When you think of a signature guitar, what immediately comes to mind? The various Slash model Gibson/Epiphone Les Pauls released throughout the years? John Mayer’s recent (and very popular) Paul Reed Smith Silver Sky? For every well-known signature model that comes into production, there are several obscurities (some from very popular artists) that have fallen by the wayside. Here is a top five list with some of the more bizarre guitars to have had an artist’s name stamped on the headstock.
Fender “Yngwie Malmsteen” Nylon String Stratocaster (STCL-140YM) 1996-2000
Don’t let the familiar Stratocaster silhouette fool you. Despite looking very similar to Fender’s best-selling “Yngwie Malmsteen” Stratocaster, there are a few crucial differences. Notably, it is a nylon string electric guitar. Produced between 1996-2000 for the Japanese domestic market, it came with a Mike Christian Piezo and Bartolini pre-amp. If being a nylon string wasn’t baffling enough, the guitar also featured a six-point synchronized tremolo, just in case your neo-classical runs called for some dive bombs every now and again. Being produced for the Japanese domestic market means they don’t pop up too often, but if you’re in the market for a nylon string, scalloped fretboard Stratocaster (if there is such a market), this is your guitar.
Fender “Kurt Cobain” Jag-Stang 1995-2001, 2003-2005, 2021-ongoing
As far as bizarre signature guitars are concerned, this one is quite well known by this point, but continues to be one of the more striking designs Fender has released. Released in 1995, Cobain had conceived the guitars design by taking a polaroid of a Mustang and Jaguar, cutting them in half and pasting the two halves together. It was only used a few times live before Cobain’s tragic passing, but since then has gone on to be manufactured many times throughout the years; starting with a 6-year run, then being re-released again from 2003-2005, of which it was produced by Fender Japan. In recent years the guitar has developed somewhat of a notable following, falling into the hands of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruben Nielson. You can also witness this unique guitar in the hands of Peter Buck for the “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” music video. After it’s cancellation and its adoption within the indie music, used models started to see a bit of a bump in value. Luckily, Fender announced this year that they would be bringing this wacky model back into production, with manufacturing now taking place in Mexico.
Gibson “Howard Roberts” Custom 1973-1981
Howard Roberts was an American Jazz guitarist, and a prolific session musician who performed on countless sessions throughout the 50’s and 60’s. You may have heard his iconic playing on famous television themes such as The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, Gilligan’s Island and countless others. Famous for utilising a Gibson L-5 during sessions, Roberts was soon approached by Epiphone to produce a signature guitar in 1961. Down the line in 1973, the guitar was then manufacture by Gibson. Most notably, the Howard Roberts Custom featured a distinct oval sound hole, a 16” wide body and was offered in both a wine red and sunburst finish. When faced with the demands of session work, the design of the Howard Roberts Custom makes a lot of sense and was truly a guitar fit for one of the most discerning players in recording history.
Oktober Guitars “Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein” Annihilator 2011
I think a picture of this guitar alongside Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein of the Misfits probably tells you most of what you need to do about this guitar. Regardless, I’ll do my best to add some further context. Based off the guitars that Doyle makes himself, the Oktober Guitars Annihilator was a limited run catered to those Misfit fans who need a guitar that can crank out some serious riffs, but could also possibly serve as an effective weapon. Staying true to Doyle’s design, the Custom Shop line featured a neck-thru graphite neck with mahogany body wings, and most importantly of all, a coffin case. It was also produced as a production model if you can settle for a “zombie skin” case instead of the aforementioned coffin case. Production was quite limited, which makes this quite a rare bird (or horror punk riff machine). This is THE guitar to own for your next Halloween gig.
Reverend Guitars “Billy Corgan” Terz Guitar 2018
Before we delve into the context of this instrument and bring up the discussion of “does guitar paint effect tone?” (I’ve heard this guitar has more midrange clarity, provided you buy it in deep sea blue burst), we must first address the elephant in the room. What is a Terz guitar? A Terz guitar, put simply, was a 19th century instrument that can best be thought of as an alto guitar designed to be tuned a perfect fifth higher than standard (B-E-A-D-F#-B), although for this model of Terz, it is tuned a minor third higher than standard (G-C-F-A#-D-G). Reverend describes the Terz as a “punchy, shimmering guitar that is rich in overtones,” no doubt benefitting from its higher pitch and 21 ½” scale length. Designed primarily to tackle songs in the Pumpkins catalogue that previously required a capo on the third fret, the Billy Corgan Terz addresses a very specific niche, of which is primarily applicable to Corgan but may also be applicable to those who are tired of carrying a capo to gigs and would rather haul another guitar.
Although this represents a small fraction of some of the signature guitar oddities floating around the web, these 5 guitars represent the whole spectrum from the demanding session instrument all the way to the borderline unnecessary, and in certain hands, weapon capable of slaying an army of the undead.
What are some signature guitar oddities you’ve stumbled across?