Hagstrom Guitars

The Fastest Necks
The Fastest Necks

Ca. ’73 Hagstrom Viking I N also known in the U.S. as the Scandia.

Part 2
This month we continue the Hagstrom saga. To recap: the Hagstrom company was founded
by Albin Hgstrom (1905-1952) in Alvdalen, Sweden in 1921 as an accordion importing firm. In late ’31/early ’32, Hagstrom set up his own factory and began manufacturing Hagstrom-brand accordions. In 1940 Hagstrom set up a U.S. subsidiary. Albin Hgstrom passed away in ’52, but the company continued on and in ’58 made its first venture into guitar and amplifier manufacturing.

Hagstrom’s first guitars were the sparkle plastic-covered acoustic/electrics with replaceable pickup assemblies, introduced in the U.S. as Goya electrics (marketed by Hershman) in 1959. International operations were being run by Albin’s son, Karl-Eric Hgstrom, who returned to Sweden to run the company in the early ’60s. In ’62 Hagstrom struck a deal with another Swedish manufacturer, Bjarton, to make acoustic guitars sold in the U.S. as Fender Tarrega and Buegeleisen & Jacobson Espana guitars. Also in ’62 Hagstrom dropped the sparkle guitars in favor of the new vinyl-covered Kents (Futurama in the U.K.) with lucite fronts and “swimming pool” pickup assemblies.
Hagstrom basses
We’ve already talked about the Hagstrom bass introduced in ’61. In ’63 Hagstrom rolled out the PB-24-BG (“BG” for bass guitar), some 2,545 of which were built through ’64. These were Kents, and took part in the name game that went on between the Kent and Hagstrom I guitars. During that same period there were also 750 Kent New Model basses made. As with the Cromwell guitars, “new” meant laminated alder bodies and birch necks. Most were made in red and blue, but about 20 were shipped in grey. In ’65 Hagstrom shipped 500 Futurama basses to the U.K., with logs noting they, too, were “new.” Between ’64 and ’66 another 2,425 Kent I B basses were made – again most likely a name change. Then in ’65-’66 the name was changed again to Hagstrom I B, and 3,314 were made. Probably at some point these changed from the stubby Kent head to a more Strat-style. Essentially all these Hagstrom I Bs were the same and had the lucite front.

Finally, logs suggest the Hagstrom I B was revived between ’71 and ’73, however, it seems strange the lucite-and-vinyl instruments of the ’60s would have been hip enough to market to the ’70s crowd. Whether these simply shared the name or were actually the same is unknown.

Hagstrom’s Chevrolets
Speaking of hip, perhaps Hagstrom’s coolest guitars followed hot on the heels of the Kent in ’63, the two-pickup Impala and three-pickup Corvette, both named for popular Chevrolets. These were fairly sophisticated guitars, with wider maple bodies, an arm contour, more flared horns and a little peak down on the lower bout, giving the butt a little S-curve. More importantly, these were neck-through-body guitars with natty colored pushbutton controls mounted on a metal plate on the lower bout. The heads had a slightly more pointed throat than the Strat-styles. These had deluxe covered Van Ghent tuners. Plastic logos were on the body, like on the Kents. Fingerboards were rosewood with dot inlays. Pickups were the black oval single-coils on metal surrounds screwed into the top, although at some point after ’65 these changed to the newer rectangular black single-coils. A little black laminated pickguard sat under the strings, but had the cool feature of a lever volume control plus a volume knob for presetting an accompaniment level.

Controls were the same for both guitars, with 0=standby, 1=neck pickup, 2=bridge pickup, Hi, Mid, Low, Solo, and Accompaniment. Both had a finetune bridge and Hagstrom vibrato, and were available in mahogany sunburst or red sunburst. The Impala and Corvette were made until ’67, by which time 1,123 and 1,078 were made of each, respectively.

In ’63 Ben Davis, the owner of the Selmer Company in London, devised a cross between the Corvette and the Impala called the Automatic. Accommodating his wishes, Hagstrom produced the Automatic exclusively for Selmer, London, between ’63 and ’65.

Joining the Impala and Corvette in ’63 was the Coronado 1 bass. These were essentially the same, with a slightly rounder headstock and two rectangular Bi-Sonic pickups with eight poles each on metal surrounds. Pickups were mounted on a center pickguard. The jack was still incorporated into the pickguard design, which was attached, by the way, with noticeably large screws. These had (of course) a bridge/tailpiece assembly. There were four black pushbuttons, one for the neck pickup, the second for the bridge, and both could be pushed in for both pickups. The third and fourth buttons were filters designed “…to be adjusted to match input of connected amplifier.” A long bar that ran all across the bottom of both pickups appeared to be a fingerrest. A rheostat lever volume control completed the picture. This bass was called the Coronado 1 until ’65, at which time the name was changed to the Coronado IV, and the bass became a bolt-neck. These lasted until ’70, and 1,010 were produced.

Six-string bass and three-pickup guitars
The Hagstrom predilection for interesting basses cropped up in ’63, as well, when it produced 97 Coronado II six-string bass guitars. Except for the extra strings, this was identical to the Coronado I and was renamed the Coronado VI in ’65. Between then and ’66 another 50 were built.

From ’64 to ’65, Hagstrom produced another 2,001 Hagstrom De Luxe IIIs and 1,000 Hagstrom De Luxe IIs. Again, if the De Luxe pattern holds, that would indicate binding and block inlays, but this is far from certain. One example of what is probably a Hagstrom De Luxe III fits with what we know about the transition from Kent to Kent I to Hagstrom I. This guitar had the new Strat-style head, finished in natural. It also had the old Kent mini-Strat body, but it was not covered in plastic and vinyl, but rather finished in a solid color. It still had the logo on the upper horn, which fits with the Kent I, and it still had the old oval single-coils, now three, of course. It also had a new metal compensated bridge, by the way.

Let’s talk briefly about bridges, because this might also be some sort of clue to what “De Luxe” meant at the time. The earliest Kents had a wooden bridge, a simple affair on a wooden bass with bits of fretwire to provide intonation compensation. By ’65, at least, a metal compensated bridge was employed. These can be seen on Hagstrom IIs and the just-mentioned probable Hagstrom De Luxe III. Finally, some Hagstrom models from the mid ’60s are seen with finetune adjustable bridges. There is always a possibility these were player modifications, but some were used on Corvettes and Impalas, so we know Hagstrom employed some finetune bridges around this time. Could it be that the De Luxe appellation indicated better hardware during this transitional period? Maybe better hardware and the opaque finish, rather than lucite and vinyl? Well, we have to leave some mysteries for future researchers to solve, don’t we?

From Kent to Hagstrom I
In ’65, the Kent became the Hagstrom I. This apparently occurred after February 1 because the price list did not have the Hagstrom I but still featured the Kents. In any case, the Hagstrom I guitars moved the logo from the body to a stencil on the headstock which included the “I.” Also, the Hagstrom I changed the headstock design to be essentially a Strat copy. It may be that some of the additional colors are actually attributable to this change, but maybe not. The initial Hagstrom I guitars still featured the older black oval single-coil pickups. We know this from existing examples. It’s also fairly certain that there were some transitional Kents with the new Strat-style headstock but the logo on the body, probably from this same time period. We also know from existing examples that at some point after ’65 and before ’67 the pickups changed to a newer, slightly wider rectangular black single-coil, like that found on later Corvettes, Hagstrom IIs, and most other models. The Hagstrom 12, introduced in ’65, is almost always seen with these newer rectangular models. In the production logs the first batch of Hagstrom I’s were made between ’65 and ’66, and my guess is that these carried the old oval pickups. Two more large batches were produced in ’66-’67 and it’s quite probable these carried the new rectangular pickups. The rectangular pickups were available by ’65 on the Viking, although some examples of these are seen with metal covers with screen holes, not plastic covers. Thus we can probably point to late ’65 or ’66 as the year when the oval pickups were replaced by the rectangular ones. Several other changes probably pertain to the Hagstrom I. While the earliest models were undoubtedly the lucite/vinyl Kent-style guitars, it’s not certain they made it to the end with this finish. It’s hard to believe the vinyl lasted to ’71. Some other guitars made a transition to solid colors at this time.

Around ’66, the vinyl was abandoned for opaque colors. Another 4,824 Hagstrom Is were made until ’71, when the model bit the dust.

Other transitional models
Several other models listed in Hagstrom logs from this period are also Kents. In ’64-’65, prior to the switch, 1,400 Hagstroms were built, and between ’64 and ’66 5,425 Kent I guitars were produced. These were undoubtedly transitional and most likely are the guitars that had the older oval pickups but bore the new Strat head, but with the logo still on the upper horn. Indeed, it’s almost as if Hagstrom was playing with the name because the Kent combined Hagstrom and Kent I to become the Hagstrom I…

A handful of other guitars should be mentioned while we’re on the subject. Between ’64 and ’65 Hagstrom produced some 2,000 guitars called the Hagstrom De Luxe. Unlike later guitars with the DeLuxe designation, which was given to guitars with bound fingerboards and block inlays, these were standard Hagstrom guitars ordered by Merson/Unicord with the DeLuxe name. Basically these were the Hagstrom II and III. Hagstrom didn’t like this model designation, and after some discussion these became the Hagstrom II and III in Europe and the F-200 and F-300 in the U.S. Between ’65 and ’66, 2,049 Hagstrom De Luxe basses were also made, like the guitars, for Merson/Unicord. This dizzying use of different model names and number designations in different markets accounts for a great deal of confusion among Hagstrom enthusiasts.

Finally, in ’68 and ’69 some 200 Hagstrom 1-0 guitars were made. These were specially made for Hagstrom’s Canadian distributor, ARC Sound in Toronto. The 1 meant that they had only one pickup, and the 0 indicated that they were stoptails, with no Tremar vibrato.
Hagstrom’s “SG”
The vinyl Kent and vegematic Corvette/Impala/Coronado guitars and amps were arguably the most endearing Hagstroms and reflect the exuberance of the ’60s guitar boom. Signs that Hagstrom was beginning to change its image appeared in around ’65 with the introduction of the Hagstrom II and Hagstrom III guitars and Hagstrom II B basses. Basically, these were still offset double-cutaway solidbodies with shorter, pointed horns, more similar to a Gibson SG – almost presaging the Guild S-100 of the ’70s. The bodies were mahogany finished in red or blue (no more vinyl) and had a wide bevel around the outer edge – not quite a German carve. The bolt-on necks had the new Strat-style heads, rosewood boards, and dot inlays. Logos were either Hagstrom II or Hagstrom III decals on the heads.

Initially, pickups were the same as the old black oval Kent single-coils, either two or three mounted on metal surrounds which were then screwed onto a large white multi-ply pickguard that echoed the old Kent shape. Indeed, these even had the control stencil of the Kent. Controls were essentially the same as the Kent. The Hagstrom II was the same, whereas the Hagstrom III added the extra slider for the middle pickup, and yet another switch for something called “Top.” Another on/off sliding switch was placed above the strings, like a Gretsch standby. The jack was no longer part of the pickguard, but was now top mounted with chrome housing like a Stratocaster. Both still had the finetune bridge and Hagstrom vibrato. The bass, of course, lacked a vibrato. Beginning in around ’66 (if not earlier) the pickups changed to the new rectangular pickups, and the pickguard lost the old Kent stencils.

From ’65 to ’67, Hagstrom also made another of its more famous guitars, the Hagstrom 12(-string), which was endorsed in ads by Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Invention. These were identical to the Hagstrom II except there were no vibratos, the pickups were slightly larger rectangular single-coils, and the head was a large six-and-six with a Gibson-ish open-book crown. These were offered in red, blue, and sunburst.

The Hagstrom II and III lasted until ’72, though a few more IIs were made in ’75 and ’76 and some IIIs were revived in ’77; it’s unknown if these latter ones were identical; it’s almost certain that the ’70s models had different pickups, but this is a guess. These are referred to as H II and H III, by the way, as became common in the ’70s; whether this had any significance is unknown. A total of 9,015 Hagstrom IIs and 11,490 Hagstrom IIIs were produced. The Hagstrom II B bass bit the dust in ’70, after 6,767 were built. The Hagstrom 12 only lasted until ’67, after 3,484 were made. As mentioned, in the U.S., the Hagstrom II was known as the F-200 Futura, the Hagstrom III was the F-300 Futura, and the Hagstrom II B bass was the F-400.

A hundred of one mystery model, the Hagstrom II/6 N.P., were made in ’70. No clue.
Mid-’60s amps and the 8-string bass
In ’65 Hagstrom offered five amplifiers, a couple cabinets and an echo chamber. The amps included the Hagstrom 26, 210 Bass, 310, GA 85, and 620 amplifiers. The Hagstrom 26 Tremolo amplifier was a nifty little portable self-contained in its own two-tone case, about the size of a small typewriter. This had three tubes (EZ80, ECC83, EL84), one ticonal-magnet loudspeaker, two inputs, 10 watts output and tremolo. It weighed 93/4 pounds. The Hagstrom 210 Bass Amplifier was a piggyback covered in tweed. The head offered 10 watts of power with three tubes (two ECLL800, ECC83) and two diodes. The front control panel had two inputs, speaker jack, on/off switch, and volume and filter (tone) knobs. The cabinet was rectangular with a dark grille, white plastic logo on the upper right corner, and one 12″ speaker.

Hagstrom holds the distinction (I believe) of building the world’s first production 8-string bass with its Hagstrom 8-string Bass, with 2,199 produced from ’67 to ’69. This was basically the Hagstrom II B with a strange four-and-four head with a kind of winged design which would soon appear on other guitars. These were more like a 12-string in concept, with string pairs in octaves, so there were still four courses.

Viking semi-hollowbodies
In ’65 Hagstrom also expanded its repertoire into semi-hollowbody electric guitars with the Viking. These were basically bolt-neck versions of the Gibson ES-335s. These had a neck with a Strat-style six-in-line headstock, rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, two pickups, elevated pickguard, f-holes, a narrow metal finetune bridge and harp trapeze tailpiece with a Hagstrom lion crest at the bottom. The sides on these early Vikings appear to have been flamed maple, probably a laminate. Electronics included new-style rectangular single-coil pickups with a three-way select on the treble horn and two volume and two tone controls down hear the lower f-hole. Indeed, these pickups appear to have been developed for the Viking, later migrating to other models.

Hagstrom production logs refer to this guitar variously as plain Viking or Viking I (9,241 total made). In ’67 a second Viking model was added to the line, a more upscale Viking II. Fingerboards on these were bound ebony with block inlays, a natty double-line at the octave. Headstock and f-holes were also bound. Hardware was gold plated. A thousand Viking IIs were made through ’68. Both Vikings were available with a Bigsby option. These were shipped to Merson/Unicord without tails and a real Bigsby “Golden Tone” vibrato with Hagstrom and an H cast into the base was mounted onto the guitar. In ’67 Hagstrom made 651 Viking 12-strings. Viking color options included mahogany sunburst, golden mahogany sunburst, and cherry red.

From ’65 to ’71 Hagstrom also made a bass version of the Viking called the Concord or Concord 1. This had a bound body, f-holes, two rectangular single-coils (four poles), a metal finetune bridge and the fancy harp trapeze tailpiece with lion crest. This had the conventional switching system, with a three-way select down on the treble horn and two volume and two tone controls. This had a Fender-style head, rosewood fingerboard, and dot inlays. It was available at least in sunburst. Some 2,749 of these were built.

Finally, in ’67 Hagstrom introduced its most famous Viking, the Viking De Luxe. This was pretty much similar to the Viking II. It’s from this guitar that we know that the De Luxe nomination was given to some guitars with bound fingerboards and headstocks and block inlays, although as we see throughout this tale, the term was used on other instruments without all these features. Pickups were the new rectangular single-coils, with metal covers and black plastic surrounds. The Viking De Luxe had gold hardware, including a finetune bridge mounted on an ebony base. The fingerboard was bound ebony with blocks, including the split or double block at the octave. This had an elevated pickguard, three-way select on the treble horn, two volume, and two tone controls. The tail was an oval harp trapeze with a red Hagstrom lion crest at the bottom. It was this guitar which Elvis chose to play on his wildly successful ’68 TV comeback special. Only 350 of these were made.

In ’67-’68 Hagstrom also made 150 De Luxe basses, presumably with the same fancy appointments.

More Bjarton-made acoustics
Hagstrom has never been known for making acoustic guitars but in ’66 Merson/Unicord began promoting a line of steel-string acoustic and acoustic/electric guitars bearing the Hagstrom brand name. These were again probably made by Bjarton, the factory Hagstrom had used a couple years earlier in the decade. Acoustic Hagstroms offered in the ’66 Merson catalog included a concert and grand concert-sized folk, two jumbos, and two 12-string dreadnoughts.

The glued-in necks all had the patented Hagstrom “H” expander rod. All had rosewood fingerboards, rosewood-pin bridges and line rosettes. The H-11 Concert Folk Guitar (141/8″) had a natural spruce top, mahogany body, an open book headstock, dots and large tortoise guard. The square-shouldered H-22 Grand Concert Folk Guitar (151/4″) was spruce and maple in a sunburst finish, otherwise similar to the H-11. The round-shouldered jumbo H-45 Country Western Guitar (16″) was spruce and mahogany in sunburst, with bound fingerboard, block inlays, a wide center-peaked three-and-three headstock, and smaller tortoise guard. The H-45E was the same guitar with a Kent pickup at the end of the fingerboard, with a volume and tone down on the lower bout. H-33 12 String “Folk Singer’s Favorite” dreadnought came in spruce and mahogany, with open book head and dots. The H-33E was the same with a Kent pickup tucked up under the end of the fingerboard. In ’67, the great Frank Zappa appeared in an ad with H-33E 12-string acoustic/electric.

“New” models
Now we enter a period of some speculation on my part, because reference materials are spotty. The Strat-style headstock seen on the Hagstrom II and III guitars was still seen in ads, mostly in Sing Out! magazine, through ’67, tending to confirm the numbers seen in the production logs, going up to the early ’70s. However, we also know that at some point Hagstrom started making versions of these guitars with the new winged three-and-three (two-and-two) headstock design similar to the one that appeared on the ’67 8-String bass. Beginning in ’69, the logs start showing the H II N guitar and H II N B bass. “N” was Hagstrom’s code for “ny” or new, denoting a style change. From this point on Hagstrom is shortened to H, and the guitars are often referred to as such. A flyer for the Hagstrom IIBN (different order of letters) pretty much confirms this conclusion of headstock debut.

So the Hagstrom or H II N and II N B debuted in ’69 with the new heads. Otherwise these were very similar to the older Hagstroms, with offset pointed double-cutaways and the taper along the edges. Pickups were metal-covered humbuckers mounted in a black laminated pickguard, otherwise similar to the Hagstrom II. The guard extended a bit further and the Strat-style jack was mounted on it. The on/off slider remained, but switching got more modern, with a three-way select on the treble horn and two volume and two tone controls with knobs. Again, I’m going to guess that the H II N was a stoptail guitar. Another model is listed as being made from ’71-75 was the H II N OT, which I suspect were models made with an optional vibrato (i.e., “optional tremolo”), thus the “OT.” The H II N lasted through ’76 after 4,016 were made. It appears that these guitars were called the HG800 in the U.S. There were 863 of the vibrato versions.

The Hagstrom IIBN (or II N B) was essentially the same pointed offset double cutaway with the edge taper. These had a large laminated pickguard with the Strat-style jack, two volumes, two tones, and three-way select. Pickups were metal covered and mounted on surrounds mounted on the ‘guard. The 20-fret fingerboard was unbound with dots and the new winged two-and-two head. The bridge was a heavy cast tail assembly. Some 3,483 of the basses were made until biting the dust in ’76, as well.
Between ’74 and ’75, 10 H II B NV basses were also made. I’ve no idea what these were, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the NV had to do with fretless, but that’s just a guess.

Hagstrom distribution
Hagstrom guitars were distributed in the U.S. originally by Hershman from ’59 through ’61. In ’62 distribution switched to Merson, which became Merson/Unicord in late ’65. Merson/Unicord distribution continued until around ’70, perhaps trickling in beyond that. By that time Merson/Unicord was more interested in its line of Japanese-made Univox guitars. A press notice for the ill-fated first D’Aquisto from December ’71 listed DAQ Musical Distributors, Inc., of Huntington Station, New York, as the source for information. However, between ’70 and ’73, the majority of Hagstrom II and III guitars were exported to Arc in Canada. Beginning in ’73, exportation mainly shifted to the Selmer Company in Elkhart, Indiana, then the owner of Ampeg. The Ampeg and Hagstrom names would be joined in advertising from this point on. Ampeg began an aggressive promotion campaign which focused on the Swede, positioning it as a high-quality, low-production Swedish instrument. Fairly accurate, I’d say. During this latter period, a fair number of Hagstrom guitars also went to DEMUSA in East Germany.

The Scandi
At the end of the H II N run in ’76, 207 H III Scandi guitars were built. These were basically the H II N with three single-coil pickups. The Scandi body was made of ash and had rounded edges, more like a Strat with extended horns. The neck was also made of ash, with a 20-fret maple fingerboard inlaid with black dots. The headstock, too, was very Stratish, but a bit exaggerated. The headstock decal read “Hagstrom Scandi” along the lower curvature. The three single-coil pickups were mounted on a black laminated pickguard in Strat arrangement. Controls included three sliding on/off switches below the pickups, a master on/off bypass above the pickups, plus a volume and three tones. This had a finetune bridge and stop tail. In ’78 the H III prefix was dropped and until ’80 another 257 guitars called simply the “Scandi” were produced. In ’77-’78 some 18 models called the Scandi De Luxe were made, again, presumably, with the usual deluxe appointments. No other information is available on these relatively rare birds.

Jimmy D’Aquisto
In ’68, Hagstrom hired the bold luthier James L. D’Aquisto, the New York apprentice of D’Angelicos, to design archtop guitars. The result was a pair of jazz boxes and a redesign of the Viking thinlines. The first Jimmy jazz boxes were made in ’69, but it actually took Hagstrom some time to get them into production and market. The full D’Aquisto line doesn’t appear until ’76. As seen in later ’70s Jimmies, there were two models, one with f-holes and one with an oval soundhole. The delay on the Jimmies was due to the fact Hagstrom had intended to have the Bjarton guitar factory build the guitars, but the factory closed down before the Jimmies could get into full production.

In ’69, 480 Hagstrom Jimmy guitars were produced. These first Jimmies were the f-hole archtops. They were very similar to later models, with an arched spruce top, bound f-holes, birch body and neck, and bound ebony fingerboard. This had the asymmetrical D’Aquisto head, large pearl inlay, block fingerboard inlays (double line at the octave), twin pickups, and large cast trapeze. The principal difference with later versions seems to be a smaller, more Florentine pickguard. Half of these were produced in blonde and half in sunburst. The serial number on these ’69 Jimmies was 743-.

The Swede
D’Aquisto’s influence was seen immediately, however, in the introduction of the Hagstrom Swede solidbody. Just as the lucite/vinyl Kents were the quintessential Hagstroms of the ’60s, the Swede would become the signature guitars of the Me Decade. This guitar featured the new asymmetrical headstock designed by Jimmy D’Aquisto, though adapting it to the new solidbody was Hagstrom’s idea, and D’Aquisto was not involved in the development of the Swede. Ads touted the D’Aquisto-designed tuners, which featured art deco-style buttons and were similar to, but slightly more complex than, stairstepped Grover Imperials. Initially these were made by Van Ghent, but later on, in the late ’70s, however, Hagstrom tuners switched to Schallers, still with D’Aquisto-designed buttons.

An elegant single cutaway solidbody in a Les Paul mode, the first 505 Swedes built in ’70-’71 were actually called the Hagstrom L.P. By ’71, however, going counter to the prevailing contemporary trend toward copying American guitars even down to the name, the Hagstrom L.P. had officially become the Swede.

The Hagstrom Swede was a single-cutaway solidbody made of mahogany. It had a bound top and a bolt-on mahogany neck. The head, as mentioned, was pure D’Aquisto. It had a fleur-de-lis inlay. The 22-fret neck was unbound ebony with celluloid block inlays. This had an elevated pickguard like a Les Paul, with two metal-covered humbuckers mounted on plastic surrounds, a finetune bridge, and covered stoptail. Controls were a three-way select on the treble horn, two volume and two tone controls, and what seems to be a three-way tone switch on the bass shoulder. Color options were natural, cherry, white, or black. In addition to the L.P.s, some 7,041 Swedes were made until the end of the run in ’82.

Introduced along with the Swede guitar was a bass version. As seen in ads from the time, these were pretty similar to the guitars, including the block inlays. The Swede bass was available from ’71 to ’76, during which time 1,479 were made. From ’77 to ’78 Hagstrom made 373 basses called the Scanbass. It’s not known what this is, but the ’77 Ampeg catalog showed a Swede-style bass, so I suspect this is yet more name game and they are one and the same.

Many thanks to Mikael Jansson, Karl-Eric Hgstrom, Sr., and Karl-Eric Hgstrom, Jr. for their invaluable help in assembling this story. A good amount of detailed information can be gleaned from the pages of, Hagstrom Guitars: The Fastest Playing Neck In the World. This book reproduces Hagstrom’s production logs and was actually donated to the retirement fund of Hagstrom employees by Karl-Eric Hgstrom, Sr., after the company went out of business. All profits from the sale of the book go to that fund. You can find out more about how to get a copy on the website: www.albinhagstrom.se under the Hagstrom book page. Next month will wrap up the later ’70s and cruise into the sunset.

Part 3
This month we conclude the Hagstrom saga with a brief review. But first, a housekeeping point.
George Gruhn took exception to my opinion that Hagstrom was the first to offer a pushbutton pickup selector system, and he rightly pointed out that the triple-pickup Epiphone Emperor had a six-button system in 1952, and Guild introduced a virtually identical system in ’54 on its triple-pickup X-350 model. I had been focusing on ’60s solidbodies, primarily those by the Italian makers such as EKO, Gemelli, and Crucianelli, and wasn’t thinking backward. Actually, given the fact Hagstrom and Guild were quite close over the years (remember, Hagstrom built some Guild amps and supplied the vibrato used on ’60s Guild solidbodies), it’s quite possible Hagstrom was encouraged by the Guild, although pushbuttons are dear to the hearts of most accordion players, so we might not have to look any further than Hagstrom’s own squeezeboxes.

Okay, let’s review: the Hagstrom company was founded by Albin Hgstrom (1905-’52) in Alvdalen, Sweden, in 1921 as an accordion importer. In late ’31 or early ’32 Hagstrom began manufacturing Hagström accordions. Founder Albin Hagstrom passed away in ’52, but the company continued on. In ’58, Hagstrom began guitar and amplifier manufacturing. Hagstrom’s first guitars were the sparkle plastic-covered acoustic/electrics with replaceable pickup assemblies. These were introduced in the United States as Goya electrics marketed by Hershman in ’59. Hagstrom’s first bass appeared in ’61. In ’62 Hagstrom began selling acoustic guitars made by the Swedish manufacturer Bjarton, sold in the U.S. as Fender Tarrega and Buegeleisen & Jacobson Espana guitars. Also in ’62 Hagstrom dropped the sparkle guitars for the new vinyl-covered Kents with lucite fronts and the “swimming pool” pickup assembly.

The new Fender-style lucite/vinyl basses appeared in ’63, as did the glued-neck Impala and Corvette guitar and Coronado Bass, complete with vegematic pushbuttons. A three-pickup Hagstrom debuted in ’64. In ’65 the Kent name and lucite guitars were transitioned to the Hagstrom name, and the new all-wood “SG” shape debuted. In that year the semi-hollow Viking thinlines also began. In ’66 Hagstrom-brand acoustics, still made by Bjarton, bowed. In ’67 Hagstrom introduced the first eight-string bass. In ’68 Jimmy D’Aquisto was hired to design some jazz guitars known as the Jimmy, though only a few were produced at that time. In ’69 the new “winged” headstock debuted, and ’70 saw of the introduction of Hagstrom’s “Les Paul,” called the Swede.

New Vikings
In ’72 the venerable Viking thinlines got a remake with the Viking I N. It’s not clear exactly what distinguished these from earlier or later Vikings, but the N argues for a new three-and-three headstock. Whether this was the winged head or the newer D’Aquisto design. My guess is the latter, based on the presence of the Swede heads, and the fact that in ’76 these were replaced by the Jimmy jazzboxes and D’Aquisto-headed Vikings. It seems unlikely Hagstrom would have stuck the ungainly winged head on a thinline. In any case, this probably featured the new metal-covered humbuckers, the twin volumes and tones, three-way select and probably three-way tone switch. By the end of the run on the Viking I Ns in ’75, 1,845 had been made. These were called the Scandia in the U.S., by the way.

In ’73 Hagstrom introduced the Jazzbass. This was a handsome variant on the Fender Jazz Bass, with an offset double-cutaway mahogany body with more pointed horns, contoured on the bass bout for your arm. Unlike the more typical Hagstrom IIBN and the majority of Hagstrom’s guitars, the body did not have a taper around the edge. The bolt-on neck was also Fender-style with a four-in-line head and little plastic Hagstrom logo. The 20-fret fingerboard was bound with block inlays. A laminated black pickguard carried one pickup with a cover, a fingerrest, plus two volumes and a master tone control. A second pickup sat by the bridge under a fancy Hagstrom crest-stamped cover. The Jazzbass lasted ’til ’77. Some 639 were made during the four-year run.

In ’75, three Jazzbass V five-string basses were made.

Patch 2000 synthesizers
By ’76, synthesizer technology was beginning to grab the attention of guitar players, paced by Moog and ARP. This was still an analog world in the mid ’70s, with voltage control oscillators and other junk. Being an electronics company, Ampeg was interested in playing in the emerging technology. To cash in on the interest by guitarists, Ampeg developed the Patch 2000 synth interface/controller pedal and placed more controller electronics into a Swede guitar, introducing the Swede Patch 2000 system in ’76, perhaps the first synth outfit specifically designed for the guitar as a controller.

The Swede Patch 2000 guitar could be played as a guitar, as a synth controller, or both. The synth circuitry operated independent of the traditional guitar electronics. Basically, the synth circuit had a digital location for each fret/string combination running through a special hex pickup in the bridge. It constantly scanned the frequencies until it sensed a changed contact. This frequency would then play until an new fret contact was sensed. The frets were regular frets (unlike, say, the Guitorgan, which had segmented frets). In essence, the synth function was not dependent upon string vibration or picking, so you could play it entirely with the left hand.

The circuitry onboard the Swede Patch 2000 guitar connected to an Ampeg Patch 2000 pedal which had two pedals, for pitch and glide controls. The pitch pedal was a continuously variable control which allowed you to raise the pitch up a full octave over the range of the pedal. This let you change tuning as you played or use the pedal for “bending” effects. The glide pedal controlled the response of the fret changes, governing how much time it would take fro the synth to “glide” from one note to another. In the middle of the unit was a footswitch which automatically retuned the synth tones to a fifth above the regular guitar tuning. This would let you play a straight guitar tuning out and accompany yourself a fifth above with the synth. Output from an analog synth was connected to the pedal, as was the guitar, and both were combined out to an amp. Some of the analog synths with which the Patch 2000 could work were made by Oberheim, Steiner-Parker, Micro Moog, EMS and some ARP models. The Patch 2000 came as both guitar and bass and was endorsed by performers including Larry Coryell, Frank Zappa, Steve Pacelli, Bob Walsh, Be Bop Deluxe’s Bill Nelson, Daryl Stuermer, and Herb Ellis.

Ampeg was anxious to launch the new combination and made a bunch of ballyhoo at the ’76 NAMM show, and Hgstrom recalls they received quite a bit of attention. However, the Patch 2000 was pretty much a flop. The system was offered from ’76 through ’79, though only 509 were ever built. They had been surpassed in the horserace by the Roland systems, and when multiple-instrument digital interface (MIDI) became the standard in ’81, the concept was pretty much obsolete. In ’77 Hagstrom put the synth system into 200 Swede Bass Patches, followed in ’78 by another 75 Jazzbass Patch 2000s. That was the end of that idea.

D’Aquisto line, Mach 2
’76 also saw the true debut of the guitars designed by Jimmy D’Aquisto. D’Aquisto was rehired by Hgstrom to oversee final refinements of his initial designs. Initially there was just the Jimmy jazzbox, an f-hole guitar that represented the original run of ’69. This guitar was joined by a version with a round soundhole in ’77, followed by a Viking in ’78.

The ’76 Jimmy was a medium-depth single round cutaway f-hole jazz guitar with a laminated birch body, arched top and back, and glued-in laminated birch neck (with a 10-year guarantee!). The head was the asymmetrical design with a matching inlay. The 20-fret ebony fingerboard was bound with block inlays, double at the octave. The top carried two metal-covered humbuckers mounted on black plastic surrounds, with an adjustable ebony bridge and fancy heavy cast trapeze tail. The guitar had an elevated pickguard, three-way select on the treble horn, two volume, and two tone controls. It was available in cherry, sunburst, golden sunburst, white, and natural. Between ’76 and ’79 some 1,207 f-hole Jimmies were built.

Following the f-hole Jimmy the next year (’77) was another Jimmy with a single oval soundhole replacing the f-holes. Other than the soundhole, all the specs were identical. These are much rarer, however; by ’79 only 356 were made.

Now associated with the D’Aquisto creations beginning in ’78 was the venerable double-cutaway Viking thinline. Whether or not these were simply continuations of previous Vikings or reflected new changes is unknown, but they had much in common with the Jimmies. These were also made of laminated birch. Essentially, except for the thin body, bound Jacaranda rosewood fingerboard, dot inlays, fine-tune bridge, extra three-way tone toggle, and more rounded oval harp trapeze (with Hagstrom lion crest), they were like the Jimmies. Finish options included sunburst, golden sunburst, white, natural, cherry, and a cool bubinga, the latter a ribbon mahogany veneer. These last Vikings met Valhalla in ’79 along with the Jimmies.
Super Swede
Following the D’Aquistos, Hagstrom introduced its last guitar in ’78, with a companion bass appearing in ’80, the Super Swedes. Actually, from ’78 to ’80 the first 500 Super Swedes were called the Swede De Luxe, before getting its proper name.

The Super Swede guitar was an upscale model with a glued-in neck, a crest inlay on the head matching the head shape, Schaller tuners, a bound ebony fingerboard with zero fret and blocks, and a three-way select on the upper shoulder. A coil-tap mini-toggle was mounted just under the pickguard. The result of three years of research, the Super Swede (or Superswede, both spellings are encountered), this guitar was designed with the help of a famous Swedish guitarist and repairman named Egil Strazdovskis. Significant differences from the plain Swede appear to be an optional maple body, a solid maple neck, a more rounded heel, wider and thinner fingerboard, and wider frets. The Super Swede was available with either a maple or mahogany body. Finish options on the maple guitar were golden sunburst, wine, tobacco brown, or white. On the mahogany guitar finishes included cherry and natural. Requests for custom colors were welcome. Presumably the bass was similar. Some 1,566 guitars were produced until ’83 and 356 basses were made until ’81.

The Partner and The End
In ’79, Hagstrom produced a brief run of a guitar called the Partner. These were basically some inexpensive Hagstrom IIs assembled from leftover parts.

And that was about all she wrote for Swedish-made Hagstroms. As attractive as the latter guitars were, they were slightly out of step with the times. Immediately following the end of the Copy Era in ’77 was a period in search of extra sustain and better sound. Neck-through-body construction, onboard effects, and active electronics by companies like Alembic, B.C. Rich, Ibanez, and Aria captured guitar buyers. Then in the early ’80s the U.S. slipped into a significant recession, characterized by accelerated exodus of manufacturing to cheaper labor markets and the now ubiquitous (and terrifying) practice of downsizing. The U.S. market for guitars took a temporary dive.

Japanese Hagstroms?
Hagstrom struggled on, but the end was in sight. Some reports suggest the company turned to Japan for supplies toward the end, but that’s not the case. In ’83 representatives of a Japanese manufacturer approached Karl-Erik Hgstrom with some guitars and basses, prototypes of a proposed rejuvenation of the brand, and they wanted to purchase the rights to the Hagstrom name. These carried the Hagstrom logo, but Hgstrom was not impressed with the quality and politely declined. These would be quite rare, since only 16 were made. One of the basses is located in the Hagstrom museum. In ’84, the Hagstrom factory closed down, and that was the end of the saga. Between ’58 and ’83, Hagstrom produced a total of 128,583 guitars and basses.

As mentioned, after Hagstrom ceased production, Karl-Eric, Sr. donated the production logs to a book, the profits from which go to supporting a retirement fund for former Hagstrom employees. This slim volume, Hagstrom Guitars: The Fastest Playing Neck In the World, is still available and will be enormously useful to anyone seeking to identify their own instruments.

Technically speaking, the Hagstrom Company continues to exist, with Hgstrom managing a number of warehouses. Several companies are also related. Musitech, run by former Hagstrom employee Rolf Lindhamn, distributes Guild and Aria guitars in Sweden. Another company operated by former Hagstrom employees, Amtech, manufactures PA equipment.

So there you have it. A rather remarkable run of pretty good guitars. From the beginning the instruments were innovative. The modular pickups of the sparkles were a cool, if not too practical, idea. It would wait until Player guitars of the mid ’80s for this idea to resurface. In the ’60s the thin necks were also ahead of their time. The Patch 2000 was an early excursion into the world of synths. And guitars like the Swede were just darned good. Hey, and they were good enough for the King!

Many thanks to Mikael Jansson, Karl-Eric Hgstrom, Sr., and Karl-Eric Hgstrom, Jr. for their invaluable help. A good amount of detailed information can be gleaned from the pages of the book, Hagstrom Guitars: The Fastest Playing Neck In the World. All profits from the sale of the book go to that fund. You can find out more about how to get a copy on the website: www.albinhagstrom.se under the Hagstrom book page. Next month we’ll wrap up the later ’70s and cruise into the sunset.

Ca. ’73 Hagstrom Viking I N also known in the U.S. as the Scandia.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. and Oct. ’99 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.