CHAPTER III. HISTORY: GRECO GUITARS, THE AGE OF JAPANESE LES PAULs.15 June 2017
CHAPTER V. HISTORY: GUYATONE GUITARS, THE GUITARS FROM OUTER SPACE15 July 2017
In the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s GRECO guitars were not exported from Japan.
GRECO started Strat replicas in 1972 in Matsumoku with the models SE-430, SE-480 and SE-500. On the contrary in 1967 Fender Telecaster-like GRECO models start.
Matsumoku Gakki was the factory for GRECO guitars in the early years and Fujigen Gakki from 1974-75 to 1981.
In 1974-75 the same models of 1972-73 were sold as SE-500 and SE-600.
The GRECO Fender replicas made by Matsumoku have the word Matsumoku stamped on the neckplate and the other GRECO Fender replicas were made by Fujigen Gakki.
Matsumoku guitars included Nisshin Onpa Silver pickups.
Maxon Excel and Nissin Onpa Silver
GRECO SE-600 White. 1979-80
GRECO SE-600 SPARKLE SOUND 1977
SE-500 Black Relic 1976 Fujigen
SE-430 Yellow 1972 Matsumoku
SE-430 Relic White 1973 Matsumoku
SE-500 Black 1977 Fujigen
In 1976 the models Greco Super Sounds arrived and engraved Maxon EXCEL pickups on SE models were released. For many guitar players they were the highest-end pickups for SE models. In our opinion, earlier models of Maxon single pickups (Silver) were as good (even better) as Maxon EXCEL pickups. A higher quality model (SE-800) was included in the catalogue, and the highest model was the SE-1000. There were still transitional models as the SE-500 and the SE-600. All these models include pickups PU-100.
In 1977 and 1978, the model SE-700 (Early Sixties), with a typical 70´s style headstock, includes pickups PU-119 (model 31276). On the contrary the models SE-500 (Super Sounds) and SE-600 (Sparkle Sound) still have PU-100. Two highest quality models were included in the catalogue: SE-1000 (with pickups PU-119) and SE-1200. Models SE-800 (with pickups PU-119), SE-1000 and SE-1200 have 60´s style headstock.
In 1979 the SE-600 changed their pickups for PU-119 and two lower end models, SE-450 (Spacey Sound) and SE-380, are included with PU-100 pickups. The rest of the models had the same characteristics.
Regarding the woods, the bodies were usually made from Japanese Ash, called “sen” in Japan. Necks made of maple, and fretboards of maple and rosewood.
All of these guitars have a very nice vintage tone, warm, clean, like a 50’s and 60´s Strats tone.
And the 80´s arrived… with the Super Real Series. And some minor changes:
SE-1200 (Super Real): Pickups Squeeze.
SE-800 (Super Real): Pickups S8 and SE-1.
SE-700 (Super Real): Pickups SE-1. Including a 70´s style headstock.
SE-600 (Super Sound): Pickups S-8 (model 31276 / PU-119).
SE-500 (Spacey Sound): Pickups S-5.
SE-450 (Spacey Sound):Pickups S-5.
SE-380 (Super Power): Pickups S-3 (model PU-100).
The GRECO Fender replicas from the late 1970s and early 1980s are similar to the early Fender Japan guitars, as Kanda Shokai owned the GRECO brand was also a part of Fender Japan. In 1981, Kanda started talk with Fender USA and Yamano to establish the Fender Japan. Eventually, as the company found that the demand for their popular replicas grew and that the size of the production was getting too large, they relinquished their Stratocaster division to Fender Japan in late 1981.
In 1982 Kanda Shokai and Yamano Gakki become part of Fender Japan and Kanda Shokai stopped producing its own GRECO Fender replica models. GRECO SE-1200 Super Real Stratocaster replica became the last GRECO branded Strats. GRECO Stras became Fender JV Stratocasters, then later MIJ and CIJ Stratocasters, made by the same guys who made the GRECO “Sparkle Sound,” “Spacey Sound,” “Super Sounds,” and “Super Real” Stratocasters from 1977-1981. Curiously, JV Stratocaster guitars are often better paid than GRECO Strats.
To be continued…
JAPTONE has made a compilation of information about GRECO guitars collected from the internet (see below for references), revised and merged to provide you an overall vision on the GRECO brand. Additionally, we have included our opinion about GRECO issues on the basis of our experience. Many GRECO guitars have been checked by us for more than a decade. This is the Chapter IV…GRECO, The Strats from the Rising Sun.
History of Japanese Electric Guitars (Frank Meyers).