Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Zemaitis Museum, Kanda

Note, no actual food content here. Lots of guitars though.

Tony Zemaitis was a British guitar builder who may have been the first to throw a slab of metal on the front of a guitar (cf my friend Chris Larsen and Girl Grand Guitars for more modern and wacky stuff!). He retired in 2000 and died in 2002, but in the intervening years it seems he sold the rights to a Japanese company. It might be Greco, unless Greco is owned by Fender now, unless it's owned by ESP, and anyway Greco always used Fujigen, Tokai, Maxon and others to make parts and guitars. If anyone feels like untangling this, I'd be interested in hearing how it all works today.
Leaving aside the history and convulsed manufacturing and ownership, they've got this museum / store under the tracks in Kanda (diverting back for a second, Greco's real name was 'Kanda Trading Co.', so maybe they started around here). It's just north of where the Yamanote sen tracks cross Chuo Dori; take the soft right.
Seen a Zemaitis before? They're pretty confronting, with the wasp-waists and kooky fronts. The bodies are mostly mahogany, and the pickups are usually 2 in number and doubled of coil, and the knobs are usally 2X2...so what we've got here is your basic hopped-up Les Paul. Somehow I took a picture mostly of the pearl-front guitars, but the original thing is the metal fronts, and there are also 3-pickup single-coil models, so you've sort of got a whole range there.
Despite that being my original electric (78 Custom cherry burst - not a great period, unfaded cherry burst is ugly, and Standard inlays are cooler than Custom), I've really gotten away from it stylistically. I think the perfect setup is the one on those 70's Tele Customs - neck humbucker for thick, bridge single coil for snap. Too bad they too are ugly as nuts (I see on the Fender site that they're now touting great features like the 3-bolt neck plate and bullet truss rod - like 70's guitars in general, things that used to be regarded as crap before 60's guitars ascended into the heavens and we had to make do with 70's cast-offs.).
Well, the museum has a bunch of neat stuff, like these race cars, and a bar. Can you drink here? Sorta doubtful.
But you can peruse the arty carved stuff they've got in open cases on top of the bar.
Or the historical pieces in cases like this pearl-front, which are actual Zemaitis production. They do have plenty of amps around, so I'm sure you're welcome to fire them up, and under the tracks like this, no one will hear you scream.
So it's a nice diversion, but you wouldn't want to make a special trip out of it unless you were really nutty for them. There's a store in Ochanu with quite enough inventory for you to tie up and get your new-Zemaitis fix on.

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