Hey folks, here is a rather tame guitar for one of my postings, but it is one of the best playing guitars I’ve ever owned. As the 1970s rolled around the crazy Japanese designs of the 1960s disappeared in favor of straight copy guitars. You could argue that many of the 1960s Japanese designs were already copies of Mosrite, Burns, Hofner, and Eko guitars. But in the 1970s American guitars were being directly copied. So here we have one of the first examples, a Bruno Conquerer obviously copying a Gibson ES335.
So check this out, gone are the tiny two-way switches. Finally there’s a toggle to switch the pups. Knobs are in a familiar place, and overall the guitar presents really well just like a 335. Especially when you consider a first-time guitar player, or cost conscious parents. Hey, this was just as good as a 335! Imagine seeing Alvin Lee at Woodstock just tearing it up on a modified Gibson 335, and well, this guitar was just the ticket! Perhaps the most striking “upgrade” on this guitar are the humbucker pickups. Well, actually these were initially plain old single coils hiding under the covers (in a few years there would be real humbuckers there), but at least the look, and more importantly, the price was there!
Wow, an adjustable truss rod at the neck! And look at that familiar headstock design! People always talk about “lawsuit” guitars, like they were built to the exact specifications of the Gibson models. That wasn’t true at all. These guitars may have had the look but they didn’t sound the same and the construction wasn’t the same. At least not at this time in the early 70s. But the advantage of these Japanese guitars was they usually sounded good, and with some set-up work you could have a “play every day” instrument for a fraction of the price.
During the late 1960s, many of the Japanese manufacturers that had survived the guitar “crash” of 1968, had updated their factories and began to produce some good quality instruments. In the 70s, many of the Japanese guitar makers started to get big-time endorsers and some recognition as serious players in the guitar industry. Remember, this was also the time when “planned obsolescence” was the business model of many American companies. Gibson and Fender were producing some of the worst instruments in their history. As soon as the Japanese were making serious dents in sales, the infamous “lawsuit” happened.
If you’ve ever purchased a new import guitar today, and then compare it to an older model like this, you’d probably be very surprised. This Bruno Conquerer is built really well, and the components are fine for regular playing. Perhaps the biggest advantage of 1970s Japanese guitars is the bigger frets. The frets on this guitar are just great! Big and fat! Whenever I decide to keep a vintage Japanese guitar, I always get it re-fretted. Always. But this guitar didn’t need one, and that’s a nice, affordable option for playability. I always appreciate big frets!
So there you have it, an actual affordable, vintage guitar that played really well out of the factory, and plays even better with a little set-up work. My old neighbor was an old-time musician and amp tech. One of the first Fender certified techs on the east coast. He would always say “all the best guitars have already been made.” Get it? What he meant was there’s no need to buy a new guitar when good utility guitars like these are all over the place. I suppose you could argue that point, but I do find myself in that camp. By the way, this was one of Dano’s personal guitars, and it served him well for many years. Now it’s off to another player for many years of service. It’s like recycling! Mike Dugan played an interesting song for the demo, a Chicago tune! In the 80s I thought Chicago sucked! This tune is much earlier than the 80s Chicago stuff, and I dig this song! And then I put some Alvin Lee down there just for fun. Cheers!