With a name like Astrotone, don’t you think these should be called the “real” George Jetson guitar?!?!? I mean, come on! Astrotone!! Riding the wave of Japanese import guitars of the 1960s, these seemed to arrive solely on the west coast because every one I’ve seen came from California. These two guitars represent some of the coolest styling ever to come out of Japan during the 60s. The wood bodies and necks were made at the Suzuki Violin factory in Nagoya City, Japan. And yes, it’s the same factory and Suzuki family more famous for their violins and method for teaching music! The company, like many wood factories of the time, jumped into guitar production for a short time in the mid-60s. I’ve owned many of these, but only recently did I notice the tiny differences between these guitars. Let’s compare!!!OK, so on both guitars we find plywood bodies, solid necks, zero frets, truss rods at the heel. Both guitars have surface mounted pickups, two pickup switches, a preset tone switch, and three knobs. But now look at the sharper cuts of the black guitar versus the smoother lines of the sunburst. Then check out the pick guards of the two…notice how the black guitar’s pickguard has a sharper point up there on the horn? And then check out the differences in body size. The sunburst one is bigger! How did I not notice these things before!?!?!So check out these two headstocks. See the subtle shape differences?Now check out the backs…
The build design is interesting because the pickguard hides the electronics and wiring (that in itself is pretty common) but normally the pickguard runs right up against the pickups so that there doesn’t have to be any drilling through the wood. But with these guitars there’s a gap there, between the pickups and the pick guard. I’ve also noticed that these came in white, black, and sunburst finishes.So there you have it, space car guitars from the 60s! Leroy Jetson would surely approve! I feel these Super Astrotone guitars are some of the finest sounding guitars from this time period, and I can’t quite explain why. This type of pickup is only found on these Atrotones, and the pickups always read out in the high 5k range. The black guitar reads at 5.73k and 5.46k, and the sunburst guitar reads at 5.96k and 5.32k. Both guitars are wired parallel. Check out the videos of Mike Dugan playing each one!
On the video below, I thought these were made by Kawai but later on found newer information.
27 thoughts on “The REAL George Jetson!! – 1960s Super Astrotone Electric Guitars”
Tres Cool! I’ve got two of these… one is identical to your sunburst. But the other, also a ‘burst, but with a full pickguard that encloses both pickups. It is a huge piece if metal, but style-wise, i like it better that these other smaller guards. I’ve yet to string these up and hear them- one has a dead neck pickup… 😦 I think the standout thing, is the necks! Each one has the different headstock shapes as well, one with “SUPER ASTROTONE”, one without. hmm….
Cool, send me some pics and I’ll post them here. email@example.com
Alright. Just saw this reply- I’ll get some pics of them ASAP!
I am looking at getting one of these but the neck is snapped in half. where would I find a neck for this or maybe what would bolt onto it?
My very first guitar was this sun burst astro tone. My parents got it for me back in 1973. Didnt know what i had! I recently discoverd it at the warehouse in some back room at my place of business. I always thought it was crap, but what did i know. So it was in its original case to. It hasnt been played on over 34 years. Had the original strings on it. So i got it set up with nice new strings and it sounds amazing!! I love it!!
My very first guitar was the sunburst version of this. My parents bought it for me in the mid ’60s in L.A. I’ve never seen one since–I’m surprised you actually have two of them.
That’s cool, thanks for commenting! Do you remember where they bought the guitar?
Wow just dug up this site again — sorry for the late reply. We got mine at Wallach’s Music City in West Covina. It was probably 1966-67.
Cool, thanks for sharing!
I have one of those!!!!! But its discolored 😦 and i’m trying to restore it to its original state but its so amazing!!!! I’m glad my dad got this guitar along time ago!!! And by the way on one of those guitars you don’t have the original tuners just saying but it would look great if it had all of the original parts
I recently just picked one up for about $400 and it is incredible! It is missing the whammy bar though, would you happen to know where I might be able to find one for sale? I have tried ebay, but it has come short.
Hey Nathan, those arms are just about impossible to find. Very rare… you’d be better off retrofitting something else if you want to use the guitar a lot.
Yeah definitely retrofit. I tried to do the same and theyre just not out there. Good luck.
You too man, you too…
are you joking? It’s clearly a Teisco. I collect these buggars. They made hundreds of models with 30 different headstock labels, or no labels. Designs were changed at whim with no rhyme or reason. These two are very rare!
OK, here we go…”clearly a Teisco?”…let me break it down for you like this…
1. People are always assuming that most vintage Japanese electric guitars are all Teisco. The main reason is that Teisco guitars actually were sold with Teisco logos. Teisco wasn’t an OEM maker but rather they had their own factories and made their own guitars. Don’t assume when it comes to Teisco. We know more about this company than any other.
2. Almost every Teisco guitar is well documented from catalogs. Teisco was very unique in this aspect. It’s the reason why there aren’t any mystery Teisco guitars. We know what they all look like! From the years of 1958-1969 there were yearly Teisco catalogs that covered all their models. No other Japanese company did this, not even Guyatone!
3. These Astrotones use plywood bodies. Teisco guitars never used plywood bodies.
4. These pickups were sourced from the Matsumoto area of Japan. I even met the dude who wound these very pickups. Teisco had several electrical engineers and never had to source pickups during this era. They made everything in-house. And they competed with many companies from Matsumoto, so Teisco never used these pickups. Not even during the Kawai-era.
5. If you come to me with an opinion, back it up man. Don’t just believe what you read on the net. There’s so much misinformation out there, it’s part of the reason I started this site. Just because you spend your bread on these guitars, or because you can do a web search, don’t make you an expert. Dig?
excellent answer!! i appreciate your knowledge. I have one of these and i love this guitar!! My first guitar! Cheers.
I’m afraid you are both wrong (apparently one of you got it right at some point). I try to make it as short as possible: 1. Like many Japanese brands, Teisco never owned their own guitar factory, the guitars were actually made by Kawai. Beginning in 1961, Teisco produced for Jack Westheimer’s W.M.I company under the “Kingston”, later “Teisco” and “Teisco Del Rey” labels, that’s why particularly the US were drowining in Teisco guitars. When demand for cheap oddball guitars decreased in the late 60s, Teisco was bought by Kawai and renamed “Teisco-Kawai”, which remained an OEM guitar factory until the 1980s, and also still made guitars under the “Teisco” and “Kawai” labels, of which many were sold (often in somewhat simplified, cheaper versions of the original Kawai designs) under many brands, like your Sears Telecaster..
The guitars you show on this page are clearly a variation of the Teisco “K-2”-series guitars known as “Sharkfin”. Here’s an example of the original design on Reverb: https://reverb.com/item/26222136-1960s-teisco-k-21
Well, I found my information traveling around Japan and visiting/meeting with some of the original founders and owners of these companies. The Astrotones were made at Suzuki Violin in Nagoya (I learned since I wrote this article) and Teisco did have several factories, always one in Tokyo and a wood factory in Toyoshina, outside Matsumoto City. It was called Teisco Gen Gakki and is now a a beer plant! Parts of what you say is correct but the main reason I went to Japan (and wrote a book about it) was because I needed to know the real backstories and not internet conjecture.
I just got mine out of storage. I have not seen it for many years.
Purchased at a Sears store in NJ 1964-65. Original strings,strap and case.
It has no markings, but shares many of the components.
Would be happy to send you photos for your opinion.
Thanks for your postings..
Sure, you can fill out the contact form on the home page, I’d love to see your guitar. And thanks for sharing!
I had one of the white ones of which you speak. It was my first electric guitar. My Dad bought it for me for around $60 I think. It was 1971.
Yes, the action was terrible, but it got me out there. Played the hell out of it. Did two or three gigs with it! Same 10 or 12 songs all night long. Extended versions. Tell Mama, House of the Rising Sun & Jumpin Jack Flash were fan(?) favorites. Loads of fun.
I wish I still had it.
I love stories like yours, thanks for sharing!
I just picked up a sunburst version. Never saw one before and didn’t know anything about it but knew I had to have it. As soon as I got home I went straight to this site to find out more about it. This site is always my first stop to identify those oddballs that pop up now and then. I even sent a friend of a friend this way to identify a odd ball he got as a gift. Sure enough, it was on the site.
I am really surprised at how playable it was and how great it sounded right away. I swapped out the tuners for some Kluson clones because what was on there was rusted and seized up. I also added a tune-o-matic on a plate base so I can intonate. The bridge mod is reversible so I can go back to stock if need be.
Cool looks and sounds with great playability.
Just found this site. I have the sunburst model. Bought it at a garage sale on Fulton Street in 1988. It looks like your pictures except the lettering on mine is in gold with black shadowing.
Just bought a Sunburst on the Offer Up app for $80. Iranian lady sold it to me and said her Dad gave it to her to give to her young son. Top pick up is not working and I’m praying it’s an easy wiring fix… Worst case scenario just the looks and age will look good hanging as 60’s Art… I’m in SoCal