This week on the Riff City Sunday Papers, we’re celebrating our 100th issue! Whether you’ve been with us from the get-go or found us more recently, you know we’ve developed a knack for hunting for the infamous, unusual, and inspiring tales of guitar and gear history. To mark making it to our triple digits, we dug deep, real deep, into the unknown underbelly of guitar rarities.
We’re probably all familiar with the major guitar makers like Gibson and Fender, whose iconic designs from the 1950s and 1960s effectively set the typologies for most modern electric guitars. But for all the smash success of the Stratocasters, Telecasters, and Les Pauls over the decades, even the big brands were bold enough to risk it all from time to time on non-traditional designs. Next time you’re tearing down from a gig, toss in a mention of some of these forgotten relics to showcase your guitar history trivia.
The Fender Maverick
Confession: I love the look of this guitar and think Fender should revisit the contours and concept of the Maverick. Born in 1969 as a variation of the slightly successful Fender Electric XII, the Maverick has the hangover of mid-century modern design yet the haze of psychedelic rock. Why the hybrid you ask? In these days, it wasn’t uncommon for “new” guitar designs to be released using remaindered stock of other models. In fact, if you look closely on the headstock of the Maverick, you’ll see six tuning peg holes sealed up and refinished as well as the substantially bottom heavy bridge intended for the twelve string. Apart from these Frankenstein-esque qualities, however, the guitars body shape, electronics, and utilization of a type of split Precision bass pickups makes it stand out.
The Fender Performer
From hair styles to car designs, the 1980s was the decade of angular designs. In an attempt to enter the arms race of angled, edgy guitar shapes, in 1985 Fender’s Japan plant released the Performer. As with the Maverick above, it’s rumored that this invention too was born out of a need to maximize and reimagine remaindered stock from other Fender builds. Visually the Performer was a flop yet it did include some design innovations that were somewhat forward-thinking, such as a proprietary locking tremolo system and tandem set of customized humbuckers with coil-tapping capabilities.
The Gibson Corvus
You can’t have a rundown of Gibson rarities without honorable mention of the Corvus. From an early time, Gibson played with bold body shapes, such as the Flying V, Explorer, and Moderne. This design, however, is an unusual blend of angles and contours, both in terms of body and headstock shapes. The guitar also broke form the traditional with its bolt-on neck and six-in-line tuners which may have been an attempt to scoop some Fender fans. Just about the only thing that channels Gibson’s core design characteristics are the Les Paul-type hard tail bridge and set of humbuckers. This bold experiment of Gibson lasted from 1982-1984, which makes the Corvus just about as rare as a 1959 Les Paul!
The Gibson Marauder
We started with the Maverick, why not end with the Marauder. Between 1975 and 1979, Gibson sold just over 7,000 of these unusual designs that blended elements of iconic designs and pressed into fresh territory. For example, while the body looks in the realm of a Les Paul and the headstock in the domain of a Flying V, the pickup configuration and electronics are anything but familiar. While some early designs feature a set of standard-issue humbuckers, post-1976 models included a shrunken and slanted humbucker in the bridge to complement the neck pickup. Where things get even more interesting, however, is in the blend control on the pickguard that allows for a spectrum of tonal options between the pair.
Whether you’re a newcomer or recent follower of Riff City Sunday Papers or any of the other reads on our site, thanks for journeying with us into the ongoing history of guitars and gear!