Sometimes guitars are just so cool that you wonder what it must have been like to be a kid and see them hanging on the wall of a department store. I mean, there were guitars like this all over in the 1960s! These Kent guitars are so interesting to me and really deserve some recognition.
These Kent guitars were a real departure from what was being branded with the Kent name previously. These “700″ models had some really cool and tasteful features that were never seen before or since. These guitars just look classy! The inlaid “Kent” on the upper horn of the body, and the RACING STRIPES along the edges! There’s binding all over, and all kinds of shiny pearloid inlays on the neck, and headstock. And check out the flame figuring in the wood! That’s something not often seen on vintage Japanese guitars.
Apparently that neck plate is a tell-tale giveaway that it’s late 60s Kawai or Teisco built, and man, did they ever build some cool guitars during this period! The Kent 700 series came in all sorts of variations and prices, and here’s a quick rundown of 1968 specs and prices:
- 740 – Double pickup w/ Kent Tremolo $110, or with optional Bigsby for $165
- 741 – Triple pickup w/ Kent Tremolo $120
- 742 – Four pickup w/ Kent Tremolo $130
- 745 – 12 String Double Pickup $130
- 743 – Bass double pickup $120
- 744 – Electric Mandolin with single pickup $85
All guitars were available in left handed models for an extra $10 and available finishes were white, blonde, yellow sunburst, and cherry red. I have to laugh when I see online auctions claim that white was a “custom order” color and of course you should pay TWICE the amount for the “rare” custom shop Kent. HAHAHA!!! Curiously, Bigsby tremolos were offered on these guitars, but only on the yellow sunburst finish.
All the Kent tremolos had that bridge mute attached, and overall the Kent units are really effective. The tuners are serviceable and the pickups read out at 9.02k for the bridge and 9.17k for the neck. That’s some really good output! Unfortunately, the wiring scheme is not optimal or series and with both pickups on the output drops to 4.55k, so this is an example of less is more. Meaning, the two pickup model is the most desirable from a player’s standpoint. Plus when you see the four pickup model, the switches and knobs are really crammed onto the pick guard! There’s also a rhythm/solo switch, and I have to say it sounds better in the rhythm position. It just gives the guitar more oomph!
Notice the little “Kent” lettering on the pickups? There’s little tasteful (or tacky) touches like that all over! Strapping on one of these Kent 700 guitars is sort of different. Like, it feels like a semi-hollow body guitar at first. But the bodies are rather heavy and feel solid. In comparison, the necks are on the thin side. The bodies are 14″ wide and 19″ long, and the bodies are 1 3/8″ thick. Those horns are really pleasing to my eye, but the racing stripes are where it’s at! The 1968 Kent catalog described the styling as “Rally Stripes.” The stripes seem like strips of vinyl glued around the sides and then lacquered over, but I could be wrong about that. The stripes are definitely not made of wood!
Kent also hyped their “New” oval-shaped fingerboard. The text read:
“Completely new Kent fingerboard fits your hand like a glove….moves like a fine tuned Sting Ray! Fine rosewood with nickel-silver frets, on 3-piece neck of African mahogany and top grade maple. Positive-action neck adjusting rod is easy to reach. Try this fingerboard for size!”
Notice all the hot-rod imagery? The 1968 catalog was also high on beach parties and surfboards!
So basically you have a really cool looking guitar with all sorts of “hip” appointments, but I have to say when I got this guitar it was just about unplayable! The bridge had tilted forward, the frets were uneven, the neck was warped, and worst of all, the electronics just did absolutely no favors for the guitar’s sound! I wonder if anyone was upset after they brought one of these home? As usual, the volume pot values were too low (choking the output), and the tone switch cap further strangled some of the output. Lastly, the neck angle and fretboard radius had strings buzzing all over the place! Dano once again is the MAN when it comes to breathing life into these beauties and I’m not exaggerating when I say Dave is a miracle worker! Now this guitar could be played out on a nightly basis with no worries! I’m telling you people, check this guy out if you have an awesome guitar that plays a lot less than awesome!
So how do these sound? Well, after they’re dialed in, they sound GREAT!! Check out the video we did with Mike Dugan playing the Kent 740 through a vintage Ampeg Gemini I and a Fulltone OCD for some grit!