Ever hear of "Memphis" guitars???

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by P90s, Feb 20, 2007.

  1. P90s

    P90s Member

    Jun 7, 2005
    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.

  2. The Golden Boy

    The Golden Boy Member

    Aug 5, 2005
    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
  3. RichusRkr

    RichusRkr Member

    Dec 16, 2006
    In the Land of Promise
  4. mprvise

    mprvise Member

    Apr 26, 2005
    In the back room
    A Memphis Les Paul copy was my very first electric guitar. Bought brand new in 1981. Kinda wish I still had it.
  5. chrisjw5

    chrisjw5 Supporting Member

    May 22, 2003
    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.
  6. mcknigs

    mcknigs Member

    Dec 15, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    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?


    Or this?

  7. Funky Monkey

    Funky Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2006
    Springfield, IL
    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. :(
  8. BBAKE1

    BBAKE1 Member

    Mar 4, 2006
    Gilbert, AZ
    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.
  9. leftyaxeslinger

    leftyaxeslinger Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2006
    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.

  10. P90s

    P90s Member

    Jun 7, 2005
    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!

  11. SFK

    SFK Member

    Mar 23, 2005
    Toledo, OH
    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.
  12. rex kwon do

    rex kwon do Senior Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    Birmingham, Alabama
    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.
  13. cvansickle

    cvansickle Member

    Oct 7, 2004
    Atlanta, GA USA
    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.
  14. Smakutus

    Smakutus Member

    Mar 6, 2006
    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.

  15. tim gueguen

    tim gueguen Member

    Apr 3, 2005
    Saskatoon, SK.
    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.
  16. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

    Jun 16, 2006
    Ha! I had a Memphicaster!!!Thats what I called it, it was a strat copy.
  17. dudeunitx5000

    dudeunitx5000 Member

    Jun 12, 2006
    Some Memphis guitars are pretty decent.
  18. Chuck King

    Chuck King Member

    Jan 12, 2007
    Chicago, IL
    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.
  19. blind drunk cat

    blind drunk cat Member

    Dec 28, 2008
    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:


    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,
  20. mooawk

    mooawk Member

    May 26, 2007
    Massachusetts USA
    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.

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