A Senior Interlude
Updated: Dec 22, 2017
So this came to me on an old beat up Harmony Meteor. Lemmy showed up at the flat clutching this bin bag and inside was this wreck of a guitar with a 5 rusty strings on it - the electrics were shot, the body was held together (mostly) with epoxy where it existed at all , the machine heads were all bent out of shape the frets were all notched to hell. As for the Bigsby umm.... It has been well played (completely thrashed) as only Lemmy could - I had been keeping his Rickenbackers going for a couple of years by then using curious if not downright dangerous technique of using hot switch cleaner to roast the sweat out of the pickups. He said "Can you have a go at it I think a wire has fallen off one of the pickups". So the next day we went off to France on what became the No Sleep till Hammersmith tour and it all got forgotten about as these things do.
So it ended up residing forgotten about in my loft for about the next 30 years. One day I was up there and pulled this thing out - still in the same bin bag and bought it downstairs. Looking at it I thought to myself I wonder if I can make this thing play, went the the store got some strings and loaded it up. This guitar was a disaster area , the bridge collapsed and then the nut was completely shot on top of everything else.
But I had started, and the basic structure of the guitar was actually very sound at the heel joint, so I stripped the thing apart and started cleaning it up and piecing it together - I followed the same "restoration" pattern that had been used on it before - well epoxy does stick to epoxy quite well. Surprisingly it did scrub up nicely and underneath it all there was a proper instrument trying to get out. Went out and got some hardware, the original bridge was never going to come together, so an Archtop Tunomatic went on it, the Bisby got changed out for a 335 tailpiece and I put a set of Grovers on the head. It was starting to shape up but still wasn't very playable. The neck was straight, but the frets were like barbed wire and just as flat, and the Tunomatic had a sting pitch that was about half an inch too wide. Took it up the road to these two Luthiers who looked at me like I was mad, but they stoned down the frets, scalloped the nut to salvage it as it turned out to be Ivory and put some bridge notches in the right place. Took it home and set it up and to my amazement this was actually a very playable instrument, bit boxy perhaps but had a nice feel to it with such a great narrow neck
I plugged it in and it was certainly very quiet. So went out and got a 335 wiring kit and a nice Switchcraft pickup selector switch and managed to get some semblance of noise out of it. Lemmy was right, a wire had fallen off the bridge pickup - it was called the coil. Rather than attempt to fix it at this stage, I got my hands on a P90 and dropped that on just to get it moving again and all of a sudden this wonderful guitar sprung back into life. Plugged into a little Class A 5E3 amp it just sang. So took that 1961 Rowe Industries bridge pickup off to the guys at Wild Guitars and got their guy to do a stock rewind on it. The difference between that and the P90 was simply staggering.
All of the old bits went in a jiffy bag and Just maybe one day i'll do a full restoration on it but at the moment I am resisting the temptation just to drop the neck pickup on a Tele and see where that goes, but the guitar has a history and a story and it feels wrong use it for transplants.