Late 60s Kimberly 4 Pickup Greenburst Guitar and Kawai Greenburst Cousin

(Scroll all the way down for the video demos!!)

Today I’m going to talk today about one of my favorite Japanese guitars to ever cross the Pacific!  This Kimberly green burst guitar is often called the “Bison”, and although I have seen a vintage catalog from 1970 with this guitar, it’s simply called the “Deluxe 4 Pick-up Solid Body Electric Guitar”.  By the way, it cost $44.95 new and an optional case was an extra $8.95.  That’s a bargain!

I bought my first Kimberly in the 90s and simply fell in love with it’s exaggerated horns, the color, and the four pickups (I’m all about any guitar with four pickups!).  It took me a while to notice, but these green burst guitars were styled after the Eko Kadett guitars from Italy.  The Japanese really hurt the Italian companies of the time since they copied a lot of the Italian designs!  Anyway, when I got it home it needed all kinds of work, particularly with string alignment and some wiring work.  Although I have to admit these are some of the better made guitars from the era, and the wiring was pretty clean. Then about a year ago I bought a second one that was so interesting I had to drive to Brooklyn to get it!  This one was labeled Kawai and gave me some direction for my research.

Before I get into these two guitars, let’s start with the Kawai company.  The Kawai company has been in the game since the beginning.  Common knowledge goes like this; Kawai started building their own guitars in 1956 and eventually purchased Teisco in 1967.  The Teisco brand died off by 1973 but Kawai continued to build and import some cool guitars like the Moonsault.  Kimberly guitars were found in Lafayette Catalogs which was an electronics retailer with stores all over the east coast and were based in New York.  I’ve seen the 4 pickup greenburst in a 1970 and 1973 Lafayette catalog.  I’ve also seen this same body shape in different colors (sunburst and redburst), different pickup configurations (one and two pickups), and different brand names (Sekova, Clear Sound).

I always believed the greenburst guitars only came with 4 pickups, until I came upon this Kawai branded jewel! In all my years, I’ve never seen a Kawai version!

It has to be rare, and the Kawai branded guitar was probably the very first version, or the very last.  I can’t decide!  Either way, I think it’s safe to assume that all these long-horned burst guitars were made by Kawai in the late 60s and early 70s.  Let’s compare!

The Kimberly

The Kawai

Both bodies, headstocks, finishes, and neck shapes are identical.  Also identical are components like neck plates (rectangular, no text), string retainers, and strap buttons. Both have zero frets.  The pickguards are identical except that the Kimberly floral pattern is gold and the Kawai is silver/white.  The tuners are also identical except for the white plastic buttons and ferrules on the Kimberly and the metal buttons and ferrules on the Kawai.

The Kimberly

The Kawai

Now the differences!  Both guitars have a similar tremolo system, but I’ve often wondered which tremolo design was earlier?  Can you date a 60s Japanese guitar based on the tremolo?  Probably.  I think the Kawai tremolo is earlier.  Also both guitars have roller bridges but they are different in design, and again, which design came first?  My research points to the Kawai labeled guitar.  The knobs are plastic on the Kimberly and metal on the Kawai.  The switches are both white but the Kawai has those bigger slider switches whereas the Kimberly has the smaller switches.

And then the pickups!!!!  This is definitely the strong point of these guitars.  In the Kimberly, the pickups are the famous Gold Foil pups that all read in the mid 4k.  But the wiring is series, meaning that the output increases as you switch on the pickups.  For instance, with only the bridge pup turned on, the output is 4.57k.  Add the second pup and it goes to 9.17k!  Add the third pup and it flies to 13.77k!!! And with the neck pup turned on the output is a whopping 18.43k, which is a lot of output for a 60s Japanese guitar!!  AND these pups handle fuzz and high gain pretty well!  Looking at the Kawai guitar, the pickups are unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.  They resemble mini-humbuckers but they are some robust single coil pickups.  But here’s where it gets cool. . .the bridge pup on the Kawai reads out at 4.91k!  That’s a hot tamale!  The neck also reads at 4.91k!  But again, like the Kimberly, the wiring scheme is series so when both pickups are switched on, the output jumps to 9.82k!!  This is like the hidden secret of some really cool Japanese guitars!!  Dano sort of discovered this and actually made diagrams of the wiring so he could replicate it if need be.  The Kawai pickups sound very strong, and also take fuzz and high gain applications very well!  It seems to me that these early Kawai pickups look like the later Teisco Spectrum pickups.  The ones that have that “treble” and “bass” sides (which by the way don’t sound all that great).

Kawai Pickups- they sound so great!

The necks are also a little different.  The back of the Kimberly neck has the greenburst finish, but the Kawai neck is a plain natural finish.  The Kawai neck has triple binding (!!!) and larger fret markers.  I have a green sparkle Tele Star guitar with the same large fret markers.  Lastly, the headstock of the Kawai has a wood grain appearance but the Kimberly has the greenburst finish.

The Kawai neck

So whaddya tink?  Don’t be shy, come on up front and add your knowledge!  Do you know which guitar is older?  Do you own one of these?  Do you love them?  Of course you do.  One last note, I’ve seen a Teisco ET220 with many similarities to the Kawai green burst.  And check out the videos below!  Mike Dugan is doing all the playing!

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49 thoughts on “Late 60s Kimberly 4 Pickup Greenburst Guitar and Kawai Greenburst Cousin

  1. I have a green burst 4 pick up Kimberly guitar, from 1971 in excellent condition. I am the original owner. I was wondering what the approx value of it is. It appears to be the guitar being used in the last video. Thanks for an infor you might be able to provide.

  2. Hi i own a greenburts 4 pick up kimberly and i’d like to know what is a good setting of it. I know you are a great experienced person.
    Thank you for your kindness
    Leo

  3. Hey there, I own a Kimberly “Bison” gold foil identical to the Kimberly in the videos. I made two minor mods
    1) removed the roller bridge and fitted a gold Tune-Omatic in place; I still have the original bridge and can easily swap it back but the Gibson style bridge works great.
    2) waxed all four pickups in parafin with a little bit of beeswax to clean up the noise from microphonics.
    Both of these *minor* mods were big gambles I thought, but they both turned out awesome even though I was hesitant about possibly damaging the brilliant emerald finish, plus the additonal gold hardware plus a little bit of wood from the rosewood bridge mount add to the design.

    I have heard that the pickguards were handpainted, have you heard of this before? Also, what do you think about the roller bridge? I thought it was kinda weird to be able to adjust string spacing but not the string height? That and the weird zero fret are about the only technical flaws, but the beauty and sound make up for it!

    • First off, thanks for the comment and checking out the site. I give you a lot of props for taking the time to fix up your old Kimberly, I feel they’re totally worth it, even with all the quirks you mention. If you think about it, there are pretty many weird designs, even among established American guitars companies. I think of some of the Gretsch bridges, same issues as the Kimberly! I don’t think the pickguards are handpainted, but I won’t say for sure. Wax potting the pickups always works well! Cheers man!

  4. hola mi nombre es Blas, y tengo una kimberly, (me la regalaron cuando aprendí a tocar la guitarra) no tenia idea de cual era su prosedencia ni de su valor… ni siquiera de que época era!. Creo que la Kimberly es posterior a la Kawai pero no hay mucha información sobre estos instrumentos… Gracias por la info Saludos.

      • Hola a todos….poseo una igual en republica dominicana,pero casi no la uso,si alguien esta interesado podria estar en venta,gracias…..muy bella guitarra!!!

  5. Sitting in my attic is….a 1966 Kimberly 4 pickup guitar just like yours in a more traditional sunburst finish! It was my very first electric guitar- and currently it needs some TLC and re-assembly as I messed around with it after getting my first Les Paul in 1970. I had been trying to find info on this guitar for years- and today I stumbled across your GREAT page! I couldn’t believe it- there was my guitar -albeit in a different color and a bit newerr. I am now inspired to get my old Kimberly back into playing condition. It was a gift from my grandfather, who had faith in my ability to some day have some kind of legit career in music (which I do). I owe it to him to bring this guitar “back from the dead”. I just hope I still have all of the parts floating around in the cheap cardboard case that came with it!

    • Your story is exactly why I like writing this blog page! Check out the link to Dano Dave (www.danoshappyguitar.com) for any help you need in getting the Kimberly back to form, and thanks for commenting!

  6. hello i also have a kimberlyas the 1 used in the video. my father had it since back in the 70s still in good condition

  7. I have two Kimberly bison/apollo (or whatever they are called as I’ve heard them called both) guitars. One is the red and black 2 pickup model that I have had since my 9th birthday. The other is the green and black 4 pickup model which has been recently acquired. The headstock Kimberly sticker on the red and black one has gone missing over the years and I was wondering if there is somewhere that I can get a replacement. Thanks, Jay.

  8. Also the two guitars have stickers that are very different. The 2 pickup model’s sticker was horizontal and closer to the bottom of the headstock where it meets the neck and the writing was script in either silver or white( it’s been a long time). The 4 pickup model’s sticker is rectangular which is placed vertically and is closer to the other end of the headstock. Is this a method of dating the guitars? If so when were they manufactured? Thanks again, Jay

  9. Thanks so much for posting the information about this guitar. I recently acquired this guitar and had no idea what it was but just reading about it has gotten me excited about fixing it up!

  10. I cannot believe it.. My very first guitar was a Kimberley.. I thought unknown and maybe a knock-off of something else.. or even a training guitar ( I was just a kid when I found it), Of course I don’t have it now, but I just happened upon your page..Mine was a sunburst original.. 1966 or 67.. and I really wish I had it now! Thank you for the blast from the past..

  11. Just finished rehabbing a 4 pup Kimberly Greenburst. I used copper braid to tie the pickups together in series. It killed all the buzz. Dead quiet now. I kept it all original but found the pickguard screws kept stripping. Also the Vibretto screws. I had to dip them in wood putty then reset them. It holds like new and I can unscrew them. Better than glue. BTW changing the polarity of the number 2 and 3 pickups makes them act like humbuckers. Question – would it benefit from a bone nut or does the zero fret do it all? I play it through a Line 6 studio 110 bass amp for a killer total sound. I have a Kent 834 (violin type w/sg horn), with any 2 pickups on the Kimberly blows the Kent away. People stare when the greenburst makes a stage appearance. It has a killer “rockabilly” sound that no modern guitars can match! Thanks for this fantastic site.

  12. I have this exact Kimberly apollo 1969. It was my great grandfathers. I was in a dilemma about whether to sell it or not but just can’t sell it. It’s awesome and also has sentimental value. Cool page!

  13. I’m trying to replace the “gold foil” on an old teisco pick up. I can’t seem to find a soutce for that material. it’e more of a textured stamed tin or something…. any ideas? thanks!

  14. Bought one for 200$ on site, didn’t even try the electronics because it was so beautiful I knew I’d do whatever to fix it up, but it didn’t even need it, it sounds SOOOooo awesome!! I almost feel sorry for the ppl, I stol… er bought it from!! I actually made a gold and rosewood tune-o-matic bridge to make it more playable, but can be switched back to original in 10 mins.!!

  15. I have a 67 Wulirtzer hollowbody made in Italy that has pickups that look very similar to the Kawai. I know they aren’t the same, but perhaps Kawai copied them.

  16. hey drowninginguitars, i have a Kimberly guitar that looks just like yours, but with 2 pickups, made in japan.
    bought in for 140 on craigslist, sounds great, but the action is very high :)

  17. Hi, 16 and been looking for a Teisco/related guitar for quite some time now. During my latest search for a Teisco (I believe one of the ones I was looking at was actually listed by you!), I came across one of these 4-pickup beauties in that lovely greenburst and I had to have it. I’m wondering how the tuners function on these, and if they’re worth replacing with a cosmetically-similar Kluson set (I don’t plan on ever letting it go, so originality takes a back seat to functionality, for me)? Also, how does the trem stay in tune with heavy use?

    Thanks!

    • Well first, I think it’s awesome that you’re looking at these old crazy guitars. I did the exact same thing! But in all honesty, heavy use of the tremolo bars usually result in out of tune-age. You can tweak them to work better though. Not the worst, not the best. As far as tuners, it would be an excellent idea to upgrade. Most definitely.

    • How did you determine which Kluson tuners were the correct replacement. I saw some on Ebay that could be the ones. They are available in chrome or black. I saved a photo of them but don’t see a tab to upload it here.

  18. Hi,
    I saw your comment in the YouTube Demo Redux indicating the Kimberley 4 pickup was for sale? Is it available?

  19. I also have the 4 pickup Kimberly model. I acquired mine off of Craigslist and drove for an hour to the middle of nowhere at midnight to buy it(woke a friend of mine to drive with me). When I brought home to my boyfriend he and his friends laughed and said it was the dumbest thing he had ever seen. Another friend of ours came by and asked if he could play it. Let me tell you when my boyfriend heard it played he fell in love with it! He is a musician and has his favorite guitars that he plays but he proudly displays the Kimberly in his studio and plays it once in a while. It is worth the $200 I paid for it. I think it is one of the best sounding guitars we have. Our friend said it has the capability to sound like almost any other guitar made. I don’t think I have ever seen that shade of green on any other kind of guitar either. Brigitte

  20. Hi, great videos. I actually learned some songs from watching, and they brought back great memories. I was given a bison 2 pickup green burst used, for Christmas in 1972. I loved that guitar but tastes change and being a foolish kid, I traded it to a guy in 1976 who destroyed it on stage with an axe.. I was sick over it for about 20 years. Regret had haunted me. I just found one on ebay for 279.00/ make offer. I offered 200.00 and it is being shipped. It is also green burst but has 4 pups and a broken tuner. I also bought a set on NOS tuners from another seller. The Kimberly sticker is missing and I will have to get creative and try to reproduce one. I was wondering if you know what kind of finish is on these guitars. I may have to drop fill some chips. I am determined to restore this one and have it set up by the Guitar Guild in Williamsville NY asap. I currently have about 35-40 guitars at home. This one is going to have a home for the rest of my life. I want you to know how much you have inspired me, not only to find another Kimberly, but to get back into playing again. I went from 3 hours per day down to 3 hours per month. That is about to change.One day this as well as the rest of my collection will go to my Grandson who will be getting his first lesson this coming year. Please keep posting your great videos. You not only have great taste in guitars but in music as well. I could listen and watch all day. Thanks for any advice on the finish Poly/Nitro. Sincerely, Chuck

      • Okay, thanks so much for the reply. I’ll go with CA and a bit of carbon black and see if I get good results on an area that is not obvious. If it works out, I’ll tackle any remaining defects. I’ll let you know how it works out and what if anything was successful. Thanks once again, Chuck

  21. I have a pristine ’69 4 pickup greenburst along with the Lafayette (made by Univox) U65RN amp that was purchased with it by my late next-door neighbor and kept in a closet for the last 45 years. His sister gave them to me (along with his script logo Yamaha No. 150 classical) after he died a few years ago. I started playing guitar because he was the cool two-years-older-than-me guy who could play Spinning Wheel on an electric guitar!

    As for these two, the green (or red) burst Bisons and Apollos were ALWAYS made with necks that had a matching color treatment. My opinion is that the Kawai either has a neck from a different model or is a very late production guitar that was cobbled together from leftover parts at the factory.

  22. The Bison I purchased on ebay came in the mail and I ended up spending a couple weeks of spare time after work doing touch up. The deep chips on the lower bout were a pain to get “right” but I had success. I used CA to fill to just below finish surface and topped with….black nitro finger nail polish coats until it was just proud of the clean surrounding area. I let it sit for a week to see if the repair finish was going to shrink. If it did it wasn’t much. I carefully sanded to 3000 grit micro mesh, then buffed out to a gloss. If I had not been the person who did the repair, I wouldn’t be able to tell it had been touched up. No one has been able to tell me where any flaws used to be. Tonight I went back to ebay and spotted an original Kimberly headstock logo. I’m going to see if I can get it reproduced locally so if I can find anymore of these great guitars at a reasonable price, I can use them for restoration. The logo cost me 25 bucks, but it is a rare find and will complete the guitar. I’m still not sure of the original finish but the nitro fingernail polish (gloss black) worked extremely well and the blend between finishes in not detectable with the naked eye. You were right about the original finish not being Nitro but the nail polish I used was a great success. I would encourage anyone with basic skill to use this method. It took a lot of coats, and a lot of waiting between coats but the result was worth it. Thanks once again for the great advice and for keeping your website going. I’m looking forward to your book. I want to get a copy as soon as it is available. Chuck

  23. I have a Sekova Bison that was given to me recently by a friend who owned it since the early 70’s. It has the green finish with the matching neck and 2 p-ups. The biggest difference with the ones shown here, is that mine has a very unique looking head-stock. Very pointy, and unusual, although, I have seen ones like it on ebay. I am in the process of rebuilding and hope to have it going soon. Good Luck and PEACE

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