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The Electra MPC Guitar: Classic and Collectable

Updated on February 8, 2015

Electra MPC Guitars-Cool, Well-Made and Getting Scarce-A Collectable Guitar That I Love!

Electra guitars were imported from Japan by the Saint Louis Music Supply Company (SLM) of Saint Louis, Missouri from 1971 to 1984 (most MPC models were made by Matsumoku of Matsumoku , Japan) . Matsumoku has made many popular guitar brands over the years including; Aria, Westbury, Westone, Epiphone, Vantage & Vox to name but a few. For a few years, Electra imported mostly clones of popular American designed guitars such as the Les Paul and the Stratocaster. In 1974 Tom Presley was hired by SLM to head the MPC product development. MPC is the abbreviation for "Modular Powered Circuits". In 1976 the first MPC guitars debut.

The photo shows what is known as the "Lawsuit Headstock"

Lawsuit Era Electra MPC "X-340"
Lawsuit Era Electra MPC "X-340"

The Electra MPC Story Continued

Initially in the '76-77 era, the first of the Electra MPC guitars were pretty much Gibson Les Paul clones with the headstock that was very close to what came on the Les Paul. This resulted in a Lawsuit filed by Gibson claiming copyright infringement. After the lawsuit was settled, Electra Changed the headstock design from the Gibson style to what is known as the "Wave" Headstock. I have an early version ("lawsuit version") pictured here.

In the 70's many famous musicians were endorsers of the Electra MPC line including Leslie West of Mountain ("Mississippi Queen"), Peter Frampton, and Jeff Lynne of ELO. There were many ads in guitar magazines with images of famous guitarists playing Electras. Elvin Bishop ( "Fooled around and Fell in Love") actually had a very cool and collectible version called the "Tree of Life", which was very similar to a hollow body Gibson ES 335. The coolest feature of this guitar is that it had the Tree of Live inlayed into the fretboard! It is a very collectible and desirable Electra to own, and the finest examples have skyrocketed in price recently.

Electra Semi-Acoustic MPC with "Tree of Life" Inlay

The picture shows an Electra MPC semi-acoustic similar to the Elvin Bishop model (Elvin's wasn't an MPC, but had the Tree-of-Life inlay). The other 2 right of the MPC version are non-module semi-acoustics by Electra. These are highly collectible guitars, and one in mint to near-mint condition will fetch well over $1400 now.

New Black Electra Omega

Demo of the New Electra Guitars!

Fooled Around and Fell in Love by Elvin Bishop

Here's a video of Elvin doing his most famous tune

Guitars on Amazon

Electra and Crate Guitars

The Later "Wave" Headstock After the Lawsuit - An Electra Wave

Here is what the aftermath of the lawsuit settlement looked like-the infamous "wave" headstock. The peace-sign-well I'm not sure where that came from except the peace sign was everywhere in the late 60's through the mid 70's.

Module Mania!

OK here's where the Electra's were different from the fray. You need to understand in the late 70's the classic American guitars were in danger of disappearing, with Gibson and Fender looking elsewhere to build guitars besides the US. The Japanese were a threatening force to be reckoned with, and that included the guitar scene. Yamaha, Ibanez, Aria and many others were building competitive guitars at a cheaper price than what the iconic American manufacturers could build. Add to the mix a lack of innovation and not so good quality control and we were in danger of losing our guitar companies.

The big issue, besides the fact that the Electra's were very well made, was the unique effects modules incorporated into the design. In effect a guitarist could have all of his needed effects included into the body of the guitar, making the roadie's job a much simpler one. The picture shows what each of the effects looked like-in most cases the controls to the effects were on the front of the casing-but some variables could be controlled via the front of the guitar with the toggle switches and a couple of control potentiometers below.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately depending on the way you see it, the 80's brought us MTV, pointy guitars and big hair bands. So not only was there economic suffering among the American guitar builders, Electra, even though they tried to adopt to the trends, could not compete with theglam-brands of the moment such as Kramer (thank you Eddie Van Halen), Dean, and Charvel/Jackson. All the MTV big hair glam rock bands seemed to use these guitars and it was the final nail in the coffin for the Electra brand of guitar. Over the years there was a token effort at a resurrection, including the Westone and Crate names, but all the attempts wereby all accounts unsuccessful. . As a side note, the Alvarez and Crate amplifier brand names were SLM names. And of course, Crate is a name that still lives to this day. . . . . .

Peter Frampton Playing "Do You Feel Like We Do"

Way cool "Midnight Special" video of Frampton playing his most famous tune, way back when he still had hair :-)

The Electra Page - Probably the best link for all things Electra

Go here to learn more about the Electra guitar and all the variations of the MPC design and even wierder variations including the Westone line toward the end of Electra's existence.

The Back of My Lawsuit-Era MPC Showing the Module Bay - Electra MPC X-340

Back Side-Notice the Door for the Effects Modules
Back Side-Notice the Door for the Effects Modules

One of the coolest things about these guitars is the compartment on the backside that actually incorporates up to 2 effects modules-the idea was that you don't need a pedal for reverb, chorus or flange effects, having it in the guitar made for a much improved signal path and you didn't need all the garbage at your feet-just flip a switch on the guitar and presto, you have the effect you need! Way cool. Most of the modules were at least decent quality effects, and the flanger and phase shifter were really good!

Electra Guitars and Accessories for Sale on eBay

If you want to start collecting these great and desirable guitars, here's where to look for starters. Just be ware that you get what you pay for, and I've seen a 100% increase in prices in the last 10 years for these guitars-they are getting very hard to find in nice condition.

These are Three of the Electra MPC I Own

What you see here are three different varieties-and yes there were many more! In the picture you see from left to right the "Outlaw" X-720, Electra "Vulcan" X-940, and the Les Paul look-a-like X-340. I was lucky enough many years ago to find these beautiful examples on Ebay for a very reasonable price. Two of the 3 actually smell new when you open the case-they are considered NOS, or New Old Stock examples.

More Electra Mania Here

Here are some links to much more information and history of the SLM Electra MPC and non-MPC guitars-there's a plethora of information to sort through, so enjoy the journey.

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      wreckhtxs 4 years ago

      The "peace" logo on Electra guitars is actually a lower-case "e" back-to-back with a mirror image of it. The "e" stands for Electra.

    • JimDuke profile image
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      JimDuke 3 years ago

      @wreckhtxs: Double purpose it seems-it is a cool logo at any rate. . . . .BTW someone has bought the Electra name and is making new Omegas-I posted a link in this lens.

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