Relatively little is known about this marvellous Telecaster-style guitar. However, it is generally agreed among those lucky enough to own one that they are very special guitars indeed.
The first model was introduced in 1988, (as far we can ascertain - here's a link to Hohner's own information) and remained in production (though it would appear to be in very limited numbers) until late 1989 or early 1990. A law suit brought by Fender (the headstock impinged on Fender's copyrighted design - they have a copyright on the headstock, but not the body shape) put the guitar out of production. A Mark II was introduced in 1992, with a lot of specification changes. However, what most people don't know is... there's actually a Mark III. I'm lucky enough to own a Mark I and a Mark III, but I'll discuss all three models here. I'm not an expert on these guitars, I'm just putting down what I've been able to learn about them over the years, in the hope that it might help others that are investigating these wonderful guitars.
Made by Cort in Korea, it is a direct clone of the Fender Telecaster, though it has a major ergonomic improvement: The body is contoured, like a Stratocaster, so it fits nicely against the body. A complaint often leveled against standard Fender Telecasters was that they were uncomfortable to play in a sitting position for any length of time.
The Mark I was only on sale for two years from 1988 to either late 1989 or early 1990. It was withdrawn when Fender brought legal action against Hohner due to Hohner copying the headstock. I believe this was the beginning of the "clone wars" when Fender, alarmed at the high quality of Japanese (Tokai et al) and Korean "knock-offs" started dealing with the issue and suing the offenders. They were also wanting to protect their new Squier line of cheaper (and often inferior to the "knock-offs") Fender copies.
The Mark I TE Custom had gold hardware and was available in black and (IIRC) sunburst finishes. The neck is a single piece Canadian maple (i.e. no seperate finger board). The body is Californian maple.
I bought my TE Custom brand new from The Rok Shop in Shrewsbury, Shropshire (in the Victorian Arcade) for £175. I was 17 in 1988. I put a deposit down to reserve the guitar, and I saved up my pocket money in a post office savings account until I had enough to pay off the balance. I recall the lady at the post office wanted to call my parents when I showed up to withdraw all the money, as she was horrified that I was spending it on a guitar! Nevertheless, I got my money and duly took my new pride and joy home. I didn't yet have an amplifier, but who needs amplifiers to pose in the bedroom mirror? The guitar has been in my possession ever since.
Left: My 1988 Hohner TE Custom with Gold Hardware. Looking pretty gorgeous for a 30 year old guitar! Note the Fender style headstock. Full size pic.
|Note the Fender style ash-tray with original Fender style saddles. The pickups are made by Kent Armstrong, fitted as standard at the factory. This guitar is completely stock. The scratchplate, neck, ash-tray, and controls and tuners have never been unscrewed/removed. It's as it was when I picked it up in the summer of 1987. Full size pic.||Nothing clever going on 'round the back. Just the string holes, but do note the neck-tilt adjustment screw (borrowing from the 70's Fender Strats?) Full size pic.|
There does appear to be some variations of the same model. My guess? Since these guitars were built by Cort in Korea, they were putting all sorts of necks/bodies together for various manufacturers and borrowed from different parts-bins according to what was available or in stock. For example, my 1989 Fender Squier Stratocaster was built at the Kort factory. Look at this Hohner Mark I:
Observe the headstock: Two circular string trees (my 1988 Hohner MKI has a single, different type of string tree) and this model has a 'buried' truss rod, whereas my truss is a bullet style which protrudes out of the neck.
Here's another variant. A Mark I with a different headstock logo. Pictures courtesy of Andy Wood from Hull in the UK:
||Here's a video (not by me) of the TE Custom Mark I doing it's thang. Lovely jangly, clean sound. As good as any Fender you care to mention. This dude really lights my fire towards the end with the over-driven Hendrixy stuff. Convinced yet?|
Custom Mark II, introduced in 1992 under the care and supervision of
Alan Entwistle, was a significant change from the Mark I. The
headstock had been re-designed to avoid the copyright issue. Also,
the string tree has changed (the single one on the Mark I being
changed for two round, flat types on the Mark II). Note the
single-piece maple neck has been replaced with a two piece
maple/rosewood neck. It's an exceptionally comfortable neck, nothing
like classic Fenders. It's much flatter (12"), and has taller frets,
which makes bending and vibrato effortless.
The most significant change however was the body; out went the gorgeous contoured body, and in came a standard 'Fender style' body (i.e. not contoured), though, for added pazzaz they included a rather lovely binding. I'm not sure how many colours were available, but I've seen sunburst and red stain versions.
Also, rather sadly, the gold hardware has gone.
Picture from reverb.com - lovely three-colour sunburst. There are shockingly few pictures of these guitars available on the internet.
Mark III was an incremental change from the Mark II, as one would
expect. Introduced in 1994, it's main change was the saddles. The
standard Fender style three saddle arrangment has been replaced with
a more modern six saddle version for better intonation. Note also,
the ash tray style bridge-plate has been replaced with a simple
plate. I personally find this more comfortable than the Mark I and
Mark II versions.
This is my Mark III from ~1995. These guitars are heavy. They sustain for ever. If you hit the low E string sometime around the extinction of the dinousars, it'd still be ringing today. Lovely Cherry Red stain. The wood grain is clearly visible through the stain. In bright light it's a kind of pink colour. Full size pic.
Here's a video of a Mark III in action that I found on YouTube:
|Nothing has changed 'round the back. Note the binding both front and back. Lovely workmanship. The neck tilt control is still there. Serial number appears to be meaningless. The back of the neck is satin, whereas the Mark I is heavily laquered. Full size pic.||Another shot of the back. Nice grain showing through the stain. It appearsto be a two-peice body (at least, it does from the back). Can't really see a join at all when looking from the front. Full size pic.|
Note the headstock on the Mark III, which has changed again:
Now we have adjustable tuners, and two circular string tree, rather than one compared to the Mark II above.
Guitarist Magazine finally got around to reviewing this guitar in 1994. It's covered in the February 1994 edition:
You'll find the review starting on page 34:
Click here for a full size pic that may be easier to read.
Here's the next page:
Again, click here for a full-size pic.
The imagery in the magazine review shows a Mark II style headstock, with a Mark III bridge plate (6 saddles). Note that my Mark III has a different headstock to the one in the magazine review, implying my guitar is a later version, or (my suspicion): The version supplied to magazine is a Mark II.
Here's my two side-by-side:
If you are able to offer any more information on these guitars, please email me on mark wills 1970 at gmail dot com.
I get quite a few enquiries about the value of these guitars. I think that's very subjective, and in the case of Hohner guitars, it's very much a buyer's market. Some folk go purely by what's on the headstock. I certainly used to. In years gone buy, I wouldn't even think of looking at a Charvel or Tokai, and yet they are superb guitars. In my opinion, having owned a number of "real" Fender Telecasters, both my MKI and my MKIII are better guitars. I've played (not owned) some Fender Tele's that have frankly been rubbish, either in terms of build or tone, or both. Most recent ones appear to be terrible. In fact, the Chinese-made "Fender Modern Player Series" are actually better than USA built models at the moment; though that is just my personal opinion, obviously.
Tone wise, if you are used to a Tele, you're not going to be disappointed. These sound, well, just like a Tele. The bridge is snarly, with a little overdrive, just like the real thing. For me, the neck pickup is even better than Fender Teles. It's just "more" somehow. It's achingly gorgeous, both clean and over-driven.
Build Quality speaks for itself. My MKI has been with me for 30 years and I've never had the scratch-plate or the tuners (or anything, in fact) off the guitar. It's required no maintenace whatsoever in 30 years. It's just now getting to the point where the jack could do with a little spray of anti-oxidiser. That's it.
Given this, I would not let either of my TE Customs go for less than £500, because that's at least how much I'd have to spend to replace them with something worth replacing them with! Having said that, it will be a cold day in hell before I let my MKI go. It's been with me since I was 17 years old; six (yes six!) children, a marriage, mortgage the whole shebang. These are very rare guitars, but that's not really the point: These are excellent guitars, and they deserve to be recongnised and cherished among those lucky enough to own them.
Updated 8th December 2017