Guitar Project #4: Shergold Custom Masquerader 12 string (part 1)

I have always had a soft spot for Shergold guitars and basses. Something about these bespoke guitars, with their quirky headstock, hardware and Blackletter font, intrigues me to no end. Guitars like this simply aren’t build anymore. Their sound is strictly their own, complimented with the often elaborate electronic switching features. Although I had never played one IRL, when I got the chance to buy one for cheap I had to at least try it.

This Shergold wasn’t in great condition, but for the price I paid I would have been crazy not to pull the trigger. I had been looking for a good 12 string electric which, like the Shergold brand, are a rarity themselves. Coincidentally, I happened to find this Masquerader 12 string. I knew how rare the 12 string model was in and of itself, and to my amazement I was the first person to arrange a pickup with the seller. Not hassling down the price any further was likely the reason I got the upper hand.

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As you can see in the pictures it has been modded and is not in the best of shape altogether. The finish was stripped at some point and a string-thru bridge added. At some point prior someone must have experimented with different bridges suggested by the two separate routs in the back of the body. Although the stripped finish doesn’t conceal any of these mods I do quite like the current bridge design. Lastly, a strip of binding on the first three frets is missing and the electronics need a checkup.

One weird thing I did notice is that it’s missing the two lower toggle switches for splitting/phasing the humbucker pickups. Besides the knobs being non-original, the control plate seems to be stock. If this was a custom ordered or a temporary lack of parts at the factory I have no idea.

How does she play? I didn’t really know what to expect, but whatever expectation I could have had would’ve been shattered. This is the perfect 12 string for me! The neck feels great, as do the contours of the body. The body is made from obeche, a very light hardwood from Africa, keeping the weight to a minimum. Because the electronics aren’t fully functional most of the time, I have yet to find any complaints otherwise. Acoustically the strings ring full and its a joy just to play without an amp, which admittedly, I do most of the time anyway while practicing.

At the moment the binding and electronics are being professionally fixed, can’t wait to get it back in my hands when it’s all done. I am thinking of refinishing the 12 string at some point. The natural look is nice though, but there is no way of hiding the bridge routs in that case. If I would ever change the finish it would be one of factory colors, perhaps black or white, maybe cherry. For now I’m happy as-is.

As always, some (small) updates on the remaining two projects; I need to replace part of the electronics of the Bass VI and its done. I am lazy, so please excuse the long wait. I do want to record with that bass. The other bass, the leftovers to what was once an Ibanez Ripper, will hopefully be in the final stage of completion after I get the Shergold back from repairs. Finger crossed…


Guitar Project #2: Fender ‘Billy Corgan’ tribute Stratocaster (part 2)

Let’s start by saying I have a habit of underestimating the time it takes to finish a certain project, and not just guitars. It only took me another 10 months or so to finish this one. :/ Luckily finding a neck for this Strat wasn’t such a big endeavor as the Ronald Jones Jaguar, however the refinishing and rewiring took a lot longer than expected. Although, I did finish the guitar two weeks ago, so I could have been quicker if wasn’t such a procrastinator.

Quick recap; I had the idea for a Corgan-inspired Stratocaster for quite a while. The Fender signature guitar would have been a nice alternative, but why make it so simple? Also the DiMarzio’s weren’t really authentic enough compared to the original 90s Smashing Pumpkins lineup of guitars. Although I really like those pickups, I’m not gonna swap them for Lace Sensors on $1000+ signature guitar.

Originally I had bought a ‘set’ of late 80s Lace Sensors, with a Dually Red humbucker in the bridge position. Not really what Corgan used back then but I figured it was a tribute, so what. After coming across a Fender Duo-Sonic (check out the blog on that one) I used 2 of the Lace Sensors to add to that guitar. I wasn’t pickup-less for long as I found an original Red-Silver-Blue Lace set from the early 90s, just as the man himself used. Because of this I could also change the pickguard. I had bought a Black Pearl HSS guard to fit the Dually Red humbucker. Not really enamored with this color from the start I opted for a simple white SSS pickguard.

The final ingredient was the neck. Luck turned in my favor as I found an early 90s American Std. Fender Stratocaster for cheap. I’m not an expert on the exact specifications of different models from Fender from this era, but this particular neck is a strange hybrid it seems. The tuners and string trees are non-original and the neck has 22 frets which was standard back then. The weird thing is that the fretboard is curved at a 7.25″ radius. I am used to this radius as this is the same radius found on old Mustangs, Jaguars and most other vintage Fenders till the late 70s/early 80s. As far as I’m aware Fender didn’t use this radius much after that period, only more recently on certain reissues. I could be wrong though, I would be interested to hear someone with more knowledge on 80s/90s Fender to fill me in!

The reason it took longer to finish this guitar was because of the finish (pun intended). I had to sand the body down to remove the previous lacquer which was one of the ugliest sunbursts I have seen. I knew a guy who could refinish it for free (minus the cost of the paint). He was pretty busy with other things and I should have brought it to him earlier. More my fault than his, but it’s done and he did a lovely job so I’m not complaining. The body is finished in nitrocellulose clear coat, followed by a few layers of vintage tint and more clear coat. I wanted to keep the nice grain of the ash body visible but give it that vintage 70s amber-like clear tint. I’m really pleased with the end result.

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How does she sound? You can get pretty close to the classic Corgan tone. I am no virtuoso on guitar but with my favorite distortion/fuzz pedal I’m as close as I’ll ever get. Maybe I should get some floral paisley shirts to match the rest of the Corgan outfit haha. It also excels at its clean tones and takes modulation effects like a champ. I noticed a very Adrian Belew-esque tonal quality to these Lace Sensors, very responsive to your picking. I installed a CTS Blender pot instead of the second tone pot in order to blend in different pickups, like the neck and bridge pickup for that in-between Tele sound or all pickups at once. I’m really glad I chose this instead of a useless second tone knob, it adds a lot of extra versatility.

Glad I can finally take this one of my list of projects, but it was worth the wait. Let’s see what’s next on the menu… The Bass VI is almost done, I have all the parts to finish upgrading the bass. It wasn’t a big endeavor to begin with, so it should be done in the next few weeks. Same applies for the Ibanez (ripped-up) Ripper, although more long term probably. I have found a second mudbucker and all the other parts are in as well, I just have to figure out how I can fit the electronics in this bass with such limited space available. Any ideas/suggestions are more than welcome!

One project finishes, yet another starts; recently I bought a quite rare Shergold Masquerader 12 string electric from the late 70s for cheap. I’ll be tackling that one in the next blog soon, so stick around. I’m also going to start a new segment called ‘Guest Guitars’ as a companion to ‘The Low End’, in which I’ll discuss a weird or rare guitar model. Or maybe highlight a specific interesting guitar me or someone else owns. We’ll were this format goes, I do have a particular guitar lined up for part one.

Bass Project #1: Ibanez 2452DX / Ripper copy (part 1)

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s… wait. What is that?!

Ever wonder what the ‘ugliest’ guitar mod is you’ve ever seen? I think this bass will be quite high on that list… I’m still boggled and confused what happened to this poor instrument, since it seems so random and some parts seem to have been done by a professional while others seem to be more the result of some kind of industrial accident. Pictures of this transformation are down below, it goes good to worse.

The backstory: I was browsing the local ‘Craigslist’ and came across an ad for the weirdest looking bass with a matching title that was pretty on the noose: Ibanez Pole Bass (or Stick, depends which translation you prefer). The seller described the bass as “Ibanez Ripper lawsuit copy with structural weight reduction”, especially that last part made me grin. This mutilated bass looked like something Devo would have used live in the 70s. Being quite intrigued I contacted the seller and the price was so low I just had to have it! I was afraid this ‘Ibanez’ might not be constructionally sound after its weight-loss. The seller guaranteed me it was solid so I picked it up.

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What is the situation? Well the bass is still built like a tank, the neck has a very nice profile and surprisingly the play-ability and sustain of this instrument is still pretty good. Neck dive is off the chart though. The action is a bit high in places and the D-string is buzzing around the 12th fret but nothing that can’t be adjusted for. What puzzles me most is the Ibanez was converted to a fretless bass, the fretboard being completed replaced by a newer ebony board, which was done professionally (at least to my eyes) but the body seems to be mangled by an amateur with a hack saw. The treble side and headstock for sure, the bass side is done fairly nice actually. The seller told me the bass was his brothers who got it for free in the early 90s (figures…). He had it converted to a fretless but it eventually ended up in this state. No idea what the exact timeline of abuse this bass suffered is but it must be quite a story.

Apart from the hack job it is missing all of its electronics, besides a lone ground-wire from the bridge. Originally these Ibanez Ripper copies came with a set of chrome ‘mudbuckers’ like those found in Gibson EB-0, -2 and -3’s. The two-point bridge design appears to have also been lifted from these same models, unlike the three-point bridges on ‘real’ Rippers. The pickup routes are large enough to fit almost anything but that leads me to the final question: what am I going to do with this bass?

I’m not quite sure yet. I bought it not expecting much but there is certainly much potential coming off this bass. The Devo vibe is also to good to be true, where is the rest of my new cover band?! I think I’ll start with adding some cheap pickups and electronics just to see what sounds I can get out of this bass before throwing any more money at it. Because of the lack of wood it’ll be quite a challenge adding the necessary pots and switches. Room for an output jack is routed on the lower half but I have no idea if this bass ever had much electronics in its then current state, if any. Suggestions much appreciated!

I’ll update this blog if anything progresses, I’m curious what will become of this strange, lanky bass guitar. Side note; the Billy Corgan Stratocaster will likely be finished in the coming weeks after I find a suitable neck and wire the electronics. Hopefully it won’t last as long as another certain project…

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: 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: 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:

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!)

Guitar Project #3: 90s Fender Duo-Sonic

Didn’t expect this in-between guitar project, I didn’t even know of the existence of this particular reissue. I came across this guitar when browsing the local Craigslist-variant on the look-out for a neck for my Fender Jaguar. Unfortunately, still haven’t found one but more on that later. The Duo-Sonic parts were pretty cheap, so I figured why not? If I don’t like it in the long run I could probably sell it for a nice profit.

These Duo-Sonics were introduced in 1993 by Fender Mexico and made until 1997. The color options were Arctic White, Black or Torino Red, although there was also a (very limited?) series featuring the ‘Competition’ colors with the racing stripes. The body is made from poplar like most guitars from Mexico at the time. This ‘reissue’ is a weird mix from the different years of the original run of the Duo-Sonic from the 50s and 60s. The neck is the strangest thing on this guitar. It has a scale length of 22.7 inches, 20 frets and has a rather big nut width compared to its shortscale size. I’d almost compare it to the nut width of a modern Stratocaster.

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As you can see in the pictures the Duo-Sonic was missing a few parts; I only got the body, neck, pickguard and bridge. Luckily, the electronics were few and the Kluson tuners cheap. I decided to use the two Lace Sensor single coil pickups I originally intended to use in my Billy Corgan tribute Strat which is still in the works. More on that later as well.

The original 90s reissue had Stratocaster-style pickups and a matching set of Strat volume and tone knobs, as seen above on the page header. I’m really used to the black Jazz Bass-style knobs on my Fender Mustangs so I opted for these instead. The three-way toggle I bought is a more heavy-duty toggle compared to the mini toggles found on most Duo-Sonics, which are rather flimsy and small. The body rout is a bit small to accommodate some larger switches, bit of advice if someone wants to switch these out. The tuners used on these 90s Duo-Sonics are crappy and have a strange shape and size. Finding replacement tuners that fit exactly is impossible. The bushings are also very small (didn’t come with the guitar) and I had to rout the tuner holes to fit the Kluson bushings. I couldn’t find any smaller bushings, but I had to drill new holes for the tuners so I figured modding the neck for new bushings wasn’t that big of a deal.

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The sound of this particular Duo-Sonic is very interesting because of its super-shortscale size and the Lace pickups. It packs quite a punch for its diminutive size and I’m really loving the neck profile. The string tension is quite low with a regular set of .010’s, I’d recommend something a bit thicker if you’re going to play in E standard. I was also worried about the intonation because of the two-strings-per-saddle bridge design and the shorter scale in general. The strings haven’t settled in perfectly but the intonation and tuning stability is definitely far better than I expected. I also really, really like the color combination of the red, white and black with the maple fretboard on this guitar!

A small update on the Ronald Jones Jaguar and Billy Corgan Stratocaster: I still haven’t found a neck for this guitar. It really bums me out as I would have liked to have finished it months ago. If I can’t find one in the area in the next month I guess I’ll have to try eBay but that’s pricey… The Stratocaster body will be refinished in the next few weeks, hoping I can get the electronics done by then. Although I just cannibalized two of these Lace Sensors for this Duo-Sonic I found an original 90s set of Red, Silver and Blue Laces like Corgan used! I’ll post some pics when I finish the body and install the new hardware.

Guitar Project #2: Fender ‘Billy Corgan’ tribute Stratocaster (part 1)

Now for a guitar player most people will have heard about hahaha. Billy Corgan is known as the (lead) guitarist and vocalist of the group the Smashing Pumpkins. Emerging from the late 80s dreampop/indie scene the Pumpkins mixed 70s arena rock with shoegaze, heavy metal and psychedelic elements. Billy Corgan’s guitar sound is very easily recognizable, particularly his intense lead tone (for example: ‘Cherub Rock’ or ‘Hummer’). Which reminds me I still need a good Big Muff pedal…

Credit where credit is due, all members of the Smashing Pumpkins were talented individuals in their own right (yes, even D’arcy!). James Iha is an incredibly talented guitar player, even while he was sometimes overshadowed by Corgan in the Pumpkins. Jimmy Chamberlin is still one of my favorite drummers. His jazzy style and fills helped make the sound of band so different and unique even to this day. D’arcy Wretzky’s bass lines were sometimes unexpectedly groovy for some songs (in a positive way), her bass playing was always solid and locked in with Chamberlin. Check out this live performance from the Pumpkins at Pinkpop ’94 and witness how tight and dynamic they were as a band:

This Stratocaster is loosely based on the Strats Corgan used in the early and mid 90s with the Pumpkins. Corgan favored several 70s Strats with Lace Sensor pickups during this period. He also used a ’57 sunburst AVRI, again equipped with Lace Sensors. I will be using Lace Sensor pickups as well, but not quite what Corgan was using. Also the electronics will feature some extra bonuses to ‘upgrade’ the standard Stratocaster wiring, more on that later.

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Like the ‘Ronald Jones’ Jaguar it’s missing a few crucial parts, mainly the neck. Good thing Strat necks aren’t hard to come by, at least compared to finding the right Jag neck… more on that later. The body is perfect for this project, the psychedelics just ooze from that groovy etching. It’s not an original Fender body but a homemade ash one. According to the guy who sold it it is from the 70s which would explain the whole hummingbird/floral-themed etching. At least it’s from the same period as Corgan’s Strats. The wood grain is quite beautiful so I want a nice transparent lacquer, but I haven’t gotten around to finish it yet. Plus natural lacquer is something I strongly associate with the 70s. It is also a two-piece body, normally pretty pricey on most guitars. Originally my brother bought this body and he routed an extra cavity under the pickups, which was done very crudely with a drill. Since then I have tried to clean it up by properly routing the cavity. The body was/is quite heavy for a Strat (probably because it’s ash), so the back has been sanded down quite a bit. The cavity also relieves some of the weight though.

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The pickups are a ‘set’ of vintage Lace Sensors pickups from the late 80s, a ‘Dually Red-Red’ bridge, ‘Gold’ middle and ‘Blue’ neck pickup. The person who sold these pickups claimed they were from a Stratocaster Ultra, but I don’t believe this to be true. They are definitely from the late 80s but no way from the same guitar or an Ultra for that matter. Not that I care, I bought them for a fair price. Black covers were never used on Ultras, only white ones. On the front the neck and middle pickups are stamped ‘AGI’, the company who produced these for Lace, while the bridge humbucker is labelled ‘Fender Lace Sensor’. The pickups made for Fender where labelled like the latter example the AGI ones were sold directly from Lace in the late 80s. Likely the humbucker came from a Telecaster Plus and the other pickups were from a different guitar(s).

Corgan used a set of ‘Red’, ‘Silver’ and ‘Blue’ single coil Lace Sensors, so mine aren’t exactly what he used. The ‘Gold’ middle pickup is more akin to a 50s Stratocaster while a ‘Silver’ has a hotter output comparable to a 70s one. Other changes I’ll be adding is a three-way toggle for the humbucker to switch between both coils or combine them, just like on a Telecaster Plus. The second tone pots on Stratocasters have always seemed pretty useless to me. CTS makes a handy gizmo called a ‘Blender’ pot. This pot can be installed to replace the second tone pot. When it’s turned all the way up clockwise it is taken out of the circuit (no-load). If you turn it counter-clockwise it will blend in certain pickups depending on the five-way pickup selector. In position 1 and 5 it will add the neck (or bridge) pickup with the bridge (or neck) pickup like on a regular Telecaster, normally impossible on a Stratocaster. Likewise in position 2 and 4 it allows you to turn on all pickups! I have high hopes from this wiring and love to hear all the possible combinations, also with the added three-way bridge toggle.

In the coming few weeks I’ll try to finish the Stratocaster (get it?), so I’ll only be needing a neck. The electronics are a challenge but compared to the Jaguar it will likely be a breeze. Very glad all the electronics are working properly on the Ronald Jones Jag, it was a pain to wire. I am still looking for a neck for the Jaguar, haven’t given up just yet. If anyone has a (vintage) Jaguar, Mustang, Musicmaster, Bronco or even a Jag-Stang neck for sale contact me! Preferably in the Netherlands though.

Pawn shop scores: Gibson Marauder

I’d never thought I would ever be writing about both these subjects: 1. had never visited a pawn shop in my life, 2. didn’t have any real ambition of ever buying a Marauder, 3. pawn shops and guitars aren’t really the place to find quality guitars for not a lot of cash. Those days now seem long gone with the existence of the Internet and auction sites like eBay and Reverb.

There is a little backstory behind the Marauder and me, so I wasn’t being completely honest about not wanting to own one of these guitars. Maybe also rephrasing it slightly, it wasn’t that I wouldn’t want one but they suddenly were getting more expensive in the last few years. I mean I could still buy one, the price tag isn’t that ‘high’ in comparison to other vintage Gibsons, but they cost more than I would be willing to spend on a budget guitar from the 70s. A lot of people bash on Norlin-era Gibsons but the guitar hipsters who want sometime different are driving up the prices of these rare-ish oddball guitars. A term I read recently made me chuckle: the Silvertone syndrom, which boils down on people wanting some crappy/cheap vintage instrument just to be ‘different’, increasing demand and therefore prices. Although a victim of this ‘disease’ I wouldn’t call Marauders shit. Sure they’re budget guitars from that period but no way are we talking Teisco or Harmony quality, and I’m not even trying to hate on these brands either!

Before getting this guitar I’d only played one years ago, I believe several months after I started playing bass, maybe even before that. A local guitar shop had one for sale, a natural finished ’75 with a white pickguard IIRC. The price was way too high even by today’s prices, something like 1600 (!) euros. Their reasoning being it’s a Gibson and it’s vintage… so I immediately passed. Marauders and S-1’s aren’t that rare in the Netherlands, plenty have been imported at the time so that couldn’t be a reason behind their scandalous price. After that I kind of lost interest. I would see Marauders pop up on local auction sites but didn’t really care that much. Lately my interest was rekindled but after seeing what they were going for my hope of ever getting one for a decent price was slim. So I lost interest once again…

By complete coincidence I bumped into this Gibson. In the Netherlands there is a chain of pawn shops who advertise a lot on the Internet and also have an account on the Dutch ‘Craigslist’. I’d seen the guitar with a non-OHSC case advertised a couple of days earlier but no price was mentioned only bidding. This Marauder wasn’t in that good of a shape and it was sold at a pawn shop so I figured the price would be way to high anyway. Little over a day later the guitar was re-posted but this time with a price, being just under 300 euros. As you would imagine I immediately jumped at this opportunity! Luckily no one had come to pick it up yet so the next day I was at one of their shops right when they opened.

From the pictures I already knew the guitar wasn’t in great shape and not completely stock as well. My biggest concern was that the headstock had the infamous ‘kiss of death’, meaning it had snapped off at one point. Luckily the repair was done professionally as far as I could tell and it looked solid. Apart from the toggle switch and the truss rod cover everything else is original. The case was partly broken and heavy but my expectations were already low at that price point.

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How does she sound? The previous owner must have been a metal head or an idiot, because the strings were likely plucked from a baritone guitar! It sounded like I was playing a Bass VI on the lower strings. After restringing the guitar with a normal set of 10s she came right to life. The overall sound is very reminiscent of a Fender Telecaster Custom, which isn’t strange since Gibson borrowed a lot of elements from these guitars. The bridge pickup is Tele-esque but has more output to match the neck humbucker. The sound seems to have a natural compression and a very even output when bending thanks to the rail design of the pickup. The neck humbucker has a little more output than the single coil resulting in a volume bump when switching. In comparison to a normal Tele Custom the humbucker has more treble and bite. With both pickups you get a really nice combined tone with plenty of sparkly top end and low/mid end presence, ideal for use with modulation and/or overdrive. My only complaint is the weight, it’s quite heavy. I own basses which weigh much less.

After researching the serial number and shipping figures I found something really interesting. Vintage Gibson serial numbers aren’t the most useful when getting an accurate date, which they fixed by creating a standardized serial code in 1977. This particular Marauder dates to November of 1977. The shipping figures from that era ( show that just 80 Marauders were shipped in that year, with a total of only 9 natural finished guitars! 4 of which were natural satin, 5 unspecified. I don’t know if these shipping figures correspond exactly with the number of manufactured Marauders that year. It could be possible since my guitar has some overlapping features.

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The Marauders were (slightly) changed three times in their original production run. The first ones featured a rosewood fretboard, white pickguard, alder body and a three-way toggle pickup selector. In ’76/’77 the pickguard was changed to black, the switch replaced with a blend knob at the same location, the knobs and tuners were changed and the body was now made from maple. The headstock was also painted black and maple was now the only fretboard option. The final changes came in ’78. The blend knob was moved to in between the volume and tone pots, some Marauders now had a mahogany body, the pickup covers were changed to black and the pickguard was changed to the same pickguards used on Marauder Customs. Some of these features have some overlap. Especially the later ones when new colors were introduced sometimes had older hardware, likely Gibson was cleaning shop.

Mine has the maple fretboard but without the black headstock. You do see this combination but not a lot. All these guitars I have seen date to 1976. The serial number is also the older style version, being pressed into the finish instead of a sticker. I don’t think all this adds anything to the collectability of this particular guitar but I found it interesting nonetheless.

All in all I’m quite happy with this new addition to the family. If you’ve never tried a Marauder and do come across one check them out! At least give them a chance, the tones you can get out of them are pretty unique. The purists will hate it, the hipsters will likely love the look, but I really like the sound.