From different resources on the net we tried to reconstruct the history of Czech electric guitar production. The hardest part was the translation from Czech, but somehow we managed to understand the general ideas behind the words. This text is far from being perfect, so if you have any comments - or if you've found incorect information here - please let us know.
The original "models' list" from the exhibition of Czech musical instruments in Prague can be found here
The original text (in Czech) about history of Czech guitar production can be found here
Futurama guitar story is located here
Special thanks to
and Jaroslav Simek from Tabor (Czech Republic)
for some translations from Czech.
The Story of Czech electric guitar production
Chapter 1: 1953 - 199?, the Communist years.
The history of Electric guitars' production in Czechoslavakia begun in 1953, when the Rezonet factory in Blatne started working under the new management of Mr. Josef Ruzicka. Back then, Resonet was a part of Drevokov cooperative, which means "Woodmetal" (døevo =
wood, kov = metal). The company was making all sorts of wooden goods, including furniture.
Under the management of Mr. Josef Ruzicka Resonet started making electric guitars. The first Czech electric guitar was lap steel Resonet Akord (chord). Designed by mr. Vlcek, it came into prduction in 1954. Akord was a big commercial success and by 1955 a new lap steel called Arioso followed the line. The next model was electric upright Arco - a double bass with electric pickup instead of acoustic body.
By 1955 first solidbody Teles and Strats were already taking the market over the ocean, so it was about time to consider a solidbody electric "spanish" guitar. The guitar, called Graciozo, was based on Fender Stratocaster which they brought to Resonet in 1955. Instead of copying the Stratocaster, Rezonet designer mr. Vlcek based his guitar on Leo Fender's ideas, upgraded tremolo system and wiring. The silhouette of the new guitar was also different from Strat.
Graciozo was an immediate success - and not only in Czechoslovakia. Resonet started exporting the guitar under the name Futurama. It was before the American instruments flooded the European market, so at the time everyone in Europe and Great Britain played a Futurama. The list of Futurama/Graciozo owners included George Harrison, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and numerous others.
In 1959-60 the company undergoes some serious changes. The guitar production was transferred to Hradec Kralove, and became a part of CSHN - Czechoslovak Music Instruments company (instead of Drevokov). The production at Blatne came to a halt. In 1959 the solidbody guitars were made at Hradec Kralove under the new name of Star and Star III (export version - Futurama II and Futurama III). Mr. Ruzicka and Vlcek continued to work at the new place. They introduced some downgrades to the original Futurama, which reduced the price almost in half - the European market was already different, along came American guitars as well as different European cheaper instruments, and Futurama had to compete with all these products.
In 1959 a new guitar factory under the name Neoton appeared in Hradec Kralove. Josef Ruzicka managed the factory, and very soon it was renamed into Jolana - probably after the Ruzicka's daughter name.
In 1960 the first Czech bass guitar Basso IV was made at Hradec. At the same time a six-string bass Pedro VI appeared. In 1961 a new Electric guitar Marina was designed, and it was soon followed by its' bass version - Basora I.
In 1962 production of electric guitars started also in Delicii Horovice. Their first model was called AXA and it was, in fact, a version of acoustic Cremona guitar with a pickup added (Cremaona was a largest acoustic guitars' manufacturer in Czechoslovakia). A large number of AXAs was made until Cremona probably sued the new company and the production stopped.
In a mean time Neoton factory produced a semiacoustic guitar called Jolana - Diskant. In 1963 the plant made a new semiacoustic instrument Jolana Tornado, which became very popular. Another downgrade of Star was introduced in the same year, named Star V with Brilliant Deluxe pickups. The guitar's quality was way lower than early Futuramas/Stars. Later, in 1964, the export Futuramas were made at Sweden by Hagstrom. It was a redesigned guitar, which already looked more like original Hagstrom. They adopted the brand name Futurama (primarily given to Czech production by Selmer export company, which now switched to Hagstrom) and later produced number of different models under the "Futurama" label in Sweden.
Back to Czechoslovakia, Jolana produced a Big-Beat model with built-in speaker. Bass version of Star V named Basso V came out the same year.
In 1964, Jolana started making Alexandra, another semihollow electric guitar, apparently a Tornado upgrade. In 1965 the Alexandra XII (the twelve-string) and Alexis (bass version of Alexandra) completed the line. Bass version of Tornado, Pampero, also came out in 1965.
In 1965 another line of solidbody guitars was introduced: Hurricane guitar and its bass version - Typhoon (later Tajfun). The later version Hurricane II had upgraded pickups and switching. A little later Uragan guitar came into production. Uragan was based on Hurricane design with some minor cosmetic changes.
Jolana continued making electric guitars and basses until the end of 80's. We don't know much about how the story ends, but it probably happened with the fall of Iron Curtain. Jolana exported instruments to lots of European countries, including USSR. The company always incorporated original design in their guitars, even while cloning Gibson and Fender standards - see Jolana Diamant, a Les-Paul clone with bolt-on neck. These days you can find Jolanas almost everywhere, but mostly in Europe. Earlier models, s.a. Futurama/Gracioso, Diskant, Alexandra and several others, worth collecting and sometimes play exceptionally good, while later stuff - starting from about 1963 - is not valuable at all due to its' low quality.
Chapter 2 : Elpro-Delicia company.
Somewhere by the end of 90's Jolana was revitalized by Delicia company. They've had wide range of famous designs' copies (Les Paul/Diamant) available, but the website
had no reference to the company's past. No old models and no "history" page. Somewhere around 2003 Elpro-Delicia decided to stop the production of musical instrument. Here's a link to - Delicia company, although they do not produce Jolanas anymore.
Chapter 3: NBE, 2003 - today.
NBE Corp. was established in 2001. At first they built electric instruments for two OEM customers from USA. Two years later the NBE owner, Petr Vykydal, bought the brand Jolana from Elpro-Delicia. Today NBE has 40 employees (some of them with a long experience of making the guitars from original Jolana factory in Horovice) and is the largest manufacturer of electric string instruments in Europe.
NBE's major business is OEM manufacturing for high end brands from USA and Europe but in 2008 they've redesigned some of the original Jolana guitars (Grazioso, Tornado, Diamant) and offered them successfully on domistic market.
Now NBE works on the new web jolana.eu and consider European distribution of Jolana guitars.