GEAR - The Raven SG circa 1970s



Sometimes it is not until we get older that we appreciate certain things. That's certainly the case with the guitar I'm about to talk about. When I was a teenager I wanted a Les Paul badly, but even a relatively inexpensive copy was hard to come by for under $300 in those days. Knowing I didn't really like my Strat, I went to a pawn shop to get another guitar and amp. The guitar I came out with was this Raven SG copy.

From the research I've done it seems like Raven's were made in the Far East for the Canadian market. While a budget brand, they were well made. Even though I was far from knowledgeable about such things at the time, looking back I recall the guitar had pretty decent action and was relatively well set up and easy to play.

As I gaze at the photo, I'm struck by just how cool a guitar this was. Neck and headstock binding and block inlays starting at the first fret gave it a very upscale look. Then there's the obvious aftermarket pickup upgrade in the bridge. When played wide open on a small tube amp this thing probably roared. Too bad I was using it on a big transistorized beast, but I'll get more into that on another post.

Of course the tastiest part of this whole guitar lies behind the bridge with a Bigsby style vibrato unit (or whammy bar as we used to call it back in the old days). I've never seen a Bigsby on Gibson SG and I have no idea if this sweet piece of hardware came stock on this copy-guitar or was installed afterwards like the pickup.

These Bigsby style units only have a semi-tone worth of give - which really wouldn't cut it for 80s hair metal playing - but they have a very sweet sound when used properly. The major drawback of the hardware is its heaviness but on a light SG it works perfectly to balance the guitar and keep it from being neck heavy.

So what happened to this instrument? Well after learning basic major and minor chords and little else I gave up on the guitar. I moved a few times and the massive amp I had was really getting in the way. I left the amp and guitar in a friend's basement and years went by without me asking for it back. Eventually it was loaned to another friend and from there it disappeared. Now that I can play better, I often wish I had it back even for an afternoon to take it out for a run and see just what it could do.

12 comments:

  1. I just came upon this blog. I have the exact same guitar. It was my dads, and still in original case and original straps. His parents bought it for him when he was younger to learn and he just didnt like to play. So now its mine and my grandmother still had the original sales receipt lol. Great guitar, great action.

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  2. Awesome. I really wish had appreciated this beauty a bit more when I had it.

    I'm curious. Does your dad's guitar have the bigsby style vibrato arm like the one here?

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  3. i also have this same guitar and yes the bigsby style tremolo is from the factory...

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  4. Thanks for your comment. I've wondered for years about that!

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  5. I have one of these, but mine doesn't have the Bigsby. FYI, Raven guitars from that era ( not the modern Raven brand) were built for the Northwest Music Company, (or Great North Music- something like that, a distributor out of Vancouver, and distributed by local stores and teachers in small towns. Various builders in Japan and Korea made various models, but the better ones were made by Yamaki and Yamaha, generally. One of my first guitars, in the 69-70 era, was a Raven Archtop that was not terribly good. But it did look like a 335. The SG copy is much closer to a real Gibson, but the fake tunomatic bridge has plastic saddles and is sloppy fitting. I intend to install a decent bridge when the money is available. The frets are a bit too big for me, but a fret job can wait. Mine is blonde. And has a suitable case. A bit of a treasure, in spite of all the minor problems. The distributor went broke long ago, but a friend of mine had a music store in the '70's and carried their products.

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  6. sorry for the late reply and yes my dads had the wammy bar

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  7. Just out of curiousity how much would my dads guitar be worth now?

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  8. I've seen them go for $200-$300 depending on the condition. Of course, if it's in mint condition and you find someone who collects them, it might go for a bit more. The problem is there are a lot of new SG copies out there now that play really well and sell for rock bottom prices.

    Collectors of off-brand vintage guitars tend to look for more funky and dramatic body styles that look good on a rec-room wall.

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  9. I guess thats okay. I have the original receipt for it from the music store in Windsor. April 7th 1972 for $176.40 for a copy of Gibson SG (Raven).

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  10. Cool. Keep the receipt. That might add some additional value for a collector.

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  11. The Raven badge was built by the Matsumoku Company in the late '60s and the ''70s.

    They built guitars for Yamaha, Aria, and a long list of other badges while they flourished, but seem to have disappeared since then.

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  12. I just picked up a well used "Marlin" version of this guitar. This guitar had a few brand names on it, Raven, Marlin, Pan and Tokai. Very interesting tone from the pickups I must say.
    Bernie

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