Over the years, the Orpheus brand is a name has been used on several lines of guitars in different parts of the world: from Bulgaria to the former Soviet Union, to the United States and Japan.
Through research, we found that in the late 1960s through mid-1970s, Coast Wholesale Music Company of California imported a line of electric guitars made in Japan under the Orpheus name. It is suspected, but not proven, that these electric guitars could have been made in the highly respected Matsumoku factory of Japan.
Luckily, we found this Orpheus 12-string hollow body electric back in May 2019 at Centaur Guitar in Portland, Oregon (BTW: The guys at Centaur really know their stuff when it comes to 1970s made in Japan guitars, so give them a call or stop by). Since I already owned a mid-1970’s Univox Coily, I recognized that the build and the pickups were very similar. The body, the neck, the triple edge binding, the cherry burst finish, and the pickups all resembled other guitars we’d seen from Matsumoku.
Built by Matsumoku Industrial of Japan (we think, we’re not sure!) and imported to the U.S. by Coast Wholesale Music Company of California, this 12-string semi-acoustic hollow body electric from the 1970’s is a rare bird.
Coast Wholesale Music Company from the San Francisco Bay Area was an importer and wholesale distributor of musical instruments. They focused predominantly on importing instruments (guitars!) made in Japan to the United States in the 1940’s through the 1960’s. The company was purchased by Charlie Kamam of Kaman Music around 1968, along with Coast Wholesale of Los Angeles — a completely separate company in Southern California with the same name — and C. Bruno & Sons of Texas.
Kaman Music Corp. would later introduce the line of Ovation guitars.
Similar links: Coast Wholesale Music Co. of Los Angeles (founded by Eric Emerson), Ovation Guitars, Kaman Music Corporation, Jupiter Band Instruments, KHS Musical Company, Hohner, Inc., St. Louis Music, C. Bruno & Sons.
C. Bruno & Sons was a sister company in Texas.
Kaman Music Corp. introduced the Ovation line of guitars. Charlie Kaman and son, Bill Kaman.
The Univox Coily Hollowbody Electric – A True 1970’s Sleeper
The Univox Coily is one example of a guitar that no one wanted in the 70’s, but would die for today. This thing just rocks!
Back in the 70’s, Univox was known as the U.S. distributor of Marshall amps… and… that’s about all they were known for! They did have their own line of guitars and amps, but most everyone wanted to rock a Les Paul with their Marshall, not a Univox, or even a Fender for that matter.
But the Coily has that Epiphone Casino-like mojo. It’s a full hollow body Maple thin line guitar, with a pair of P-90 type pickups, similar to John Lennon’s Casino. And these pickups are hot!
The 1975 Coily featured a flamed Maple body, fully bound, in a sunburst finish, P-90 type pickups, a ball-bearing Vibrato arm (Whammy Bar), Matsumoku’s three-piece Maple neck, Rosewood fingerboard with Pearloid “Box” inlays.
The Coily was based on the Epiphone Casino, made popular in the 1960’s by The Beatles. John Lennon was the first Beatle to get one; and later Paul and George each got their own. The Casino was the only guitar that was owned and played by all three. You can see John playing his Casino in several Beatles films and videos. But the Abbey Road Rooftop Concert might be the most famous, with John playing it during their recording of “Get Back.”
1975 Univox Coily
Model number U1825.
Full Hollow body thin line body (no center block), arch top, electric.
Maple ply top, back and sides.
Bound body with Flamed Maple finish.
Sunburst body in Orange, Red, and Jade Green (rare color).
P-90 Pickups (made to look like Humbuckers).
Separate volume and tone controls for each pickup.
Three-way pickup switch.
Black pick guard.
Ball-bearing Vibrato Tailpiece.
Made in Japan by Matsumoku, mid 1970’s.
Similar to Epiphone Casino, Epiphone EA250, Epiphone 5102T.
Original sale price: $122.50.
A bass guitar version of the Coily was also available.
1970’s Lyle ‘Strat-Like’ Electric Guitar, white solid body, 3 pickups
Here’s an interesting vintage 1970’s Lyle guitar currently offered on eBay. This Strat-like 3-pickup solid body is dressed nicely in an aged and relic white finish, tremolo bridge (the arm is missing), with a Japanese bolt-on Mahogany neck, an adjustable truss rod, and Rosewood fingerboard. Mostly known for its less expensive copies of famous guitars, Lyle actually sold some decent gear—in addition to a lot of low end beginner’s trash! This one appears to be of higher quality as suggested by the three-ply pickguard, the sliding switchgear, and the closed back tuning machines. Most Lyle guitars were built in the Matsumoku factory in Japan, however the Mahogany neck and the pickups suggest it could have been built elsewhere in Japan? Lyle guitars were sold by the L.D. Heater Music Co. of Portland Oregon during the 1960’s and 70’s. The seller says this guitar plays and sounds great with low action and no fret buzz. We have not tested to confirm. Seller is asking $279.95 plus shipping.
*DISCLAIMER*: Buy at your own risk! Although we like to point out interesting buys on eBay, craigslist.com, and other sites, Tone Gems has not tested this guitar and does not endorse or recommend this product, nor this seller.