The Most Unique Guitar Origin Stories
The electric guitar is one of the most fascinating instruments in the world because, despite its reliance on technological and engineering advances as seen in many accessories for guitar, it also requires the same artisan craftwork that other high-end instruments do.
Because of this combination, you see a wide variety of different luthiers and manufacturers create instruments that whilst ostensibly very similar in their base elements, are often wildly different in how they look, how they sound and how they can be played.
It also means that there is the scope, unlike an electronic keyboard or a brass instrument, for people to personalise or even construct their own guitars, and here are some of the most unique ways guitars have ever been made.
Built From An Old Fireplace
Brian May’s Red Special is one of the most legendary and unique guitars in the history of rock music, with its driving feedback and famous high-end vibrato sound making it as much of an iconic part of Queen’s sound as the legendary voice of the late Freddie Mercury.
Its story is similarly one that borders on mythology, as it was built by Brian and his father, Harold May when they realised that Brian was not going to be able to afford an electric guitar of his own otherwise.
The wood comes from the mantelpiece of a fireplace that was otherwise set to be thrown away, which led to wormholes in the guitar’s neck and some difficulty getting the wood shaped into the form they wanted, with the body made from bits of blockboard veneered to look like a solid-body guitar.
The bridge is handmade, as is the tremolo system and the setup of the pickups, with the result being one of the most unique guitar sounds in all of rock, which took decades for pedals and replicas to truly emulate.
Lutes, Ducks And Scallops
The guitar most associated with neoclassical metal guitarist and sweep-picking aficionado Yngwie Malmsteen is not as custom as Brian May, being a largely stock 1972 Fender Stratocaster that he bought in Sweden in 1978.
Whilst working as an apprentice in a guitar shop, he noticed one of the customers being in a lute from the 17th century, and its scalloped fretboard inspired him to do the same, eventually becoming a signature of his guitars.
The duck name came from stickers he applied to the guitar, and the blonde Stratocaster has become a major part of Mr Malmsteen’s iconography, even appearing on the cover of the album Rising Force and in most of his music videos.
A Guitar Hot Rod, Style And Substance
It is difficult to know where to begin with the late Eddie Van Halen’s legendary Frankenstrat guitar, one of the first ever so-called “superstrats”, with so many of the stories behind it almost legendary in nature, both when initially made and after Van Halen erupted in popularity.
It was originally made from a $50 body with a knot in the wood, an $80 neck and a variety of parts from different guitars, including a pick up from a Gibson semi-automatic, the bridge from a Fender Stratocaster and a strange wiring setup.
What was even stranger was that when Van Halen got big, Eddie would add a lot of extra bits to try and outfox companies trying to make copies, including by adding switches that did not do anything, similar to what hot rod and street racers would do.