Those of you who know me well will know how obsessed I used to be with Mosrites. I still think they're the greatest looking, playing and sounding guitar ever made, but I don't really obsess over them like I used. Mainly because they are too expensive to collect now, but also "cupidity collectors" and sites that encourage it have taken all the fun out of it. It's almost impossible to get that crazy deal you got from a lead of a friend who knew a guy who's brother "has a guitar" ....
Because I was so obsessed with Mosrites I also loved all the amazing and crazy copies and influenced guitars out there, especially the ones from Japan in the 60's and 70's, where Mosrites were held in the highest reguard, mainly because of the Ventures, but also because they just loved the way they sounded and looked. Inspired guitars like Tokai Hummingbirds and Excetro were always high on my list along with Guyatone, Suzuki, Teisco, Ibanez, Sakai and we had the, seemingly out of place Onxy Mosrite copy here in Australia. I loved 'em all.
Zen On are one of the older Japanese music companies going all the way back to the 1930's and were one of the first companies to jump on the "guitar boom" in the 50's. Mainly making acoustic and hollow body electrics they started a lucrative export/import business with the US for these early models. By the mid 60's Zen On electrics were available in department stores and catalogues throughout the US under several different brand names.
In around 1967, at the height of the guitar boom in Japan Zen On started making a Mosrite copy for the domestic market called a Morales, named after a popular wrestler of the time. There were MANY Japanese brands making Mosrite copies and Mosrite inspired guitars and around this time, after Teisco was sold off to Kawai, Firstman started making very close replicas of Mosrites and would, within a couple of years morph into "Mosrite Japan", which contrary to popular belief was not affiliated or endorsed by Mosrite in any way.
These Morales Mosrite copies are great examples of what Japan could make in the late 60's. Although not particularly "Mosrite" in feel or sound, they absolutely nailed the aesthetic.
I'm a huge fan of this early 60's style of German carve Semie was doing where the top half of the guitar blended almost seamlessly into the sides. It's a very "melted" German carve, which was dropped for a more defined carve in around '64 as it was probably too time consuming to do in the numbers Semie was building Ventures models in by this stage.
Zen On were famous for they're "offsets" with great wavy chrome metal scratchplates and great quality electronics but with this series they went for pure Mosrite in looks.
These are HEAVY timber bodies. Much heavier than real Mosrites but the shape and curves are all exactly the same. These, like so many Japanese copies must have been traced directly off real Mosrites.
The necks use the regular Zen On multi laminate construction, which is VERY strong and stable and nice quality (big dot marker) rosewood fretboards. The necks, while being copied from Mosrite are thicker and rounder, more like late 60's Mosrites but still utilise the zero fret (which I LOVE) and the volute (which I also love) and a "melted" Mosriotish headstock without the M cut in the end. The headstock angle and construction is the same as a real Mosrite. These guitars also have an 8 bolt (count 'em) neck attachment with 6 screws through the body and neck plate and 2 more under the neck pickup.
The pickups are amazing. These high output (10K) single coils at first glance appear to be Mosrite style, but they're strange pole piece construction and magnetic flux are MUCH stronger than original Mosrites and this, combined with the high output make them very thick and tough. Of all the more accurate Mosrite copies out there (I've owned hundreds over the years) these are the least Mosrite sounding, but are VERY cool sounding pickups.
The Vibratos are heavy cast copies of the original Mosrite unit and here called a Vibra Matic. The top of the line version, as in the black one here has a Vibra Matic vibrato and roller bridge and Mosrite inspired spun knobs whereas the white one (middle model) has a slightly lighter Vibramatic vibrato which looks more like the original "sand cast" Vibramute from Mosrite in the early 60's and witch hat knobs. This version and the lower one, both had the end of the neck cut off through the last fret, as apposed to after the frets, like a real Mosrite? There was also a version with a Zen On branded cast vibrato with a big base plate in "approximately" the same shape and normal black cover humbuckers. The bodies and necks (apart from the last fret) appear to be the same throughout the range.
Controls are all standard Mosrite.
While these Morales Mosrite copies don't feel and sound like a real Mosrite, that's kind of what's great about them to me. If you love the look of a Mosrite, but can't come to terms with their little intricacies, copies like this look great, but play and feel more like a "real" guitar. Personally I love the small necks and frets and the original Mosrite single coils, but I love guitars like this because they look cool, but, in the case of these, sound (and hang) like a P-90 loaded Les Paul.
I've sold a lot of my Mosrite copy collection over the years 'cause I just don't play them any more, and guitars should be played. I still love some of the early Firstman/MJ made copies and more quirky things like the Aria Diamond (Univox Hi Flyer) copies, although they're more of an "inspired by" than a direct copy.
A lot of Japanese manufacturers made a lot of great Mosrite inspired guitars and while none of them are as nice as a good original, they all have their own qualities and of course look GREAT, 'cause, you know, they're like a Mosrite.
The black and white ones pictured here will be for sale in the shop from this Sunday as I don't need them and they're the two nicer examples I own. I will be putting more Mosrite inspired stuff up for sale as I get time to service them and make sure everything is working properly. More Morales info here.