Late 60's Burns offset

Well, this one is rare bird indeed. 

Part of the fun of looking for these old Japanese guitars is seeing a blurry pic of an old catalogue or a small photo on the back of an LP with some weird guitar that you eventually find out is a ....

Once the internet opened up it made identifying this stuff a lot easier but every so often you have something there just isn't a lot of info about. Getting the Rittor Music book, Bizarre Guitars many years ago was a revelation, although sadly, this guitar is not in there.

 

Burns of Tokyo is one of those brands. I have some for sale in the shop but generally they are pretty hard to come by, especially the solid bodies and especially these solid bodies. 

Burns of Tokyo was a short lived brand that like First Man, Idol and Honey, sprung up after the Kawai buyout of Teisco in '67. All of these brands (and many more) used the Teisco Gen Gakki factory (NOT Teisco) to make guitars for them with their own brand name on the headstock. 

Unlike these other brands Burns was made specifically for a shop, the Hara Gakki Music store in Tokyo purely for the domestic market as, of course, Burns was already a registered guitar manufacturer in the UK. These Burns of Tokyo guitars actually weren't Burns of UK copies or inspired at all and in fact were more Gibson 335 and Gretsch influenced, although they did do a sharp cutaway model that was slightly Burns inspired. They also made acoustics as part of their early catalogue.

The brand only lasted from '67 to mid '69 so only caught the tail end of the guitar boom in Japan. 

 

Using Teisco Gen Gakki as their manufacturer meant that some hardware on some of the guitars was used on other brands also made by that factory and in fact, the cheaper end hollow bodies are the same guitar as other brands with a BURNS badge on the headstock. 

This guitar however doesn't seem to have been made under different brands but does share some hardware common to other models.

 Obviously heavily influenced by the offset craze the body is decidedly Yamaha SG2/3 in shape. It's a Fender offset influence with those great pointy, sharp horns like the Yamaha. It's a thick solid mahogany body and has contours front and back.  

The neck is pure Teisco Gen Gakki for the period and is made from laminated maple with a nice rosewood fretboard with a zero fret. The neck is thin and very comfortable and feels almost late sixties/early seventies Matsumoku but with that sharp neck heel contour used by this factory and the "Made in Japan" neck plate with the little point at the bottom. 

 

The neck is 24.75" scale and the headstock is, well, a Trini Lopez shape which actually works really well on this shape. 

The pickups are medium output ..... B-90's? They are humbucker sized, chrome covered P-90's but with big slug magnets. They have great output and frequency response and sound great in this set up.

The vibrato is pure offset and feels very smooth and stable. The bridge is a solid piece of design and engineering and has individual rollers for each saddle, like a Mosrite. 

The controls are basically Fender Jaguar without the top circuit. ON/OFF for each pickup and a tone choke switch. Master volume and tone and output jack on the very Jaguar chrome plate.

 

The guitar is well made and feels solid as this factory was very capable of by the late sixties. They made some very impressive guitars around this period for many different brands. Legend has it that one of the leading Japanese "group bands" The Spiders (made (in)famous in the west by Julian Copes Japrocksampler) were endorsed by Burns of Tokyo and used this very model. 

This guitar is 100% original and in great condition. It also has it's original hardcase (made of cardboard so not that hard) and strap and sales card. Like my Astrotone/Unitones, my NIVICO/JVCs (although I have sold some of them), some of my Teiscos, Guyatones, awwwww, well, I know I have a problem, I probably won't sell this one just yet. They VERY rarely come up for sale and I really do love it a lot. It plays and sounds great AND it looks AWESOME.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 14 2018 Written By: Tim Brennan