Eko, Italy




Eko is the company founded by Oliviero Pigini in 1959.


It was the largest musical instrument industry in Europe from 1964 to the 1970s.


Eko quickly became the largest guitar manufacturer, producing half a million guitars a year. Eko was also the largest European exporter of guitars, basses, accordions and organs to the United States, where much of its history is tied to the Lo Duca brothers.


The Lo Duca brothers (Tom and Guy) started their business in the early 1940's. They sold accordions, and provided accordion lessons, repairs of accordions, sheet music and instruction books. During that period they also started importing Italian accordions.


Eko produced guitars and musical instruments for Vox and was the architect of the dissemination of musical instruments in Italy. It ceased operations in February 1984.


Historical overview:


Oliviero Pigini (1922-08-12 - 1967-02-10) started importing cheap (semi-acoustic) guitars by mail order.


In the beginning, Eko supplied guitars not only from Sicily, but also from the former Yugoslavia, where there were two production centers with high-level professionals. In Slovenia, in Mengeš, were the factories Harmonija and Melodija. In Croatia, in Zagreb, there were Muzička Naklada and the subsidiary Glazbala. Former Yugoslavia production had a good reputation and they produced for many European brands and distributors (Meazzi, Martin Coletti, Leon Angel, Klira, Egmond, JMI, possibly Fenton-Weill and Roger). They were modeled after the German archtops, but they also produced beginner instruments and a wide variety of stringed instruments, banjos and mandolins.


 In 1956, Oliviero Pigini founded 'Giemmei Guitars' (GMI Giocattoli Musicali Italiani) to manage the import business.


 In 1959 Olilviero Pigini was already in the accordion production.


Swedish accordion producer Hagström was reorganizing hub factories to build guitars.


mr. Pigini decided this was the right way to do things. Since neither he nor his employees had any experience in manufacturing guitars, Mr. Pigini looking for information regarding the manufacture of guitars. He talks with Italian luthiers, the Paladino brothers, and signs production contracts with them.


In his search for suppliers, employees and distributors he met Wenzel Rossmeisl, guitarist, luthier, German entrepreneur and owner of the Roger brand (named after Rossmeisl's son). A friendship and consulting relationship was immediately established thanks to which Roxy and Lefima drums were brought from Germany, but especially the Höfner guitars whose distribution by Pigini will last until 1963.


The moment the two brands have become competitors, the representation is taken over by the Milanese Mogar.


The glory years:

1965 - 1968


 The glory years coincide with the period of maximum expansion of the company and production for Vox. In 1965 the Beatles toured in Italy.


1965 is also the boom in instrument sales and exports.


 The celluloid-covered models will leave the scene around this year.


Solidbodies are represented in the range by the 800 and the cheaper 600.


Pigini starts designing the whole new Eko range. He decides to change the name of the models. No longer self-referring acronyms, but tough names like: Cobra, Condor and Barracuda. And they introduce the signature model: the Rokes, and the Kappa, Auriga, Guitars of Peace and Crossbows.


 In order to steer such rapid development in the right direction, the company Comusik was founded in Rome on June 15, 1966, allowing Pigini to definitively separate the marketing activity from the production of the product.


Comusik was in fact fully charged with the sale of Eko and Vox instruments and the organs of the American Thomas.


In the same year, Genim, a real estate company with limited partner in Luxembourg, was created to manage real estate investments, such as the Eko hotel in Fano in via Belvedere 4.


Pigini's intention was that the hotel would be completely devoted to music and artists.


Also in 1966, Eko, Vox and Thomas, together with Danieli from Milan, Eme - European music electronics - came together under a single distribution brand to meet the new challenges of an increasingly important market segment: electronic keyboards.


In April 1966, a fire destroyed part of the Recanati factory.


All semi-finished products were returned to the subcontractors, including the inventory of the instruments covered with celluloid


The new factory in nearby Montecassiano began assembling the more recent models.


Pigini will not be able to see the works completed: he dies in early 1967.


Eko Ranger:


When you say Eko, you say Ranger.


The most successful European guitar ever. At least 100,000 were made, including six and twelve string configurations, but the actual number could be closer to 200,000. Under various names and designs, it has been a mainstay of the Eko range for over twenty years.


It began its carrier with a glued-down neck in late 1964 under the name J-52, soon replaced by the bolt-on neck J-54 and supplemented by the twelve-string version J-56. From 1965 to 1968, small modified versions were built for Vox under the names Country-Western and Folk Twelve.


Meanwhile, in early 1967, the J-54 and J-56 were renamed Ranger VI and Ranger XII.


Acoustic guitars only played a minor role in the Eko range in the 1960s. But after the end of shipments to Vox in 1968 and to LoDuca in 1971, as well as growing Japanese competition in the mid-range electric guitar market, Eko had to refocus on Europe and focus on acoustics, so the Ranger series emerged. as the center of the company's activities in the 1970s.


There have been two main generations, the turning point being around 1973. They are visually distinguishable at first glance by the stenciled rosette, which is less ornate after 1973. While the older ones have more vintage appeal, the post 1973 Rangers are technically improved instruments with their thinner and more consistent polyester finish and improved reinforcement.

They are known for being heavy and built like tanks.

Are you looking for a guitar with an extremely solid build quality, which can take a beating and which, for example, should be able to take you on holiday without any objections: buy a Ranger.


The action is easy to adjust thanks to the bolt-on neck and adjustable aluminum bridge saddle. They are widely acclaimed as great playing instruments. They're not as loud as modern high-end guitars with a solid spruce top and set neck, but they sound amazingly good, even though the Rangers were all made of laminated wood.


Some say that compared to an expensive Martin, Gibson, Guild or Taylor, an Eko Ranger delivers 90% of the sound for less than 20% of the price. Whether that is entirely true is up to everyone to decide for themselves. But it's still the best possible bargain on the vintage market.


Pigini's passing coincides with the onset of the market crisis due to Asian competition and some unfortunate choices.


Eko updates and diversifies production under the direction of Augusto Pierdominici, taking guitar production to the background, focusing everything on electronic musical instruments and built-in effects like in Vox guitars. However, these designs do not catch on with the public.


This strategy proved unsuccessful. Not because of a lack of ideas and innovation, far from it (proof of this is the legendary Computerythm drum machine), but thanks to the aggressive Japanese commercial policy, also in the electronic field.


The Japanese government funded its music companies on a large scale, while the Italian government didn't.

However, the stringed instrument market remained strong as the rock music scene continued to be popular.


Eko paid for the wrong choices, such as reverting to the production of guitar copies and electronic instruments, effectively destroying the successful position Pigini had achieved for Italian production in the world musical instrument market.


The latest efforts to return the Eko to its glorious times were under the careful guidance of Remo Serrangeli.


He tried to restore the lost position with innovative product ideas and the production of high-quality guitars and basses, but new bad management thwarted the efforts that forced Eko to stop production in the mid-1980s.