Like most things, the closer you look at certain phenomena, the more you find often subtle, unexpected surprises.
A good example is this Ibanez Model 2020, which dates from around 1970, at the very beginning of the so-called “copy era.”
While Japanese guitar companies were beginning to emulate American designs to provide budget alternatives at the time, they also produced some delightful aberrations like this. Let’s do a little creative speculation to explain this hybrid creature, built when Hoshino Gakki Ten of Nagoya, the parent of Ibanez, was making its transition to producing copies.
This Ibanez Model 2020 presented a curious mystery when it first came to light. At first it seemed a misguided Stratocaster copy… until you realize that it has more to do with Höfner guitars made in Germany. The Europeans were the main competitors to the Japanese during the 1960s, and they were actually the objects of Japanese “copying” in the middle ’60s. The bridge and pickups clearly show a Euro influence. However, whereas most ’60s solids from both Europe and Japan have a certain feel that says “beginner,” this guitar has a much more solid presence with a full-sized body, clearly on the way to “copy.” There’s nothing wrong with these single-coil pickups, either.
That perception of a Höfner connection answered part of the riddle. But what’s up with the neck? The “check-mark” headstock had nothing to do with either Höfner or Fender, and certainly never appeared on an Ibanez before or after. In fact, the neck – with its rounded end and plastic block inlays – looked just like some of the exotic Teiscos produced by Vegas in 1968. How to explain this?
The clue that may solve this quandary was provided during research on the Ibanez history book. In 1966, Hoshino decided it was more cost effective to buy its electric guitars from suppliers than to make its own, and began sourcing them primarily from Fuji-Gen Gakki of Matsumoto City, with some also coming from Teisco Toyoshina, which was owned by Kawai. Yep, Teiscos! Right around 1970, when this Model 2020 was made, Teisco went out of business and many of its top people got jobs at Fuji-Gen.
That was undoubtedly it. Either the Fuji factory acquired parts left over from the Teisco collapse along with the employees, or the new workers brought with them a predilection for the flared headstock and made a few guitars, including the 2020, with the distinctive design.
The Ibanez Model 2020 was short-lived, probably lasting a year at most. Either the Teisco stock ran out or the move to copies made the design anachronistic. Regardless, by 1971 the 2020 was gone. Its successor was a Fender Strat copy (the first versions had Tele-style pickups!) and the move to the copy era was complete. Though this is not to say that there aren’t a lot of other delightful aberrations to be discovered there….
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.