Norio Imai was born in Kanagawa Prefecture Japan, close to Tokyo in 1964. Norio loved music from his early teens, influenced by genuine Japanese rock bands from that era, such as the Roosters and RC Succession.
Norio learnt his original guitar making skills at the then newly formed ESP Guitar Craftsman School. After graduation, Norio hung out at Bel Air/Rough Time, the then known vintage guitar dealer in Tokyo. He also apprenticed at Art Tech guitars.
By pure chance, at age 21 in 1985, Norio was sent to America to apprentice at Fodera Guitars in Brooklyn, NY. Norio worked at Fodera for about a year, learning many things along the way and absorbing American culture.
In 1986, Norio joined the Guitar Exchange as a repairman and also vintage guitar broker. He met Peter Florence (of Voodoo Pickups fame) during this period.
In 1989, Norio joined Sadowsky Guitars as repairman and craftsman. During his days at Sadowsky, Norio worked under the guidance of Roger Sadowsky, building many of the instruments sold under his name and also handled repairs. If you own a Sadowsky instrument, it may of have been built by Norio.
In 2003, when Sadowsky decided to move from it’s then Broadway workshop to outside of Manhattan, Norio decided to become freelance and set up Imai Guitars in the Chelsea District, Manhattan.
Norio feels that vintage instruments offer the best balance in terms of sound, playability and pleasure. The wood is simply older and has breathed more with a stronger tonal charecter and structural stability. New guitars are not bad, not bad at all, but they do need time to mature before any critical decision can be made.
For this fact alone, Norio’s repairs stay true to guitar making tradition and foundations built over the years by companies such as Fender, Gibson, D’Angelico, Guild, Martin, Rickenbacker, etc. Their history is to be respected and honoured and Norio has studied their methods.
Norio’s forte is in his precision. He takes great care in detail, down to the fraction of a millimeter or a hair.
Human sense is a remarkable thing and Norio makes sure you are happy with your instrument.
I hope I get to know you better at my shop!!!!