PRS has made John McLaughlin a jaw-dropping Private Stock signature model

PRS Private Stock John McLaughlin
(Image credit: PRS Guitars)

PRS has unveiled a new limited edition signature guitar for jazz fusion legend John McLaughlin, with Paul Reed Smith personally choosing the tone woods and specs for model.

And the boss man made some exotic choices when it came to the woods. Yes, the mahogany body with that three-dimensionally figured – and hand-carved – maple top is a classic PRS recipe, but the Private Stock John McLaughlin has a one-piece hormigo neck, a wood more commonly used for the tone plates on a marimba keyboard. 

That dark, luxurious fingerboard looks like ebony but is African blackwood. Smith might have been putting this guitar together to honour McLaughlin but in a statement he says the pleasure is all his. Making guitars for players such as McLaughlin was one of his ambitions behind the brand.

“Being John’s guitar maker is an honour I fought decades for, and to now be able to give him a signature model is a special moment for me and hopefully the industry,” he said. 

The top, which is finished in Charcoal Phoenix and sprayed with high-gloss nitro, is exquisite. The inlays are a work of art, a Celtic knot pattern comprising abalone with holly spikes with a crushed opal oval insert. That crushed opal and holly spike is repeated on the headstock facing. 

And in a classic PRS move the figured maple of the top is left unstained at the edges so it serves as binding. It is hard to take the eyes off this guitar but Smith hopes the player will forget it’s even there.

“These guitars were designed to both feel like magic when you pick them up but also disappear in your hands so you can just focus on playing,” he said. “John is capable of playing at extraordinary speed and with this instrument, you hear every note. Finding that balance as a guitar maker and coaxing every bit of sound out of the guitar was the key.”

McLaughlin’s new model comes with all the top-line PRS spec items. It has the Phase III vibrato, with Phase III locking tuners. It has a pair of TCI alnico pickups, each controlled by volume and tone pots, with a pair mini-toggle switches activating a tuned high-pass filter for each pickup. 

The nut is bone. The fingerboard radius is 10”. The scale is 25”. The neck is glued-in. You’ll find McLaughlin’s signature on the back plate and he had this to say about the instrument.

“Playing music is a way of being. Playing an instrument requires you to move out of the normal level of consciousness,” he said. “If you’re thinking, you’re not playing. If you’re playing, you’re not thinking. If you have problems with your instrument, you’re not going to move out of the thinking zone and into your own world. This is why I love my guitar. For me, it’s perfect.”

You can watch McLaughlin introduce this super high-end electric guitar in the video above. 

The Private Stock John McLaughlin is available now, limited to 200 units, and priced £14,995 / $14,950. For more details, see PRS Guitars.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.