A huge thank you to Ken for emailing me this detailed history.
"In the mid-70’s Joe Sallay and I ran a retail store – Iron Music – that I had originally started with Paul Lucas, a guitar player from North Vancouver, as a teaching studio. Attila Balogh had a small repair business on Cambie Street around 18th. Joe had sold for a music wholesaler for a few years and knew Attila from that time, and, as they were both Hungarian immigrants, they developed a friendship. Ideas got tossed around over a couple of years and eventually Attila’s shop joined us and we moved his repair facilities to 4th Avenue, added inventory, and opened it as a second Iron Music store. It was in the back of this little 4th Avenue store that we developed and built the first Odysseys.
"We built the first guitars and basses in this facility with a few basic hand tools – a mahogany bodied of each, an ash bodied of each, and a carved maple top over a mahogany body of each – to take to the Canadian Music Trade Show in Toronto. Joe had arranged for a wholesaler, Kief Music, to show the instruments and sell them across Canada for us. These early instruments differed quite significantly from the design we eventually settled on. The body shape changed to allow a longer upper horn for better balance, especially on the bass, and the waist was made a little smaller, the lower bout a little rounder… basically the lines were changed to create a more graceful shape. The head design was changed from concave to convex. The early models also had very little head angle, about 80 vrs the later 170, and almost no neck to body angle vrs the later 30.
"With a moderate success at the trade show, we were faced with the problem of production. The small repair area in the store was nowhere near sufficient. At the same time our lease on the building that Iron Music occupied on Granville Street between Davie and Drake was up, so we started looking for a location that would allow both a large retail area and a factory. We found one a few doors south on Granville at Drake, where the street level floor became Iron Music and the basement Odyssey Guitars.
"We did a lot of custom jobs for the professionals around Vancouver out of this shop. We generally stayed with basic electronics. We built a few of the Series 100 with a built-in equalizer. Roland had put out a synthesizer guitar, and we had a customer who wanted the electronics but hated the guitar, so we sacked the Roland guitar and built the synthesizer into an Odyssey. The frets were individually wired into a computer that sat in a large cavity in the body. We did make a few special body shapes, a Flying-V, etc, but generally the specials were the basic Odyssey with the customer choosing the wood, having the neck shaped a little different, inlays – that type of thing.
"During this time we designed and started producing the Attila Guitar – satin finish maple body, bolt-on neck, pick guard mounted electronics with pickups specially wound for us by DiMarzio – for Great West Imports, a music wholesaler headquartered in Vancouver. By using lower priced parts and simpler construction we attempted to make something price competitive with the new better quality Japanese imports of the time. The instruments didn’t sell well and we quit making them after about a year. Around the same time our agreement with Kief fell apart and we started selling direct to retail stores instead of using a wholesaler.
"In the late 70’s, probably 1978, we moved the factory to an industrial park on Welch Avenue in North Vancouver, where it remained until the company folded in 1982. In this location we designed and started building the Series 400 Hawk. It still had the neck-thru-body design of the other Odysseys, but the natural colour, satin finish, rosewood fingerboard, pickups, bridge, etc made it a little cheaper to produce. While most of our sales were in Canada, during these years we also sold instruments into the States and into Europe.
"All the Odysseys were built with a neck-thru-body design. We started by laminating three 6” wide by 48” long maple planks separated by mahogany veneers into a block from which we cut 3 neck blanks. The blanks were faced on an edger sander to give the neck to body and headstock angles. The truss rod groove was cut and the slotted fingerboard glued on. The neck blank was then cut to width and thickness, the neck was shaped and fretted, and the machine head holes drilled. The upper and lower body halves were then glued on and the cavities for the pickups, bridge, and electronics were routed. The guitar was then cleaned, sanded, and prepared for finishing. The early instruments had a nitro-cellulose lacquer finish, but fairly early on we found a catalyzed lacquer that had the same appearance but could be applied thicker and dried faster. The finished guitar was buffed and the parts installed.
"The guitars generally were fitted with DiMarzio pickups, usually PAFs, and the basses with Bartollini. The guitars had a 24-3/4” scale length and the basses 34”. We used Schaller machine heads – occasionally Grover if we had supply problems from Schaller. Other than the machine heads, pickups, pots, and switches we made all the parts. The bridge was brass channel mounted on a solid brass block. The tailpiece was cut from a brass block and the nut from 1/4” brass bar. Knobs and strap buttons were machined from solid brass. The necks were maple with mahogany veneers and ebony fingerboards and the body halves either mahogany or ash. The Series 100 had mahogany body halves covered with a carved and bound maple top. The semi-acoustics used a carved spruce top over a maple neck and body halves. Because we did a lot of custom jobs for the local musicians the woods and parts did vary according to their preferences, and there are several guitars somewhere out there with carved walnut tops and whatever.
"The basic designs came together with the three partners knocking heads and playing with ideas. Joe had the problem of selling them and maintaining the Iron Music store. Attila and I figured out how to put the ideas into production, designed and made the necessary tooling, and ran the small factory of a half dozen people. I’ve seen the occasional Odyssey on the internet claiming to have been hand made by Attila. Bullshit! All the instruments were produced with several people, each doing their part in the production. The only instruments that were totally produced by one person were those that we allowed employees to make for themselves, and there were only a couple who did. I made one instrument for myself before selling my shares to Tom Lunderville in 1980. It’s all maple with a carved spruce top and archtop style bridge carved from ebony."
Kenneth Lindemere (co-founder Odyssey Guitars)
Ken is back making beautiful guitars www.lindemereguitars.com