Saturday August 27, 2011

The Ibanez RG History

Have you ever wondered why a Japanese guitar maker uses a Spanish name? Or did you want to know what RG actually stands for?

FujiGen Factory

FujiGen Factory

Ibanez electric guitars are produced by Hoshino Gakki (Hoshino Musical Instruments). Ibanez’s contracts their Japanese (Prestige and J. Custom) OEM manufacturing to FujiGen (Fuji Stringed Musical Instruments"), in the Head Office factory located at Matsumoto, Nagano. FujiGen also manufacture guitars for other companies including their own FUJIGEN brand guitars.

In 1908 Hoshino Gakki began life as a musical instrument sales division for a book company. During 1929 Hoshino Gakki began importing Salvador Ibáñez (a Spanish luthier) guitars from Spain. Once the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) broke out the workshop was completely destroyed. When the guitars were not readily available Hoshino Gakki, the Japanese distributor began producing the guitars themselves. They soon acquired the rights and trademarks to build them rebranding them “Ibanez Salvador" and then later Ibanez. The original Salvador Ibáñez guitars are still highly sought after today and fetch a premium at auction.

By the 1960’s Ibanez guitars were being distributed to the United States to department stores. Most of those guitars were copies of "classic" USA electric guitar designs. While American price hikes and decreases quality had affected the market, Ibanez inexpensive but high quality copies were gaining popularity.

On June 28, 1977 a lawsuit was filed by Norlin Corporation, the parent company of Gibson guitars, alleging Elger Hoshino U.S.A (Ibanez) had copied the paddle “moustache” shape design of the Gibson Les Paul headstock. Hoshino settled out of court in early 1978. Incidentally these “lawsuit” guitars are much sought after on eBay.

For the better, this brought forward a new direction for Hoshino Gakki. By the mid 80’s Ibanez had deserted the clone market and ushered in a new era of the Superstrat.

The Story of the RG Super Strat

It was 1979, Jimmy Carter was President, Star Trek got its first movie and “My Sharona” was number one. It was also the year the Ibanez Roadster Guitar was introduced. Hence the name RG. However this was more a Fender Stratocaster clone with rounded corners and single coil pickups. During this time Heavy Metal was slowly becoming mainstream. On the Superstrat front, the ground work had already been prepared by Eddie Van Halen in 1978 by combining a Fender Stratocaster style body with Gibson PAF humbuckers to build the Frankenstrat.

The Roadstar RG550

The Roadstar RG550 from the original catalogue.

By 1986 the Roadster had become Roadstar. And then in 1987 the first true Super Strat RG model, the RG550 appeared. This was the RG we know today. It fell under the Roadstar Deluxe banner and was based on the JEM777 signature model designed in conjunction with Steve Vai. The RG550 featured the original Edge tremolo, Rosewood or Maple fretboard and the V1, S1 and V2 humbucker pickups. It had the distinctive sharp horns and cut away body, thin necks, 24 fret fingerboards, slim headstocks, locking Floyd Rose tremolo bridges and a modern color scheme.

In 2007 the 1987 RG550 was reissued as the RG550MXX (Maple fretboard) and RG550RXX (rosewood fretboard) to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the RG series. And so ends the history of the RG.



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