Here’s another one of those guitars that just surprised me from the start. I mean, “Artist’s Supreme”?!?! Man, the guitar brand names of the 60s just never end! But aside from that brand name what we have here is a mid 60s (probably 64) Zenon made import that features all the typical traits of the time. This guitar came from a large collection, most likely a hoarder of sorts. There were a ton of guitars that were in storage, and some fellow nut had acquired every old guitar he could get his hands on. But most of them were old Japanese electrics, probably because he could buy so many for such little money!
The guitars made by Zenon are all sort of familiar, and when you study them for a while, you see Zenon had a formula of sorts that they used on most of their guitars. Features like plywood bodies, and no adjustable truss rods are common features. But Zenon guitars are always interesting to me because of the small design cues. Zenon’s designers always seemed to take inspiration from 60s pop culture. Whether it be American cars or space-age designs, Zenon always had a certain coolness. Like this one here….check out that flowing pickguard with the tortoise-shell over lay. There’s a flow there in that design.
And that headstock shape, it’s just not your typical import. The fretboard is really strange on this one, because it was some sort of stained wood meant to resemble rosewood. And there’s that brand….so strange!! This guitar also featured an angled headstock design, which was seen on some of the earliest Zenon guitars.
The neck’s on these old Zenon’s are usually pretty robust, in order to stand up to that heavy string tension from back in the day. The finishes were usually good and durable, and this guitar here just has that wonderful play wear that people pay a premium to own (I’ll never understand this).
There’s often a great deal of confusion regarding Zenon and its role in electric guitar production. But Zenon had it’s own factory and made its own guitars. Zenon started off as a music publisher (sort of like the Japanese equivalent of Mel Bay here in the states) but they did specialize in guitar music. The owner of the company always had a love for classical guitar music, and in the late 50s he kind of saved a local guitar company that was about to go out of business and started making Zenon guitars. The company mostly made acoustic and classical guitars, but of course when the electric guitar boom happened, Zenon dove right in, making electric guitars throughout the 1960s.
Zenon is still operating today, but I don’t think they make guitars anymore. Perhaps my favorite part of the Zenon story is the actual location of the company. Located in Suwa Japan, the area is often called the Japanese “Alps.” It’s a truly beautiful area, probably very fitting for the beautiful guitars the company made back in the day.