Teisco timelinelast updated: December 12, 2006

Piecing together all the facts about the Teisco brand is not easy but I intend to keep researching it. The information here is currently based on info presented by the Kawai musical instruments Mfg. CO, Ltd website and Michael Wright in two excellent articles from Vintage Guitar Magazine - thanks to both! It's probably not 100% accurate (and probably never will be!) but is still a major achievement and can only get more detailed and accurate as people's interest grows along with their desire to root out the facts. I will add to and update this page whenever I get more information.

I would like to add a special thanks to writer Paul Day for supplying information on the history of Teisco guitars in the UK. I hope to visit Paul in the near future and gather much more info which I will, of course, share with you all!

Click on model links or features for photos. I hope to add more photos to the model names as time goes by. If you can help with this please contact me. For detailed descriptions of some of the models listed below you need to read Michael Wright's two articles from Vintage Guitar Magazine (accessible from the 'Links' page).

BTW, I'm not going to cover the Teisco lap steel guitars - visit Brad's Page of Steel for those!

Where the USA model numbers are different from the Japanese designation they are shown in italics.

Guitars
1946 The company that was to go on to create the Teisco brand was formed by Mr. Atswo Kaneko and Mr. Doryu Matsuda. the company was called Aoi Onpa Kenkyujo (which, roughly translated, means Hollyhock Soundwave or Electricity Laboratories).
1948 The Teisco brand arrives! The brand name was coined by Mr. Atswo Kaneko and does not stand for the 'Tokyo Electric Instrument and Sound Company' as is thought by some. The first products to carry the Teisco name were mics, amps and a lap steel guitar.
1952 The first standard guitar, the EO-180, is a Spanish acoustic guitar fitted with a mic pickup. All guitars at this point had a Gibson three-and-three headstock style.
1953 The EP-6 is intruduced, a Spanish archtop with possibly a single neck pickup.
1954 The first solid body Teisco electric guitars were produced - the J-1, J-2, TG-54 and TN-54 - which copied the popular Les Paul design of that year.
1955 Hollow bodies available this year included the EP-4, EP-5, EP-6, EP-7, EP-11, EP-12, EP-13, EP-14, EP-15, EP-16, and EP-23. The J-5, a single-cutaway solidbody a la Les Paul, was introduced around this time.
1956 The company changes its name from Aoi Onpa Kenkyujo to Nippon Onpa Kogyo Co., Ltd. The logo changes to a more modern look.
1958 The EP-61 is introduced, another Spanish archtop.
1960 P-1, T-60 and EB-1, probably Teisco's first bass, were introduced. The designs moved towards the Fender shape.
1961 J-3 and EB-2 introduced. J-5 changes to the now more popular Fender style. At least five sunburst hollowbodies were offered - the PE-7, PE-8, PE-13, PE-14 and PE-51.The company changes its name to 'Teisco String Instrument Corporation'. Teisco began to export to the US through Jack Westheimer's W.M.I. company in Chicago although these were badged as Kingston guitars. Around this time the elongated strat style six-in-a-line headstock was introduced, although the six-and-six continued to be used on the hollowbodies.
1962 PE series renamed with EP prefix. Two basic new solidbodies were introduced - the SD-4L/SD-2L and the SS-4L. Teiscos were now also exported to the US badged as Kent for Bugeleisen & Jacobson.
1963

Dallas-Arbiter began importing Teisco guitars into the UK re-badged as 'Arbiter' guitars.

GB-1 solid-body bass introduced. On selected models squarish Strat style headstocks were used (thru 'til 1965).

1964

The groundbreaking and unique amp-in-a-guitar TRG-1 is introduced. The company shortens its name to 'Teisco Co. Ltd'. Another new headstock style was introduced - this time the classic (and my favourite) Teisco four-and-two headstock (three-and-one on basses). The Japanese logo changed to a sans-serif tye in an italicised "T" shape. The Teiscos imported into the USA by Jack Westheimer started to bear the 'Del Ray' logo - a flat white tin plate with an italicised 'Teisco' over a crown motif and the words 'Del Ray' underneath.

Also intruduced about this time (badged as Kingston) was the S range, double-cutaways which were probably variations of the MJ and WG guitars. These included S-1, S-2, S-2T, S-3 and S-3T. Another new guitar - the TG-64 (TB-64 bass) - came in a Fender Jazzmaster style and had the "monkey grip" handle. Two new basses - NB-1 (single p/u) and NB-4 (twin p/u). These were the same as TB-64 but without the "monkey grip" handle. Still available this year - MJ-1, MJ-2, MJ-2L, WG series, BS-101, SD-4L.

The hollowbodies available this year included four thick-bodies and four thinlines. The EP-9 (Teisco's first double cutaway - a small-bodied thinline hollowbody archtop) was introduced this year and the EP-7, EP-8, EP-14, EP-15, EP-17, EP-17-T and EP-18 were still available.

1965

A major style change this year which helps in the dating of models is the introduction of a striped metal pick guard on most models. The stripes alternated between shiny and frosted metal. Teisco guitars imported into America with the the 'Teisco Del Ray' brand are renamed with a one or two letter prefix followed by a dash and then a three digit number. They were renamed using the following convention: hollowbodies retained their EP- prefix (e.g. EP-200), solid bodies were either E- for standard bridges or ET- for tremolos, basses were EB- (e.g. EB-200). The first digit in the number was for the number of pickups. So, for example, the MJ-2 became the E-200 and the MJ-2L became the ET-200.

This year saw the appearance of the tulip shaped E-100 and ET-100 (which had a regular Strat-style headstock. In Japan, the YG-6 appeared.

1966

Rose-Morris took over the importation of Teisco guitars into the UK and re-badged them as 'Top Twenty' guitars. The SS-4L was sold as the 'Orbit 4' model, perhaps signifying the fact that it had four pick-ups? Around this time some models were also badged in the UK as 'Kay' and 'Audition'.

The new solid body models this year had a new leaner shape and had thin, pointed, flared cutaways and German carve contours.

The SM series (SM-1/Del Rey ET-110, SM-2/Del Rey ET-200, SM-2L/Del Rey ET-210)and the K series (K-2L/Del Ray ET-230 Deluxe, K-3L/Del Ray ET-312 Deluxe and K-4L/Del Ray ET-460 Super Deluxe) are introduced but most importantly the Spectrum 5, a three stereo-pickup multi-voiced guitar.

New basses included the EBX-200.

Still available in the USA: MJ-1/Del Rey ET-120, MJ-3L/Del Rey ET-300.

Still available in Japan: MJ-2L, TG-64, WG-2L, WG-3L, WG-4L and the basses TB-64, NB-1, BS-101 and NB-4.

Hollowbodies (all double-cutaways) this year were: Vegas 40/Del Rey EP-11T, Vegas 66 (Japan only), Vibra Twin/Del Rey EP-12T (a twelve string!), EP-200L/Del Rey EP-10T Deluxe, EP200B/EP200B bass - all new.

Hollowbodies still available: in USA the EP-9T, EP-1L and in Japan the EP-1L, EP-2L.

1967

Teisco is taken over by Kawai. Bennett Brothers now import Teisco guitars into USA (whether exclusively or as well as W.M.I. I'm not sure) and once again the model designations change. They ignore both teisco and W.M.I. naming and rename with some wacky names, for example: the K-2L/Del Ray ET-230 Deluxe becomes the Reveler, the K-4L/Del Ray ET-460 Super Deluxe became just the Super Deluxe, the MJ-3L/Del Rey ET-300 became the Royal, the SM-2L/Del Rey ET-210 became the Ascendere, the EP-9T became the Deluxe, the EP-10T became the Slim-Bodied and the Spectrum 5 became the Eliter.

New models include: the Spectrum-22, KB-2 bass (with the K body style), FB-2 bass (using the violin bass style which was popular at that time) and the DG-67 - a solid body which sported yet another new body style (this time copied from Burns). It is not certain that the DG-67 ever made it to the USA.

1968 Teisco introduces the May Queen. More info on this year still to come...

1969
onwards

I need more information on these years!

It seems that Teisco started to lose its originality at this point and produced mostly copies of whatever the popular guitars of the day were, including Vox and Burns guitars.

Ironically Kawai, the owners of Teisco at this point, also produced guitars under their own name and a few designs borrowed heavily from Teisco. For example Hound Dog Taylor's guitar which featured on his first two albums, "Hound Dog Taylor and the House Rockers" and "Natural Boogie", is almost identical to the SS-4L.

 

If anyone has any more Teisco information or has evidence to dispute what is printed here please contact me!

 

Guitar features chart

Here is a chart which shows key design features of Teisco guitars and approximately which years they were used. It isn't necessarily deadly accurate and doesn't necessarily include all features. I plan to update the chart periodically with both additional features and revised dates as evidence becomes available.

The chart starts mid 50s and goes through to the early 70s.

 

Other info

Amps
1954 Four tube amps were available in two-tone light and dark tolex. The colours ran vertically with a wider band in the centre which was slightly narrower than the grill cloth. They had round edges and looked a bit like '50s TVs. One was a small practice amp, two were about 15" tall ane the fourth was massive with six 8" speakers.
1955 A number of tube amps were available this year. Nothing is known about them apart from their model numbers: #5A, #5B, #6, #7, #17, #28, #30 and #40. Here is a type #71 amp from around this period.
1961

Amps for this year came in a variety of shapes. The majority had a single colour covering with a tweed grillcloth. At least two of the models - the Amp-15 and Amp-30 - were two-tone and had a cross-shaped grillcloth area. All had the Teisco 'Swan-S' logo and were probably still tube amps.

The models were: Amp-4C, Amp-15, Amp-30, Amp-71A, Amp-71B, Amp-71C, Amp-72A, Amp-72B, Amp-72C, Amp-73C, Amp-75C, Amp-78R (a Fender twin style 2X12" with tremolo & reverb in red tolex with black & silver flecks!) and the Amp-86 bass amp. There was also the huge CHG-8 which was recommended for use with the EG-TW and Harp Guitar.

1964

This selection included the first solid-state amps although tube amps continued to be available at least up to 1966. There were at least seven amplifiers, three Teiscos and four Checkmates. The three Teisco amps known of were the Miny, the Amp-71R (purple with just a sprinkling of glitter) and the Teisco-88. There is no info on these but they looked like rectangular cabinets with top-mounted controls. The Miny had the italicized T logo on the front. The Amp-71R had reverb and the Teisco-88 (probably a tube amp) had "Teisco" and a big "88" on the grillcloth. The Checkmate amps (solid-state) were the 15, 20, 25 and 50. The numbers probably represented the output wattage. The style of these were lightly-covered rectangular cabinets with dark grillcloths and front-mounted controls. Two were combos (15 and 20) and the two higher rated amps were tops. That's all we know at the moment on these.

1966

At least eleven solid-state Checkmate amps were listed in the American Teisco Del Rey catalogs this year: the 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 25, 50, 100C and Infinite. Style was a rectangular cabinet with dark tolex covering and large checkered grillcloths. They all had the Teisco Del Rey and Checkmate logos on either corner. The controls were front-mounted.

Specifications for these combos were as follows:

  • Checkmate 10 (6 watts, 6" speaker, two inputs, striped grillcloth)
  • Checkmate 12 (9 watts, 8" speaker, three inputs)
  • Checkmate 14 (14 watts, 8" speaker, three inputs, tremolo)
  • Checkmate 16 bass amp (20 watts, 10" speaker, volume, tone)
  • Checkmate 17 (20 watts, 10" speaker, reverb, tremolo)
  • Checkmate 18 (30 watts, two 10" speakers, reverb, tremolo)
  • Checkmate 20 (40 watts, 12" speaker, reverb, tremolo).

Top amps were:

  • Checkmate 25 (50 watts, 15" speaker, reverb, tremolo)
  • Checkmate 50 (two-channels, 100 watts, two 15" speakers, reverb, tremolo, "E tuner")
  • Checkmate 100C (two channels, voice input, 200 watts, two 15" speakers, reverb, tremolo)
  • Checkmate Infinite (200 watts, two 15" speakers, stereo/mono preamp section, reverb, tremolo and a bunch of other switches! The one shown in the catalog actually has a block Teisco logo and carried the Japanese-marketed name - King - in the lower corner.)

The Japanese catalog shows several additional amps including the Teisco-88 combo (8 watts), Checkmate-15 combo (15 watts), and the Bass Note combo bass amp. These were tube amps.

196?

Here is a list of oddities that I've come across online that don't fit any of the above listings:

  • Checkmate 30: solid state amp,14" round x 18" tall, 8 watt output/ 6" speaker, power "on" light, volume control/ on-off switch, 2 input jacks, tone control, external switched speaker output jack on bottom, tremolo footswitch jack for use with the tremolo section speed and intensity adjustment controls, vertically mounted upward facing speaker with an omni-directional baffle cone for 360 degree sound projection.
  • Teisco TS-20 (1978): solid state 100w amp.Featurse: 3 inputs, treble, bass, volume, Tremolo depth & speed, reverb, tremolo & reverb foot switch sockets on back.
  • Checkmate 21: solid state top, 28 1/2" high, 14 1/2" wide, and 8" deep, reverb, 3 input jacks. The cab pictured has two 8" speakers.