From Cheap Imports to Vintage Gear: the Story of Teisco Guitars

Jon Clemence
4 min readApr 14, 2022

If you’ve ever seen an electric guitar that just looks a little…strange…you might have just been staring at a Teisco.

Some of the hallmarks of Teisco design are funky angles, lots of pickups (up to four!), and knobs and switches galore.

A Teisco MJ-2L electric guitar
The Teisco MJ-2L

While these guitars are sought after in the vintage market today, they didn’t start out that way. Instead, they were Japanese-made budget guitars meant to attract buyers who couldn’t afford a brand like Fender.

The beginnings of Teisco guitars

Teisco started life as a partnership between Atsuwo Kaneko, a Hawaiian and Spanish guitarist, and an electrical engineer, Dory Matsuda. Originally the company was named Aoi Onpa Kenkyujo, which means Electricity Laboratories. The name was changed to Nippon Onpa Kogyo Company in 1956 before they finally settled on Teisco in 1964.

(Many sources claim the name Teisco was an acronym for Tokyo Electric Instrument and Sound Company, but Kaneko was on record stating that this wasn’t true — he just liked the way the name sounded.)

They began building guitars and other musical instruments in Japan in 1946, and initially their products were only sold domestically.

Coming to America (and the UK)

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Jon Clemence

Medium needs more guitar-related content. I. Am. That. Hero!