You see that smug looking guy beside Joe Bonamassa? That's me, that is. Why would I be so smug looking? Well, because I've just presented Joe with a guitar that I've made here in Haze Guitars. A custom guitar, hammered together by my own tired and calloused hands. That's him holding it.
Joe was here in Dublin for a gig and I got to meet him before the show to let him have his very own Haze Guitar. It was nerve-wracking to say the least but it all went rather well and I believe Joe was happy with his new instrument.
As you can see (and click the photos to embiggen), I've gone back to basics with this guitar. My thinking is that Joe isn't exactly short of guitars and those that he plays most often are pretty lavish and sumptuous. I figured, therefore, that taking the opposite tack might be a good way to go.
With that in mind, I've gone workmanlike on this one. I love the stripped back, bread and butter, vibe of the single-pickup, Les Paul Juniors and Esquires and I've tried to capture a little bit of that here. In my brain at least, I've tried to meld those two guitars and I've come up with this. The body size is smaller than a Telecaster/Esquire and the lines are altered - it's got a narrower waist, an altered upper-bout and the horn is shorter.
The body is ash (and a good solid example of it). A black-white-black pickguard holds the volume and tone controls - chicken head knobs for each, in keeping with the no-frills approach. It's fitted with a wraparound Tun-O-Matic style bridge which gives great coupling and sound transfer and helps get some of that LP-Junior vibe. This does require that the neck, which is a bolt-on in the usual fashion, be installed at a bit of an back-angle which always seems a tiny bit odd on a bolt-on.
This guitar's neck is maple and the fingerboard rosewood with only side position markers. The board's installed with 21 wide/high frets and a bone nut. The neck itself is quite chunky - Joe likes a handful - although it's carved slightly asymmetrically with more of a curve along the treble side. This makes it feel a little less of a handful than it actually is. Action is left slightly on the high side, again to suit Joe - he told me he likes a guitar to fight him - and it's strung with 11-52 gauge strings.
A single Duesenberg Domino pickup takes care of the power. This takes things in a slightly divergent direction. The Domino is Duesenberg's attempt to shoehorn a P-90 pickup into a humbucker-sized housing. It looks fantastic; all chrome and black and it sounds really fantastic. It's not quite a P-90 (it gets a lot of the way there) and it has an amazing tone all of its own. It's raw and powerful without being shrill or messy. I love the wonderful noise it makes and Joe (thankfully) seemed to be quite taken with it too.
There's much more sustain in this than you'd normally expect from a T-type guitar and even acoustically, this guitar rings quite nicely and cleanly. Powered up, the Domino fills out the sound but still keeps an edge in the highs. The tone is powerful and full but there's plenty of definition. Personally, I love it and may well have to build one for myself too.
Joe's got a great ear by the way and is very knowledgable about guitars. He spotted little things right off the bat and we were able to chat about the impact they had on the ultimate sound of the guitar. Joe played for quite a while before his manager reminded him he needed to get some dinner before the show. I'd have happily sat and listened to him for hours.
All in all, I'm very, very happy with how my presenting Joe with his Haze Guitar went. Joe genuinely seemed to like the guitar and said a lot of nice things. He was also really generous about letting me snap gushing, fanboy, photos as he played. Custom guitars aside, it was great to just hang out with Joe and have a chat about music, guitars, touring, fish and chips, etc.
Yeah, we really did talk about fish and chips. Random, eh?
It’s amazing to know that this guitar, made by me, has joined Joe Bonamassa’s stable. I realise that’s a big stable but even thinking that he might pick it up every now and then, just for a noodle about, is a great feeling. Anything more than that would be a crazy bonus but just thinking that’s enough. More than enough.