Late 60's Tempo solidbody

This one came in for some work recently and although I've worked on a few Tempos I realized I've never written about them on my blog so, here we go.

Tempo as a brand is actually quite early dating back to the late 40's based in NYC. Although catalogues and info shows they made, or at least sold a reasonable archtop guitar accompanied with an amplifier the trail seems to go cold in the mid 50's until the brand reappeared on guitars imported from Japan in the mid 60's.

Like many brands being imported Tempo used whatever factory could supply what they needed. Early Tempo guitars appear to be Matsumoku made with one model being the Victor/Nivico model I've written about before with different scratchplate and pickups. 

Throughout the mid sixties Tempo guitars appeared to mainly be sourced from the Matsumoku factory and shapes followed many of the brands common to this factory like Aria although some of the lower end models may have been made by Sakai. 


This guitar here shows all the signs of being made by Kawai after the Teisco takeover in '67 and probably falls into a period of '68/69 ish with the hardware and features.

This has the same square pole pickups as many mid/late 60's Teisco guitars and these are great pickups with a great frequency response. These pickups tend to vary somewhat in output with no real indication of why or if lower models got lesser output (less wire, less time, cheaper to make) but I'm a fan of these pickups in all their forms as I've written many times in this blog.

The vibrato is the same as the Kawai SEN (and many other Kawais) I have written about and interestingly has similar pickups and scratchplate to the ELK in the same blog which (possibly) was made by, or at least had hardware from  Teisco-Gen-Gakki showing the crossover these factories had before Kawai abandoned the Teisco factory completely. You rarely see Teisco guitars with this vibrato and this guitar has the common late 60's Teisco bridge pointing once again the that post Kawai takeover Teisco. 


The neck and fretboard are typical Kawai of the period also but with a more "Fender" headstock probably for marketing to territories outside of Japan as Tempo was aimed squarely at the US and surprisingly (or not) Australian markets. 

The Tempo guitars marketed to Australia tended to have the RM logo attached to the Tempo name as they were distributed here through Rose Morris in Melbourne. Tempo guitars in the US didn't have the RM attachment as they were distributed by Tempo-Merson who joined with Unicord in the 60's.

The body on this is laminated and is quite large with a GREAT shape and feel. The contours fit well and the neck is thin and very playable. Those pickups work well when set up properly and overall this is a really nice lower end guitar that RM would have sold to guitar shops around the country in '69 to the early 70's. Tempo seems to have disappeared by '74/75 and this was around the time that import duties were dropped (or greatly reduced) here and the market was flooded with "cheap Japanese guitars and amps"

There are a few Tempo branded amps around too which were mainly solid state and may have been made (at least for the Australian market) by Coronet. 

Jun 25 2020 Written By: Tim Brennan