Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Memory Lane: 1965-1969 Teisco Del Rey E-110 Guitar Review


Today we are looking at a little bit of Japanese guitar history: a Teisco Del Rey E-110 6-string electric guitar that I picked up at the Rose Bowl Flea Market last month.

Teisco was a Japanese company that built guitars from 1948 to 1969, and Teisco is an acronym for Tokyo Electric Instrument and Sound Company. They built amplifiers and keyboards and distributed drum sets (made by others), but I am most interested in guitars and basses, so this is what you get. They sold instruments domestically and also distributed gobs of them to the United States and Great Britain. The company was sold to Kawai in 1967, and they discontinued selling guitars under the Teisco brand name in 1969 (for export) and 1977 (for Japan).

The company was the brainchild of a guitarist, Atswo Kaneko, and it went through various company names before Teisco was chosen in 1964. So most of the Teisco badged guitars you see were built between 1964 and 1969, or 1964 and 1977 for Japanese market instruments. These guitars were often sold at department stores (such as Sears), and were also imported under other names including: Arbiter, Audition, Beltone, Duke, Heit Deluxe, Jedson, Kay, Kent, Kimberly, Kingston, Lyle, Norma, Silvertone, Sonatone, Top Twenty, Tulio and World Teisco. But everybody and their brother want s a Teisco Del Rey. By the way Teisco Del Rey was the name found on guitars imported to the US by Chicago’s Jack Westheimer from 1965 to 1969.

This one is an E-110, though it took a little searching on the internet to find it as the sicker on the back of the body with the serial number and model number is missing (as is the ubiquitous “Steel Reinforced Neck” sticker). It has a tulip-shaped body that is sprayed in a cool shade of red. I have no idea what it is made of, but it is very thin, maybe 2/3 the thickness of a Telecaster, so it weighs in at a feather-light 5 pounds, 9 ounces. Maybe it is some sort of plywood…

The body is loaded up with one single coil pickup that is wired through volume and tone knobs that are original and still have the little pointers. Strings are loaded through a unique stamped steel tailpiece, and there should be some sort of pot metal bridge, but it has been replaced by a chunk of wood. The original pickguard is to die for, with a cool vines and flowers engraving on it.

The 25.5-inch scale neck is multi-ply maple with a rosewood fretboard and some sort of darker wood overlay on the Strat-style feedstock. 22 frets are sunk into the board, plus a bonus zero fret, which I do not see terribly often. The trussrod extends beyond the heel of the neck (like a MusicMan or Sadowsky), so adjustments are a breeze. The tuners are some sort of cheap open-back units, and the extra cool Tesco del Rey badge is present and accounted for.

Condition of this guitar is good, but not great. The jury-rigged bridge is dying for a Tune-O-Matic replacement, and one of the string acorn nuts has been replaced with an incorrect part. There is a chip at the fretboard near the zero fret, and there is an ugly finish crack in the neck pocket that seems stable enough. And, of course, there are a few scratches and dings, but nothing unusual for a 40-year-old import guitar that was pretty cheap to start with. Fortunately it has been spared the indignities of ill-advised modifications.

None of these things are deal breakers for me, as this thing weighs nothing and it plays and sounds pretty darned good. The neck is very comfy, and the pickup has a very clean tone and a surprising amount of output. I think I will track down a better bridge, do a set-up and enjoy this thing for a while before I flip it. This Tesco will probably not make it for the long term, though, as I already have too many guitars, and all of them are a bit nicer than this one.


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