Defil, Jolana, Alko, Musima, Hagstrom....
Selected guitars from my collection
A few years ago, a very knowledgeable guy named Tomek Z., an active participant of the guitars discussion group: pl.rec.muzyka.gitara, motivated me to create a site dedicated to my collection of Polish guitars. I have an extensive collection of them. I also have quite a significant collection of Czech, German, and Swedish guitars, among others. I don't even want to mention my American guitars and amps that are totally overwhelming my living space!
I've been collecting guitars for a lot longer than I would wish (the reason being that it now means I'm older than a pretty singer named Doda!) Since about 1988, I have been an active exhibitor at many vintage guitar shows in the US. In the beginning, collecting was just fun activity for collectors and aficionados- not a bonanza for investors, dealers, guitar stores and other commercial establishments, as it is today.
Together with my friend Marek, we hauled hundreds of guitars from one vintage guitar show to another- from Chicago to Memphis, from Columbus, OH, to Detroit and from Nashville to Dallas, Texas. What fun it was! We are done with this and we don't display at the Vintage Guitar Shows anymore since everything has changed. Oh, well....
Since I've shown my Polish, Czech, Swedish and German guitars on an earlier version of this site a few years ago, several different sites started to display them and the interest in the east-European instruments got a bit wider - and I am glad to see it. Well, a few generations of Polish rock musicians started their first musical experience on guitars from Defil. Throughout the sixties and seventies each and every small and larger club in almost all Polish cities had a rock band or an electric guitar combo. You possibly could not see that (through that tight Iron Curtain), nor know that, but the musicians from Poland (and from the rest of the Eastern Europe) could listen to American music and they were simply in love with it (just like anybody else in the world), thanks to Radio Luxemburg, Voice of America, France Inter and Deutsche Welle, among others. There were thousands of bands there and most of them played American music or English version of American music. The guitars used were some Jolanas, some Musimas, very few Hagstroms and Fenders, but mostly Defils and many home made instruments and amps. My heart goes to those brave men with steel fingers, fighting the high actions, thick necks and rough ending of frets with incredible patience and dedication
Fortunately, the guitars aged amazingly well (at least aesthetically) and they are quite charming, according to today's standards of any collection. Some of the designers from the government's owned plants were imaginative and inventive, and they conceived quite fine instruments.
Most of the instruments were not of high quality nor too well made, the quality was 'uneven', so to speak. The market was huge (they produced ca. 300,000 electric and acoustic guitars in about 1966-1971) and the demand was even higher, the quality was not a factor in the chain of bringing the instrument to the hands of musicians. The central planning and central distribution system enabled the producer to sell any guitar in their stores, regardless of quality and playability. The 'uneven' quality of the guitars motivated large modification movement and many guitars were modified to meet the needs of more sophisticated and demanding players. The guitars were often changed, hot-rodded, the frets were replaced, the electronics modified, and some of the guitars I have seen reached quite comparable level of quality of those from the US. I have also seen the guitars made specifically for the higher-ups in the company's echelon - they were just phenomenal! Unfortunately, not too many were made.
Look, the standard production guitars from those times still look great!
Please pay closer attention to Alko guitars - the above quality/distribution problem did not apply to these guitars. Alfred Kopoczek (hence the name 'Al-Ko') was the true pioneer of electric guitars in Poland. He started producing electric guitars in his small shop in Bielsko-Biala in the late 1950's, and in the early 1960's his guitars were the only Polish electric guitars one could actually purchase anywhere in the country - and only directly from his shop. He made his own pickups, tail pieces, pickguards, bridges and even his own fret wires. The only thing he bought from other suppliers were the tunings keys and electronic pots.
Each model of Alko guitar had a few innovative designs, worthy of many patents had they been produced in the US or Western Europe. They are as good as they look!
I will try to add more interesting instruments from my collection to this site in the future, ASSUMING THE INTEREST IS THERE!
I will concentrate on the guitars made in the countries where all musicians dreamt of Fenders and Gibsons, but were forced to play on the 'orthopedic' guitars, designed and produced by faceless bureaucratic designers and manufacturers, fulfilling the government's central plan rather then producing instruments from the need of the heart or the music itself.
years I have talked to and interviewed a number of people. Among them former
designers, production supervisors and managers of Defil in Lubin, and also
to a few associates of Alfred Kopoczek. So, a few stories and also technical
descriptions of the guitars (could be) coming.) As I said, if there are people
interested in them, then you just might see it here!
Thanks for looking!
Defil Melodia (1980), Defil 12 Strings (1974), Defil Melodia (1978), Defil Orlik (1987), Defil Rytm and Defil Rytm 2 (1975)...
Samba (1970), Defil Hybrid (1971), Defil Jazz (1972), Defil Jola II (1970), Defil Lotos Bass (1968-1969)
Defil Samba (1969), Defil Kosmos (1980-1985)
More Defils - some of them look quite close to Hagstroms...
Romeos and Julias, late 1970's
Musima 25th Aniversary, Musima Migma Bass, Musima Hollow Body Bass, Musima Elektra DeLuxeV
Hagstrom Viking (1967), Hagstrom Viking (1969), Hagstrom Bass (1963), Hagstrom II (1966)
Jolana Galaxis (1985), Jolana Star (1962) Jolana Iris(1983) Jolana Tornado (1967) Jolana Tornado (1968) Jolana Iris (1986)
Jolana Galaxis,,Jolana Marina (1961) Jolana Disco Bass (1985), Vicomt
Bass (80's), Pedro 6-string bass (1960), Jolana Studio Bass (1967)
Sisters Marina & Basora. Born in 1961
The No-good, the Bad and the Ugly
Above: The guitar in the middle is my 1961 Fender 'Fiesta Red' Strat. The price on the tag was $3000.00 (impossible to read, the picture was taken with a film camera)
There were no buyers for this guitar at this price in 1990....
My unforgetable 1961 Fiesta Red Strat, bought at the old Maxwell Street in Chicago ca. 1985. You wouldn't believe how much I paid for it! :)
All images © C. Wawer
Please come back - more to come soon .....