6/27/2013

c.1965 EKO Cobra XII 12-String Electric Guitar



In the '60s, 12-strings of all stripes were pretty rare, with electric ones being darn hard to find. This Italian-made EKO dates to either 1965 or 1966 (the only years the "small" tailpiece was used on these guys), so it's really a pretty "forward-thinking" instrument for its time. It came to me from the "Skanktone Collection" in a long-stored, much-grimed state, but has turned around beautifully.

This is one of the cooler electric 12s I've handled and I (personally) enjoyed playing this way more than any of the modern 12s I've tried out (including those Strat XIIs and many funky hollowbody 12s). EKOs are beginning to be popular collectors' guitars and are beginning to emerge from a "garage rock" cavern into the light of well-regarded functionality. I actually used to own one of their giant old slope-shoulder acoustic 12s with a magnetic pickup at the end of the fretboard and, like that mag pickup (probably the same type), the ones on this guy sound so very cool.

The neck pickup is very big and lush while the bridge pickup has a dry, spikey, nasal sound not unlike a Danelectro or quirky Tele.


The contoured, offset body is curious and interesting. It reminds me of a Hagstrom more than anything else. All the hardware appaears to be original and in good order except for a replacement pickup-selector knob from my parts bin (bass upper bout) and a missing bridge cover (these always got yanked off). In addition, I have no idea what that selector rocker switch does on the upper-bout treble, so it appears non-functional. Tone, volume, and pickup selection work fine, though.


Though the neck is finished black, it's a 3-piece hard maple job with a good heavy-duty truss rod (adjustable at the base of the neck) installed. Note the zero fret -- very typical on European guitars and I'm an admirer of them when they're setup correctly (not taller than any of the other frets). The nut width is a full 1 7/8" which means it's easy not to bump the "wrong string" with your fingers.


The board is a wide, lightly-raidused, rosewood affair. The frets are medium in size and nickel-silver.

This neck had a tiny bit of un-adjustable warp in the first two frets (zero fret and first), but after a good fret level and dressing I managed to remove that. After setup this thing plays absolutely effortlessly with 1/16" action at the 12th and a good medium, 24 3/4" scale length.

I actually had the right gauge strings (some loop, some ball-end) hanging around in my string bin to set this up just as I like an electric 12: 18/46w low E,  14/36w A, 24w/11 D, 09/17 G, 13/13 B, and 09/09 E. This feels really slinky and the plain low E octave intonates better on the (non-individually-adjustable) saddle so barre chords ring a bit more true.


Note that the pickguard has chipped-out on every corner and I've added new recessed screws to hold it down snug from here on.


Check out all the lacquer cracking... so typical for any EKO I've ever seen. For some reason their thick, glossy finishes just do that. Also check out the "Jazzmaster" style bridge (well, really, it's closer to a Mustang bridge).


This tailpiece accepts loop or ball-end strings which makes sorting out gauges all the easier.


This has a pretty thin body that feels fast in the lap.







This guitar was originally part of the Skanktone Guitars collection. Skanktone was run by Joe Schenkman of right-here-in-Rochester, Vermont, and specialized in fun, funky, wonky, and wild old guitars (among other things). He amassed a very cool personal collection that's been off-and-on stored for a number of years and now a fair number of the quirky and fun vintage items are being sold through Antebellum. Thanks for sharing the toys, Joe!

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