The Record Connection – 1966 Decca Electric Guitar

Decca Guitar 1

I was just old enough to catch the tail end, but many folks remember the days of the record store.  Large vinyl albums, huge artwork, leafing through the stacks….it was a cool time that lasted longer than the days of cassettes, 8-tracks, and CDs.  Nowadays, most music buying is relegated to the online variety.  But there was a time during the 1960s where record stores were THE place to get your music, and musical instruments!Decca Guitar 2That’s right, in window displays or hanging above the stacks of vinyl, guitars like these were waiting for teenagers.  Again, just a cool time!  This Decca guitar was sold through Decca Record stores.  In early 1966, Decca Records jumped into the electric guitar frenzy.  This was around the same time when CBS has bought Fender and only a few years away from MCA buying Danelectro. Curiously enough, Decca Records was a subsidiary of MCA.Decca Guitar 3Anyway, Decca and many other companies saw the potential profits of electric guitar sales and quickly tried to capitalize.  There was a whole line of guitars, amps, and accessories, all imported from Japan.  The entire instrument line was handled through Decca’s 21 branches and distributors throughout the USA, but the company seemed to concentrate on the east and west coasts.  There was also a Decca subsidiary in Canada as well.Decca Guitar 5This particular guitar was made by Kawai, and featured a design that was semi-exclusive to Decca.  Kawai was producing and exporting thousands of guitar to the USA at this time, and Kawai’s prices were very competitive, but Decca decided to go with an (as of this writing) smaller, unknown Japanese company to produce the guitars.  Decca Guitar 4Many of the Decca electrics featured non-adjustable truss rods and just seemed to always be on the “cheap” end.  But some of the them did sound very good.  Sometimes you’ll see some really odd Decca electrics that literally copied the Teisco look from the same time period.  There were also some cool hollow bodies with set neck designs as well as the late 60s  line of guitars, like the DMI 231 pictured below.Decca 1


On the whole, Decca sold a lot of these guitars but the timing was awful.  By 1968 the demand for electric guitars had decreased dramatically.  MCA was about to bankrupt Danelectro, and CBS was cutting all sorts of corners on Fender instruments.  Darker times were coming folks, but for a moment, let’s rejoice in the mid 60s era of records and guitars!

16 thoughts on “The Record Connection – 1966 Decca Electric Guitar

  1. Zurdo says:

    wow, I still have one of those ‘Teisco’ Bridges, they were a copy of a Gretsch Roller bridge with a copy of a Rickenbacker solid base which mounts to a solid body. What’s more they were made of nickel except for the base which is chromed steel.

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for posting the cool video. I have a Decca like that one. Its pickups migrated to my #1 guitar, which is a relative from roughly the same era (early 1970’s), a Daimaru (sunburst, jazzmaster / jaguar copy surf guitar body, tremolo, etc.). The Decca now has one Daimaru pickup (I wrecked the other one when I was a teenager — thinking I was going to ‘improve’ it), but otherwise, my Decca looks basically identical to yours — except for it has the original tuners, and I angled the bridge in the 1990’s. The neat sound you can get from one of these particular Deccas is the placement of the bridge pickup, it’s a bit further from the bridge than a lot of other electrics, which gives it a neat, plunky sound to it — as is apparent from your video.

    There also were a few Decca acoustics… I recall a friend who had a nylon string Decca acoustic as a beginner guitar.

    You’re getting a really great sound out of yours.

  3. Joe Bigley says:

    Thanks for the post on ’66 Deccas and the video. I have a red sunburst DMI-203 with the chrome pick guard as in your picture. My first electric guitar in 1966 was the same instrument with no name on the headstock but with paperwork saying GHI/Heit. Bought it in a department store plus a Concordia amp for $50. Sold it in ’69 when I needed cash for a car (for $75!). I picked up the Decca about 10 years ago. Vintage Guitar magazine did an article of some work done on it in it’s Jan. 2014 issue.

    One strange thing about the DMI-203 is that the fret marker on the 10th fret instead of the 9th. The Decca in your video has it correctly on the 9th fret….any idea why they’d use the 10th?!

    Thanks again for an informative website.

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      Hey Joe, that was a common mistake back then. I don’t think the designers thought of the significance of having the dot on the 12th fret. Very few Japanese folks back then even played guitar!

      1. Joe Bigley says:

        Ha ha, true. Have you seen Frank Meyers’ recent book on the History of Japanese Electric Guitars? Great stuff.

      2. Joe Bigley says:

        Wow, congrats on a great book! I just sent a copy to my friend Lord Bizarre in Belgium whom I wrote an article about his electric guitar museum in the Oct. ’08 issue of Vintage Guitar magazine.

  4. Derek Belbin says:

    Ever since Christmas Day 1967,I have been trying to find out who made my MIJ guitar I got as a gift that year.Today I found out who made my little Dover when your excellent book came in the mail.I was always puzzled I’ve never seen another Dover and despite many inquiries to guitar mags-nobody else had heard of the brand either.Back in 2009 I sent several pix of my whole collection to Vintage Guitar Mag-they only printed on pic,and that was the one with the Dover-even though there were several others that I thought were more historically significant.The guitar looks like a 3/4 size attempt of making a Jazzmaster copy as it had the strange Meito plastic pickups with the 6 little chrome triangles where the pole pieces usually go.I noticed that Sakai Mokko also made Sears guitars and that really clicked with me as my mother worked at Sears in Toronto at the time and that’s where she bought my Dover.I will try to send some pix your way.

    1. Shane Davis says:

      I have a Dover, it was my great uncle’s guitar. It has seen better days but considering its age its in pretty good shape. Some one did some custom wiring inside so I had to replace the pots. One of the pickups was glued back together but it wasn’t done properly so now it doesn’t quite sit right. The plastic cracked at most of the corners where the screws hold the pick ups down.

      I have cleaned it up and I am currently trying to learn how to play on it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Local musical instrument store doesn’t know anything about Dover but thought it was a pretty cool guitar.

      My mom taught accordion and she had an amp, its an Ampeg. Its a nice vintage pair and the amp is mint condition.

  5. joejcummings says:

    In 1965 my father bought me a Decca DMI-203, three-pickup guitar, and small Decca amp at a post exchange (retail shop for military and their families) in Orleans, France. I played it hard for two years, when I replaced it with a new 1967 Gibson G Special. I think we sold it at a garage sale

  6. Jay says:

    My buddy has a beat up old acoustic Dmi-247 and wants $50 for it but I cant find any info on it and cant decide if I should take it off his hands..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s