Oh, did you say you like lots of switches and pickups and knobbies? Hell, welcome to our club! Yes, the Norma 421-4 was the proverbial “king” of the catalog from 1968 to around 1970. Similar guitars were sold in Japan at this same time, mostly carrying the brand name Liberty.This model was sold alongside a 12 string (EG412-2T) with a tremolo(!!!!!), a bass (EG467-2B), and a two pickup version (EG450-2). Reading the catalog from 1968 is a real trip! Here’s the description of the 412-4:
The ultimate in superb workmanship, total versatility. This deluxe 4 pickup electric will be played with pride by the most experienced performer. Four simulated split pickups make possible virtually unlimited sound combinations. Powerful magnetic pickups are height adjustable. Ultra fast steel reinforced neck. Head and Rosewood fingerboard bound in White. .22 Nickel Silver frets (plus zero fret), 8 “N” shaped pearl position markers, 4 volume controls, 3 position rotary tone control (high-medium-low), Rhythm-Solo-Switch, 4 slide pickup switches. Advanced type tremolo arm. Chrome adjustable roller-type bridge. Highly polished yellow-to-red-to-black sunburst finish. Size 41″x14″.
Norma branded guitars all came from the import/distribution company Strum and Drum located in Wheeling, Illinois. Lots of people think Norma came from Norma Jean (Marilyn Monroe), but actually the Norma name came from the owner of the company, Norman Sackheim! Norman and his son Ron began to import Japanese guitars around 1965, and continued into the mid 70s. Initially all Norma guitars were made at the Tombo factory in Japan, but by 67 there were at least 8 different suppliers of Norma guitars!Build quality and construction really varied greatly with Norma guitars, but Norman and Ron did have a good eye for unique designs and many Norma guitars featured some of the coolest shapes of the 60s! Just like this 4 pickup monster! What I always liked about Norma guitars were the cool features like neat inlays and interesting pickups. These darn things just had style!While I was in Japan in 2013, I met with the Japanese buyer of Norma guitars. A close friend of the Sackheims, this gentleman travelled Japan during the 60s and searched out cool guitars to supply to Strum and Drum. It was a unique arrangement, and it was simply fascinating to listen about the old days of Japanese guitar production. When you peruse Norma catalogs, you’ll often see models come and go quickly. And there were always lots to choose from, year to year.
So there you go kiddies, a little primer on Norma and some of the coolest Japanese guitars from the 1960s!