Few people know that Ibanez Guitars is a Japanese company. The name sounds Spanish. Well indeed, the name comes from a small Spanish guitar firm purchased by Hoshino Gakki of Nagoya, Japan, in the early 1960s. An attempt to manufacture the U.S. made Ibanez guitar failed in the early 1990s when the Starfield line was created in California. But trademark and naming issues ultimately dashed this early attempt to Americanize the Ibanez line.
Still searching for an American connection, Hoshino Gakki, in 1993, discovered a quality guitar manufacturer only 40 miles north of Ibanez’s east coast distribution center in Ben Salem, Pennsylvania. That company was PBC Guitars of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania.
PBC Guitars was founded by three men, John Pearse, Dave Bunker, and Paul Chernay. John Pearse was widely known and respected for his significant contributions to creative musical instruments. He developed the Hammer Dulcimer, among other novel products. But he was probably best known for his excellent line of guitar and bass strings. Dave Bunker had patented some startling new guitar technologies and possessed decades of manufacturing experience. Paul Chernay provided the venture capital for this group. At that time, Chernay Printing was one of the largest global printers of sheet music and songbook publications.
Dave Bunker’s Tension Free Neck design was of particular interest to Hoshino Gakki, and he saw an opportunity to incorporate this forward-looking technology into the Ibanez line. Starting in 1993, Ibanez contracted with PBC to produce American made guitars and basses for the Japanese company. The Ibanez (Bunker Built) Prestige line of guitars are now very sought after guitars by collectors and guitar buffs. The USRG was a solid body rock and roll guitar, and the ATK bass also used the Tension Free neck. That ATK won bass of the year in 1995.
In 1998 Dave Bunker bought out his PBC partners and regained control over his Tension Free neck design, incorporating its production under Bunker Guitars.