Back in the ’60s, long before we had more than a couple of stompboxes to choose from— let alone the sophistication of the modern pedalboard—we had a smorgasbord of weird guitars on the market, each with their own sonic offerings. Guitar companies from all over the world competed with each other by offering the most unusual and often innovative features: flanks of knobs and switches, multiple pickups, onboard electronics, bizarre shapes, etc. Everyone was trying to cash in on the electric guitar boom, and hoping their latest contraption would take the world by storm—such as this month’s offering, the Greco Shrike.
Upon first glance, the weirdo factor is the asymmetrical V-shape of the Shrike pickups. But further inspection reveals that the shape of this guitar is an amalgam of at least three other guitars. The headstock is distinctly Rickenbacker (even with the crisscross tuner layout), the zero fret is Mosrite-ish, and the pronounced cutaways and pickguards harken the Burns/Baldwin Bison. Usually these mash-ups are busy and unsettling, but Greco put all these cosmetic features together to make a very cohesive and visually pleasing guitar.
PLAYABILITY & SOUND
In the early ’70s, Greco started making a lasting impression by producing some very nice Les Paul replicas. In fact, their ’80s LP copies are quite sought after, and command some serious dough. (My buddy Andy Latimer still uses his Greco LP replica with his band Camel.) The point is, Greco made excellent guitars, and they are on the top of any Japanophiles wish list. This 12-string plays pretty well, but the real magic is in the pickups. You actually have four pickups—one in each “wing” of the neck and bridge pickups—that are controlled with a unique switching matrix. You can, for example, select only the bassstring side of the bridge pickup and mix it with only the treble-string side of the neck pickup. Wild! There are great tonal variations in this system— which includes an “All” switch for running all four pickups simultaneously. (I only wish you could output the pickups in a stereo configuration.) The bolt-on, 20-fret, double-bound rosewood neck has a slim and tapered feel to it. The bridge has six adjustable barrels, as well as adjustable height. The finish is deep and lustrous with no checking. A very fine guitar, indeed!
This 47-year-old guitar sold for $800 at a 2015 auction. In 1968, the Greco Shrike sold new for the relatively friendly price of $130.
WHY IT RULES
It rules because it plays nice, sounds super distinctive, looks eccentric, and, if you can find one, is relatively affordable.
Thanks to fellow collector Doug “Guy” Agnew for the loan of this guitar (which he’s never getting back).