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!”