by Dennis Kent
Since at least the early 1960s, Guyatone has been producing electric guitars in Japan for sale in the U.S. market. They have carried the brand name from a variety of outlets from discount stores to department stores to auto parts stores to mail-order catalogs.
One of the most common brand name found on Guyatone guitars is Kent.
Around 1960 Buegeleisen & Jacobson, a musical instrument distributor in New York City, established the Kent brand. In 1963 a dozen or so Kent-branded Teisco and Guyatone solid-body guitars became available. The Teisco-made guitars had model numbers in the 400s and 600s while the Guyatone-made Kents had model numbers in the 500s. The Guyatone-Kents resembled Fender guitars while the Teisco-Kents were… different. All guitars were branded with a stuck-on metal “K” on the headstock. Most models, especially the Guyatones, had vibrato tailpieces.
By 1964 it appears that all Kents were made by Guyatone and they all had model numbers in the 500s. It seems that all they did was drop the Teisco models and changed two of the remaining Guyatone models. I don’t think they added anything new.
The three-pickup 560 Copa and the four-pickup 595 Videocaster models from 1963 had offset-waisted bodies similar to the Fender Jaguar and Jazzmaster guitars. In 1964 the Copa became model 532 and the Videocaster became became model 533 and they both had the same slab bodies as the rest of the line.
The 1965 solid-body line-up consisted of the same six 6-string guitars and four bass guitars.
The bass guitars were one and two-pickup offset-waisted guitars called 528 and 529 Newports, and one and two-pickup guitars called 534 and 535 Basin Street models. The Basin Street basses were more expensive but not as cool-looking as the Newports.
A significant expansion to the 1965 series of guitars were the hollow-body Americana series. These were also made by Guyatone. On these, the model numbers (still in the 500s) indicated the color-scheme of the body. They came in two and three-pickup models. I looks like the two-pickup models had fixed tailpieces where the three-pickup had a vibrato tailpiece.
The 1965 line-up remained pretty much unchanged in 1966, but some strange things were starting to happen.
The 1967 catalog showed none of the previous Guyatone models. They all appeared to be made by Kawai or the Teisco factory, which by then was owned by Kawai. They had model numbers in the 800s.
But somewhere between 1966 and 1967 (what year comes between 1966 and 1967?) a series of the same Guyatone solid bodies appeared with model numbers in the 600s. I haven’t seen any catalog pages for the 600s but there are plenty of photos of series 600 guitars floating around the internet. The logo was the name “Kent” in script letters made of metal and stuck onto the headstock.
The Americana series guitars appeared in the 1965 and 1966 catalogs with the “K” logo, but there seems to be plenty of them out there with the script logo.
After the 800-series, the quantities of Kent guitars fell dramatically. If Buegeleisen & Jacobson were still the importers of Kent guitars, they were getting them from Korea.