Ahh, for short while these Conrad Bisons were my bread and butter guitars, I just friggin’ loved these things and there was a time when they seemed to be everywhere. I just always appreciated the familiar stratocaster look, combined with that sharper, meaner Japanese flair. David Wexler & Co. was the Chicago based importer who owned the Conrad name and imported these from the Japanese Matsumoku factory. 1966 is the year these Bison models started to appear, and they lasted until the early 70s, which may explain why I was able to find so many of these back in the day!These guitars came in a few variations, starting with the single pickup 1244 ($60.00), the double pickup 1245 with tremolo ($85.00), the triple pickup 1247 ($99.50), and this 1233 clocked in a $127.00 in 1966 money. The four pickup 1233 was described like this:
Four Pick-Up Bison Cutaway with Tremolo- This deluxe professionally styled guitar includes the full complement of pick-up variations. Each pick-up has independent post adjusters, and carefully wound coils insure proper amplification. Fully engineered adjustable bridge. Individual Whisper Touch ON/OFF switches, and individual fast action volume and tone controls. Shell colored, beveled control panel. Newest design patent head as on other models. The body is made from the finest hardwood and has a hand-rubbed and polished finish. All edges are contoured for player’s comfort. Warp-proof, adjustable neck with inlaid rosewood oval fingerboard and nickel silver frets.
Yo, talk about laying it on thick! The copy writers of the time were excellent at describing rocks as jewels!These Conrad guitars did have some nice features like solid wood bodies and necks, and an overall good build quality. The truss rods worked well, and the necks do tend to stay relatively straight over the years. But there were some drawbacks that includes switches prone to failure, and the tremolo system that seemed to knock the guitar out of tune rather easily.These guitars also featured an extra long scale, like 27″. Since I’ve been studying these old Japanese guitars I’ve been seeing a pattern with four pickup Matsumoku made electric guitars. Around 1965, they used these 27″ scales and I often wonder if they realized these scales were in the baritone range? It didn’t happen again after 1967 so I’m leaning towards the designers making an error. Also, in none of the catalogs and literature have I seen a reference to baritone scales, so it just strengthens my stance. In the end, who knows…The sunburst finish was a real Matsumoku staple, and most of the Conrad guitars had sunburst finishes. I always thought the finishes were done very well and I think they stand the test of time. Often, I don’t see finish checking, peeling, or cracking on Matsumoku guitars. The factory really understood woodwork.Even though these guitars feature that long scale, they don’t feel very long. The pickups are really nice alnico models with adjustable pole-peices and I really view this guitar as an example of how some of the Japanese guitar makers were improving their product and honing their craft. All of the pickups in this guitar read in the 6k range and sound really huge with some fuzz, GOOD GRIEF!!! Seriously! Dave down at Happy Guitar Repair brought this guitar back to life and rebuilt those original switches. And Mike Dugan plays a little Beatles on this model.