As a fan and owner of Teisco guitars, John from PREMIER GUITARS had always thought that the name was an acronym of “Tokyo Electric Instrument and Sound Company”. But sadly, this is not the case …. but we like the misleading story anyway.
However, the company that became the Teisco brand was originally established in 1948 and has had many names since then.
Bottom line is Teisco has always produced quirky and interesting instruments, inspired in the 60s by the modern design moves of contemporary USA brands of the era … think Fender meets Cadillac.
The guitar for sale here is one of the most desirable of all the old Teisco guitars, the famous SS-4L. One of the few models to ever feature FOUR of the awesome gold foil pickups, these guitars have become part of crossover group of vintage Japanese guitars that serious tone hounds pursue with gusto.
It is well known that Ry Cooder installed a Teisco gold foil pickup in his legendary Coodercaster. And for good reason – they are strong and powerful single coil units with a distinct sound all their own.
The SS-4L was Teisco’s top model guitar from around 1960 to 1964. There were ten variations in construction during this time. The first version of the SS-4L had a set neck. It also featured the four basic single coil pickups with screw pole pieces and chrome surrounds.
Version 2 of the SS-4L had much of its hardware changed. The most significant was the new gold foil picks. A new style tremolo tail piece was added and the tuners also changed. This guitar is a Version 2.
One of the more interesting changes was the new five bolt neck plate. This was the beginning of the bolt on necks for Teisco guitars.
Model: SS-4L (Version 2)
Body finish/Colour: Original Sunburst
Body Binding: None
Neck Binding: Original Single-Bound Fingerboard
Fingerboard Wood: Rosewood
Neck Pickup: Original
Middle Pickup: Original
Bridge Pickup: Original
Hardware Colour: Chrome
Body Wood: Possibly Mahogany
Neck Wood: Possibly Mahogany
Neck Finish/Colour: Original Sunburst
Neck Back Shape: Medium "V"
Potentiometer Dates: None
Nut Width: 1 5/8"
Dating methods for identifying 60s Teisco guitars is tricky - serial numbers are non-existent or unreliable, and some electronic parts may not conform to the usual EIA codes. But one is the change in pickguards that occurred in 1965. Pre-1965 pickguards are plastic construction, while 1965 and post-1965 pickguards are striped metal.
So we believe this one is an original SS-4L version 2 from 1964.
This guitar has its sunburst original finish and it does have some dings and dents here and there, some paint loss and evident player wear. But overall this one is a nice survivor, and the best thing is that it has not been molested. Everything appears to be as it was the day it left then factory – most rare. Even the tremolo arm and bridge cover are present and accounted for.
All the electrics work as they should, original tuners are doing their job well, and structurally this guitar is rock solid.
The neck is nice & straight, but with the smaller vintage style frets you could not say this is a fast neck to play. It plays fine & intonation is good, but this is no shredder.
However as a slide guitar this thing just rips.
We have actually raised the action slightly to accommodate some digging in with a slide, and it has responded brilliantly. It sounds mean and raw, with those goldfoils adding the thickness and midrange punch often missing in single coil pickups.
The pickups are loud, clear and unique - great tones for slide and blues & roots, either clean or with overdrive, ranging from creamy Gibson-like tones to vintage Telecaster twang. Dial it up to “burn” on a good tube amp and get those screaming David Lindley tones – light blue touch paper and stand back !
Comes in its original case in good condition.
Two very good video demos of exact same model –
https://youtu.be/g9Ysx8wBTto demo part 1
https://youtu.be/rKnY6Z9ShV0 demo part 2