In the Beginning…Early 1960s St. Moritz Japanese Electric Guitar


Oh boy, here’s one of the earliest Japanese imports to cross the ocean.  I’m thinking like 1962-63.  Why do I say this?  Well, there’s a certain crudeness with this guitar.  It’s hard to explain, but as always I’ll try.  There are certain components on this guitar that I’ve never seen anywhere else.  The tailpiece is rarely seen, the 4×2 headstock is rarely seen outside of Teisco, and pick guard I have never seen, and the truss rod is a design unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  It was like this guitar was someone’s very first attempt at an electric guitar.  One very similar to this is pictured in the great Japanese book, Bizarre Guitars of the 60s.

So check out that headstock!  This definitely predates the Teisco design of a few years later.  So in a way, this guitar is historic!!  The St. Moritz name belonged to Manahttan Novelty Corporation, and was applied to some very early imports.  This name and the guitars are very rarely seen, and most all the St. Moritz guitars I’ve come across are really strange and a little crude.  Definitely need lots of work!!  This poor old guitar sat in a basement in NYC for 50 or so years, and I bought it at a yard sale, or tag sale, or garage sale depending on your locale.

I still haven’t been able to figure out who produced this guitar, and I may never figure it out.  Nothing about this guitar matches anything else I’ve ever seen, and is unlike any other St. Moritz I’ve ever seen.  So in this way it stands alone, so to speak.  I know that back in the early 60s, as demand for electric guitars was starting to grow, factories that had previously been making shoes, barrels, and cabinets had entered the Japanese guitar market.  This guitar probably came from an odd factory like that.  There was also a rather big mistake made on this guitar, and if you read my last post on the Valiant guitar, consider this the sequel…

Check out the bridge location AGAIN!!!  OK, over the past few years I have bought approximately 200 vintage Japanese guitars.  What I do is buy em, take em apart, fix em up, and sell em off.  I don’t make much money from this venture (often I just break even), but I do learn through observation, and I have observed that some of the very earliest imports suffered from various ailments like this.  I mean, if the designers didn’t understand scale length and intonation, how were they ever going to understand neck angles and string break-over angles, and other small details that make a guitar playable.  This was the unfortunate downside to many of these guitar in the early 1960s.  And once again, imagine the poor chump who got this guitar and was never able to make it sound like anything even remotely good!!  The bridge on this guitar was once AGAIN a full inch off, and the pick guard has a cut-out for the bridge, so it wasn’t as easy to turn this guitar into a player.  But even though it wasn’t’ easy, we did it out of……well…..we just did it!

On the plus side, this guitar has one of the nicest necks ever!  It has a full, sharp V shape like I just love.  I don’t dig skinny necks, and the neck on this guitar really feels wonderful in my hand.  Also the finish has held up rather well.  As for the electronics, the pickup reads out strong and the wiring was very well done.  The wood parts of this guitar were probably made at one factory, and then had the electronics attached at another factory.  Or, the electronics came pre-made/wired.  I’m sure we’ll never know…


So there you have it.  This relic represents the beginnings of some long-forgotten company in Japan, probably filled with expert craftsmen but having little to no knowledge of electric guitars.  This was the norm for that time, and it’s sort of cool that we still have these examples floating around.  At least the headstock design was interesting enough to replicated on a mass scale in Teisco guitars.





8 thoughts on “In the Beginning…Early 1960s St. Moritz Japanese Electric Guitar

  1. b.martin says:

    Yes, the old MIJ guitars are fun, I had a Pender MIJ guitar and all the fret marker were off by one fret 4th, 6th etc. but it had a real funky sound.

  2. Robert McGuire says:

    I’ve got an early st. Moritz ge-4 half size acoustic I’m trying to find out a little about if anyone knows anything about this guitar please let me know, I have searched and not seen this guitar or found any information on it

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      St. Moritz was the brand name used by Manhattan Novelty in NYC. They imported basic, beginner guitars and the fact that you have a survivor is kinda amazing. Your guitar was most likely made in Japan, but tracing the original factory would be hard. Your guitar most likely dates from 1964, give or take.

  3. Paul Carrigg says:

    Wow, just been given what I believe to be a St Moritz. Same headstock and machine heads. The harmonic adjustment is moulded into the bridge. 2 pickups and tremolo tailpiece with a cover thats difficult to remove to change strings. The St Moritz logo at the headstock is missing. Model number is MJ-2L serial number is 114845. This is one cool guitar. Any chance of finding a headstock logo?

  4. Paul Carrigg says:

    Ive just seen a photo of a Tiesco and noticed it had the same striped silver scratch plate. Could it be a Tiesco?

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