Eastwood Guitars

Although Eastwood Guitars resides in Ontario, Canada, the company’s history is pure Hollywood. It’s a story of chance, inspiration, risk, and grit that starts with founder Mike Robinson—a bona fide weirdo guitar aficionado whose first instrument was a ’70s Japanese El Degas SG copy. Robinson’s early guitar-star dreams were tanked by a successful foray into the high-tech business, but after relocating to Silicon Valley from Toronto in 1991, his interest in eccentric guitars was reignited by frequent visits to Guitar Showcase in San Jose. Then came the collector’s wonderland that is eBay, and Robinson began buying and selling guitars, ultimately launching myrareguitars.com in the late ’90s to help other enthusiasts identify their EKOs, Teiscos, Voxes, and so on.
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In 2001, Robinson snagged a 1987 “new old stock” Mosrite for $2,200, and began seriously thinking about the feasibility of marketing vintage replicas that: (a) could actually be played, rather than locked away as fragile investments; (b) offered better construction and easier playability than that of the quirky originals; and (c) could be sold at affordable prices. His first attempt was reselling Italian EKO guitars, but soon Robinson decided to leap into the game himself, and manufacture remakes initially culled from his own collection of vintage bizarre guitars. He went to NAMM, met with Chinese and Korean distributors, and placed orders. When asked for his company name, Robinson remembered watching a Clint Eastwood movie the previous night, and blurted out, “Eastwood.”

Based in Canada since 2002, Eastwood currently offers 20 guitar models—including the just-released replica of the Airline Town & Country played by Jack White in the Raconteurs—and three basses in colors ranging from red to greenburst to sunburst to transparent amber and beyond, depending on the model. Street/ direct prices range from $799 (for the Airline 3P DLX) to $299 (for a Mandocaster), and hardshell cases are sold separately. Keeping the Eastwood replicas mass-production friendly and affordable has necessitated some detours from the original designs. For example, gone are the fiberglass bodies of the Airlines and the aluminum necks of the Wandres.

So there you go—a company started by an ardent guitar fan who took a detour into high-tech biz, reclaimed his passion for strange and wonderful instruments, accepted the dangers of manufacturing and marketing his dream axes, names the whole crazy affair after a cinematic tough guy, and not only achieves success, but gets lauded on user forums for his fast, superior personal service. It’s almost a better “feel good” story than Mary Poppins, and, hey, it’s all about extremely cool guitars.

Eastwood Guitars, (416) 294-6165; eastwoodguitars.com