It seems it’s not just the likes of Dennis Fano who can restructure the past into highly playable retro-looking guitars. And it’s food for thought that you can commission a one-off custom build from a UK maker and, compared to many a USA shop, have enough money left over to buy a rather good boutique combo, too.
Chris George is no stranger to our pages, having created a diverse range of instruments, from acoustics to Variax-loaded super guitars. This one did make us do a double-take, though.
It’s based on a custom build for a slide guitarist from some years ago, tastefully aged, and inspired by Tom Anderson’s Atom shape. “I didn’t know that at the time,” laughs Chris. “The customer brought in a single-cut outline and I made the guitar!”
It uses an alder body with a slab-sawn maple neck glued, not bolted, to the body. The lightly back-angled headstock shows some influence from the Fender Starcaster, especially with its stepped black detail, mirrored on the headstock back and the heel.
The Lollar Gold Foil pickups are controlled by a very retro-looking Kay-like knob on the selector switch. The Bigsby is actually a vintage example from the 60s, but there’s a smattering of modernism to the build with the LSR roller nut and TonePros roller saddle bridge. It keeps the Bigsby in tune, while the neck also features dual graphite reinforcing rods.
This really does feel old... though far from knackered. The Gold Foil single coils are hotter than a set of Texas Specials with more thickness and a less pronounced, but still very chime-y high end that calls out for amp tremolo and reverb... and a good overdrive or fuzz.
It sounds superb and plays like butter. Clearly, it certainly isn’t just the US who can turn out a cool bashed about-looking axe. It’s time to look closer at UK builders, too, we reckon.
To match the old-school vibe, Chris used a nicely battered original, 50-year-old Bigsby vibrato.
The finish crazing and wear is very authentic: it really looks like an old guitar.
Chris has developed his own method for aging the nickel hardware, using something most of us would put on our fish ’n’ chips...
Far from just a fashion piece the ebony fingerboard, with its subtly rolled edges, and the fretting are superbly done.
In a function-over-fashion flourish, there’s an LSR roller nut, and the tune-o-matic bridge has roller saddles.
The trendy Lollar Gold Foil pickups were artificially aged in the USA.