We sure liked our guitars to have buttons back in the ’60s. Before our love
affairs with pedalboards and rack systems, the
more buttons, knobs, and switches a model had,
the more potential it had to help one find his or
her voice on the guitar. The Goya Rangemaster,
with its nine pushbuttons, offered more choices
than just about any guitar out there, aside from
Vox models that actually had built-in electronics.
This specimen was manufactured in Italy—
perhaps by EKO—but the bridge was made in
Sweden by Hagstrom.
Other than all of the buttons and the special
quad pickup design, one of the weirder features
of this instrument is the elongated headstock
that looks like a large fish scaler.
Playability & Sound
Weighing in at about eight pounds, the Rangemaster
116-SB is a double-cutaway model with
a very subtle contour. The 25”-scale maple neck
plays great, and there are 21 perfectly dressed
frets on the rosewood fretboard. A slotted string
spacer on the headstock levels out tension
while feeding the strings into the 1 5/8” plastic
nut. There are six chrome machine heads that
feel great to the touch and are nicely accessible,
due to the crescent-moon shaped headstock
cutaway. The Rangemaster also includes
a faux wood-grain pickguard, an adjustable
neck, a chrome vibrato with a detachable bar,
and a three-way adjustable bridge. The lowmass,
surface-mounted Hagstrom bridge feels
remarkably smooth and holds its tune fairly well. Living up to its name, the Rangemaster has
quite a variety of tonal possibilities. For one
thing, there’s almost six inches between the
bridge and neck pickups. That’s a big gap, and
it makes for a very unique sound. Then, unlike
other push-button guitars—of which there
were many—the electronics on the Rangemaster
116-SB include two pairs of split pickups, as
well as six pickup-selector buttons, three Tone
buttons (Lo, Med, Hi), and a master Volume
knob. In addition to conventional bridge or
neck pickup selections, the Rangemaster
also lets you do things like push the
2+3 button to get the bridge’s bass-side
pickup and the neck’s treble-side pickup.
The result is a very funk-friendly, out-ofphase
sound. Finally, there’s the rockin’ ALL
button for when you need that “extra push
over the cliff” (thank you, Nigel Tufnell), and
a master OFF (or kill switch).
I bought mine about ten years ago from Guitar
Showcase in San Jose, California, for $400.
Today, this 9-button Euro freak is known as
one of the Goya “holy grailers,” and it can
go for well over a thousand dollars.
Why It Rules
Like so many of the Italian, Swedish,
English, and German guitars of the
’60s, the Rangemaster not only has
a great and freaky look, but it plays
and sounds like a dream. For whatever
reason, these time-tested guitars are
still relatively affordable, and that rules!
As Goya said in their beat-era Rangemaster
ads, “Plug it in and turn everybody on!”