Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just what is a Cheapo Guitar, and what is the point if this blog anyway?

Just what is a Cheapo electric guitar? I am not talking about junky, useless, unplayable blobs that sorta look like a guitar. I am talking about junky guitars that can be coaxed into decent playability, and that cost less than $200. Sometimes all that is needed is a decent setup, and sometimes more drastic measures are called for.

Cheapo electric guitars have been around almost as soon as since Leo started pumping out his factory produced planks. Kay, Harmony, Danelectro, and the various rebranded Silvertones were the Cheapos in the 50's and 60's. As were the various wacky Italian designs such as EKO. The 70's ans 80's saw the rise of the far east imports: First from Japan and then to Korea, Taiwan, etc.  These guitars were typically aimed at teenagers, and untold thousands were sold through the big catalog retailers of the time. For a fraction of the cost of a Fender or Gibson, a kid could get a Cheapo electric and attract all of the girls in the neighborhood. Back in those days, my own 1967 Kay "Speed Demon" 2 pickup electric (pictured below) cost $89.95 brand new. By comparison, the cheapest guitar in the 1967 Fender catalog was the Bronco single pickup student model guitar listed for $149.50, and a Stratocaster was almost $400! These Cheapos remained cheap... as in garage sale cheap for decades. In the 1980's, I used to buy Kays, Harmonys and Silvertones for $15-$20 a pop. Of course, these Cheapos have become Vintage Collectibles these days, and an original Dano can set you back a thousand dollars or more.

These vintage Cheapos may look cool, but most of them still don't play well or sound very good. Most are only good for hanging on the wall as a decoration, and they tend to be expensive. This blog is about new Cheapo guitars. Why? Because they are cheap.

Today almost all Cheapo electrics are made in China or Indonesia. Some are just dirt cheap, retailing for under $100. As with vintage Cheapos, some were are copies of more famous brands, some are "sorta like" famous brands, and other designs are, well, "imaginative". I am not sure if some of these designers were trying to avoid a lawsuit, or if they just saw a picture of an electric guitar once and just made the design up as they went along. Finally, some Cheapos are actually branded by the big name brands, adding caché to what would otherwise be just another import brand.

This blog will take a look at various modern Cheapo electric guitars and basses. I will discuss the various merits and demerits of each, as well as provide some advice on the care, feeding and modifying of Cheapo electrics.

So, onward we go, delving into the world of  modern Cheapo electric guitars....

The blogger's own 1967 Kay Speed Demon, purchased for $75 in 1986.

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