Paul Bigsby is one of the most important figures in the world of electric guitar development. Of course, everyone is familiar with its eponymous (and still ongoing) vibrato design. But the ultra-rare creations he made before vibrato came along—innovative lap steels, pedal steels, electrics, and neck conversions—are legendary. Built primarily for country stars in the ’40s and ’50s, these instruments helped introduce and influence the modern electric guitar.
Retrofret Vintage Guitars of New York City recently released what may be the last spanish neck guitar Bigsby ever built. This guitar, previously undocumented, was completed on September 15, 1958 for a Midwestern studio owner named Larry (whose name is still engraved on the pickguard). Back then, Larry’s guitar order cost around $400.
Today’s asking price? $750,000.
In this week’s Fretboard Journal Podcast, we talk about it with the always lively Steve Uhrik and Peter Kohman from Retrofret. We hear how that guitar ended up in her shop, Bigsby’s incredible legacy as a guitar designer (and why it’s still so hard to copy one today), the evolution of early electric guitar design, Bigsby’s strained relationship with Leo Fender (and Semie Moseley ), the skinny “hot rod” neck that Bigsby specialized in, and the time Merle Haggard bought Lefty Frizzell’s Retrofret Gibson J-200 (and playing with Haggard they politely declined).
We also hear about Retrofret’s recent video shoot (below) with Bill Frisell on that Bigsby guitar and what Bill thought of it.
This is a fun talk about an extremely collectible instrument and the rich history of the electric guitar. I hope you like it.
This episode is sponsored by Peghead Nation (use promo code FRETBOARD and get your first month free or $20 off any annual subscription); retro fret vintage guitars; Izotope (use discount code FRET10 to save 10% on your Izotope purchase); and Calton Falls.
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