In 1954, Harry Rosenbloom opened a music store in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, northwest of Philadelphia. Due to the post-World War II music boom, his sales soon outstripped his inventory, and he began a company called Elger Guitars in an attempt to manufacture enough guitars to fill his needs. The Elger Guitar company made a relatively small number of hand-built, high quality guitars through the early 1960s.
By 1965 Rosenbloom had decided to stop manufacturing guitars and chose to become the exclusive North American distributor for Hoshino Gakki instruments. At the time, the phrase "made in Japan" was considered to have negative connotations of low quality, so Hoshino Gakki and Rosenbloom wanted to distribute the instruments under a "non-Japanese" name. Hoshino had recently acquired a small Spanish guitar company named Ibanez, and it was decided to market the instruments under this brand name. In 1971 Hoshino purchased Elger Guitars, renaming the company "Ibanez U.S.A." and retaining the company headquarters in Bensalem, Pennsylvania as a distribution and quality-control center.
In the early 1970s Ibanez began making guitars that were almost exact copies of popular models by Gibson, Fender and Rickenbacker. Using somewhat cheaper materials and greater automation in manufacturing, they were able to sell these guitars for a significantly lower price than the originals. The low price combined with the relatively high quality of the guitars made these models very popular. Many guitar aficionados feel that the early- and mid-70s mark a low point in the quality of guitars from the major manufacturers, which helped contribute to the popularity of the Ibanez copies. These guitars have become known as "lawsuit" guitars and have become somewhat collectible.
The actual lawsuit referred to was brought by the Norlin Corporation, the parent company of Gibson guitars, in 1977, and was based on an Ibanez headstock design that had been discontinued by 1976. Ibanez settled out of court, and by 1978 had begun making guitars from their own designs.
Abandoning the strategy of copying "classic" electric guitar designs, the newer models began incorporating more modern elements into their design, such as radical body shapes, slimmer necks and flatter fingerboards (which allowed for faster playing), higher-output electronics and colorful finishes. This led to an increasing popularity with heavy metal musicians. The company also began an extensive program of consulting with well-known guitar players and creating signature models made to the players' specifications
Daron Malakian of System of a down
James Shaffer and Brian Welch from Koßn
Mike Mushok of Staind
Noodles of The Offspring
all play ibanez guitars or basses