1960s Kawai-made Kingston Jag-ish Electric Guitar

Update: after further investigation, I've changed my mind on this and am suggesting that it's a Kawai build. Update #2: The owner has moved a bunch of stuff around and is selling this, now. I've re-done the pictures, information, and added a soundclip.

This came in for a setup yesterday and it sure is an oddball. I figure this is a mid-late 60s build and probably out of the (Japanese) Kawai factory. The body is solid mahogany (as is the neck) of some Asian source/type and the build and styling suggests this is perhaps a ripoff of a Fender Jaguar, though it's got some of that "Burns" look going on. The 23 5/8" scale makes this firmly a short-scale instrument and the 1 5/8" nut feels very 60s-contemporary. Ironically, the back-profile of the neck is an enormous U shape which makes this feel as unwieldy as a 20s parlor guitar -- in a cool way!

My setup was a little fraught with extra bugbears as I'd expected: a couple frets needed seating and tack-gluing, the bridge needed to be relocated (they're always in the wrong place on these old Japanese guitars), the jack needed some attention (and the electronics sprayed-out), the truss rod nut needed to be excavated from a too-small adjustment area (typical), and then all the other setup stuff came into play: nut adjustment, bridge intonation, shim up the neck angle, tighten up the tuners to the headstock, yadda yadda.

Update #3: I also just gave this a fresh fret level/dress so it plays happily with 3/32" E and 1/16" ADGBE as it should.

The bottom line is that after the work it plays very well and has that garage-band vintage microphonic sort of sound these old Japanese guitars are famous for. They sound awesome drenched in reverb. It's a shame the whammy bar is missing, but the knockoff Jazzmaster unit probably wouldn't be too successful anyway.

One design feature I like on these old guys are the one-piece bar string trees. Perfect idea. The truss access is a bit annoying, though, in that easy access is blocked by the retainer-bar.

Despite looking like a decent bit of rosewood, this fretboard is in fact rosewood-veneered laminate! Guh. I don't know why they did that (well, I do, it's cheap...) but it compromises neck stability on a lot of these. This one, fortunately, went "back to straight" after a truss adjustment.

Interestingly, slightly-earlier versions of these guitars had nice, big, slab rosewood boards.

There are two on-off sliders for the two single-coil pickups.

I also like the adjustable bridge. Even though I had to get the files out to fine-tune string-string height (it's setup for a radiused board, though the board on this is flat profile), it's amazing to have real adjustment at all on 60s Asian imports.

Some smart fellow replaced the (junk) original tuners with small Grover Rotomatics a while back. I'm not the biggest fan of Rotos (they're heavier), they're a significant upgrade compared to anything this came with.


Unknown said…
Oh man, I had one of these in the late '60s while in the Air Force. I bought it at a pawn shop outside the base at Wichita. The one I had actually had a name on it that said Kingston, but I know back in those days a lot of the Japanese guitars were marketed under different names. I actually have a picture of me playing this at a party & verified that it is the same guitar.

This brought back lots of memories!