Oh yeah, it’s a guitar. Shaped like a banjo. Remember that scene from the movie Deliverance? The dueling banjos? If I was in that scene, this is what I would’ve been playing. Straight through a cranked old Supro amp! I really wish I knew the designer of this guitar!
Well even though we’ll probably never be able to recognize the imagination of the original designer, we do know who produced this guitar….Kawai. Yes, this model was called the CB-2V (Concert Banjo) and was made by Kawai for only one short year in and around 1968. In fact, 1968 was an interesting year at Kawai. They had just bought up Teisco the year before. In 68 Kawai decided to update almost its entire electric guitar line, and several models such as the Flying Wedge and the Tiki Mask. Thankfully, this model didn’t have the same pickups as the Flying Wedge!! In fact, these pickups are really strong for this era of Kawai (pickups tended to get weaker as less and less wire was being used to wrap the coils, to cut costs).
These guitars are rarely seen in the states, but when they are seen they usually had the Winston brand name (or sticker residue). In Japan these were sold as “Concert” or “Splender”. The guitar is built really interestingly and has some cool features. Check out the triple neck binding! It also has the bridge mute which can be flipped up to get that, well, muted sound. The body was solid under the pick guard, but the large round guard really gives the appearance of a banjo. From a distance, it can be deceiving!
Flipping this guitar around really shows the Kawai flair for green burst paint schemes. I love green burst!! And Kawai was really good at this finish! The guitar feels small against your body, and you really need a strap to play this one, but amazingly it carries a 24″ scale. Pickups on this one read out at 5.67k at the bridge and 5.87k at the neck, and with the series wiring, a robust 10.95k worth of output can be had with both pickups turned on! Nice!
These bodies have some interesting edge carving and binding. They were built well! Even though these CB-2V guitars didn’t last long in the Kawai lineup, there was a lot of thought put into these. The edge carving is something Kawai did not use often, and to give the appearance of depth, there are several “levels” of carving all around the body. Additionally, the edges have this very thick binding that protects from edge dings. Also the back of the guitar has a slightly rounded profile rather than a flat one. At a time of cost cutting, Kawai seemed to put a great deal of resources into this model.
Even those little black plastic “stands” on the back of the headstock were put there so the guitar could be leaned against a wall or amp without rolling away! So in my mind, it begs the question, why make a guitar like this? I’m guessing that this was a crossover attempt to appeal to folk and bluegrass sensibilities that were becoming popular in the late 60s. Then again, who knows! Once again, the kind folks at Happy Guitar Repair did all the work on this one and got it playable. And Mike Dugan does all the playing in the video.