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A TRIO OF TASTE !
 

Hello and greetings from Canada!

Gentlemen,

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 before.

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 so... super!

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, period.

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 great work!

Take care and all the best,

Lucas R
Canada


Great Shots Lucas, and thanks for your great story and contributions to the Hagstrom UK Visitors pages!

The Jimmy case sounds like it might be original, and the best thing out of China might be those cases.
I'm told they give a snug fit for a vintage Hagstrom too...
like the guys in Älvdalen who asked AM&S for a few, I could use one myself, but times have changed it seems!

Without looking at the old ledgers in the vaults there may be no way to find out how many SuperSwedes were Maple,
and how many Mahogany, either way - you're right. They will probably never be surpassed outside Alvdalen, and are RARE.

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
colour that started out on early 60's models. I suppose that warmer (hotter even) blue could only be a lady!

... and maybe it was Kwinn who first coined the name??
Mail us or put it on the forum if you know!

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More stories to follow... including yours?

Keep them coming!

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There must be loads of stories (and pics) around from the last forty years, why not share them with us!   
Send stories and (jpg pics please*) to the e-mail address below

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This Contributor's personal Disclaimer:
(Boring and Tedious Disclaimer: Apologies in advance but the following needs to be stated. I don't usually submit things to complete strangers on the web for a whole bunch of reasons including abuse and misrepresentation, and the simple fact that human nature is unfortunately not what it probably should be. In this case I'm banking on your passion for Hagstroms translating into general quality of character and goodness as human beings, even if there might be no real correlation. So, I submit the attached pictures and the following explanation to you in the spirit of sharing my experience with the Hagstrom community and because I think you might appreciate them, thus they are submitted here more for your personal review and amusement than anything else (since I think the story of my Jimmy's early years is a bit funny, wish I had some pictures of me with it from back then!). It's not like either the pics or my prose are Pulitzer-Prize material, but should you choose to reproduce any or all my pictures or any portion or all my text on your websites, please do so with my blessing (although I'd exclude this tedious paragraph myself). But as author of both pictures and text I'm explicitly asserting Authorship and Ownership of Copyright for both text and pictures here and now. So, please don't misrepresent either as authored by anyone other than myself, and I am only granting permission for web reproduction for free-access informational purposes for the web community. Any other use of my photos and text, including any and all commercial applications, is expressly forbidden now and in perpetuity without my written consent. Finally, I appreciate my privacy, which seems to be at a premium in this day and age, and would prefer not to have my last name or email address published anywhere publicly in the event that you do decide to use any of this material, although I think a last initial would be OK if it's really needed. If any of these conditions is a problem for either of you for some reason, thanks for reading this far and please delete this email along with its attachments from your local mail clients and your email servers immediately. Any further review or use of this material (this email in its entirety including all attachments) implies agreement and full compliance with the above conditions. Apologies again for this and thank you for your understanding; if it was a different world we wouldn't have to waste time on this kind of paragraph.)

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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!