|The ’63 Carousel|
Last month I invited onto my Blues Show guitar designer, Simon Raw, who apart from choosing some great blues tracks spoke at length about his passion for guitar design & the blues in general. You can hear that show here. Simon is based in Ripon & earlier this year he created a company called The Raw Guitar Company in order to showcase his talent as a designer.
Simon’s story started twenty years ago while he was attending De Montfort University in Leicester. Simon first became interested in guitar design while completing his higher degree in product design engineering, but his guitar ideas were put on hold while he earned a living. After graduating from De Montfort he undertook a M.Sc. at Loughborough University where he studied ergonomics & went straight into ergonomics consultancy, specialising in helping power tool manufacturers reduce noise & vibration in their products. Over the next 18 years Simon steadily built his reputation as one of the United Kingdom’s leading experts in noise & vibration attenuation, & started his own consultancy, Ergonomically Yours Ltd. in 2001. This move meant that he could set his own agenda, & allowed him to follow his wish to move into automotive design & offer potential clients product design engineering and ergonomics expertise. Consequently, his clients have included Bentley Motorcars, Caterpillar, Cummins Engine Group, Rolls-Royce Motorcars, and Triumph Motorcycles.
Simon has stated many times that Triumph Motorcycles provided him with the catalyst for forming The Raw Guitar Co. because he greatly admires how their motorcycles are designed, & how they incorporate state-of-the-art technology, yet reflect styling cues from days gone bye. He also admires how their motorcycles are built using well designed components.
To bring our story up to date, in January 2008 Simon, while rummaging through his office stationery cupboard, stumbled upon a file which contained sketches & scribbles from his student days, & one sketch illustrated a design for an electric guitar that had an acoustic style bridge and a single humbucking magnetic pickup. Simon happily took it home to show his son, Ben, who, as a budding guitar player, was immediately impressed. He consequently showed the drawing to his friends which quickly brought feedback that if the guitar was commercially available then they would all like one. This unexpected response got Simon thinking, so he started to detail his idea further – in the twenty years from his initial sketch, guitar technology had moved on, especially in pickup design.
|The ’69 Hound Dog|
His next step was to make the guitar and have it reviewed by guitar players & industry movers and shakers. Billy Penn from 300guitars.com described the guitar as “awesome, really, really nice” and Gavin Wilson from guitarz.blogspot.com said simply “ it looks fantastic, job well done”.
This is a great guitar. I know it’s a great guitar because I now own it! (Post to come soon!). Thrilled with the response the guitar was having he decided to experiment, design & create further guitars. So, over the next eighteen months & with help from local luthier & friend, Jim Fleeting, Simon drew upon his experience and knowledge in design, ergonomics, noise & vibration, to formulate ideas for creating further guitars that would appeal to guitarists who require that little bit more from their instruments.
Something Old, New, Borrowed & Blue
Rather than simply designing & creating one-off instruments Simon wanted to create a range of guitars that had a particular theme running through them. He greatly admires how Chris Rea utilises creative platforms other than his music for expressing his talent, for example, film, writing and painting. Back in 2006 Rea released his stunning “Blue Guitars” multi media box set documenting his love of the Blues & the Bluesmen that have inspired him over the years. For those of you who are not familiar with this work, Rea wrote & recorded various CDs that “painted” & “documented” the Blues in all it’s colours, for example, Chicago Blues, Electric Memphis Blues, Texas Blues, Louisiana & New Orleans Blues where each album is a piece of work in its own right. Inspired by Rea’s ability to write musical stories that historically documents the development of the Blues from the early beginnings to the ’60s and ‘70s Simon thought why not try & do the same with guitar design. Therefore, over the past year he has designed a “Back Catalogue” that starts in 1938 with “The Hellhound”, a guitar Simon “designed” for Robert Johnson & concludes in 1975 with the design of “The Blues Imperial”, a guitar that simply has “Chicago Electric Blues” stamped all over it. In between there are guitars called “The ’48 Broom Duster”, “The ’55 Revelator”, “The ’57 Nighthawk”, “The ’63 Carousel”, “The ’66 Thunderstick” and more besides.
I have had the pleasure of seeing how Simon’s designs have developed over the past few months. He has produced a collection that any guitarist would love to own. His designs don’t just look fantastic, they sound fantastic too because he uses Jason Lollar pickups including his very own custom pickup that Jason designed and built specifically for Simon’s mid 1950s to late 1960s guitar designs. I had the chance to play this guitar on the Blues Show when Simon visited the studio.
For his 1930s guitars Simon commissioned Bob G. Harrison to create a pickup that not only captures the sound of the late 1930s but aesthetically, and in words of Bob himself, “Will have a flavour of something that a good old southern farm boy hand made in his shop”.
|The ’39 Mississippi Bo Weavil|
I am delighted to announce that Simon will officially be launching his company & unveiling three of his guitars at Musikmesse 2012 in Frankfurt next March, namely: “The ’48 Broom Duster”, ”The ’57 Nighthawk” & “The ’71 Skinny”, a guitar that he has designed and built for Ian Siegal. If you would like to see these guitars you will have to wait until they are unveiled at Frankfurt. If you can’t wait until March, just to give you a flavour of what Simon has designed he has very kindly allowed me to unveil for the first time “The ‘39 Mississippi Boweavil”, a guitar Simon has “designed” for Charlie Patton, “The ’63 Carousel”, a guitar that he has dedicated to Sid Watkins and Henry Weill and “The ’69 Hound Dog”, a tribute guitar that he has dedicated to Hound Dog Taylor and The Tokyo Electric Instrument & Sound Company. If you would like to know a little more about Simon’s work and his debut at Musikmesse 2012 go to Simon’s website or visit his Facebook page.
I wish Simon every success with his venture and look forward to setting sight on these guitars.