What's more American than a '64 ES-335? A 58 Strat? OK, see below.

We used to make the best stuff in the world in this country. Everybody wanted American cars. American bicycles (remember Columbia and Schwinn?), American appliances (Miele? what’s a Miele?) and, of course, American guitars. All of that has changed except for the last one.  The American guitar is still the most innovative, most desired and most copied guitar in the world. Whether vintage or brand new out of the box, the American guitar has been copied, ripped off and  cloned in a hundred different ways.  You don’t see the Japanese making quick buck making fake Cadillacs or the Koreans making fake Hotpoints or the Chinese cloning the old Columbia tank model bicycle. They make their own quality stuff and sell it to us now. They don’t need to look to the good ol’ USA for inspiration any more except when it comes to guitars. These countries are entirely capable of making guitars that are the absolute equal of the best guitars ever made by Fender or Gibson but the ones that sell are the ones that copy the great American icons: The Les Paul, the Stratocaster, the Telecaster and the ES-335. Beyond that, Fender (who has, of course, swallowed up Guild and Gretsch) and Gibson still make the most desired guitars in the world and they are the same ones they made 50 years ago when the Japanese guitar manufacturers were turning out cheap junk with bad designs and even worse playability. I remember a guitar, probably built by Teisco, called a St. George that a lot of kids in my home town had because they couldn’t afford the Fenders and Gibsons that the better off kids had. They were at a triple disadvantage because the guitars didn’t make playing any easier nor did they sound particularly good-that on top of the fact that their parents probably couldn’t afford lessons. American guitars were the best and that was that. We Americans just don’t make very much any more. OK, we still make the best movies (my industry) and we make cars (largely from Japanese components) and we make computers (“assembled in Mexico from Japanese and Chinese parts”) and we make guitars. And not from Japanese parts either. Just about every component of a USA Gibson comes from the USA. The rosewood for the fingerboard still comes from South America and no doubt some of the minor electrical parts are from the far East but the guitars are designed and built right here and we should take a certain amount of pride in that fact. Gibson and Fender have, to be sure, less expensive lines like Squier and Epiphone from the Far East but the ones everybody in the world wants-whether vintage or new-are American. For those who think Gibson and Fender (and Rickenbacker, for that matter) don’t make ’em like they used to, play a Masterbuilt Strat or a Nashville Historic 335 or an R9. These are the best guitars being made in the world today and nearly as good as the best ever made by anyone anywhere at any time. Now, I’m not including the very talented boutique builders out there who hand craft guitars one at a time and charge  commensurate prices. There’s a lot of luthier talent around but that’s a subject for another day. As a dealer, I find it interesting that more than half of my sales are to folks in other countries who will pay serious money for America’s best cultural ambassador, the guitar. So, three cheers for the red, white and blue on this July 4th and three cheers for the four major remaining American guitar makers who maintain their quality and independence. Gibson, Fender, Rickenbacker and Martin. And two cheers for the “new” guys at PRS, Taylor and a few others who haven’t reached the age of 50 yet. Keep it up and you will.

Where else could this have happened. Geeky looking guy with coke bottle glasses and a Stratocaster becomes teen musical legend. Only in America.

One Response to “USA! USA! USA!”

  1. Julius Round says:

    excellent post, I’m a drum teacher myself

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