1967-68 First man S2A

First man are one of my favourite Japanese manufacturers even though they only lasted a couple years under that name. They made a bunch of REALLY cool and bizarre designs in the short period of time they were operating as First man from early 1967 to late '69.

First man guitars were owned and operated by Kazuo Morioka who was a veteran in the Japanese guitar world by the time he started this company. He is credited as making the first electronic organ in Japan and worked for Kawai in the late 50's as an engineer. 

He left Kawai in the early 60's to be a sales manager for Teisco while he also owned a large music shop in Kobe.

In '67 when Kawai bought out Teisco he decided to start his own brand of guitars made in the Teisco Gen Gakki factory which was one of the biggest guitar building factories in Japan at the time making guitars for many different brands for domestic and export. 

During this period of upheaval in the Japanese guitar manufacturing world this factory made some VERY cool guitars for a few more years until it itself closed in 1970.

In April '67 Kazuo started First man and hit the ground running with a few very innovative and cool designs. The Baron (more on them soon) is one of my favourites but they made a series of hollow violin shaped guitars and basses with scroll headstocks that are VERY cool.

 

Almost straight away First man started making "Mosrites" along with their own designs and in '68 became the "official" Japanese Mosrite manufacturer, not because they had any agreements or licences from Mosrite or Semie, but because they started replicating Mosrites so thoroughly and using the Mosrite name and logo, that people just accepted that they were somehow affiliated with the actual Mosrite.

They of course made the VERY popular Avenger model based on the Mosrite Ventures as well as Combos, Celebrities, Mobros and even double necks. They had Mosrite (with the serrated circle M logo) on the headstock and actual Mosrite copy hardware with Moseley and Mosrite names just like the real thing. This whole area is a mine field that I will write about one day, but not today. Needless to say First Man would turn into Mosrite Japan and make some of THE BEST Mosrite copies I've ever played, and I've played a few.

 

The S2A here was one of the first First man models and at the time was sold as a few different brand names both domestically and overseas. Some First man models were unique or exclusive to First man as Mr Morioka probably wanted to keep them for his brand and had a VERY good relationship with the factory. 

This is a hollow laminated body with bolt on neck typical of other Teisco Gen Gakki guitars of the time. It is completely hollow with a bridge block and can "take off" if you pump too much volume through it. The bolt on maple necks have a really nice "feel" and they're easy to play and feel great. As with most of what was coming out of this factory at the time, everything has multi laminate binding. 

 

The pickups in the First man version weren't available on other brands and I love these pickups. They're a medium output pickup with great chime and clarity but dirty up really nicely. 

Everything on this guitar is original except the B1gsby vibrato tailpiece which was added some time later. It would have originally had a sheet metal vibrato as used on many guitars from this period. Other brands of this guitar mostly had a trapeze tailpiece.

 

The tuners are also unique to First man for this model with good quality and feeling three in one metal tuners. They still feel great and function well.

This was the model of guitar featured in First mans first print ads (with different pickups) from early '67 and became a good seller for the company over the next two years.

First man, Idol and Honey were all running simultaneously from this factory after the Kawai buyout but after Kawai pulled all manufacturing from Teisco Gen Gakki it struggled for work and all three were bankrupt by mid '69 and the factory closed shortly after.

More on First man when I get time. 

 

Sep 05 2017 Written By: Tim Brennan