1964 Zenon “Artist’s Supreme” Japanese Guitar

Zenon Artist Supreme 1

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!Zenon Artist Supreme 2

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.Zenon Artist Supreme 3

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.Zenon Artist Supreme 4

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).Zenon Artist Supreme 5

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 Artist Supreme 6Zenon 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.

And as always, Mike Dugan does all the playing and Dave D’Amelio did all the tech work on this one.  Cheers!

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10 thoughts on “1964 Zenon “Artist’s Supreme” Japanese Guitar

  1. Darcy Hula says:

    Has anyone seen a Zen-on f-hole EP-130 acousto-electric?
    Shes a tobacco sunburst custom. Great playing, no truss rod beauty.

  2. Lorenzo says:

    This was my first electric guitar — the action was horrible. The strings were very far from the fret board and even bringing the bridge down to the lowest possible height did not improve that situation much. I was 10 years old at the time and I figured out that if I unscrewed the neck I could place a couple of shims at the very front of the neck which would angle the neck back a bit — this helped to improve the string-height — however since it also had a flat fret-board with absolutely no crown it was still really hard for me to play — bar chords were impossible for me on this guitar. We bought it “new” at the Paramount swap meet in 1967. It came with a little 5 watt amplifier which contained a 4 inch speaker and a guitar cable with molded ends — this combo cost $25 which today would be equivalent to about $180. You really had to be persistent to play this guitar but the sound was pretty good. On another website I found out that the original ZEN ON pickups from those years are now quite collectable and go for around $600. That guitar is no longer in my possession but it is quite a memory. Thanks for posting the history.

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