Groceries and Guitars: 1960s Crestwood Japanese Electric Guitar

Oh boy, this one’s a doozy.  Let me tell you something straight off, trying to research guitars like this is truly maddening.  Fun, but mostly maddening.  I’m not sure why I try sometimes, but right now I just can’t help it!  Check this out:

That darn ol’ nameplate right there is a hard one to pin down.  I mean, it clearly says “Crestwood” and it hasn’t fallen off, so what’s the big deal?  Right?  Well, that Crestwood name has appeared all over the place and for some odd reason over the years was really popular, even today.  Just doing a quick search you’ll find at least two versions of the Epiphone Crestwood electric guitar (which is totally unrelated to this guitar and it’s Crestwood name).  Search a little further and you’ll find there are new guitars being made with the Crestwood name (cheap Strat copies and totally unrelated to this guitar).  Search a little more and you’ll probably see a reference to Jack White of the White Stripes and his “1970s era Crestwood Astral II” (MAYBE related, but his is probably from the late 60s).

But you can’t stop there!  Of course, I can’t!  I’ve found violin basses, Les Paul copies (even a gold top!), nylon string acoustics, steel string acoustics, hollow bodies, mandolins, banjos, and fuzz boxes all bearing the Crestwood name!  And you know, I don’t think any TWO of them came out of the same factory in Japan!!  This is the problem with badged imported guitars of the 1960s.  There were so many badges, sold through so many forgotten outlets, bought through so many distributors, shipped through so many importers, that it’s just about impossible to figure out.

Well, at least we know this guitar was made in Japan.  I believe there were at least two or three types of electric guitars bearing the Crestwood badge during the guitar boom of the 1960s.  What I do know is that La Playa Distribution of Detroit imported Crestwood guitars (probably not this one).  There were Crestwood guitars made by Guyatone (not this one), and Crestwood guitars similar to the 1960s Ibanez guitars (not this one), and then there were Kawai made guitars with the Crestwood name (probably this one).  There is even reference to a Milwaukee WI grocery store named Sentry Foods, who had a bakery division named Crestwood in West Allis Wisconsin.  Well, apparently that Crestwood name was also used on guitars and banjos sold right in the grocery store aisles!!!!!!!!  Could you friggin’ imagine?!?!

When I was a kid the local IGA had crummy Funk and Wagnall’s encyclopedias!  And my family somehow missed out on that one book and never even had a complete set! I even remember it was book number 22! Occasionally they had some commemorative plate sets, and maybe some pots and pans as “special” merchandise.  That IGA also had the WORST toys ever!  I didn’t even venture into the “toy” section, and I was a toy FREAK!  BUT I NEVER SAW A GUITAR!!  Geez man, I would’ve NEVER whined to my mom when I had to go grocery shopping!  Now I’m not saying this guitar here was sold out of Sentry foods, but guitars in grocery stores DID HAPPEN!!  And all you people who call the 60s the era of your childhood, and happened to be aspiring guitarists during the 60s, all I can say is YOU LUCKY %$#&!@*@#s!!!!!!

OK, I took a couple deep breaths.  So I really love this guitar.  It plays so nicely and no matter what gauge strings I use, the strings always have this “slinky” feeling and playing this one is really effortless.  The pickups are strong (MIC #1 bridge 4.90K, MIC #2 is 4.99k, MIC #3 is 4.93k, and MIC #4 is 5.07k).  Plus this guitar has the wonderful series wiring so when all pickups are turned on the output is 19.15K!!!!!  This one has a nicely shaped one-peice neck with a working truss rod, a respectable tremolo system, and nicely contoured body, stable tuners, chrome flashiness, and neck binding.  What else could a kid ask for? Dano also gave this one a re-fret and worked out a few kinks in the wiring.  I also put a replacement trem arm on here to round out everything.

I really like these types of neck joints.  They’re typically tight and don’t allow for much side to side movement.  I’ve seen these same neck joints before, and I believe the Domino Baron I had years ago had the same neck joint.  I think that neck joint is telling of the maker, but I can’t say for sure as of yet.

So there you have it kiddies.  Another great little guitar, possibly from a grocery store!  I have seen one other version of this exact guitar.  It was a two-pickup version with a slightly different pick guard, and if I remember correctly the two pickups were at the neck, and not at the bridge.  That was a weird design.  There’s probably one and two and three pickup versions sitting in closets all over the US right now!  Listen to Mike Dugan play mine and maybe you’ll want to crack open that chipboard case!

And I’d love to hear from people regarding where they bought their guitars in the 1960s!

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26 thoughts on “Groceries and Guitars: 1960s Crestwood Japanese Electric Guitar

  1. Ryk Wilkinson says:

    Hi.. I have the same guitar in cream. Too bad the headstock was nearly snapped off, and the logo missing. I think you are right linking it to a Domino Baron. Except for minor control layout differences, it’s nearly identical. I’ve been looking at that headstock break and it looks too hard
    to fix. (at least for me.) The break is right thru the truss rod cavity. Maybe I should think about
    getting it fixed by a pro. I’ve been waiting for a natural finish Domino neck to show up on ebay
    No luck yet. Also, Kawai as you indicated is correct. It seems that the Domino brand was related to Kawai. As a curator of a collection of mostly 60’s Japanese oddities I look forward to your articles. Ryk
    PS.. One exception to the grocery store cheesey toys was the James Bond Attache case. It
    was flimsy, BUT Cool.

      1. Brian McCollum says:

        I purchased one recently very similar to this. It too has 4 pickups. what remains of the model says “axie IV” Which I believe means Galaxie 4 pickup. Anyway to get switch parts?

  2. Larry Reichard says:

    Wow! I have been trying to find information on a similar Crestwood for years. My Crestwood like much like this 4-pickup version except mine has only two pickup. It is also candy apple red like yours. I purchased it around 1966-67. Can you give me any other specs, current value, or anything else on my Crestwood. It would be greatly appreciated. I would be happy to send pictures if you like.

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      Hi man, the Crestwood name was used throughout the 60s on many different guitars. I’ve seen many different logo styles and many different guitar styles. These are short scale guitars, and prices are all over the place. Where did you buy yours from?

      1. Ed Barriager says:

        I was just trying to find out about this Guitar I got at a garage sale. And then I stumbled on to this site. I have exactly the one same one as pictured above! How cool is that. I was trying to see what the appraisal was on such a guitar. But dang does that video make it sound good! Making me wished I knew how to play.

  3. Gary Hughes says:

    I have an old guitar that looks vaguely similar to yours that I have been trying to identify for ages. Someone once told me that It was made by a garage company called Kenso which was one of four companies which merged to become Ibanez guitars. I have been unable to confirm this and can find no reference anywhere to a company named Kenso. I am hoping this may help you, or if it is incorrect, then maybe you can add some information for me. It has no identifying marks at all. The best description I can give is a headstock similar to an early Fender Bass, a body similar to an S.G. Gibson. It has three pickups which I can’t identify at all, each with it’s own switch located above the stings, a smaller switch below and two pots under the bridge. The bridge itself is exactly the same as the one depicted on your guitar. The scratch plate is made of chrome-plated steel. It is finished in a sunburst paint job.

  4. Joe McCullar says:

    I had a red Crestwood 4 pickup very similar except mine had asymmetrical cutaway’s. It looked identical to a Domino Baron. I bought it new around 1965 or so at Columbia Music on Market St in San Francisco. I think the price was $55. I don’t recall what the R/S switch was for – rhythm / solo ?

  5. Chuck Martin says:

    I just bought the identical guitar at a pawn shop in Gainesville Fl for $440. It plays and sounds great. But mine too is missing tremelo arm. How did you find a replacement?

  6. Randall Felske says:

    I’ve actually got a twelve string electric Crestwood, don’t know what year. The body is shaped similar to yours, with two pickups. The headstock is similar to the Fender XII, looks like a smurf hat to me. I guess they called it a hockey stick. I can not find any info at all on a Crestwood 12 string electric. Any suggestions as to where I should look? Thanks! -Randy

      1. Randall Felske says:

        Hi. How would I send pics of my Crestwood 12 string electric? I’m not much of a computer whiz. Thanks! -Randy

  7. Joshua says:

    I inherited a guitar from my great grandmother some years ago but it was in bad shape so I put it aside and never messed with it. I recently pulled it out remembering that I could NEVER find a seriel or model number so I had idea what the guitar was other than it said crestwood on it and was very old. I stumbled accross this article and realized it is the same as your! Not entirely though… Mine is a 12 string, and only has 2 single coil pickups. I am in the process of restoring it but I hoped you could help me little…and i hope you still read comments on here as the last one was a while ago 😦 your my only option)….My wiring is all bad and not setup correctly (i dont know who tampered with it) but it will not play when plugged in and I understand most electric basics about guitar but I cannot understand everything to do with these MIC1 and MIC2 switches. I hoped you could take a photo of your wiring and post it or send it to me so I may setup this nice peice of history correctly. please reply or send me a direct email at jtaylor330@gmail.com If you would like I could also send you pics of mine before and after I restore it.

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      Huh, I believe that is/was my guitar once upon a time! It’s a Speigel guitar sold here in the states, through a department store. SImilar to the Crestwood but not exact. I have the information on my guitars page

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