This photo of our third prototype came to me this morning from the Melody Burner “production line” over in Hilliard, Ohio. It occurred to me that I’ve forgotten to tell everyone who reads this site about my foray into the boutique guitar business.
The story in a nutshell: I’m partnering with noted “ghost builder” Chris O’Dee of Retro Guitars to design, build, and market a small number of reclaimed-ash musical instruments right here in Central Ohio. They’re all under $1,999, even the ones with full rosewood necks, and they sound monstrous.
For the long story, with an additional few photos and the tale of how a night in Florida accidentally led to me designing guitars, click the jump.
If you’re a regular TTAC reader, you know how I once found myself negotiating the sale of a young Tennessee girl’s body in a hot tub. On the way home, as my plane climbed away from Palm Beach, I was struck by the beauty of the ocean as it broke against the shore. Like so, in this photo taken by someone who was similarly impressed:
I started to look for a guitar that would remind me of the shore on Palm Beach. I found that Paul Reed Smith’s “Blue Fade” most closely matched it:
However, I wanted something that had more depth and randomness to it. A friend of mine put me in touch with a fellow named Chris O’Dee, who was at that point building “ghost guitars” for some national touring acts. As good as the stuff from Gibson Custom is, there are some people who want a completely handmade guitar and they aren’t afraid to pay for it. Chris has sold guitars to a lot of rock legends, but they’ve always been replicas of other guitars.
Working with Chris, I came up with the “Ocean Doublecut”, a guitar that wasn’t exactly like any other guitar out there. It took six months to build, but here it is:
It weighs nothing and sounds like the voice of Aphrodite, it really does. I mean, I could go on about “note bloom” and whatnot, but trust me, it’s stunning. It’s one of the few guitars I’ve given an individual name to; that name, of course, is a secret.
In the year or so since then, Chris has built four more guitars for me, three of which are letter-perfect replicas of Fifties legends and one which has been an ad-hoc, spare-parts sort of thing that’s still in progress. He’s got plenty of business lined up for the next few years, but around Christmas of 2012 I became obsessed with the idea that he should have a guitar line of his own, one he could sell to anybody, at an affordable cost. I’m a big fan of not restricting great things to the wealthy and/or financially imprudent.
After some wrangling, we came up with the Melody Burner: a reclaimed-ash plank with your choice of a burned maple or oiled rosewood neck. That’s right, a rosewood neck, like a PRS or Ernie Ball. The “O-D” logo was a collaboration between local artist Ryan Lydon and noted designer/physicist/cookie chef Carl Acampado, and we had them machined in solid brass at a shop in New Jersey.
When you put it all together, you get a guitar that weighs six pounds (or less), sustains exceptionally well, and plays with the same ease you get from his $5000-plus ’59 replicas. The low cost of the materials (Ohio is in the middle of losing every single ash tree in the state to the God-damned Emerald Ash Borer bug from China) and the lack of a carved top makes it affordable. Pricing ranges from $1199 to $1899 depending on pickup and neck choice.
Series production starts later this year but keep an eye on the MelodyBurner website linked above for performance videos and all sorts of fun information. Each guitar will be signed and serialized by Chris. If you actually want me to, I’ll sign it as well, although I suspect that fifty years from now, the ones I sign will be worth less.
Or, if you like, you can come to Ohio and try the Melody Burner out using one of my amps. I have everything from a Bluesbreaker to a Mesa Mark V so there should be something you like. To find out more, contact Retro Guitars through the Facebook page.
It’s been a true privilege and pleasure working with Chris on this. I’m passionate about American-made products and it’s nice to be part of what I hope will be a great American product success story. It seems odd that it was only a year and a half ago that I was flying over Palm Beach… well, you can’t really repeat the past, but there’s always room to do something wonderful in the future, right?