Memphis guitars was a badge brand associated with a Chicago music store in the sixties, and are best known as being one of those "Pawn Shop" brands. Over the course of the 1970's they did all the same things most of the Japanese guitars did, lawsuit copies (including apparently one of the best Les Paul Lawsuit copies of the era), but by the mid 1980's, Memphis had become a bargain basement brand.....except one thing.....their humbuckers!
The Memphis 302HB had 2 production runs actually - there's the earlier Matsamoku built Japanese production run, which was basically the same guitar as a Hondo Deluxe or Fame series fat strat model, and then there's this version, the later Korean made variant that shares the same body, hardware, and tooling with the Kramer KS400 and Harmony H-80T Strat copy.
NECK: Maple Neck, Rosewood board, 21 Jumbo frets, plastic inlays, cheap tuners, tilt back pointy headstock, plastic Gibson style nut. The neck has a wide and slightly chunky profile.
BODY: Plywood strat style body, open space between spring cavity and bridge humbucker from the factory, it's a slightly wider and boxier shape than a regular strat, as the edge roundover is not as extreme as an actual strat.
PICKUPS: 2 tall Matsamoku style Strat pickups in the neck and middle positions, and a very amazing 12.7K Ceramic humbucker in the bridge on par with a DiMarzio Super Distortion, surprisingly these were lifted from the earlier Japanese version.
WIRING: 5-way selector, 1 volume, 2 tones, and a coil split switch
BRIDGE: What appears to be a Stratocaster copy vibrato, but with a twist, instead of a standard "intertia block" in the back, the intertia block is really a C shaped plate with a threaded collar welded to it for the whammy bar. On a lot of these it sits a bit further from the back of the pickguard than is aesthetically pleasing.
FINISH: These came in black, cobalt blue metallic (which ages to a Ocean Turquoise sort of color if under UV light too much), and red. The red and black seems more common than the cobalt blue, it may have been available in more colors.
TRIM: B/W/B plastic scratchplate with black plastic hardware and chrome metal hardware
HARDSHELL Case with Locks
The upside is this is an amazing sounding guitar, especially when you consider the money. It's very much on the Van-Halen end of things through an appropriately voiced amp and is not very microphonic at all, something I don't exactly expect out of a Korean mid-80's copy guitar. It also stays in tune amazingly well despite a janky stock vibrato and those classic "el-cheapo" machine heads.
That said, these do have a few flaws from the factory, making them good guitars for learning to mod/fix guitars on.
The necks on these are NOT level at the fretboard. Most of them have some action issues because the fretboard needs leveled and so do the frets. That said, doing a "redneck" level did get it into acceptable territory (a redneck level is using 800 grit on a 3M sanding block and a sharpie). I replaced mine with one from a Behringer strat copy with Kluson REvolution tuners on it, much better.
The tuning keys tend to have play for 1/6th a turn but at least they hold tune
The vibrato unit is a luck of the draw. Some of them are properly placed, some are too far forward or back. Also, that collared piece in the inertia block should be welded at the top, bottom, and sides from the factory, or it will break if you use the vibrato bar with any frequency (I use it all the time). In the end, I replaced it with a 2 point Korean unit (fittingly) with larger mass to compensate for the lighter metal used in the replacement. The guitar gained a few more points through that modification.
Also, the pickups are either out of phase in the neck and middle positions to the bridge, or the factory was wiring the humbucker up the wrong way. These humbuckers typically work by grounding off the series link between the coils but on the Memphis pickups it works more like a EMG Select in that you have 3 wires, one for single coil mode, one for humbucker, and one for ground, and the switch switches between the two (it's a SPDT switch obviously). The Choice of 500K pots was a very smart move on this guitar, which allows that bridge humbucker to crunch and has a tone very close to old Van-Halen, not too bassy, not too thin, just nice, tight, brown sound.
Usually these can be picked up for as little as $10 and as much as $200 depending on condition, and who is selling. I tend to think the $50-150 range is perfect for these, with $150 being a perfect 10 in new condition, and $50 being for a really beat and broken one in which the pickups are still functional and the rest of the guitar can be whipped into shape.