Around 1959 American Jack Westheimer began to see enough improvement in Japanese guitar quality he thought the time right to begin importing them to the US. To assure quality, he took an approach that would later be used successfully by some other importers. He offered the guitar makers more money if they’d improve the quality. Westheimer imposed what’s known as the 80/80 quality test, a litmus test which meant that guitars had to survive 80 percent humidity at 80 degrees Farenheit for three to four days.
According to Westheimer, Hiyashi was one of the top Japanese acoustic factories, and it was responsible for many Cortez and Emperador acoustics. Hiyashi was bought out by Pearl sometime in the early ’70s and that marked the end of its glory days.
Westheimer recalls one model made by Hiyashi carrying his Emperador brand that was actually played by the Everly Brothers. Fewer than 180 of those guitars were imported because they just didn’t catch on. One day, the Everly Brothers’ manager called Westheimer to see if any more could be obtained because the Everly’s guitars had run into repair problems. Westheimer was able to locate several examples in various warehouses and got them to Phil & Don.
This Emperador Dreadnought is their version of a Gibson Hummingbird, in a natural finish. Emperador was one of the first well built Japanese brands to make it into USA, and Australia, in the late 1960s. These guitars actually pre-dated the ‘lawsuit era’ of Japanese guitars in the 1970s.
Laminated spruce top
Mahogany back & sides
Binding to top and bottom of body
Rosewood bridge and fingerboard
Pearloid dot markers
Height adjustable saddle
Large engraved pickguard
This guitar appears to be all original with the exception of the quality open back tuners, which are definitely an upgrade from the originals. The round gold label in the sound hole declares this one is “Hand Made”.
It is in remarkably good condition. There are some minor marks here and there, but nothing of consequence. The neck and back are exceptionally clean. Certainly no structural problems and there have been no repairs.
The action is medium low with room for adjustment either way. The neck is straight and the truss rod is working. There’s plenty of life in the frets, everything stays in tune and this thing sounds just fine.
A true survivor of the Sixties.
Comes in its original Japanese case in good condition.