give you an idea. Yes that particular wall is
actually green so the colours at least are somewhat accurate, and the great
white splotch on the Swede is glare and nothing more. (I feel like I'm writing
an ebay ad here... no, sorry but just to be clear these are *not* for sale!
:^D). When spring has sprung I'll try to take some better pictures in the garden
if you are interested.
I would be curious to get your opinions on cases for these instruments. All
those years ago, my Jimmy came with an old yellow-plush-lined case, not sure if
it's original but it fits the guitar quite well so I'm content with that one for
now (that and Jimmy doesn't go out often), but in the future it would be nice to
get something better. I was thinking of getting one of the new Hagstrom cases
for my Swede since that one does get taken out for lessons and such. I had a
look at one of the new Hag cases and they don't look too bad but not sure if it
would fit...? As for the Super-Swede, it came with a reasonably nice period
tear-drop case which is fine for stationary storage at home but which is not a
very tight fit. I'd really like to get something form-fitting that would provide
ultimate protection on the rare occasion that I do take it out (and that could
be locked and handcuffed to my wrist, haha). Do you have any case
recommendations for cases for any of these old Hags?
Finally, I'm curious... what is the origin of the "Blue Lady" moniker for
those lovely blue Super-Swedes? It seems almost ubiquitous when references are
made to those blue beauties, but was this a Hagstrom designation of some kind?
Did any of the other colour schemes have names as well? And do you have any
sense of how many maple/sunburst Supers were made?
Many thanks again for all the information you provide on your respective
sites, both were very helpful in allowing me to learn about my Jimmy, evaluate
the Swede properly, and recognize the Super-Swede for what it was. Keep up the
Take care and all the best,
The Jimmy case sounds like it might be
original, and the best thing out of China might be those cases.
Without looking at the old ledgers in
the vaults there may be no way to find out how many SuperSwedes were Maple,
As for the Blue Lady reference I don't
know for sure. I know that 'Baby Blue' goes back a long way for the light blue
... and maybe it was Kwinn who first
coined the name??
More stories to follow... including
Keep them coming!
There must be loads of stories
(and pics) around from the last forty years, why not share them with us!
This Contributor's personal Disclaimer:
contributions or comments about this web site are welcome. All
Presentations are Copyright © 2001-2013
Hagstrom.org.uk - Hagstrom UK
|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