“One Pup Wonder” – 1960s Imperial Electric Guitar

Imperial 1 pup 6Ah, yes.  The wonders of the 1960s beginner’s guitar.  No tremolo, one pickup, short scale…. there are tons of these guitars in the states!  And probably the world.  Just about every guitar manufacturer made an entry level guitar back in the day (and of course they still make them), but the cool thing about vintage guitars is the variation. And I call this one an Imperial because I’ve seen these before with a little Imperial sticker, so that’s what I call this one!Imperial 1 pup 5

Like that little ol’ pickup there.  Check that bugger out!  Japanese pickups often had some sort of “adornment” when it came to pickups.  Like gold foil, or in this case, red sparkle!  You know, when I examined this pickup, I swear that red sparkle stuff is the same material that companies used to wrap drums.  I’m serious!  That little “pup” read out in the lower range, at 3.73K.  But the darn thing sounded incredible!  It really did!  Imperial 1 pup 4

I just live these string retainers.  You could open a bottle with one of these!  Even after visiting Japan, and interviewing over 20 people, I still don’t know who made this little guy.  But whatever factory did, made several others with this same type of “bar” string retainer.  As my grandfather used to say, this guitar won’t “give up the ghost!”  Like, it won’t reveal it’s origins.  But whoever made this, it was one of the smaller guitar factories in Japan at that time.Imperial 1 pup 3

But in the end this guitar was totally serviceable.  It had a nice, chunky neck and the body was made of solid wood, rather than plywood.  This had a truss rod, but it wasn’t adjustable.  Most of the thickest necks are found on guitars without adjustable truss rods, just an FYI.  The advantage of these thick necks is that they usually stay true over the years and only need some neck angle work to get the action playable.Imperial 1 pup 2

These small bodies remind me of the “peanut” bodies that were made by Kay, Harmony, and Danelectro back in the late 50s.  Seems like a lot of the Japanese designers were making guitars based on early 50s and late 60s American designs.  But the small bodies were also aimed at younger kids too.  In fact, whenever I think about these small, beginner guitars, I think about the tons of kids who wanted to play electric guitar.  These Japanese guitars, for all their faults, at least put guitars in the hands of kids that might not have otherwise afforded them.  Like, what kid was going to get a brand new Gretsch as their first guitar!?!?!  And if a kid did get a brand new Gretsch, you probably didn’t like that kid anyway!Imperial 1 pup 1

For my money, there’s no reason to buy a brand new guitar since there are so many like this floating around.  And they do have soul…. at least a little soul.  Hell, it was made during the 60s!  That fact alone gives this little beastie some cred, right?  So now you may be wondering what the heck you’d do with a little one pickup guitar?  Check out Mike Dugan playing this one.  Also, if you have one of these guitars and don’t know where to send it to get the thing playable, then check out Dano at Happy Guitar Repair.  He’ll treat you right!


8 thoughts on ““One Pup Wonder” – 1960s Imperial Electric Guitar

  1. DeMont Guitars says:

    i have one or two of these! I think i have one with a blue pearloid pickup as well-Nate DeMontwww.DeMontGuitars.comwww.Facebook.DeMontGuitars.comwww.GuyatoneGuitars.comwww.GuyatoneUS.comwww.Facebook.com/Guyatone

  2. Paul Shaw says:

    I found one last year identical to this one, except it has two gold sparkle pickups and two selector switches. This one has the “ags” oval badge on the headstock.

  3. Claire Wise says:

    I have one a lot like this one, but it has two gold foil pickups, a tremolo bar, and some switches for the pickups. Aside from those three differences, mine is also a Prestige from about 1968. Other than that it’s the same guitar. The string retainer, body shape, pick guard. Everything else is exactly the same. Even the little “Steel Reinforced Neck” sticker is identical. I’ve been trying to find info on it for years. I got the guitar from my mom when I was 14, and she got it for Christmas when she was 14 in 1968. For the longest time that info, and the name that was painted on it, were the only two things that we knew about it. Well, that and it always sounded amazing. Thanks to this site, and this article in particular though, I feel like I now have another lead to follow in my quest for info on it. I love this site, and keep up the good work.

  4. Keith says:

    I have one I received for Christmas in 1966. Single pickup with a vibrato arm. The pickup has the blue sparkles. It was made (or at least distributed ) by AGS which stood for American General Supply.
    I’m sure my parents never would have guessed that I would still be playing that guitar 51 years later.
    It’s sitting between my Telecaster and my Stratocaster right where it belongs.

  5. Brian says:

    I found one this summer ( 2017) at garage sale, identical to this one, except that it has two gold sparkle pickups and two selector switches as well as a tremlo – no back cover or tremlo arm. This one has the “ags” oval badge on the headstock. Same color & rosewood fret board.

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