1980 Greco Tele Thinline

I've written plenty about all types of Greco guitars in the past. They're one of my favourite "brands" to emerge from Japan and despite being made in several different factories during their lifetime, the Japanese made ones, and early Korean ones I count in some of the best guitars I've ever played.

The history of Greco is well known now although like everything vintage Japanese, you can be into them for years and still get lovely little surprises with stuff you've not seen before. With so many guitars being made during the 60's and 70's there's always "short run" guitars with strange hardware or different pickups as manufacturers and brands scrambled to keep up with sales demands, especially from around '66 onwards.

By the early 70's most Japanese brands were either making good replicas of US guitars or starting to design their own styles based on those designs. The 60's had been a mad house of inventive design and wonderful ideas but by the early 70's the market wanted more conservative designs based on the big 2 and Japan was happy to fill the void of guitars that looked like their more expensive siblings without the high cost involved in owning one.

Production and materials improved greatly throughout the 70's and moved that "made in Japan" label from "cheap plywood guitars" to well made copies at very affordable prices. By the late 70's brands like Greco were offering a huge range of Gibson and Fender copies including some models no longer made by these companies, essentially making "re-issues" before the actual companies did.

 

Late 70's Greco Fender copies were getting exceptionally close to "the real thing" and the company spent a lot of time, and money reverse engineering actual vintage Fenders in an attempt to get their guitars closer to them. They worked closely with companies like Maxon were more than happy to advance their pickups to represent as close as possible actual Fender products. 

By 1980 Fender was getting worried. Really worried, and they approached Japan in '81 they thought if we can't compete with these Japanese manufacturers, lets get them to make our stuff for us so we can at least make some money from them.

Several high ranking employees of Fender went to Japan to start negotiations with brands like Tokai, Greco and Fernandes. After several months of negotiations Greco was chosen as the new manufacturer of official Fender products in Japan, or to be more precise a deal between Kanda Shokai, Yamano Gakkiwas and Fender was agreed upon in March 1982. Kanda Shokai owned the brand name Greco and was a wholesaler who got guitars builot by several factories including the amazing FijiGen Gakki who made this particular guitar here.

FujiGen made incredible guitars for many different brands for both domestic market and export and once the deal with Fender was done, Greco would stop production of Fender copy guitars and they would be sold as Fender. The Fender deal was a licence deal giving Fender a payment for every guitar sold with it's name on it. Although the deal ran from 1982 to 2015 FujiGen only made guitars for Fender until 1996 when Tokai, who were originally considered to make Fender products took over with Dyna. 

So, this Greco Tele Thinline here was made by FujiGen in May 1980 and was the type of guitar Fender employees would have seen this factory make and made them decide to use them to make "real" Fenders. 

This is a hollowed out ash body made like an original Thinline with a solid Tele body being hollowed out from the back and a cap glued on to seal it. Thinlines have a centre block and are really more of a weight relieved Tele to bring the weight of the ash Fender was buying to acceptable "Tele levels" They added an F hole to show it was indeed hollow.

This has the 25.5" (earlier Greco Fender copies were Gibson scale) scale maple neck in a nice thin but not too think Tele profile with medium frets. For all intents and purposes these late 70's early 80's Greco Fender copies feel and look much like .... late 70's Fenders. 

The pickups in these were made by Maxon and are some of my favourite WRHB copies. While none of the Japanese (or Mexican) WRHBs follow the original design and construction I find these Maxons (and early FJ) ones to be very nice pickups. Not exactly WRHBs, but not far off and really nice pickups in their own right.

All the electronics in this are original including the 3 way switch and everything works well. The tuners have been changed to Gotoh sealed gear tuners leaving 6 holes from the old ones but these are older Gotoh tuners so probably done closer to this guitar being new. The knobs are I believe not original as all the ones I've seen like this have the flat top Tele knobs.  

 

This is a really nice vintage Thinline and although it's been played, it hasn't been abused. It has some scars and marks but nothing deep and shows it's been played but looked after.

Greco Fender copies from this period just before Fender took over are great vintage "Fenders" at affordable prices for what you get. Once Fender took over they dropped a lot of the models in favour of the more common Tele and Strat versions and eventually re-introduced some of these models, which Fender had dropped from the catalogue due to poor sales. 

I've always loved these say, '79 to '81 (lets face it I love most years) Grecos as they're cheaper than a JV or SQ (and even E series now) Fender and essentially the same guitar but a couple of years older. This one is on the site/in the shop now if you're interested. 

Jun 10 2020 Written By: Tim Brennan