All Hail Maurice LaBoz!! – 1968 Telestar 5004 Electric Guitar

Telestar Sparkle 1.5What is it about sparkle guitars?  It’s like there’s no in-between, you either love ’em or hate ’em.  Of course for me, I love sparkle guitars!  I like kitschy, cheesy, weirdo guitars and gear, and these Telestar sparkles are just awesome!  This guitar represents a fairly typical Kawai electric dating to the mid to late 60s.  But the finish is not typical, and overall, sparkle guitars were not very common during the 1960s.  In fact, only a few Japanese companies ever dabbled in sparkle finishes, and the Kawai technique was probably the best of the sparkle finishes.Telestar Sparkle 2These guitars just sound great, and they all have the series wiring that I love.  The pickups are so aggressive, and when you switch them on the output just goes up and up.  Some folks don’t dig that series tone, but I friggin’ love it!  The downside to these guitars is that upper toggle switch, which is a pre-set tone control, and really ruins the sound in either position.  These can be rewired for a more organic tone, and it’s a simple fix for a good tech.  Dave D’Amelio at Happy Guitar Repair has this technique down to a science, so if you have one of these, send it on down to Dano Dave!Telestar Sparkle 3Now on to that Telestar name, Maurice LaBoz is the man we have to thank for these awesome guitars.  His New York based Telestar company began importing Japanese guitars sometime around 1964.  Maurice ran the company with his brother Charlie, and Charlie’s son Jamie even helped out.  Telestar instruments also included sparkle drums and these guitars perfectly matched the 60s theme!  A few years ago I was able to talk with Jamie LaBoz, but his dad Charlie and uncle Maurice weren’t interested in talking about the old company.  But I really tried!!  Jamie is a real cool guy and he has a nice little page about Telestar hereTelestar Sparkle 4Around this time in the late 60s, Kawai had started using this laminate neck technique.  Initially, the necks worked very well since the laminates did make the necks stronger.  But as the years passed the thickness of the laminates got thinner and Kawai guitars just seemed cheaper and cheaper as the guitars entered the 70s.  But in 1968, the guitars were still built rather well and Kawai started making some of their craziest designs like the Banjitar and the Flying Wedge!!!  Telestar Sparkle 5When I visited Japan I was able to talk with several Kawai employees, including the plant manager and two designers/engineers.  One story that stood out was that there was a fire in the Kawai plant around the time these guitars were made, and it was started in the finish department.  Apparently, these sparkle finishes were highly flammable!  Can you imagine if Jimi Hendrix would’ve lit one of these guitars on fire!!Telestar Sparkle 6Even though Maurice didn’t want to talk about his old company or the “glory days” of Japanese guitar manufacturing, I think we all owe uncle Maurice a big thanks.  What I’ve found is that a lot of the guys and gals that had music companies in the 1960s, never felt the companies meant that much.  It was often just a business and once it was over, these people left the memories in the warehouses.  But really, what all these companies in the 1960s did was to put instruments in the hands of young people.  Families who couldn’t afford a Fender or Gibson would end up with guitars like these.  But when you ponder the importance of this gesture, you realize the weight and impact of the Japanese guitars. And check out Mike Dugan playing this awesome guitar!

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