Meet the Beatles... Guitar
Originally published on the Maple Street Post, the newsletter for Maple Street Guitars on September 2013
Well folks, after many years in the guitar business, I must say that it is a rare guitar that truly ‘wows’ me, particularly from the standpoint of aesthetics. As many of our customers know, I always prioritize a guitar’s sound and feel over its looks, as I am principally interested in its performance as an instrument. However, I am also fond of referring to guitars as “functional art,” given that they are the product of great craftsmanship and their ability to inspire us through the beautiful tones they create. That all said, to encounter a tasteful marriage of functional art and visual art is exceedingly rare, and yet a few months ago just such a guitar came into our store! It raised our eyebrows, it lifted our spirits, and we knew instantly that it was definitely something that all of our friends and fellow guitar fans would appreciate.
The “Beatles Guitar,” as it came to be known in our shop, is owned by our customer, Eric Tunison, a life-long recreational guitarist and owner of Groove Tunes Studios in Alpharetta, GA. Eric commissioned the Beatles Guitar for the sole purpose of exhibiting the extraordinary pyrography of Kimmy Bess (http://kimmybessart.weebly.com/index.html). For the most part, Kimmy’s pyrography has been exhibited on guitars of humble origins (i.e., Asian imports), but Eric felt her art deserved to be presented on a distinctive guitar—a piece of functional art—where both the tone and natural appearance of the instrument would compliment the visual art. Unfortunately for Eric, coordinating this project turned out to be an arduous endeavor indeed! For Ms. Bess to do her work, she requested that the guitar body be sent to her unfinished. However, after contacting most of the major guitar companies, it was clear that none were willing to provide Eric with a partially completed guitar. (I suppose any reluctance on the part of the major companies is understandable, given their need to maintain the consistency of their brand.) Even so, Eric was determined to obtain a guitar for the project that would be an appropriate tribute to the Beatles, his favorite band.
Eric was ultimately able to find a builder willing to coordinate with Kimmy Bess by sending the guitar body to her in mid-production. After the artwork was complete, the guitar body was returned to the builder, who then finished the instrument in such a way as to highlight the pyrography—nothing flashy, just beautiful wood and striking imagery. Simply put, the result is stunning! Eric’s new guitar features: a European spruce top, lava-like quilted Sapele back and sides complimented by a beautiful dark edgeburst, an abalone rosette, Brazilian rosewood binding (including the soundhole) and headstock veneer, a Madagascar rosewood fingerboard, and a Honduran mahogany neck with a carve based on Eric’s ’63 Stratocaster. Eric brought his “Beatles Guitar” by our repair shop to have some elements of the playability refined by our resident repairman and luthier, Jeff Henry, a fellow Beatles geek (there are many among us!). After all was said and done, the Beatles Guitar was playing great and ready to channel the Fab Four for many years to come. Thank you Eric for bringing us such a wonderful conversation piece!