We're big fans of Greco guitars from all their factories in Japan and you all know how much I love the Matsumoku factory guitars in particular. This Greco is an early example of what this factory was making for Greco and is a fascinating thing to dissect as it's the link between the 60's original and influenced guitars and the later straight up copies and replicas made for both domestic and overseas markets.
This Tele "copy" was introduced by Greco in 1967 and during it's life it was made by Fujigen and Matsumoku and branded as Greco for both markets. These early ones had several features that were .... improved on later actual copy models and of course the Fujigen made ones would eventually (in '82) become Fender Japan branded as well.
While I've had plenty of these earlier versions through I've never written about them from the point of view of how they changed to make more accurate copies as time progressed. This is "almost" the same as the Spacey Sound version we had in recently which was a '76 version so it's obvious things had changed by then.
Matsumoku was a cabinet making factory that entered the guitar building race in the early sixties and worked with Fijigen from 1962 and by '65 were producing guitars for other brands like Aria and Victor. I've written about them plenty before if you're interested just do a search here on my site.
OK, so this Tele looks like a Tele, right?
Well, there are a few features that make it different to later Greco versions and show that the Japanese guitar building industry was always improving and getting closer to what they were copying. I personally don't find these differences detracting or bad, just different and I love that they did keep changing in a quest to get better.
First off, the body shape is perfect but then it wouldn't have been hard to get a Tele in Japan by the mid sixties and trace it. The shape, size, contours and thickness are all Tele. The body is solid timber laminated down the centre which was common on Matsumoku made guitars. Gibson would start doing this in the seventies on Les Pauls.
The neck is where things start to drift slightly from original Fender design and construction. It's a three piece maple neck which is my favourite neck construction being stronger and more stable than a one or two piece neck where the truss rod channel takes away most of the "meat" right along the join. Matsumoku had excellent timber craftsmen and wood drying facilities and well dried and quality timber in this method of construction is very strong and stable.
Fender were of course using a one piece neck (for maple fretboards) with a skunk stripe down the back to insert the trussrod up until '67 and then started using this same method of construction except still with one piece necks. This allowed these Japanese factories to make the same necks and then use either a rosewood or maple fretboard giving more options for models. remember, they were still trying to make "cheap" guitars for a mass market.
The other big difference here from Fender and later models is that all these "Fender copies" were still 24.75" (Gibson) scale which was the standard length for all their guitars (and early basses) probably again to keep manufacturing costs down. These early "Gibson scale Fenders" seem a little ... odd at first but you quickly get used to the slightly shorter scale. The nut is also Gibson style on the end of the fretboard, something that had been changed by '76 to a standard Fender style slot in the fretboard. Matsumoku used both nut sand zero frets on guitars but rarely on Fender copies.
The headstock is all Tele and uses two string trees which Fender had started using by this stage. I don't know exactly what year Greco started using the R trademark on their logo but it transitioned from the Gneco logo here into the Greco logo about '75 which is also when they started getting serial numbers which of course makes them much easier to date.
The bridge is a top loading three steel saddle folded steel unit like (some) late sixties Fender units but does have six holes for through body as well, which the Fender unit didn't have.
The pickups are Maxon made and follow similar construction to original Fender units with alnico slug magnets but in plastic bobbins and wound to around 5-5.5K. The bridge pickup on this one had shorted when the glue holding it to the base plate failed and the bobbin rubbed on the steel bridge. I repaired this as luckily it was in the first 3 or 4 windings so I could unwind these and resolder the lead wires back on. Of course 4 windings don't make any difference to the tone or output of the pickup and it was nice to salvage this original Maxon unit. I usually won't go over more than 100 winds or so to repair a pickup before I'll just rewind it instead.
The electrics are of course all Tele with a three way switch and master volume and tone. The knobs are late sixties Fender style knurled metal with slight flattened ends, which of course wasn't consistent on Fenders around this time any way.
The overall look is late sixties with an eight screw three ply white scratchplate and threaded steel saddle bridge.
These early seventies Fender copies were really getting close in looks and feel but by '75/76 these two factories in particular were essentially making a Fender clone, which is evident by the fact that in '82 Fender USA liscenced Fujigen (who was making most of the Fender copies for Greco by this stage) to make actual Fenders.
This plays and sounds great and is in really nice condition with a few scuffs here and there. I'm a huge fan of Japanese guitars and while people often write off these earlier Fender copies because of the little things like scale length and nut style, I just look at it like a variation on the theme and embrace it. Matsumoku had very talented craftsmen and knew timber drying and construction on a world class level and entered the guitar manufacturing world running and by the late seventies to mid eighties made some of the most impressive guitars on the planet. This is a great example of a great factory getting it's feet.
I will do a blog on the '76 TL and TL custom I had in recently soon so you can compare the two. Until then, enjoy.