Ibanez guitars are definitely rock machines at their finest. The Ibanez rock guitars currently are available in 12 basic series of guitars and 10 artist signature series. In addition, Ibanez produces a number of hollow-bodied guitars that are great for Jazz. There are 9 basic series of the hollow-bodied guitars as well as 3 artist signature series.
Like BC Rich and Epiphone, Ibanez has a much longer history than most people realize. Ibanez was born out of the Hoshino Gakki company of Japan. Hoshino Gakki was created in 1908 as the musical instrument sales division of Hoshino Shoten, which was founded by Matsujiro Hoshino and originally sold books and sheet music. The Ibanez brand name traces its origin to 1929 when Hoshino Gakki began importing Salvador Ibanez guitars from Spain. The Salvador Ibanez worksop was destroyed during the Spanish civil war, making the guitars unavailable. This prompted Hoshino Gakki to buy the rights to the Ibanez Salvador brand name in 1935 and begin production of the Spanish acoustic guitars in 1935, later changing the name to Ibanez. Ironically, the Japanese facility was destroyed in 1945 during World War II. By 1955, Hoshino Gakki was able to build a new headquarters in Nagoya, Japan and became an export only business.
In the late '50s the first "modern" Ibanez guitars hit the market. The early original Ibanez models were somewhat funky looking but of high quality. You can see some of them here. In 1966, Hoshino Gakki stopped manufacturing their own guitars and began using the Teisco and FujiGen Gakki guitar factories to manufacture their guitars. The Teisco factory closed down around 1970 and Hoshino Gakki primarily used FujiGen Gakki to manufacture their guitars.
In the early '60s, Medley Music of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania was manufacturing handmade guitars under the name "Elger". By 1965, the founder of Medley Music decided to stop manufacturing guitars and become the sole distributer in North America for Ibanez guitars. In 1972 Hoshino partnered with Elger Guitars to import guitars from Japan. In 1981, Elger was renamed "Hoshino, USA". The company headquarters in Bensalem, Pennsylvanie were retained as a distribution and quality control center.
In the 1960s, most Japanese manufacturers were mainly copying American designs and rebranded versions of Gibsons, Fenders and other brands abounded. The American manufacturers understandably took a very dim view of this(not the least because the copies were typically of good quality and were less expensive than the guitars they copied) and the fur flew. The lawsuit was filed in 1977 by the Norlin Corporation, the parent company of Gibson. The main point of contention was the copying of the Gibson headstock design. Hoshino settled out of court in early 1978.
After the lawsuit Hoshino Gakki abandoned the strategy of copying "classic" USA electric guitar designs and moved to the popular superstrat era in the mid-1980s. The newer Ibanez guitar models began incorporating more modern elements into their design such as radical body shapes, slimmer necks, 2-octave fingerboards, slim pointed headstocks, higher-output electronics, humbucker/single-coil/humbucker (H/S/H) pickup configurations, locking tremolo bridges and different finishes. Models that were not copies of American guitars but were instead original designs such as the Iceman(made famous by Paul Stanley of KISS) and the Ibanez Roadstar(the forerunner of the modern RG series) came out of this period.
Today, Ibanez is known for high quality, state of the art instruments that are, and have been, favorites of professional musicians of many styles. Currently their hard rocking guitars are used and endorsed by artists such as Paul Gilbert, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and many others, all of whom have a number of signature models to their name. Next, we'll take a look at the current Ibanez guitar models.