Now Arriving At Gate J: Two Splendid PRS Guitars

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I was in San Francisco on business last week. I’ll be reviewing the interesting Nissan Maxima that I rented on TTAC this week. While I was gone, two new (to me) PRSi showed up. One of them was made just for me by the Private Stock team; the other has had four owners in just two years and sold to me for much less than it originally cost.

Naturally, if you don’t care about guitars or if you’re the sort of fellow who thinks things like “beeswing sipo”, “chaltecoco straight grain”, “mammoth ivory and 14k gold inlays on dark chocolate Brazilian rosewood”, and “gold-inlaid saddles on a solid brass stoptail” represent a despicable foppery that spits in the face of true rock and roll, you won’t want to click this jump.

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Let’s start with the orphan: Two years ago, Willcutt Guitars in Lexington, KY ordered a special pair of “DGT” David Grissom Signatures in Midnight Green. You can see the original listing for my guitar here. Willcutt sold it new, bought it back, sold it to someone who sold it to someone else on the Birds and Moons forum who then sold it to Guitar Center, who sold it to me. Apparently the color didn’t grow on people.

This was originally about a $3800 guitar, but after four owners to swallow some depreciation I’m much happier to have paid a fraction of that. I played it at church on Sunday and it’s a real monster. Note bloom and articulation and easy bends on the super-jumbo frets and so on and so forth. But most importantly, it weighs nothing, it looks cool, and it is GREEN. The figuring on the neck and back are also simply monstrous. There’s something neat about having a guitar where the back is the show-off part. These are the shots that Willcutt took of it:

Alright, that was the warm-up, now for the main course. My obsession with beaches/oceans/water and whatnot has only increased over the past few years as I’ve repeatedly been able to manage the trick of visting the Atlantic and the Pacific within 36 hours. This past week I found myself wandering around Half Moon Bay:

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Which was kind of ironic, because my “ocean fade” guitar was waiting for me in a box at home.

This isn’t my first Private Stock guitar from PRS — I currently also own #3372 which is a charcoal/blackburst with Signature hardware and black abalone shell inlays, a sort of explicit statement of privileged viciousness rendered in mammoth ivory and flame maple — but it’s the first one I’ve ordered from scratch with the Private Stock people. I want to start out by saying that there is no excuse, no justification, no reason whatsoever for a PRS Private Stock. Bob Marley sold fifty million records playing a mahogany slab Les Paul Special. Jimmy Page played the “Stairway To Heaven” solo on a thrift-shop Telecaster. I’m not sure that there’s ever been an enduring rock song written from scratch and recorded using a Private Stock guitar. That’s not the idea behind it.

The idea is to have a thing of perfect beauty and uncompromising workmanship. It’s just like a piece of Chihuly glass, with one exception: Dale Chihuly rarely touches the stuff he makes, but Paul Reed Smith himself selected the wood for my guitar according to a note I sent him in February, setting out the details:

  • Lightweight mahogany back
  • Chaltecoco / Pernambuco neck
  • Mammoth Ivory / 14K Gold Brush Stroke Bird Inlays
  • Mammoth Ivory purfling along fingerboard, veneer and truss rod cover
  • Black Brazilian Rosewood fretboard, veneer and truss rod cover
  • Pattern neck carve
  • Paul’s Guitar pickups & electronics
  • “Custom Built For Jack Baruth” on back of neck
  • Paisley Case
  • New Stoptail
  • Private Stock Quilted Top To Match (existing Private Stock guitar) #2506 as Closely As Possible
  • Blue Fade To Match #2506 As Closely As Possible

Later on, I changed my mind and asked him to “add more beach” to the fade. So my blue-fade paintjob isn’t exactly like any other, and I call it “Ocean Fade”. Naturally, it arrived while I was standing at the ocean, more than two thousand miles away.

Like my other Private Stock, the neck on this one feels alive, resonating along with a single-note line the way an old E30’s steering wheel vibrates in your hands. Acoustically, it’s extremely loud and plugged in it sounds like a bit of a jazzbox. It’s flawless in all respects.

I have guitars from the Gibson Custom Shop, most notably a CC#1 VOS, and I have a couple of Marv Lamb handbuilts from Heritage, and I have a Masterbuilt Fender CS Jazzmaster, and so on, and so forth, but only PRS really combines tone and flawlessness. Most Gibson CS stuff has problems if you look at it closely enough. Same with Heritage. They’re made in completely different ways, but in both cases the last one percent of detail doesn’t happen. Which, again, I hasten to add is in no way necessary for any non-aesthetic purpose. Eric Clapton recorded “Bluesbreakers” using a Les Paul that probably had overspray and crooked binding. But if you want perfection, Private Stock is your best choice.

Do we have time for a gallery? Yes we do.

The alert and/or extremely bored will notice that I had Paul put my name on the thing. This normally isn’t done, usually because it’s an absolute stab in the neck to resale value. I did it because this is my guitar. A lot of the times, when I play a musical instrument, I’m trying to channel a hero of mine or emulate a musician whom I admire. Not this time. This guitar is for me, it’s for my music, it’s for that long journey that can take you past all the shores in the world, or none of them: the journey to find, and meet, yourself.

2 Replies to “Now Arriving At Gate J: Two Splendid PRS Guitars”

  1. AvatarMike Gibbons

    Hi Jack, Simply taking advantage of seeing no reply’s yet to say that I have been a big fan since reading “Two Chevrolets enter…”. I enjoy reading everything you write (even if for example I know zip about “gee-tarz”). Thank you for this blog which makes tracking down your stories (old and new) easier. Please forget about Facebook “likes” and just keep writing. As my comment is off topic feel free not to post.

    Reply

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