Monday, January 09, 2006

GuitArt - The Guitar Calendar - "Lightning"

This is "lightning".
This is a handmade guitar from 1976.
She is part of a very special custom handmade pair: Thunder and Lightning. Lightning is the guitar and Thunder is the matching fretless bass. It is fast to play and cuts through the band sound. It is powerful and quick. This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful solid-body guitars I have ever seen. It was handmade by the luthier Bernardo Christian Richo (later, he sold his name to a Japanese company and they made less expensive guitars under the name B.C. Rich) But this one is handmade in his shop in California. The current guitars called B.C. Rich are nothing like these guitars. The new ones have bolt-on necks, and are made from cheaper woods and are made in a factory in Korea by Samick, and sell for $300 - $400. But there were handcrafted by Bernardo himself in those days, made from the rarest woods, and the neck and body were cut from a single piece of wood. The best pickups and electronics, the finest finishing touches. Multi-tone switching and pre-amp electronics, coil phasing, etc. These cost thousands of dollars even in the 1970s.

This model is called the Eagle Supreme. Every one he did was slightly different. No two are exactly alike, and they are obviously extremely rare now. I have only ever seen two other Eagles.

There are three extremely rare tonewoods in the world and they are extremely expensive and difficult to obtain now. One is Brazilian rosewood (The wood that my guitar Brazil is made of), and one is cocobolo wood (only found in forests on the western shore of Costa Rica), and the other is Hawaiian Koa wood, which is now only grown in one small area in Hawaii, and only sold by one company in the world, and is no longer available in the thickness needed for a solidbody guitar. Even just the thin veneers of Koa that are left are between $1,000 and $2,000 just for the wood for the sides and back of a single acoustic guitar.

This guitar would literally be impossible to build again now. The wood cannot be bought anymore. And this is crafted like a gem for the royal family. The neck and body are one piece so it has beautiful sustain. Ebony fingerboard with cloud abalone inlays. Just an unbelievable handcrafted guitar. I bought this to replace my original white Les Paul, and this is what I took on the road with me in a custom made flight case I had made. The case is virtually indestructible You can drive a truck over it.

My first wife bought this guitar for me as a wedding present in 1978. She played a trick on me. I took her to this custom guitar shop called “The Twelfh Fret” in Toronto to show her the most beautiful guitar I had ever seen. I had been talking about it for months, and we happened to be in the area so I decided to stop and just show it to her. It was my dream guitar, and I was planning to save my money to buy it.

But when I took her to the store it was gone. I asked the salesman where it was and he told me they had sold it. I was crushed. We walked out and I was so sad. I was speechless. I had wanted that guitar SO badly. I had been dreaming about it at night. I saw myself playing it on stage. It was perfection. We got in the car and drove away.

After about a mile, she asked me, “You’re really upset about that guitar aren’t you?” I told her “Yes. That was my ultimate guitar. That was the one I wanted more than anything. I’ll never find another one like that again.” I was heart broken. She looked at me and said, “I can’t stand to see you so unhappy. I can’t keep it secret any longer. The reason that guitar was gone is because I bought it for you and told them to take it down and put it in the back. Turn the car around. Let’s go back and get it.”

I couldn't believe my ears! It was the most generous thing anyone had ever done for me. And it was a lot of money back in 1978 – especially for a 21 year old girl working as a secretary. I was flabbergasted. She cried when she saw how happy I was. I sped the car around and sped back to the store and just about ran back inside pulling her behind me and when she said it was alright, he went and got it from the back and brought it to me. I was thrilled beyond words. Tears were coming down. Tears of happiness and gratitude. And she cried again. It was a wonderful day. I took that guitar on the road and everywhere I went I felt special and other guitar players stared at that guitar. It was something very special.

One time, while playing a club in Amhearst Nova Scotia, we were on a break, and I was coming out of the mens room, I saw Rick, our drummer running off the stage, and his foot caught the guitar cable attached to this guitar and it yanked the guitar off the stand it was hanging from and tossed it out to come crashing down face-first on the dance floor.

I immediately ran over to it and picked it up. Amazingly, it was not broken like it easily could have been. There was just a gouge in the plastic pickguard. That was 1979. That gouge is still there to this day, 26 years later.

I also customized the guitar by adding a 3rd pickup. A pre-CBS Fender vintage strat pickup in the middle position. Now I wish I had never done that. I should have kept it in original condition. So I have recently bought some pickguard material. When I get time, I will take out that pickup, make a new pickguard to replace the damaged one and also cover up the space where that middle pickup is now.


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