Maton was founded in 1946 as the Maton Musical Instruments Company by Bill May and his brother Reg. Reg was a wood machinist, and Bill a jazz musician, woodwork teacher and luthier who had for some years operated a custom guitar building and repair business under the name Maton Stringed Instruments and Repairs. The name "Maton" came from the words "May Tone" and is pronounced May Tonne.
At first the company produced high-quality acoustic instruments for students and working professionals, aiming at providing good value for money and experimenting with the use of Australian woods. In the 1960s they expanded into electric instruments and instrument amplifiers, at first under the name Magnetone. The early catalogues noted that the warranties on amplifiers and loudspeakers were void if used in situations of "overload or distortion", reflecting Bill's jazz background but still incredible to modern electric guitarists of any style.
Maton established itself early on the Australian rock scene in the late Fifties, assisted by Australia's tariff regime, which made imported guitars far more expensive than the local equivalents. Maton guitars were used by many well-known Australian pop and rock groups including Col Joye & The Joy Boys. The company also made one of the first sponsorship deals in Australian rock, supplying Melbourne band The Strangers with a full set of the distinctive 'El Toro' model guitars and basses (notable for their outlandish 'horned' body shape) while the group was working as the house band on the TV pop show The Go!! Show in the mid-Sixties.
Maton earned international renown for their superb acoustic and electric guitars and basses, which have been played by scores of famous performers from The Easybeats to The Wiggles.George Harrison owned one of their MS500 models, which were introduced in 1957 and famed British session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan owned and used a Maton 'Cello' guitar for many years during the peak of his career, playing it on recordings with Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis, Jr., Johnny Keating and his Big Band and Neil Finn from Crowded House.
Australian singer Frank Ifield also owned and used a Maton guitar, which he later had fitted with a custom-made scratch plate, made in the shape of a map of Australia. Frank gave this instrument to his guitarist Ray Brett when he returned to Australia, and it has been featured on an episode of the BBC programme Antiques Roadshow. Although these guitars are now normally worth around UK£2,000, expert Bunny Campione valued Ifield's guitar at between UK£10,000 and UK£15,000, because Ifield had used it in songs featured in a compilation album alongside The Beatles' first two singles.
Easybeats lead guitarist Harry Vanda is probably the best-known Maton player of the Sixties, and his famous red Maton Sapphire semi-acoustic 12-string (which he donated to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney in 1999) was an integral part of the Easybeats' sound throughout their career, and features prominently on hit singles like "I'll Make You Happy".
Australia's best known guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel, owns many Matons and almost exclusively uses the BG808 acoustic model on his latest albums. Maton has even constructed a Tommy Emmanuel "TE series" according to Tommy's specifications. His understudy Kieran Murphy also uses Matons. Joe Robinson plays Maton guitars and was the company's featured performer at the Frankfurt Musikmesse in 2009.
More recently, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme has become a regular user of Maton guitars and now also endorses the company—the only such endorsement he has accepted, despite offers from the world's biggest luthiers.
Lead singer/rhythm guitarist of British indie pop band The Kooks, Luke Pritchard also regularly uses Maton acoustic guitars.
The company has had several moves to newer and bigger premises over the years as their production has grown, but always in Melbourne. They have exported since the 1970s, principally to the USA. They remain a family-owned company, producing a range of acoustic and electric instruments in the upper price brackets.
Gareth Pearson and Michael Fix also use Maton guitars.
Most of their models both present and past can be seen on their website (link below), but in the late 1960s and early 1970s many unique solid-bodied guitars were built of which there is now no record.
Maton JB6 is a 1970s guitar manufactured by Maton. It features a thin solid body, short scale 24 fret design, two humbucking pickups, two tone controls, one volume, in/out phase toggle for bridge pickup and standard three way pickup selector toggle switch. The body has double cutaways, set neck and heavy metal base plate supporting a stop piece and bridge for increased sustain.
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