1968 Hӧfner Catalogue showing their 4600, 4574, and 4575 very thin bodied models in that year.


The Semi-Acoustic Principle

We have discussed earlier how and maybe why the Hӧfner Verithin model appeared in the Selmer London catalogue of 1960. Hӧfner realised straight away that they had a winner on their hands so they also made the same guitar available for the rest of the world under the 4574 model designation. However, this guitar was strictly speaking a very thin, thinline archtop and not a true semi. This is because of its fully hollow body construction. As explained in Chapter 5, the “semi-acoustic” title is generally the name given to a guitar with part of its body being of solid construction and part hollow, usually constructed with a timber block running up the center of the body in contact with both the body top and back, but having acoustic “wings” on each side. The “semi-acoustic” form of construction was pioneered by Gibson with their highly successful 335/345/355 range of guitars. As well as acting as a “tone block”, the center solid area also provides the guitar maker with a solid foundation for the bridge, a “stop” tailpiece if required, and for mounting the pickups. From the gigging guitarist’s point of view, feedback through amplification, which has always been a problem at high volume levels with fully-acoustic bodies, is virtually eliminated.

The Very Thin Archtop Guitars

1960 Hӧfner marketing image of the 4574 model.

The 4574 model was basically the same as the Verithin, but with more options. Firstly, it was offered with a choice of either one or two pickups from its introduction through to 1965. However, you would be hard pressed to find a genuine single pickup 4574 these days, and that may well be why Hӧfner bowed to the inevitable and supplied two pickup guitars only from 1966. Secondly, it was initially issued in brown sunburst, but although this is how the model was marketed for many years, most 4574’s do seem to have been finished in cherry red (or russet brown for early examples.) Finally, instead of the “Lyre”-style tailpiece that was fitted to every non-Bigsby Verithin, many of the 4574s were fitted with the beautiful ABM “Jazz” tailpiece. 

So, in fact Hӧfner maximised on the Selmer-distributed Verithin concept by making an identical guitar available to the rest of the World with the 4574 designation. This was introduced at the 1960 Frankfurt Spring Trade Show but, if one digs deep enough into the Hӧfner archives, one discovers that two other similar guitar models were also listed in the 1960 “New Releases” catalogue.

The more familiar of these was the Hӧfner 4572, which really was a 4574 but with a single body cutaway. This model came in just one finish, and that was cherry red. The first examples were given twin gold stripes running around the body sides, but these appear to have been discontinued at an early stage in the model’s production period.

c1960 Hӧfner 4572, fitted with rare white "Bar" pickups.

The third new model in Spring 1960 is rather a mystery. It was designated as the Hӧfner 4564 and described as a thinline (presumably 50mm body depth) version of the 457 archtop model but with twin symmetrical body cutaways as the 4574. A guitar that matches something like that description is visible in a photograph of the 1960 Milan Trade Fair, but other than that…..nothing! It never appeared in any of Hӧfner’s regular price lists, so let’s pass over that one; it is supposed to be a section about very thin-bodied guitars after all!

In 1964/65, a three pickup version of the 4574 appeared, and this was given its own model designation – the 4575. This guitar continued the popular Verithin/4574 theme but was given rather complex passive electronics that included a small pickup selector console with three individual slide switches. The moon-shaped main console located down on the lower bout included a solo/rhythm selector switch plus level control, plus the usual rotary volume and tone controls.

c1966 Hӧfner Model 4575

Hӧfner had supplied Selmer London with a twin Florentine cutaway version of the Verithin model from 1965 onwards. Selmer wanted to call this the Verithin “66”, but Hӧfner put Verithin Deluxe labels inside the body of around 200 guitars until from 1966 onwards Selmer got the situation under control from when “Verithin 66” was correctly typed on the body labels. It does not seem to have sold particularly well in the UK, but Selmer persisted with the model until around 1972 by which time sales had totally stalled. Only 27 “66”s seem to have been shipped to Selmer during 1968 through to 1972. This situation may well have prompted Hӧfner, in a converse way, to introduce an identical guitar designated the 4576 model in 1967 for their general World market.

c1967 Hӧfner Model 4576, the general market version of the Selmer-Distributed Verithin "66" model.

The method of manufacture usually adopted by Hӧfner was to produce completed bodies and necks in batches of at least 20 and often considerably more. These would be stockpiled in the storeroom until an order came in, and then sufficient of the necks and bodies to complete the order would be mated together, finishes and hardware applied, and the completed guitars shipped out. It is surely more than coincidence that when sales of Selmer models such as the Verithin and President Florentine guitars ran out of steam in the UK, identical “new” guitar models appeared in Hӧfner’s general catalogue. The theory that Hӧfner were using up stockpiled parts and probably fully completed Verithin “66”s that had been destined for Selmer is further reinforced by the variety of different electrical fittings to be found on examples of the 4576, which itself was discontinued in 1970.


Very Thin Guitars for All !

By 1966, Hӧfner must have fully appreciated the popularity of the 30mm deep bodied twin-cutaway guitars, and were presumably wondering how to capitalise further on this formula. The models produced to date had been above-average quality, with beautifully inlaid headstocks and fingerboards, plenty of body edge purfling, bound necks, good quality timber veneers, etc. This had presumably all been fully to Ben Davies’ satisfaction as he liked Selmer to sell good quality products, but perhaps a cheaper very-thin guitar would appeal to a new market of budget-conscious customers?

Walter Hӧfner soon had designed a suitable product which was designated the Hӧfner 4600. This guitar was given a bolt-on neck for speed of production, no binding/purfling around the body edges (although the neck and strangely the sound holes were bound), simple dot fretboard markers, and a simple dagger inlay and plastic logo on the headstock. Judging by the number of 4600 examples which are still around, this guitar sold very well indeed. Perhaps that is no wonder, as the German catalogue price in 1964 for a Hӧfner 4600/E2 was DM 390, as against DM 480 for the 4574/E2.

1966 Hӧfner Model 4600 V

 A couple of years later in 1968, Hӧfner took the “budget Very Thin” principal to another level when the 4573 model was introduced. This actually had a 40mm (2½”) deep body, thus placing it mid-way in size between the 4574 variants (30mm) and the archtop thinlines (50mm). Costs were again reduced however by the use of a bolt-on neck, no binding around the edges of the body back, a simple dagger inlay in the headstock, and simple dot fret markers. This model obviously did not prove to be popular, as it had been dropped from the catalogue by the end of 1968.

 1967/68 Hӧfner Model 4573

The Carvin & Ovation Connections

Hӧfner has always been prepared to manufacture components or even whole guitars for other companies. Examples of famous name companies for whom Hӧfner have provided such a service include Carvin, Sonor, and Ovation.

Hӧfner supplied both solid and thinline archtop bodies, together with necks, to the Carvin company in the USA from the mid-1960s. These un-finished guitar parts were then assembled, lacquer finish applied, and electrics fitted by Carvin prior to be sold under the Carvin brand name. In most cases, the bodies and necks supplied were basically the same as those already being produced for Hӧfner's own range of guitars. However, one type of double-cutaway body supplied for Carvin's AS50 guitars and AS45 bass guitars had a shape that was never used on Hӧfner-branded guitars. (It appears that many of these un-finished bodies have by now found there way into the possession of various present-day luthiers, who have used them to produce their own versions of thinline guitars.)  

c1971 Carvin AS50B Thinline Archtop, fitted with Hofner maple neck.

A later Carvin SH225 fitted with a Hofner-made "Verythin" style body is shown below for comparison between the two body profiles:

c1981 Carvin SH225 Model with a "Verithin" style body


In 1967, Hӧfner commenced supplying fully finished bodies to Ovation for assembly into the Ovation Storm range of electric guitars.

1969 Ovation Tornado

The profile of Hӧfner’s double Venetian cutaway as used on such guitars as the 4574/Verithin was substantially different to that used on most competitors’ guitars. It was much less pronounced than let’s say the Gibson335/45/55 models. However, it would seem that Ovation preferred a more pronounced cutaway shape and so, as can be seen from the Ovation Tornado illustrated above, the bodies provided to them by Hӧfner were of a completely different profile to anything that Hӧfner had previously produced for their own models. As well as having cutaway horns that had certain similarities to Mickey Mouse’s ears, the sound holes in the body top did not have Hӧfner’s usually stylish flow about them.

 In 1968, Hӧfner progressed to their own version of the Ovation Storm, using the same "Mickey Mouse" body shape. This was given the designation 4572, which was the second time this number had been used by Hӧfner, so we shall call it the 4572(ii) model. The body was identical to that supplied for the “Storms”, but Hӧfner used the same bound bolt-on neck that had been used on the 4600. A variety of pickups were used on the guitar, including the Type 511(iii) Schaller-made pickups, Hi-Fi pickups, as well as the usual Type 513 “Blade” units. As far as the catalogue was concerned, the only option was Hӧfner’s Bigsby-like vibrato tailpiece, but some 4572(iii) examples can be found with active circuits.

c1969 Hӧfner Model 4572(ii), fitted with Hi-Fi pickups.

The guitar appears to have sold very well, both in Europe and in the US where it regularly appeared in the Sorkin/Multivox catalogues. This happy situation resulted in Hӧfner’s Micky Mouse guitar being produced until 1988, giving a very respectable production period of 21 years!

As a post-script, it must be mentioned that Hӧfner, probably as a result of the above success story, did actually produce a “deluxe” version of the 4572(ii) between 1971 and 1982. This was called the Hӧfner 4580. The additional luxury came in the form of a larger “double-diamond” mother of pearl headstock inlay, block fret-markers, and a classy dark brown stained body top with a walnut stain on the body back. Initially Hӧfner’s Type 515 Studio pickups were fitted, but later examples had the Hӧfner 513 Blade and then the Schaller-made Type 516 twin-coil units.

c1972 Hӧfner 4580V fitted with Type 516 pickups.

In 1976, a version of the 4580 was made for the Frankfurt Show of that year which was fitted with Type 516 pickups with coil taps. This was designated as the 4582. It never even made it into the catalogues.

 A Violin-Shaped Guitar For Beatles Fans

A rather strange guitar appeared in the Selmer London catalogue of Autumn 1966. This had the same body as the Höfner 500/1 violin bass but with conventional 6-string guitar tuning and a 22-fret fingerboard and headstock decorated in a similar way to the Verithin model. The neck had a bolt-on connection to the body instead of the glued joint used on the bass model. Two Type 511 “Staple” pickups were initially fitted, with simple single volume and two individual tone rotary controls. A three-way selector was fitted for controlling the pickups.

1966 Selmer-distributed Hӧfner "Violin" Guitar

This guitar was introduced to Höfner’s general market a few months later in 1967 under the model designation of “459”, a rather confusing idea as this model number had previously been used for a more conventional archtop model made between 1952 and 1960. In the Selmer catalogue the new guitar was simply described as the “Höfner Violin Bass”. Because the Selmer version appeared before the general market model, perhaps we can assume that this was yet another model that had been suggested to Höfner by Selmer, presumably in an attempt to maximise on the Beatles success and Paul McCartney’s use of a Höfner 500/1 bass guitar.

Unfortunately for Selmer however, the little guitar doesn’t seem to have been received very well by the British guitar-playing community, and maybe less than a hundred were sold by Selmer before it was dropped after a year or so. However, the 459(ii) was certainly welcomed in the United States in particular, where they were described as “Beatle Electric Guitars” by Sorkin, the distributor of Höfner guitars in the States at that time. Höfner reacted by offering the option of various active circuits such as just simply a Treble Boost (459/T), a Fuzz-Tone (459/Z), or both together which with a Höfner vibrato tailpiece resulted in the 459/VTZ version. Most 459(ii) guitars sold in the US do appear to have been active electrics models, and as the new Type 513 “Blade” pickup was adopted by Höfner in early 1967, so the majority of all versions of the 4599(ii) guitars are fitted with this unit.

1967/68 Hӧfner Model 459Z, fitted with Type 513 "Blade" pickups and active Fuzz/Distortion control console.

 Finally, in 1968, Höfner offered, as further options, the ultimate variants – the Super 459 TZ and Super 459 VTZ. These guitars followed the same basic principles as previously described but with the blonde finish, the additional purfling, five-piece neck, mother of pearl double arrow-head fretmarkers, and the gold plating used on Hӧfner’s deluxe violin bass, the 5000/1.

c1970 Hӧfner Model 459 VTZ-Super

All 459 versions disappeared from the catalogues during 1970, presumably after the initial impact of the Beatles in the US had died down.


Another Club-Style Guitar?

1970 was in the period where Hӧfner were suffering badly from Japanese imports – copies of the US favourites such as the Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Strat were flooding into Hӧfner’s traditional markets - Europe and the US. Hӧfner had no choice but to also commence producing some copies. However, they approached this rather unsavory situation with considerable caution and with an obvious dislike for simply turning out identical US-looking guitars as the Japanese were doing. So...... how to make a guitar that would appeal to Les Paul buyers, but not lay the company open to allegations of blatant plagiarism? Well, how about making a semi-acoustic version of the Les Paul?

The Hӧfner 4579 model was conceived in time for the 1970 catalogue. It would actually be more accurate to say that this was a Club-style guitar in Hӧfner’s old tradition, but with a center block running up the body in order that a stop-tailpiece could be used, a 42mm (1¾”) deep body, and the four rotary controls/three way selector switch electrics arrangement as used on the Les Paul. The body cutaway was Venetian, as opposed to the pointed Florentine horn adopted on the Les Paul.

1970/71 Hollow-Bodied Hӧfner Model 4579(i)

 Needless to say, Hӧfner quickly realized that such an instrument was not really what the average Les Paul enthusiast was aspiring to, and so the hollow-bodied 4579 was very quickly dropped and another guitar which we shall call the 4579(ii) substituted in its place. This was of mainly solid construction, but with a pressed maple laminate top strutted up off the lower solid section of the body. At least now though this solid version had a Florentine cutaway! This new guitar stayed in production up to 1978.

Mid-1970s Solid-Bodied Hofner Model 4579 (ii)



PROCEED TO CHAPTER 9: NEW ARCHTOPS FOR JAZZ (Mid-1960's and through the 1970s)


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