Just had the chance to finally get this one back in the workshop and give it the once over so I thought I’d make a quick video to give you a long overdue look at the guitar.
This is a collaboration I spent quite a while arranging going back about two or three years ago, when I originally had James Ready play one of my earlier designs at a local gig. Because it was a prototype for my own use, the neck was not really the right shape and it wasn’t really quite his thing, but we kept in touch with the hope of working together on something later.
After I had built the ‘Seabird’ (the red thing that currently resides in the banner to this blog), James took a shine to the quirkiness of it, so we finally got to sit down and make plans for his own signature model based on that prototype.
James’ first requirement was that the guitar should have much easier access to the 22nd fret than my prototype and have a much faster, slicker feel to it. (As anyone who has seen me play over the years will tell you, I’m not big on the little frets, and certainly not quick!). The frets on mine were quite vintage and a little skinny, so we went for a jumbo fret, and then looked at making a deeper cutaway shape.
The body wood was reclaimed from an old mahogany bench that my neighbour and good friend Mick had saved from being burned in a clear out at the local school. It looked awful until we planed off the surface – it must have been at least 50 years old, and properly ‘pink’ inside with a wonderfully straight grain. And light, perfect for a guitar body.
The colour scheme was another of James’ innovations – we hand dyed a great many maple scraps until we settled on a set of hand mixed colours, then a thin layer of nitrocellulose was applied.
This was also the first guitar to feature the larger more three dimensional logo, which on the JR1 is a mix of Mother of Pearl and Purpleheart.
For pickups, mine were very much the vintage tone – a Bare Knuckles Mule in the Bridge, a Stormy Monday in the neck. So we plumped for VHIIs from Bare Knuckles. I really can’t tell you how much I’ve come to love the BKs – hardly fit anything else these days. It’s not just that they make great pickups, it’s that they look after us Luthiers really well in terms of making exactly what we want in good time and with good communication.
This particular set of pickups gave us a minor problem though. When I first delivered it to James, the bridge pickup became intermittent. Because it was a BK, I went out to Diss armed with a new switch and hey presto, everything worked, until it failed the following day. So I went back again, re-soldered the hookup wire, and again everything was fine. Until I left that is – I didn’t get a few miles away before the phone rang…
It turns out that there was a dry joint on the pickup end of the hookup wire, which the heat from my soldering iron was enough to make temporarily ‘good’. I spoke to Ben at BK, and had the pickups back in the guitar in four days (now that’s service), with new hookup wire. Problem solved – just in time for the opening show with Status Quo! (James has been equally impressed with BK, and is now endorsing the brand personally).
That’s why there are different pickups in the guitar for the ‘Streetwise’ Video shoot, I used a set of dead humbuckers removed from another guitar to fill the holes so that the guitar looked complete.
However, the video shoot threw up another issue. James was taking the finish off the front in chunks with the metal picks he favours. So the top was then refinished, and a clear perspex scratchplate added.
So after 18 months on the road, it’s taken a good few knocks, but it’s all in one piece. I’ve had it back to fix a fret buzz (a quick dress). The original plan behind the guitar was to allow James’ original Les Paul to be retired as it was showing real signs of distress. That’s never quite happened, so the JR-1 has been strung up with a heavy bottom for most of its time to play some of the more rhythmic and downtuned stuff in the Walkway set, it’s a guitar he feels that he can hit hard with little fear of string breakage and the mass and balance of it encourages it the heavier approach. So now it’s had a proper set up and service to account for the heavier strings too, and it’s ready to go back out on the road with Walkway.
Here they are in action:
And supporting Status Quo – The back story to this is that I was supposed to be the guitar tech for the show, but the pass was pulled at short notice before the gig (nothing to do with the Quo, just a cock up). Hence the guitar only got used for the first number or so, as James broke a string! But here it is anyway, Walkway, and James with the JR-1, supporting the mighty Quo!