Turn Signal Pickups!! – 1965 Ralston/Fuji Japanese Electric Guitar

 

Here’s a nice little gem from the mid-60s.  Many people would take a look at this and think it was just another import, but hold that horse man!!  I want you to check something out.  Take a look at the pickups on this.

 

These skinny little buggers are flat out killers!!  They’re skinny and look like they belong on a vintage car, like old turn signals or something!?!?  Right?  One thing I find fascinating are pickup designs from the 1960s.  To use the Japanese as an example, the earlier designers didn’t really follow a template or flat out copy other designs.  Stuff like these pickups show some creativity and Japanese artistic aesthetic.  At least in my mind!  By the way, I really dislike the tremolo on this guitar.  It was a popular model found on many guitars, and it never works right!

 

I’m not sure who made this guitar, but these exact electronics did appear on Kawai guitars for a short time.  But this guitar isn’t Kawai made.  So it’s a good lesson regarding how guitars were built in Japan at this time.  One factory often made the wood portions (like the body and neck) and then another factory attached the electronics, which were often drop-in ready to go.  If you study the pickguard on this guitar, you’ll see it appear on numerous guitars and have numerous pickups attached.

 

A guitar like this can be had relatively cheaply, but be on the lookout for models without a truss rod.  They can be bears to set up!  This one had all the typical problems associated with vintage Japanese guitars.  The neck angle needed serious work, the truss rod needed serious work, the frets needed serious work, and the electronics needed a little work.  Happy Guitar Repair did everything this guitar needed, and it came out great!

 

I’ve seen these guitars labeled as “Fuji” and “Ralston” and probably others that I can’t remember at the moment.  This big bar string retainer is seen on quite a few other guitars, and it was a common accessory.  Notice how this guitar doesn’t have a zero fret?  That means the nut had to be cut properly for this thing to play right.  And you know what?  It wasn’t!  In fact, the nut slots were cut rather poorly.  But now that it’s all sorted out, man, what a player!

 

Check out these pickup readings: bridge=7.29k, middle=7.30k, neck=6.79k.  AND this guitar is wired in series so with all pickups turned on you get over 20k output!  Geez Louise!!  The Rhythm/Solo switch also adds a punch to the sound, but these switches can get funky and often need to be rebuilt.  On this guitar, you have to be sure the R/S switch is pressed down all the way or it can get weird.  There is a part of the video where you can hear this.  Anyway, check out the video with Mike Dugan wailing away on a Led Zeppelin tune.  I’ve been getting better at editing these videos!!

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13 thoughts on “Turn Signal Pickups!! – 1965 Ralston/Fuji Japanese Electric Guitar

  1. Thef Reebs says:

    just fitted one of these pick ups to my simon n patrick acoustic, rewired as the wiring was goosed but it sounds amazing, well chuffed. took it off an old guitar that was in the rubbish heap, cant believe the sound. nearly 60 year old, and still works a treat.

  2. Rob Riley says:

    I have this exsct same guitar, same color, same style switches, same everything. But mine only has 2 pickups. I’m trying to find information on it (like ehen was it made) but i can’t find another one that only has 2 pickups.

  3. Felix says:

    Is this for sale??? I was given this guitar on Christmas Day from my parents in ’65 and when I went away to college in 74, I never saw it again!!! This brought back many a good memory!!

    1. Brian says:

      Felix – I have a two pickup version of this guitar that I would sell – send me an email brian (at) multiversitycomics (dot) com and we can discuss!

  4. Gabe Tumbaga says:

    I picked up a guitar like this, but with 4 pickups, from a garage sale over the weekend for $30. I wish I could figure out more information about it. It looks like it says fender, but its written in font that’s different from the normal fender brand name. If anybody could tell me more info, or point me in the direction of a name/brand I could google, that would be awesome =)

    Here is a picture of it:

  5. Tim says:

    I just bought a one pick-up version here in Canada. The badge on the top says Canora. When I researched Canora guitars, I found the following. Hope this helps.

    “The vast majority of Canora guitars are Japanese made guitars that were imported in the early 60s through the 70s. Most were considered entry level guitars back then. Canora guitars were made by Guyatone and Suzuki Musical Instrument Manufacturing. A LOT of these guitars were made and distributed all through the western United States.`

  6. Ghanz Laroo says:

    Hi, I got ‘exactly’ the same gtar, but with FOUR pups, Same headstock, retainer, flipflops and tremolo (chrome covered). It was a classic burst color like Fender used, but I took all the paint of to natural.

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