Being into vintage Japanese guitars as you may have noticed I am, I have written about Emperador before.and while I've owned a few, they're not really that common, especially here in Australia, although they seem more common here than most other places, which is all part of the mystery. Maybe we had an importer here in the 70's?
There's not a lot of clear info out there about the brand. In the earlier days the acoustics appear to made in a different factory (higher end ones possibly by the great Terada factory) to the electrics, which appear to be made in several different factories depending on years.
Folklore has it that the brand was the brainchild of Jack Westheimer who was one of the heavy hitters in the US when it came to importing Japanese guitars in the 60's. He worked with several factories and produced a few brands and was key to moving production to Korea in the late 70's. His story is involved and well documented elsewhere so let's look at this guitar.
I have owned 4 of the LPs over the years. While some hollowbody Emperadors were almost definitely made by Teisco-Gen-Gakki and even Nippon-Gakki after Guyatones closure in '69, most of the 60's production was devoid of solid body electrics.
By the early 70's however there was quite a choice of solid body electrics with the Emperador logo on the headstock. Strats, Teles, P basses, J basses, SGs and LPs all appeared branded Emperador, and most were reasonably well made. They tended to be intermediate to upper level solid bodies with good hardware and pickups and the general consensus is they were made by Kasuga.
Kasuga was an older Japanese factory started in the mid 30's and made good to great quality acoustic and electric guitars. In the late 60's and 70's they started making more guitars for other "brands" and made OEM guitars for Yamaha, Fernandes, Washburn (also made by Matsumoku) and may have also made some guitar bodies and necks for Jackson and BC Rich and partnered with Tokai in the 70's.
The first time I saw one of these LPs WAY back, I thought it may have been a Hoshino made guitar. The all solid timber construction, good quality hardware and build quality looked familiar, and that blended in neck joint is very Hoshino, but other things weren't. They didn't match Hoshino construction and harware in other areas and it was years before I understood more about these guitars.
So, this is a great quality solid maple body and set neck. Laminated down the middle, like other Japanese manufacturers did with all solid maple back, and carved top. The maple neck is deep set into the body and maple fretbaord is all good quality timber.
Of course it's not hard to miss all the binding and inlays. All bound and inlaid like a real LP Std but with a bound headstock as well. The inlays are all abalone and are really well done. All the finish and work is really well done. It's a solid, heavy LP made more unique by being made entirely of maple.
While the other ones of these I owned were all original, this one has had it's hardware stripped and redone. Why?
The originals of these had mini humbuckers with the "mistake plates" around them and used good quality mostly Gotoh hardware. I can't find original price lists for this period but these would not have been cheap guitars with quality being on par with high end Ibanez/Greco guitars of the time.
With the original hardware gone, and it being played and used this one is nowhere near as collectible (or expensive) as an all original one. The hardware on it now is good, but not excellent but it plays and sounds great. I remember the others I owned sounding REALLY nice with those mini humbuckers (I love mini humbuckers) and these are slightly "brighter" and have more attack than a standard LP. The pickup cavities have had VERY slight routs done (remember the original had mistake plates) and the guitar has had no other mods or repairs done to the woodwork anywhere.
There weren't many companies making all maple LPs back in the day and it seems like a strange thing to market really? Was there a call for all maple LPs? Should Gibson have made this an actual model? Who knows, but if you've ever wanted an all maple LP here's a nice vintage one that won't cost the earth, and if you've always wanted one of these with full HB's this one is already done.
This is in the shop if anyone wants to take a look and have a play.