Ibanez is a Japanese guitar brand which is owned by Hoshino Gakki. Based in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan, Hoshino Gakki was one of the first Japanese musical instrument companies to gain a significant foothold in import guitar sales in the United States and Europe.
Ibanez sells electric and acoustic guitars and basses and other stringed instruments such as ukuleles, mandolins and banjos. In addition, they offer guitar and bass amplifiers and a range of other related accessories.
While production and distribution of guitars under the Ibanez brand began much earlier, the company gained notoriety outside its native Japan when it started importing Ibanez guitars to the United States in the mid-1960s. These first efforts were funky-looking creations which sold at the low end of the guitar market, primarily in department stores. But the company's products continued to move up the quality ladder until the company was perceived as a legitimate market force, selling what were essentially copies of other companies' designs in the mid-1970s. A patent lawsuit from Gibson ended the sales of those copies, but Ibanez had by then gained a foothold in the guitar market globally.
The Hoshino Gakki company began in 1908 as the musical instrument sales division of the Hoshino Shoten, a bookstore company. The Ibanez brand name dates back to 1929 when Hoshino Gakki began importing Salvador Ibáñez é Hijos guitars from Spain. In 1933 The Salvador Ibáñez é Hijos cy. was bought by Telesforo Julve and incorporated in his enterprise. Hoshino Gakki started making Spanish acoustic guitars from 1935, at first using the "Ibanez Salvador" name, and then later using the "Ibanez" brand name .
The modern era of Ibanez guitars began in 1957  and the late 1950s and 1960s Ibanez catalogues  show guitars with some wild looking designs . Japanese guitar makers in the 1960s were mostly copying European guitar designs and some of the late 1960s Ibanez designs were similar to Hagström and Eko guitar designs. Hoshino Gakki used the Teisco and FujiGen Gakki guitar factories to manufacture Ibanez guitars after they stopped manufacturing their own guitars in 1966 and after the Teisco guitar factory closed down in 1969/1970 Hoshino Gakki used the FujiGen Gakki guitar factory to make most Ibanez guitars.
In the 1960s Japanese guitar makers started to mainly copy American guitar designs and Ibanez branded copies of Gibson, Fender and Rickenbacker models started to appear. This resulted in the so called Ibanez lawsuit period. After the lawsuit period Hoshino Gakki introduced Ibanez models that were not copies of the Gibson or Fender designs such as the Iceman and Roadster. The company has produced its own guitar designs ever since. The late 1980s and early 1990s were an important period for the Ibanez brand. Hoshino Gakki's relationship with Frank Zappa's former guitarist Steve Vai resulted in the introduction of the Ibanez JEM and the Ibanez Universe models and after the earlier successes of the Roadster and Iceman models in the late 1970s/early 1980s, Hoshino Gakki entered the superstrat market with the RG series which were a lower priced version of the Ibanez JEM model.
Hoshino Gakki also had semi acoustic, nylon and steel stringed acoustic guitars manufactured under the Ibanez name. Most Ibanez guitars were made for Hoshino Gakki by the FujiGen guitar factory in Japan up until the mid to late 1980s and from then on Ibanez guitars have also been made in other Asian countries such as Korea, China and Indonesia. During the early 1980s the FujiGen guitar factory also produced most of the Roland guitar synthesizers, including the Stratocaster-style Roland G-505, the twin-humbucker Roland G-202 and the Ibanez X-ING IMG-2010.
Starfield was a guitar brand owned by Hoshino Gakki. In the 1970s, Hoshino Gakki and Kanda Shokai shared some guitar designs and so some Ibanez and Greco guitars have the same features. The Kanda Shokai Greco guitars were sold in Japan and the Hoshino Gakki Ibanez guitars were sold outside of Japan. From 1982, Ibanez guitars have also been sold in Japan as well as being sold outside of Japan .
Guitar brands such as Antoria shared some Ibanez guitar designs. The Antoria guitar brand was managed by JT Coppock Leeds Ltd England. CSL was a brand name managed by Charles Summerfield Ltd England. Maurice Summerfield of the Charles Summerfield Ltd company contributed some design ideas to Hoshino Gakki and also imported Ibanez and CSL guitars into the UK with Hoshino Gakki cooperation from 1964-1987. The Maxxas brand name came about because Hoshino Gakki thought that the guitar did not fit in with the Ibanez model range and was therefore named Maxxas by Rich Lasner from Hoshino USA .
Harry Rosenbloom, founder of the (now-bankrupt) Medley Music of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, was manufacturing handmade guitars under the name "Elger." By 1965 Rosenbloom had decided to stop manufacturing guitars and chose to become the exclusive North American distributor for Ibanez guitars. In September of 1972 Hoshino began a partnership with Elger Guitars to import guitars from Japan. In September of 1981, Elger was renamed "Hoshino U.S.A.", retaining the company headquarters in Bensalem, Pennsylvania as a distribution and quality-control center.
The lawsuit was brought by the "Norlin Corporation", the parent company of Gibson guitars against Elger/Hoshino U.S.A. on June 28th, 1977 in the Philadelphia Federal District Court, and was based on the Gibson headstock design. Hoshino settled out of court in early 1978 and the case was officially closed on February 2nd, 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 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 pickups, locking tremolo bridges and different finishes.
- ↑ Salvador Ibáñez history
- ↑ Hoshino Gakki History
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Specht, Paul (with Wright, Michael; Donahue, Jim) (2005). Ibanez : the untold story. Bensalem, Penn.: Hoshino (U.S.A.). ISBN 978-097642770
- ↑ Rich Lasner interview
- ↑ Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars by Zachary R. Fjestad page 331. Alfred Music Publishing 2008. ISBN 1886768749, 9781886768741