Other Guitars

If you want it, here it is, come and Eastwood…

1

Done dirt cheap...

But it varies from the original a bit...


Because after all, who DO you love? It's the '57 Chevy of Thunderbirds. From France, not Jupiter. By way of Billy and Bo - but no credit where due.

It's all too confusing for me.


OR, you can just get ANYthing here. One-shop stopping.

2

Wow, I had no idea Eastwood had all these 'other' repro-esque guitars available. I'm not sure how I feel about them...admittedly some of them are really cool. I've always thought it was sort of weird for them to do a copy of the Univox Hi-Flyer (since that guitar was a copy of a Mosrite)...a copy of a copy. Also a copy of a solidbody Ovation? Is that what the world needs?

3

I dig the Backlund. But not knowing anything about the pickups for over $12K? I'd rather find just a few more bills for a DynaJet.

Wonder when they will do a Bigsby guitar. With faux aluminum looking pickups that are actually cheap-ass P90ish chrome covered things.

4

Does Eastwood have to pay Gretsch(or whatever brand they're emulating) a licensing fee for using their body styles, or are they varied enough that they can sidestep the issue?

I quite like the Billy-Bo.

6

Does Eastwood have to pay Gretsch(or whatever brand they're emulating) a licensing fee for using their body styles, or are they varied enough that they can sidestep the issue?

I quite like the Billy-Bo.

– crowbone

I posted a comment on the Eastwood site when the Billy Bo came out, suggesting they are a Gretsch ripoff. Mike Robinson's response was it was a tribute. I assume he'd say the same about this.

I don't believe you can trademark a body shape.

8

My trumpet is an american copy of a 1950's (if I remember correctly) French Besson. If I get one of these French Gretsch copies, I would attain a nice equilibrium in my home. Yin and yang in total balance. Perfect harmony. Thank you Proteus, bringer of messages of peace and love for all!

9

I like a lot of Eastwood stuff, especially the copies of the out of production orphan guitars. But this just seems to be a Gretsch ripoff...

11

Eastwood does make some pretty cool stuff (especially of the offbeat no longer made Airlines, Supros, Italian guitars, etc.). I had their sort of reissue of a Supro Coronado several years ago, and it was a pretty cool guitar (I kind of wish I still had it) but yes they do make some copies/tributes of Gibsons, Gretsches Etc. Also, having owned a couple, and having tried out several of them, they can be inconsistent at times for quality.

12

Ah my precious! You've been wearing the ring and staring into Mordor Proteus!

13

Someone got into hot water for copying guitar shapes, once upon a time....

14

Not to be confused with Eastman, Eastwood likes re-doing all the offbeat, oddball, or just plain wacko guitars of the past.

15

BTW: yes, most body shapes and head stocks are protected intellectual property. When CBS took over Fender they let the protection slip on the body shapes... that's why anyone can make a Tele or Strat body. However, the Fender headstock shapes remain protected, which is why Fender and other makers are aggressive about protecting and enforcing their respective rights (see Gibson).

16

I'll wait till they make a Ric tribute. It all smacks of copyright infringement, doesn't it?

17

It's an interesting marketing scheme, bypassing the ailing retailers completely. They must have gotten and paid for permission from Devo, MicroFrets, etc. Notice that there are no pledges for the ACDC thingy. The pledges certainly reveal the popularity of a given guitar as people are putting deposits down. I had no idea Tonika basses were so popular. Actually, as of a couple days ago I had no idea at all about Tonika.

18

I must say, I do like Eastwood's take on the Airline H78 w/ 3 Foil Top Argyle pu's.

19

I appreciate the fact that Eastwood mines the interesting cheap streets of our guitar past to "reproduce" guitars that others have ignored.

Many of the guitars whose history is thus perpetuated were not, in truth, very "good" guitars - often of strange and marginal construction, materials and components, indifferent build quality, dodgy geometry and specs. Many didn't play well when new, and got worse quickly.

But they had two things going for them:
• the quirky/funky/Martian charm of their design, appearance, spec (all very much in the eye of the beholder, but guaranteed to increase with nostalgia as we who played them aged) -
• and, crucially, often unique SOUND.

Ain't sayin' good sound, necessarily - sometimes hollow-sounding, with odd resonances and bands of weirdly combed frequencies, sometimes thin and gritty or muted and woolly, with squalling feedback, frequently sick-banjo levels of non-sustain, mechanical creaks that came microphonically through the poor signal-noise ratio of unshielded, ungrounded, single-coil pickups.

But still, within all that, unique tone. You could discern a distinctive character which came out of all the exuberance, inexperience, experimentation, cost-cutting and/or incompetence that went into (or didn't go into) components, design, and build. And you found a way to make it work. You didn't sound like your Dad's Gretsch or your rich cousin's Gibson or the cool kid's Jaguar. (Well, maybe a little like a Jaguar.)

On the other hand, some of the guitars Eastwood "replicates" were generally more sonically successful in their day: the Mosrites, the Nationals, maybe the Microfrets, Kay, Ovation, Kustoms, etc. Better built, more playable, more durable. They weren't the bargain-bin low end pitched to kids with paper routes - more like a respectable mid-price alternative to the big boys. Still visually and tonally unique.

Most (or, OK, many) of the guitars which get the Eastwood resurrection are arguably "worth" reviving in some form, from the Italian-Japanese axis to the lowend American also-rans and oddities. (I do think Eastwood deviates from its most "important" mission when they wander into the territory of the "Big 3" - for my purposes, Gibson-Fender-Gretsch.)

My reservations are all about the way in which the company goes about it. I think they do a fair job of replicating the "look" of the guitars. At the minimum, they capture the flavor; sometimes they get very close, missing only by a few key details. They never quite perfectly nail it - but would you really want to nail guitars that had weird geometry and dodgy construction details in the first place? Many buyers are probably only attracted by the look in the first place, and how close does it have to be to live up to something either remembered from 50 years ago, or only seen in pictures anyway?

And I think they do the designs a real service in producing them with solid, playable (if sometimes too "modernized") necks, better construction value, etc. On the one hand, they have to: we're so spoiled for quality and playability in the contemporary guitar market that poorly executed, hard-to-play or unstable designs just won't sell. On the other hand, those of us who played those guitars when new always wanted them to be better than they were.

So far so good - to a point. Where Eastwood often starts to go wrong is in ignoring construction details which contributed crucially to the interesting sonic character of the original - body construction (chambering, bracing, center-blocking, pickguard routs and material), neck attachment, headstock angles and the like.

And they really go off the rails with the very hardware bits that finished out the sonic recipes of the originals: pickups, bridges, tailpieces. There's no real pattern in exactly how this blandification takes place - but they generally choose from a fairly narrow range of aftermarket pickups and hardware.

Substitute a solid plank for a chambered body, slap on a Tunamatic where there was some semi-floating shop project bridge, implant bog-standard GFS humbucks, plain-ol Stratty singles, or Artecky retrotrons - then wire it up industry-standard with no regard for the divine madness of the original's wacky circuitry - and you end up with a piece that looks something like the original but bears little or no sonic resemblance.

Eastwoods command a premium price over the clonalikes of Pauls, SGs, Strats, Teles, 335s, hollerbodies, and offsets we can get from the likes of Agile and Jay Turser - or even Epiphone and Fender - and they look like something different. But they don't sound any different, and (in my experience) rarely better than more ordinary-looking guitars that cost less.

I get that it's harder and more expensive to come up with the probably-proprietary components it would take to bring - not just the look - but the essence of the tone and performance of the funky old guitars into the present in improved and more playable versions. Maybe the company really tries, and it just can't be done at a price we'd pay - or maybe doing so is secondary to the mission of creating a nostalgic look.

There just seems to be no one at Eastwood doing what Mike Lewis did first with the Gretsch line, and then with the Guild Newark Streets: updating a historic spec for modern manufacture, with consistent playability and quality - while retaining (and even enhancing) everything that made the guitars interesting (and the project worth pursuing) in the first place.

It seems like a missed opportunity: the guitars come so close, and then miss so far.

If you want a great costume guitar which vaguely evokes an era, and that will hold up gig after gig...go Eastwood. If you want a guitar which sounds like the era...you still have to seek out an original.

Which may be just to say that Eastwood's target market is players who are more attracted to the look than to the sound and response of the "reissued" guitars - not those looking for something like the original experience.


Backlund to the Future
Given that all the Eastwoods I've played have underwhelmed, not so much from a quality or build standpoint (they're generally good there), but in tone and character, I have to continually remind myself that the K-200 "clone" is cool...but won't sound like it. Neither will the Stratotone, or the Wandre, or any of the others that would otherwise appeal to me.

But where I'd like to think the company is doing something more interesting is in bringing John Backlund's designs to market. I'd wandered into Backlund's website several years ago (probably while procrastinating against something more productive I should have been doing) and was taken with his designs - sort of a mix of a Jetsons-retro-future alternate-history approach and a true elegant futurism. It's hard to come up with electric guitar designs that are original, extreme, and aesthetically pleasing all at once, and I thought he'd succeeded.

I saw prices on the guitars - out of my range for whim purchases - but assumed he was selling a few. Didn't think more about it till I saw a Backlund 100 being marketed on the Eastwood site earlier this year. From the ad copy, the blog postings, and the chatter I gathered that Backlund had been selling few of his originals, and that some models may never have progressed beyond 3D renderings.

Eastwood was doing a Kickstarter kind of thing with his "Custom Shop." Strikes me as a pretty good idea to throw a concept out and see who not only shows interest but will put a buck down on it - before committing to production. That's how the Backlund was being promoted, and obviously as a partnership between Michael Robinson and Backlund.

Seems a great way to bring some really distinctive designs to market, and for Eastwood to break out of the retro-semi-repro market they dominate. Kinda puts them in the same market space as Italia and DiPinto - but, I think, with arguably more distinctive and pleasing designs. At least they're doing something original.

I see now that the Backlund 200 Tele-type is up on the Eastwood site, already having gotten enough support to bring it to production.

I remain confused about the Backlund connection, though. There's this Retronix site, seemingly selling what may be the upscale versions of the guitars Backlund originally marketed...but there are no prices. A few dealers and players are listed. Then there's this site, which shows some of the same guitars, plus a few more, and links back to Retronix - while explaining that "J. Backlund Design was formed to bring the fantastic guitar designs of John Backlund from concept to world-class instruments. Luthier Bruce Bennett and entrepreneur Kevin Maxfield established the J. Backlund Design shop in 2007." Claims a factory in Tennessee - but doesn't explain the connection to Retronix. Which is probably the storefront brand for the guitars -

or are Retronix the midrange to Eastwood's low-end to JB Design's high-end custom shop versions of the same designs? Enquiring minds...

Then there's this site, which links ONLY from Eastwood's Custom Shop, to yet another Backlund-related domain. And here, if you scroll down to "on the drawing board" and start poking around, you'll see what looks like it may be a game-plan to bring all these models out under Eastwood sponsorship. I like a lot of these way more than I should, and their pricing (just over 1k) looks reasonable for their uniqueness and spec. For me, at least, there's an undeniable cool factor.

What there isn't is any explanation of the Eastwood-Backlund relationship, or anything that would help clarify the guesses I've made above about the way all the Backlund-based guitar bizzes fit together. There are probably stories to be told about all that...

But and also too again I wonder. It's one thing to design a really cool new guitar (and not a small thing at that) - but it's something else to make it somehow sonically distinctive. Haven't played any of the original, more expensive Backlunds, so I don't know how they sound. Hipshot bridges, Lace Alumitone and Seymour Duncan pickups, kinda all good stuff - but are they deployed in a way that has any character or personality?

And what happens when they get Eastwoodied? I note that the original Model 100 has distinctive fret markers, upscale pickups, and a Baby Grand bridge. The Eastwood, on the other hand, predictably and drearily, has a wraparound tailpiece with big ugly screws, plainol' dot markers, and who-knows-what pickups. The pickguard applique, chrome or brushed on the originals, is metal-looking plastic. These things don't make it bad - but they do diminish it somewhat.

Looks like the originals were 2K and up, built in the US: if you're selling an offshored version for 60% of that, couldn't you keep some of those distinctive touches?

I'll be hard-pressed to resist a couple-three of those drawing board models - but if they're sonically bland and generic...

see, Vince, I've studied the map of Mordor a bit, and consider some adventures in.

I just don't know.

20

Bruce Bennett was briefly a member of Gretsch Talk. He had little good to say about J. Backlund (and I'm sure vice-versa.) What I understand is that Backlund is really just a designer, has almost nothing to do with actually building the guitars. Now Eastwood fills the function that Bennett and others provided previously.

I assume the Retronix connection was similar to the Eastwood deal and has since ended. It was a Kickstarter thing that didn't survive after the initial investment.

My personal feeling is that Backlund designs are cool but ultimately not really very playable or desirable. Beyond the initial Eastwood Custom push, I doubt they'll be a regular item in the Eastwood catalog.

A good example of where Eastwood goes wrong is the Astro Jet. The headstock was pretty correct but everything else was completely off. The body was actually just a repurposed Eastwood design. Englishman on Gretsch Talk contacted Mike Robinson about buying a neck from them for his Nashville Astro project. Robinson's response, "Why don't you just buy one of our models?" David replied, "Because I have one of the original bodies and yours aren't much like the real deal."

I've owned several Eastwoods briefly. Most were returned to the company almost immediately. The one I regret giving up was the Tuxedo. Pretty copper color, nice figured natural color maple neck. Inexplicable 25.5 inch scale. Generic P-90 pups. Subsequent versions have substituted a generic neck.

Eastwood is really all about the money. If I was willing to pay for 12 guitars of my chosen design (or get that number of commitments), I could have an Eastwood model made.

21

Good background on Backlund, good doctor.

I gathered John was primarily a designer, and probably more of shapes than of guitar specs. These things are completely subjective, of course, but (obviously) I kinda like his stuff.

What you're saying is that these manufacturer relationships are serial, not simultaneous: first Bennet and Co/Retronix, and now Eastwood. Wonder who approached whom.

I had an Eastwood Guyatone 4-pup, which was perfectly innocuous and dull-normal in its construction and quality, neither here nor there - not, in itself, either bad enough to disqualify it or good enough to recommend it. What it had going for it was that it was cheap and had 4 pickups. It quickly fell by the wayside when I got the DiPinto Galaxie, which was in every way better: better build, better feel, better design, better sound. Way pizazzier.

I have another Eastwood now, and the jury's out. It's just hard to believe that none of them would be compelling enough to hold onto...

22

The one I regret giving up was the Tuxedo. Pretty copper color, nice figured natural color maple neck. Inexplicable 25.5 inch scale. Generic P-90 pups. Subsequent versions have substituted a generic neck.

I thought they were pretty dissappointing. They gave a Kay Barney Kessel Pro the familiar Eastwood treatment : Generic P90's with a vaguely Kay-looking surround instead of something even close to a Kay Kessel pickup, stud mounted tune-a-matic instead of the original's floating archtop bridge, and a weird flat and wide neck that made my hand and wrist hurt even after trying it out for 15 minutes.

I've played a couple of them, and they all had a weird metallic ringing to them, amplified as well as unplugged. Nothing like the fat, woody "plonk" of an original.

Kinda looks like a Kay Kessel or the Airline branded equivalent (same guitar, different color scheme and headstock) if you're not looking too hard or if you're drunk. Doesn't sound, feel, or play like one though.

(weird vaguely related fact : the current company that holds the rights to the Kay name have introduced a guitar that at least in pictures looks a LOT more like a semi-faithful Kessel Pro reissue two NAMM shows in a row, yet they don't seem to be manufacturing them....)

23

For the record, because a couple of folks asked, Eastwood does seek out the copyright holders and negotiate royalties or leasing arrangements. Also, as I imagine most of us are aware, designing and tooling up for a new model of guitar is extremely expensive; hence the Kickstarter campaigns. Mike's brother explained the numbers to me; break even points, etc. and the whole thing sounded a bit tentative in terms of actual return on investment. Regardless of what they sell their guitars for, the profit margin is not high. Mike does have quite a collection of original models, but I suspect, based on the information I was given, that if he was to start making actual reproductions, which would mean not relying on after market parts, the prices would be substantially higher than their modern "nods" and how much of a market is there for a repro of what was generally regarded as something kinda funky, charm and uniqueness notwithstanding.

They do make some very cool and good sounding guitars. The Tuxedo has been mentioned, and one of my favorites is the Airline Map guitar. Some models hold no interest for me. Why make a wooden version of a Wandre? The unique character of the sound of the original Italian ones comes from the metal running through the body.

Initially, quality control was a bit of an issue but after one bad batch, they hired guitar techs to go over every instrument that comes into their warehouse. After being given a peek under the hood, I think they're a good company, supplying to a niche market at reasonable retail cost. If I didn't already have so many guitars I'd probably own a couple, just for the fun of it.

24

Seems like someone could take the Eastwood model and do it right.

25

Funny how we still get bitten by a bug like this and end up going to sleep dreaming about getting that guitar. After all the weighing up of pros and cons......sometimes the answer is just BUTI WANT IT! I like to give the feeling the chance to wear off.....and then go and buy it anyway


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