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View Full Version : Ever hear of "Memphis" guitars???


P90s
02-20-2007, 12:02 PM
the first decent guitar I owned was by a company called "Memphis". I bought it in 1979 in northern california. It's a double cut-away with neck-thru-body
construction, brass nut, humbucker pick-ups. The neck is made of two woods, one mahgoney, and the other a blond wood, I'm guessing maple (?). I spent about $300 on in back in '79 (which in retrospect seems like a lot of money for that time). I'm curious whether anyone has ever heard of this company, knows how/why they went under, etc, because I've never come across them again.
Thanks in advance for the history lesson to anyone who knows.

P90s

The Golden Boy
02-20-2007, 12:04 PM
I remember people having "inexpensive" Memphis Les Paul copies with bolted on necks. I honestly don't remember too much about the ones that I've seen and played. I do remember taking my buddy's LP Custom copy completely apart and mixing up the pickup rings...:Spank

RichusRkr
02-20-2007, 12:11 PM
I don't know about Memphis, but these New Orleans guitars look pretty good: http://www.neworleansguitar.com/

mprvise
02-20-2007, 12:15 PM
A Memphis Les Paul copy was my very first electric guitar. Bought brand new in 1981. Kinda wish I still had it.

chrisjw5
02-20-2007, 12:24 PM
I had a Memphis knock-off Les Paul Custom. OK guitar with crappy pickups. It was my second "real" guitar, but I didn't know enough about it to upgrade it.

Couldn't get the action very low either.

mcknigs
02-20-2007, 12:24 PM
Memphis was made in Japan and, I believe, imported by Kaman. There's a site called vintaxe.com that has forums that deal with older Japanese instruments. They also have catalogs you can check out for a small yearly fee. I looked at the Memphis catalogs and saw something called a 102 DLX that looks like it might be what you're describing.

Does it look like this?

http://cgi.ebay.com/Memphis-70s-elec-solid-body-prototype_W0QQitemZ220081883758QQihZ012QQcategoryZ 2384QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

Or this?

http://cgi.ebay.com/Vintage-70s-Memphis-MG300-Neck-Thru-Through-MIJ-Japan_W0QQitemZ170081825322QQihZ007QQcategoryZ2384 QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

Funky Monkey
02-20-2007, 01:02 PM
The Memphis guitars that were in full-force in the late 80's in my area were definitely poorly-made budget guitars targeted at beginners. Unfortunately, they actually probably did more to keep beginners from progressing and likely only served to make them give up prematurely. :(

BBAKE1
02-20-2007, 01:52 PM
Oh yea, had one of those LP copies as my first electric. From what I remember, the Memphis got traded in for a Kramer Pacer Imperial. The Kramer was FAR better than the Memphis.

leftyaxeslinger
02-20-2007, 02:42 PM
Oh yeah. I used to have one just like that second one. The main reason I bought it was because it seemed like the easiest one to flip play lefty. Between that and my awful amp, it's amazing I made it through to still play today. Terrible guitar, although I had no clue how to set it up or maintain back then either.

Memphis was made in Japan and, I believe, imported by Kaman. There's a site called vintaxe.com that has forums that deal with older Japanese instruments. They also have catalogs you can check out for a small yearly fee. I looked at the Memphis catalogs and saw something called a 102 DLX that looks like it might be what you're describing.

Does it look like this?

http://cgi.ebay.com/Memphis-70s-elec-solid-body-prototype_W0QQitemZ220081883758QQihZ012QQcategoryZ 2384QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

Or this?

http://cgi.ebay.com/Vintage-70s-Memphis-MG300-Neck-Thru-Through-MIJ-Japan_W0QQitemZ170081825322QQihZ007QQcategoryZ2384 QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

P90s
02-20-2007, 03:19 PM
Wow, the second URL on eBay, that's the guitar exactly, except for a slight change in the finish, but every other detail is dead-on.
I now remember that there was some reference to
Ibanez...not sure of the details...did Ibanez make guitars that were sold under other labels?
Either way, appreciate everyone's help in trying to solve a 30 year mystery.
It actually IS a fairly nice guitar. Not my favorite, but it's held up well. If the neck weren't the size of a baseball bat, I'd probably play it more often.

Thanks again to everyone for helping!

-P90s

SFK
02-20-2007, 03:26 PM
My first electric 6 was a Memphis. A set neck DC Les Paul Special copy.

$100 in 1980. (Used) Had a ply wood body and a neck like a tree. 2 P 90s.

It started my love of LP Jrs that continues to this day.

rex kwon do
02-20-2007, 03:46 PM
The only thing crappier than my first guitar, a Black Les Paul Custom copy, was me playing that crappy guitar. I'm not even sure it was plywood - maybe some version of MDF board back in the 80's. As a 12 year old kid, it weighed a ton, but when all the 10 year girls in the 'hood saw me play it, I knew what it meant to be in Rock N Roll.

Some of these piles go for some decent bread on FleaBay. Buyers beware!

Just because in was MIJ at some point doesn't mean it was any good.

cvansickle
02-20-2007, 03:53 PM
The store where I took my lessons in the 70s carried Memphis. They were Gibson and Fender knock-offs, but they were pretty good guitars. A step up from Sears guitars for the beginner buyer.

Smakutus
02-20-2007, 05:42 PM
There's a red sparkle Memphis Strat copy at a store near here.. It's very heavy and not a very good copy of a Strat.

Jeff

tim gueguen
02-20-2007, 06:17 PM
I now remember that there was some reference to
Ibanez...not sure of the details...did Ibanez make guitars that were sold under other labels?


Ibanez has always had its guitars made in independent factories under contract, such as Fujigen Gakki. Fujigen Gakki has not only made solidbodies for Ibanez but for brands such as Greco and '70s import labels like Mann.

rob2001
02-20-2007, 07:13 PM
Ha! I had a Memphicaster!!!Thats what I called it, it was a strat copy.

dudeunitx5000
02-20-2007, 09:16 PM
Some Memphis guitars are pretty decent.

Chuck King
02-21-2007, 02:26 PM
My first electric (circa 1978 or so) was a Memphis MM-100, which was apparently their take on a Melody Maker. It had a bolt-on neck, a really thick double-cutaway plywood body, two Strat-style single coil pickups and a wraparound bridge. It was very heavy. In retrospect, a shocking number of people thought it was a real Melody Maker, given that it was twice as thick as a Gibson MM and had different pickups.

For what it was, I don't think it was a bad guitar. After I got a "good" guitar (a Gibson Sonex-180 Deluxe!) I took the Memphis apart and sanded it down, with the idea of refinishing it. Then once it was sanded down I bolted it back together because it looked sort of like the maple Carvin DC-150 in my Carvin catalog, which I thought was cool.

At some point it just disappeared. I have no idea where it went. It probably happened while I was away at college and by the time I thought to ask about it it had moved on. I hope it found a good home.

At the time I had no basis for comparison, but I seem to recall that it was fairly twangy. I don't think I'd buy another one just to recapture my youth, but I'd love to play that guitar today.

A friend down the street had a Memphis bass that looked like a Precision but had a single coil pickup with a chrome cover like a Tele neck pickup. That was actually a really good-playing bass.

blind drunk cat
12-28-2008, 01:04 AM
I've had a Memphis copy of an Gibson SG 2 pickup guitar since 1980.

Because I was gigging in some very unsavory places, I wanted to have a guitar that I didn't have to worry about getting damaged.( My good guitar at that time was a Gibson S300 cerca 1950).

A friend took me to a warehouse where there were thousands of Memphis solid body guitars, and told me to pick out what I liked. All of them were not very good quality; but I was able to find one with an excellent neck.

I paid $50 for the one with the good neck and $30 each for 2 of not so good quality.

The 2 inferior guitars were almost unplayable and totally inadequate for gigging, and I unloaded them quickly.

On the $50 guitar, I had to put in a humbucking pickup next to the neck, (which only required a little soldering on my part), in order to get a decent mellow sound; but I didn't have to replace the bridge pickup until 2005 when it no longer worked.

The neck and fingerboard of the one good one that I found are still straight and true, and as good as those that you would pay big bucks for.

Since 1980, I've had years of playing of all kinds of music, (rock, blues, jazz, country & ethnic), with this very little maintenance guitar. I have now added a Roland GR-20 syntheysizer pickup to this guitar, and can now get effects I never imagined a guitar could create when I bought it.

I still gig, and it is now the only guitar I own. You can hear it at:

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=348586

I feel very fortunate in having aquired this quitar to be my "beater guitar", and it has served me well to this day, and it is the only guitar I now own.

Feel free to let me know how you feel about this guitar.

Blind Drunk Catfish,
wjm146@hotmail.com

mooawk
12-28-2008, 11:34 AM
My first guitar was a Memphis that my father bought for me in 1979 when I was 10. It was a copy of a Fender Duo Sonic. White with a maple neck. It's long gone now, but I wish I still had it.

Franklin
12-29-2008, 09:03 AM
A Memphis Les Paul copy was my very first electric guitar. Bought brand new in 1981. Kinda wish I still had it.

Me too, except it was 1983 and I was 13.

Sean French
12-29-2008, 09:19 AM
My first electric was a black Memphis LP copy.Bought new in '80.
My first amp was an Ampeg 110 combo along with an MXR Distortion +.

Rock Johnson
12-29-2008, 10:27 AM
My first guitar was a Memphis Explorer copy with a bolt-on neck and a whammy bar. Plywood, basically sounded like crap, but I learned a lot about how to keep a guitar in tune.

CharlieS
12-29-2008, 01:13 PM
I had a black Memphis P-bass style with a maple board in the 70s. The neck bowed to a ridiculous point within a year and a half and was nearly unplayable. I threw it away eventually.

B Money
12-29-2008, 01:16 PM
I started on a Memphis strat style guitar in 1987. Bought it brand new for something like $250. It was a horrible, horrible guitar. Sounded terrible, strings high off the fret board, would not stay in tune....I got rid of it two weeks later when I got my next paycheck.

rhp52
12-29-2008, 02:23 PM
These were most likely a 'distributor brand' meaning they were imported by a wholesale distributor and sold to their cutomers. Which one i can't remember...maybe C. Bruno

chucke99
12-29-2008, 03:02 PM
Ibanez has always had its guitars made in independent factories under contract, such as Fujigen Gakki. Fujigen Gakki has not only made solidbodies for Ibanez but for brands such as Greco and '70s import labels like Mann.

"Ibanez" is just a brand name, the company that sells "Ibanez" guitars is called Hoshino. A different company sells "Greco" brand guitars. Both brands, however, have been made at the Fujigen guitar factory (which has also made japanese Fenders/Squiers, Fernandes, Epiphones, and a zillion other brands).

Having said all that, "Memphis" guitars may have come from Fujigen, but I doubt it. Most are very low quality (plywood body) guitars. I've seen a few set-necks here and there, but have never played one of those.

frisco kid
12-29-2008, 05:11 PM
Had a Memphis LP Standard clone in '80...it was a real POS but it looked great posing in front of my bedroom mirror with Kiss Alive II cranking out on my turntable...thanks for that fond flashback!

SUBmariner
12-30-2008, 07:48 PM
Ah Memphis, and its evil sibling Hondo. I am sure there are a few decent examples of each. I've just never run across any . . .

FamineDynasty
01-24-2009, 03:55 AM
A friend of mine bought an old memphis years ago. Funny looking guitar. Les Paul double cutaway style body in natural and a set neck but with the flying V style headstock. Immediately after he bought it one of the string pegs fell out of the tune-o-matic so it just sat around for years.
I took it from him as part of a payment on a debt awhile back, so I fixed up the bridge and threw some new strings on it, set up the action nice and low, tuned it up and plugged it in. To my shock and awe, it sounds INCREDIBLE!!! Its sound is straight superior to my American strats, Jackson DXMG, Les Paul studio. I don't know why. It defies explanation. I've been gigging with it since and I won't hesitate to record with it. Talk about a diamond in the rough.

Polynitro
01-24-2009, 10:10 AM
My first guitar was a small Memphis flying V, I called the 'Tennevee'...a $76 POS...In fact my first band we all had one so I was forced to play drums.

ko4vs61
01-24-2009, 09:02 PM
The guitar you have described is most likely a MG-300, a very well made and great playing guitar, IMHO it is a very under valued instrument that has yet to be discovered by collectors. Memphis may have made a lot of cheap knock offs in the late 70's, but this one is a true work of art.... listed for $399.00 in 1979, the build quality and materials would cost you $1200 today.

Dave Connor
02-27-2009, 12:41 AM
I saved up snow shovelling money when I was 13 and bought my first electric, a Memphis Explorer copy, at a downtown Minneapolis guitar shack. Nobody had that shape at school. It looked exactly like a Korina, natural blond at $399 with matching case(a $500 saving off gibson). I couldn't get it to tune up. My teacher, a classical fingerpicking nutcase was sure he could get it right, put a twist on the truss and snap, it broke mid neck. Took it back to that shack I bought it at and cried the blues so much that they agreed to fix it free. So the tech there handed it back to me and said that the truss rod was fixed but there was another completely stupid thing wrong with it that he also "fixed". He said the neck was too long so he had to add what he called a zero fret(25th) in front of the nut to get it right, and it worked. I played in a few groups with it, stupidly painted it black with gold sparkles in shop class in Virginia, then pawned it in Austin Tx in 1983 for a bus ticket after I saw Stevie Ray. Took a few years before I'd even pick up any guitar again. Never have I found a comparable guitar in tone or playability, perhaps with the exception of my Parker Fly.

I only ever used one effect pedal back then, a DOD 250 Overdrive, and I could match just about anybody's tone with that pedal and that guitar. I'd love to have them both back!

Alvis
02-27-2009, 01:44 AM
I've had me a few Memphians (that's what us city residents are called,you know)

Couple of strats,there's a garbled video on u-tube of me playin a set neck LP Standard copy.I had a red Explorer for awhile,looked like Sammy Hagar

I figure you can't be a guitar player in Memphis without owning at least one

At present I have a bolt on LP given to me by Jim Boquist who used to play bass in Son Volt,and I have my late high school buddy's Strat body that I made a guitar out of with an allparts fat neck and some decent pickups

Actually the ceramic Mem strat pickups from '79 dont sound too bad ,I have 'em in the middle position on two strats

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v36/ayhcult/Image042.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v36/ayhcult/lemoyneI.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v36/ayhcult/Image037.jpg

Oh yeah somebody say DOD 250?
1st one purchased at GC in Hollywood with my HS grad money,1981, for 19.95,still in use

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v36/ayhcult/dod001.jpg

Danae
03-17-2009, 02:42 PM
Im sorry to hear that all of you had such crapy Memphis guitars. My first guitar was a Memphis back in the early 80's. Still have it today. Absolutely beautiful. The wood, color, detail, perl inlays on the neck. You could never buy a guitar today in that price range with such detail. It is more true to a Gibson LP today than any other remake or "series" that I have seen. I guess I got lucky!!!

HurricaneJesus
03-17-2009, 03:24 PM
My first electric was a Memphis single-hum strat-type thing. Good times.

Stringz
03-17-2009, 04:26 PM
Memphis is one of those lovely MIJ copy brands from back in the 70's-80's. Not sure which factory they came out of, but the Japanese were really making great strides in both quality and sound back then. I'd take a chance on a Memphis if I was looking for a LP copy right now.

sixty2strat
03-17-2009, 06:02 PM
1981 sold my coin collection to get 139.95 and bought a Tabaco burst standard memphis. It had a set neck and was very nice for a starter guitar. My guitar teacher was impresed with it, as good as any epi i have ever played.....not as good as my real LP's but it was what it was and played well. had a TS808 and a 64 gibson scout amp. Not the beano tone but sounded pretty dam good to a teen learning

doc
10-27-2009, 11:20 AM
I just bought a real beat up Memphis online. It looks like a set neck, but very plain "studio" appearance, with the selector switch down by the knobs. The main reason I was interested is that it has blade type pickups that look like Bill Lawrences. I hope they turn out to be the real thing, but if not I think for the price it will make me a good beater I can take to questionable venues.

goodwill559
10-27-2009, 12:36 PM
Me too, except it was 1983 and I was 13.

Me three, but it was 1984 and I was 14. Black Les Paul copy.

One of the tuning keys broke, that's when I found out it was made of pot-metal.

I replaced the bridge pickup and when I took apart the stock humbucker, I found out it was not really a humbucker at all. Just a single coil with a nickel cover to make it look like a bucker.

I played that thing until I wore the frets flat. Sliding was almost like going over a cheese grater.

I don't miss my first guitar, but I'm eternally grateful of it.

lamentation
10-27-2009, 02:06 PM
I had one of those rosewood board strat style guitars and loved it. My buddy who didn't play bought it and a little gorilla amp, probably around 88. He asked me to try it and tell him what I thought. This is back when I wanted to be SRV.

Man, that thing made a sound i didn't think I'd ever be able to make and I took it away from him a couple weeks later. I don't remember if it played well or not because I was putting the biggest strings and high action on it...according to SRV it wasn't supposed to be easy to play anyway. But I always loved the sound it made and wasn't studying other guitars at all. I think if finally just fell apart. I never thought to see if it was plywood, don't think I ever took the pickguard off, but it was heavy.

Franklin
10-27-2009, 02:47 PM
Me three, but it was 1984 and I was 14. Black Les Paul copy.


Mine too! That was probably one of three color choices!

hacker
10-27-2009, 03:08 PM
i bought a red Fender Jazzmaster copy with the Mustang Competition stripes for $15 at a yard sale. The guitar sounded ok, but played like garbage and he frets ripped my fingers up. I used it to practice soldering, fret dressing, etc. Then I gave it away to the superintendent in my building who wanted an electric for his son.

gbravo
10-27-2009, 03:32 PM
I had one too...a Black Les Paul copy. Bought it 1980. I have no idea what I did with it! It's funny, the guitar was absolutely horrible, but at the time it was as valuable to me as any vintage LP.