Guitar Project #1: Fender ‘Ronald Jones’ tribute Jaguar (part 2)

At long last! The final part of my first guitar project: the Fender ‘Ronald Jones’ Jaguar. What I thought would take several weeks to complete ended up taking several months…

Quite a bit has happened since I wrote the first part on Ronald’s guitar. After diving into the extended discography of the Flaming Lips I discovered a lot more audio bootlegs and videos with Ronald in the band. Also I finally listened to the ‘Heady Nuggs: 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic’ album which was a pleasant aural experience while completing this guitar. Furthermore I found out Ronald continued to play music after the Lips, which was a big surprise. He recorded with Richard Davies, with whom the Lips have performed as backing band as well as touring with Richard and his own band, the Moles. Check out this Lips live performance of them playing a Moles  cover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jf7JHKwHqUA Anyway, the album Ronald played on is called ‘Telegraph’. It’s on YouTube in its entirety so check it out. It is really good standalone album, even you factor out the whole Ronald Jones association. Richard Davies has a lot more great albums (like ‘Cardinal’) I noticed, so thanks Ronald for introducing me to his music!

Continuing with the completion of the Jaguar. In the previous installment I didn’t have all the parts and the electronics weren’t wired up yet. Anyways, soldering was a pain and at first it didn’t work and shorted out somewhere. Luckily it only took one attempt at trouble-shooting. The top rhythm controls turned out to not be properly grounded, luckily an extra wire to the bridge ground did the trick. After plugging it in an amp everything seemed to be working OK. Not to shabby for a quite complex circuit like a Jaguar! The vibrato tailpiece is a new AVRI Jaguar/Jazzmaster tremolo. It was pricey but a whole lot better than the cheap Chinese tremolo that was on this guitar before I bought it. The AVRI also has the ability to lock the vibrato spring making it more stable when not in use. The electronics and vibrato were finished a while back as I am writing this blog. A while back meaning early November… The guitar was working but I couldn’t play the damn thing! The neck was the final pieces of the puzzle.

I was going to buy a new Jaguar neck from Stratosphere on eBay. Originally I wanted to find an original Jaguar neck from the 60s or 70s but you can’t really find these locally and prices are too high on sites like eBay. But long story short, it was also quite pricey to get a new one shipped from America to the Netherlands with added shipping and import costs (the dollar is also relatively high to the euro). My quest for a neck therefore began locally. I didn’t find one for a long time which is the reason it took so long for this blog to be updated. The Universe seemed to magically disappear any neck I would find. 3 different Mustang necks from ’65/’66 all slipped through my fingers because of stupid reasons, i.e. the seller not responding to my messages after awhile. Very frustrating when you want to finish the damn guitar! Finally this ’78 Fender Mustang neck came along. Although I was hoping to get a Fender neck from the same year as the  60s pickguard and neck pickup like Ronald’s original Jag(s), I do like these slightly chunkier 70s Mustang necks. It must have been faith because the guy who sold it to me was also named Ronald!

The neck wasn’t complete though. I had to buy new tuners and string guides since both were missing from the neck. These 70s reissue Fender tuners aren’t really like the original chrome Klusons found on Jaguars but adding these meant having to drill new holes on the neck. 60s and 70s Mustang guitars had this same style of tuners but with white plastic buttons on top. At least the added chrome parts with the reissue tuners matches nicely with this Jaguar.

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How does she sound? I had to adjust the Jag quite a bit to get it to play comfortable and to match the different pickup outputs. The ‘stock’ Jag neck pickup is loud enough by itself, but the Hot Rails are really high output in comparison. Finding a bit of a balance was essential. I might not go for playing both pickups on at the same time, at least when switching between both I think I have it setup pretty nice now. I haven’t had the chance to play the Jag a lot but she sounds great clean or with overdrive and a ton of effects. I get why Ronald used Jaguars with Hot Rails, you get the best of both worlds with this combination of pickups. The neck is really comfortable to play, very smooth and fast profile. I might want to change the strings to something a bit thicker but I’m satisfied at the moment.

This January I went to a Flaming Lips concert for the first time ever. I was much too young to have seen them live in the 90s, even-so Steven said during the show he didn’t remember the last time they performed in the Netherlands. Probably even before he joined in ’91 or not at all… I’m not the greatest fan of their recent album(s), the show was amazing nonetheless so it didn’t bother me. It were mostly songs from previous albums, although I disliked the Lips didn’t play any songs prior to ‘Soft Bulletin’. Speaking of concerts, Future Heart posted a little backstory of Ronald’s final concert with the band: https://thefutureheart.com/2016/08/25/flaming-lips-ronald-jones-guitar-guitarist-reading-1996/ Interesting read, more-so because they also posted a couple of songs from that last show. Great audio and the performances were stellar from a band that was about to splinter…

Lastly, someone made a ‘short’ documentary on Ronald Jones and his time with the Flaming Lips. It’s nothing officially or anything by the way. Not for everyone I guess but I certainly found it interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kgj2-R5ci8E

Well, I’m so glad I got to finish this guitar after all these months. It has been almost a year since I first had the idea to build this tribute, too bizarre. Thanks Ronald!

(PS: the Billy Corgan Stratocaster is also coming along for any one who was curious what happened to that project! I have also recently acquired a chopped-up Ibanez Ripper bass. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve seen in awhile and that’s an understatement!)

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