The history of Vintage®

The Vintage® story starts all the way back in England in the heady days of the beat boom in the mid 60’s with the birth in 1965 of the firm John Hornby Skewes & Co. Ltd., (now commonly referred to as JHS®) the creator, owner and worldwide distributor of the Vintage® brand.

The company’s founder, the eponymous John Hornby Skewes, was a driven ‘ideas man’ with a keen eye on quality and value, who in the early years was responsible for bringing some now quite funky and collectable 'early days' electric guitar brands to the UK like Kasuga, TeradaZenta and Hondo which kicked off the career of many a player.

As the Punk era morphed into Post Punk, JHS morphed too, from just distributing guitar brands, to the genesis of creating its own, with the introduction in 1980 of the Encore® round back electro acoustic series and then in 1982 the Encore® SE604 Coaster solid body electric guitar series, which as 1985 arrived, gave way to the Encore® Deluxe solid body series, the first foray into using ‘high end’ components on not so high end guitars, with the fitting of a Kahler® floating vibrato.

‘97/’98 saw the introduction of what would become the long running Encore® 'A ' Series, followed in ‘89/’90 by the Encore® Contemporary Series, then in what was JHS’ 25th anniversary year, the Encore® Custom Series, with the beautiful twin-cut SE1.

JHS had proven to itself, that it could produce world class products, which appealed to players and that the brand had a solid reputation to build upon. Build upon it they did with the launch in 1995 of the first ever guitar to wear the Vintage® name.

The Encore® Vintage Series. Comprising of the Vintage Standard, Vintage Custom and Vintage Custom Deluxe twin cut, bolt neck guitars which were a series of five limited edition showcase guitars. These brought an unbelievable blend of style, playability and incredibly high specification to an unheard-of price point.

The Encore® Vintage Series featured genuine USA made Lace® Sensor pickups, then the benchmark #1 boutique pickup, which provided the power, sparkle and the authentic late ‘50’s vintage single coil pickup tone players wanted, but with balance, consistency and a total absence of the inherent single coil noise so prevalent in normal stock fifties style single coil pickups.

You only had to look, back in the day, to see which other brand was loading Lace® Sensor pickups to its $1000+ guitars to understand what a revolution it was to find these amazing pickups in what was a £199.00 guitar.

Tuning stability has always been an issue with vibrato loaded guitars of the double cut body style the Encore® Vintage Series used. The solution to the issue was to turn to the master of tuning stability, Trev Wilkinson. A Brit, who’d moved to Australia, then Southern California and finally back to the UK. Along the way, Trev honed his skills as a designer, guitar builder, production specialist and creator of amazing guitar hardware. Trev had at that time had just developed a version of his famous VS100 bridge, known as the Wilkinson VS10, which had all the legendary tuning stability and return to zero Wilkinson bridges are world renowned for, was built in the USA and worked perfectly for the Encore® Vintage Series project.

The next key component, still with an eye on tuning stability was the tuners. Where else to turn, but to the most famous tuner brand in the world, Grover®. All the Encore Vintage Series guitars were fitted with Grover’s 135 series premium vintage pattern tuners.

This almost unbelievable assemblage of premium components was matched with genuine Ash bodies, with premium finishes, custom pickguards, Canadian Rock Maple necks, and selected Indian Rosewood fingerboards, loaded with jumbo profile frets.

With the final assembly bridge fit and set-ups carried out in the UK by no less than Trev Wilkinson and the JHS workshop, the Encore Vintage Series was a very high-end guitar at a very low end price. In fact, the retail price of the Lace® Sensor pickups, the Wilkinson VS10 bridge and the Grover® 135 vintage pattern tuners comfortably eclipsed the £199.00 recommended retail price of the day.

The adoption of the Wilkinson VS10 bridge was the first contact in what was to become the most important design collaboration JHS had thus far entered into.

The Encore® Vintage Series came and went, then in 1999, the very first standalone Vintage® brand guitars hit the market, followed over the next few years by an ever-expanding selection, and in 2003 the very 'metal' focussed Metal Axxe® Series with aggressive and outlandish designs such as Razer®, Wraith®, Reaper®, Warp® and Raider® launched.

Over the next several years the Vintage® brand acquired a well-deserved reputation for quality and value and was accepted as a serious brand to be reckoned with. A growing range of models was developed, which Trev over the years would pass comment on and suggest improvements to.

During those years, JHS’ MD Dennis Drumm, always one to listen, and Trev Wilkinson, who both had a shared interest in proving just what could be achieved continued to talk about how the Vintage range could be enhanced and expanded.

In 2003, Den and Trev started a formal collaboration, refreshing the existing Vintage® range.

In 2005, the Vintage® ReIssued Series project kicked off, during which Trev re-imagined and re-specified every single model with new body styles and headstocks, upgraded timbers, genuine Wilkinson hardware and pickups, and added a host of new models too.

Trev’s Decades of experience in guitar design, construction and manufacturing and a formidable knowledge of hardware, pickups and electronics design and JHS’ burning desire to build world beating product with real 'bang for the buck' was a magic combination.

Matching hardware, specially designed pickups and selected tone woods along with sprinkling a little ‘magic dust’ and using guitar alchemy Trev’ blended the careful selection of components with the adoption and application of decades of production knowledge, honestly applied, with the sole purpose of achieving the goal; to make great working men’s guitars, which all could afford

The much-expanded Vintage® ReIssued Series range launched to a market which had never before experienced this level of detail, this amount of careful, considered design, high specification detail, build quality, playability and credibility without a huge price tag.

Trev’s been heard to say, “If you can’t make a great guitar for $4000, go and do something else. Making a truly great guitar for a tenth of that is the challenge. With Vintage, we’ve achieved just that!” Whether it was for a young guy or girl’s first or second instrument, or for a super experienced player, Vintage® ReIssued Series absolutely hit the spot!

JHS’ next collaboration with Trev Wilkinson was the 2007/2008 Vintage® ADVANCE Series AV1 where the message was that if one uses one’s knowledge honestly, it’s possible to do so much than is ever expected. Trev gave free rein to his fertile imagination and developed a range of solid body electric guitars and basses in which everything looked familiar, but each model had a unique and individual take on styling, and offered the kind of custom features one would only expect to find at the top of the guitar food chain, not down here in the mid-point.

Vintage® ADVANCE Series™ featured custom wound pickups in configurations which provided huge tonal palettes, with control features such as the Vintage® “roll control™”, matched to Trev’s amazing W90SK stacked soapbar pickups allowing them to be progressively rolled back from double coil humbucker to single coil; an outstanding innovation.

Featured on both the AV6P and AV3P, the 'roll control™' feature alone was just one of the many ‘standouts’ of Vintage® ADVANCE Series which went on to find their way in to many a Trev Wilkinson designed Vintage® guitar.

Next up, in 2008 came ZIP™. There’s a very strong argument for the K.I.S.S. school of guitar design and ZIP was just that. Bolt neck simplicity, back to basics design, uncomplicated but oh so useful pickup combinations, and oh so ‘in your face’ cosmetics for infectious tone in a fun, unashamedly ‘kitsch’ package.

Somewhere around this point in time, 2008, the first ‘factory distressed’ solid body guitars started to appear using an artificial relic-ing process to make ‘em look like they’d been on the road for decades. Initially created individually in a luthier environment, this was an expensive and time-consuming process which had only then been applied to seriously expensive guitars.

Trev created a process whereby the relic-ing could be achieved in serial production and in a worldwide industry first, Vintage® ICON Series™ was born, making 'new pre-worn guitars', ‘modern relics’, accessible to a much wider market with all of the hallmark Vintage® attributes of style, value, high spec, superb playability and great tone.

Two early Vintage® ICON Series success stories, which have gone on to become legends are the Vintage® ICON Series™ V100 'Lemon Drop', a single cut which features Wilkinson WVC humbuckers, worthy of a separate story themselves*, in a unique ‘wrong ways around-out of phase wiring configuration of truly supernatural tonality and the Vintage® ICON Series Thomas Blug Signature V6 which uniquely recreates this world renown guitarist’s treasured ’61. Thomas and Trev’ worked together to create a unique instrument, which with its trick wiring, ninja dummy coils, 'Bukka™' switch and Wilkinson WVS pickups gave this particular Vintage® V6 such an authentic vintage tone and feel that it enables Thomas to switch seamlessly between his ’61 and his stock Vintage® V6 signature model, with no perceptible difference in the tone. In fact, according to Thomas, the only difference is around $20,000.00!!!

In 2020 Vintage released the ProShop® concept, where the immense skills, talent and imagination of the Vintage® workshop team were put to work to create ProShop® Unique one-off individual guitars created by the Vintage team and by players working with them.

2020 also saw the start of a collaboration between Vintage and Joe Doe Guitars to create limited edition guitars conceived by Ben Court.

Every year, we produce new classics, offering ever more choice to players and have spent years listening to suggestions from players all around the world.

The 'heart and soul' of the Vintage® brand is innovation, excellence, value and fun.