Department Store Horns – 1966 Audition (Kawai) Shark Fin Guitar

Kawai Shark Fin 6Imagine walking into a Woolworth store in the 1960s and seeing this hanging on the wall…all them pickups and switches…pointy horns…come on!  This just had to be the balls for the aspiring young guitarist.  Of course once you got this home (if you were able to convince your parents to buy it), it probably looked way better than it played!  Either way, these short scale department store guitars were all the rage in the mid 60s.Kawai Shark Fin 5Even though these guitars were marketed towards beginners, they have features and sounds that really allow for grinding, raw music.  With many guitar makers going for clean sounds, these guitars combined with an early fuzz are a true love connection!  The pickups on this particular guitar read out in the high 4k range, and they sound totally powerful.  As with most Kawai guitars from this time, the pickups are wired in series.  I always love this wiring, but with this guitar the pickups seem to “stack” on one another to create a built-in overdrive effect.  Seriously, the sounds in this guitar are just stunning!Kawai Shark Fin 4Audition was the guitar “brand” of Woolworth and Woolco stores back in the day, so most times when you see an Audition guitar, it was sold through this department store chain.  There were Woolworth stores all over the place, and I even remember one at the local mall in the 1980s.  Although I don’t remember seeing guitars there!Kawai Shark Fin 3During this time in Japanese guitar history, many makers were “borrowing” design cues from one another.  And this particular guitar was modeled after the popular Tiesco Shark Fin guitars of the same era.  As a matter of fact, in less than a year Kawai would purchase all the assets of Teisco and start producing the guitars in the Kawai factory.  This is what makes this particular model interesting, and rather rare.  After Kawai purchased Teisco, the Kawai guitars stopped resembling Teisco guitars.  I mean, Kawai owned the company! They could capitalize on the Teisco aesthetic without having to copy anymore.Kawai Shark Fin 2Also during this time, Kawai was still using solid necks, and was experimenting with different body wood types.  There’s a lot of variation in Kawai guitars during this time, since they used about 15 different pickup designs (sometimes using a pickup only once on a particular guitar), and up several dozen body designs.  Yeah, there were a lot of different models!Kawai Shark Fin 1I’ve only ever seen one other of this model, and these were probably produced for a single product run and then left on the shelf for another hip design, vying for the demand of the young mods perusing the Woolworth aisles.  In fact, I’ve seen Audition guitars made by many different Japanese guitar manufacturers.  So you see, Kawai was competing with other factories as well.  Either way, I’m just glad these old rockers still exist, floating around out there like pointy boots and nehru jackets.



4 thoughts on “Department Store Horns – 1966 Audition (Kawai) Shark Fin Guitar

  1. Jonathan G. Halvey says:

    I really enjoy viewing these guitars, I have an early 60’s Japanese import with 4 pick ups. I had the fingerboard restored but I am missing the tremelo bar. Keep the photos coming.

  2. kevinpaul says:

    I had one just like that, 4 pups, about 1968. My first eletrict guitar. I think the name on it was Sorento. I think Harmony made them. I was looking up Harmony and they mass produced guitars. Kay and Silvertone. They picked the low price road. I wore it out, like my very first Silvertone. Arch top f holes. $22.00. I see them now $400.00. Mine was about to turn to dust. Now a hole new world. I have a guitar for each type of music. My 1973 Tele Deluxe in black is the one I would pick over the rest. Great to hear that old rocket again. Thanks!

  3. Christian Lennon says:

    I have the single pickup version and I love how dynamic it is. It really have percussive nature too it that is kind of unrivaled by modern guitar pick ups. If you see one for under 200$ it’s well worth the price

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