Late 60's Firstman Barons
I've written plenty about several brands that came from the Teisco-Gen-Gakki factory in the late 60's including Firstman, Idol, Excetro and Honey, but this factory in fact made MANY more brands in it's time including some big names like Greco, Silvertone, Norma and Kent among many others. In it's time of manufacturing between 1962 and 1970 it was one of the biggest factories in Japan and up until the Kawai takeover of Teisco in early '67 this factory made almost all of the bodies and necks for Teisco guitars. Once Kawai bought out Teisco manufacturing of these parts was moved to Kawai and this factory began to struggle for work.
Quite a few Teisco employees left Kawai in early '67 and set up brands that were made in this factory and the most successful of these were Firstman, Idol, Excetro and Honey. While all of these brands, except Excetro would also make electronics in the form of amps, PAs, keyboards and pedals, with the decline of the guitar market in the late 60's all brands would disappear by 1970 except Firstman who struggled on with mainly electronics into the 70's.
It was of course Firstman who would, with the help of Kurokumo, who made necks for their Mosrite copies, start (illegally) using the Mosrite names in '69 on their Mosrite copies and turn into Mosrite Japan in the early 70's. The Mosrite Japan (and Fillmore) story is long and convoluted and will be the subject of several blogs one day when I can find time to finish them.
Until then, let's get back to Firstman.
Listed in catalogues of the time as either Firstman OR First man, most were a quality build from Teisco-Gen-Gakki's higher end manufacturing line. Like many Japanese factories they made guitars to suit prices for different brands. These 4 brands were all, at least at the start, high end products in very adventurous designs and nearly all hollowbody. While Firstman would make mainly more traditional double cutaway and violin style guitars and basses, Honey and Idol went to town with their designs and along with the Teisco branded guitars of the same period, made some of my favourite designs from this period.
While these can't really be called "traditional" as such they do have a very familiar aesthetic while still looking very ... different. They're very Ric inspired, which this company did a lot of, with hollow laminated bodies that always feel very "solid" with centre blocks in most, including these. These Barons are bound on the back to cover the cap (like Ric) and have a nice SGish kind of carve on the front with the vibrato recess, which again, is very Ric.
Necks are laminated (usually 3 piece) maple and are very Mosrite in feel and construction, leading me to think the necks on these were also made by Kurokumo and not Teisco-Gen-Gakki like the Idol/Honey equivalents, which feel different.These necks have a Mosrite headstock, with zero fret and volute and the tongue that runs under the neck pickup, although these necks hang even further out than a Mosrite more like a 60's Ric ending even with the body. It's a look I love on both Rics and these and there's no stability issues with the long tenon running back far enough for a 5 bolt neck plate and fitting really snugly in the long neck pocket.
These rosewood fretboards have inlays and are bound with triple binding which Mosrite Japan never did but the overall feel and look of these necks is VERY Mosrite and that headstock is pure Mosrite which is another reason why I think they were made by Kurokumo?
The hardware on these is pretty typical Teisco-Gen-Gakki of the time with most of the brands running different hardware, at least as far as pickups went. Some shared the vibrato in both long (seen here) and short versions. The bridge is typical Teisco-Gen-Gakki roller bridge as used on many of these guitars around this period.
The pickups are great sounding in both bass and guitar versions and similar ones were found on some Honey guitars, They have great output and frequency response and both guitar and bass versions have volume and tone for each pickup with a three way toggle for selection.
The body shape of these was originally a Firstman design but Greco (and other brands) did put their name on this guitar with similar hardware and a Greco version was made with the famous "Shrike pickups" (more on them soon) with sliders instead of pots for controls.
I think this body shape is actually VERY beautiful and evil at the same time. Those horns, which are symmetrical, are much angrier than an SG and the neck is offset in the cutaway toward the top more giving the bottom horn a slightly "bigger" look. The fretboard ending at the body gives this guitar a much more "expensive" look rather than having the neck set right into the body and it allows for a smaller body which both guitar and bass share. The bound diamond "F" holes really set off the shape beautifully.
These play well and sound great. As I said this factory could make great stuff and these ex Teisco brands coming from this factory between '67 and late '69 are some of my personal favourite guitars ever. I used to have quite a huge Firstman collection but have sold some recently but have kept a few of these and some other goodies, for now.
With Firstman going on to become Mosrite Japan they hold a special place in my heart and, I do love these Barons quite a lot.