No Will Power: Another Vintage Saturn Guitar

Two Vintage Japanese Solid-body Saturn Guitars

It’s no secret that I have zero will power when it comes to buying new gear. In fact, some might even say the band exists simply because I had to justify owning so many instruments. Case in point, if you follow the band on Twitter you likely saw me agonizing over the decision of whether or not to buy yet another vintage Japanese Saturn electric guitar. Surprise, surprise—I bought it (it’s the small one on the left). What can I say? I love these wacky axes.

Some say they were built in Japan by Kawai, others say Guyatone, but everyone seems to agree that Saturns first appeared in a 1968 Eaton’s department store catalogue. Personally, I don’t know how I’ve ended up with three of these (all different, mind you), as I’d never even heard of them before I saw the first one on Craigslist last year. However, I was instantly enamoured with their wonky shapes and mystique.

They also get a pretty bad rap, as they were cheap entry level imports for kids who couldn’t afford a Fender or Gibson. In my humble opinion, that negativity isn’t entirely deserved, as with a good setup these bad boys play very well (I wouldn’t have three if they were garbage…). Guys like Hound Dog Taylor and Ry Cooder championed this notion with cheap Japanese guitars of their own (just check out the cover of Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers for a multi-pickup beast).

Of course, I don’t have a lot of “high end” axes kicking around to compare these to, as I’m still a kid who can’t afford a Gibson or Fender, but there’s a reason the rest of my electric guitars have ended up on Craigslist. Actually, price is another beautiful thing about these mysterious relics—I paid a total $350 for all three of them (not including setups and a little work here and there by my amazing guitar tech*)! As for how they sound, I’m by no means a “tone aficionado,” but I know what I like and these are fine by me (especially through my homemade Fender Princeton).

They also get a lot of comments when we play live and suit the rest of our homemade gear very well.

Hmm…it just occurred to me that this entire post is pretty much self-aggrandizing piece of effort-justification so that I don’t feel bad about buying another piece of gear…yep.

Oh well. Guitars is purty.

Small Scale Vintage Japanese Saturn Electric Guitar
Small Scale Vintage Japanese Saturn Electric Guitar
Small Scale Vintage Japanese Saturn Electric Guitar
Small Scale Vintage Japanese Saturn Electric Guitar
Small Scale Vintage Japanese Saturn Electric Guitar

*The hollowbody needed the most work (it as also the cheapest), as a bridge inside had collapsed, but now it plays very well and might just be my favourite of the bunch.

21 Replies to “No Will Power: Another Vintage Saturn Guitar”

  1. Nice colection, I also own one of the Kawai Saturn Viloin shaped guitars, in green, it was my firts guitar, bought in the 60’s packaged with a Gibson Tube amp. Love the guitar.

    1. Thanks! I love these old things too. That Kawai sounds nice! It’s not often someone can say they still have their first guitar from the ’60’s.

  2. Hi
    Great post & interesting information. I’ve been trying to find out more information about a hollow-body that I just picked up. It looks almost identical to yours but without the pick scratch plate (guard) & without the plate dressing under the tone & volume controls.
    It was in good shape considering how obviously it had been uncared for & probably mistreated years. A friend & I had it cleaned & set up in a couple of hours.
    I didn’t know the brand, but my older friend did. He had one that he had never previously shown me. He said it was his first guitar

  3. Nice!! I just got the exact hollow body. Im struggling to find information on finding a pick guard… oem would be great. Have any ideas on where to search? Any way you could trace your pickguard on the hollowbody with screws and mail me it? I cant find a template anywhere!!! Please let me know any ideas!!

  4. I just acquired a Saturn bass, that my brother literally found in the garbage during a roadside collection, and have been wondering what the heck it is, until now. I guess these have become pretty uncommon, then. Thanks for posting this, as I now have a better idea of where it came from!

    1. Hey, I’ve got one which looks much like your hollow body except for where and how the volume and tone buttons are located! It has an almost triangle shaped chrome cover for them and a whammy bar!
      Has anyone seen something like it and maybe a year, as there is nothing marked inside that I can Find!
      By the way it was a dumpster find as well!!
      Thanks in advance

  5. Late to the party, but I’ve got the hollow-body one on the right and we call it the “semi-acoustic” as you can hear it without an amp. One pickup is country and the other is blues, with a switch to go between them.

  6. Just an FYI. In the 1967 movie “In Cold Blood”, Robert Blake (one of the murderers) is seen playing a Saturn electric guitar. The name on the headstock looks different from yours.

  7. Hi.My parents gave me a 2 pickup saturn solid body for Christmas in mother ordered a 1 pickup model,but in those days Eaton’s would substitute better quality items if they were out of stock on what you ordered.Mine was sunburst with a maple neck 2 switches one volume one tone and a front mounted input jack.I learned to play on that guitar,as well i learned how to setup a guitar on that guitar.I sold it to a friend who learned on it and in turn passed it on to a relative,so they could learn too.I lost track of it in the 80’s,but i’m sure it had lots of playing done on it after

    1. Tom

      i have a similar experience; lost track of my Saturn Electric Solid 2pu / purchased 1969 Eatons Regina, SK/ would love even a picture of the guitar for old times sake. $39.95 was original price; i sold to a friend in ’74 and now it’s only a memory. the lower cut away was not longer than the top one, as is the case with most pics i see of that era. it almost looked like a ‘brand name ‘ guitar back then…. or so i told myself.

  8. About 57 years ago I had a 4pickup Saturn solid body but have never run across another. Have you ever? Just wondering for old old time sake.
    Thanks, Fred

  9. Hi there
    I see you have an old saturn guitar….
    My wife has a 1962 Saturn electric guitar, just like the one you have posted. It needs some parts and I was wondering if you know where to find parts so I can restore it to its original glory.

  10. 10 years late for this thread, but I bought one (+ a Ford amp) with my Bar Mitzvah money in 1969 or early ‘70. Sold it soon after, and have been an acoustic dude ever since.

  11. I have a similar version to your hollow body. It looks like it has newer tuners. I’m looking to replace mine, but found the headstock to be much thicker than normal. Do you happen to know what kind of tuners you used?

  12. I was wondering if anyone has come across an exhaustive list of Saturn models with pix. I’m trying to identify mine which is very close to your hollowbody – with different chrome plates Thanks

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