I’d been playing guitar for about six years when I first heard Charlie Christian. Of course, everything changed that day in 1970. My teacher, Mike Bloomfield, implored that I study Muddy. Jeff Beck cited Cliff Gallup and Scotty Moore, and Keith Richards wasn’t bashful about praising Chuck Berry. Peter Green and Clapton went on and on about B.B. King, Otis Rush and Buddy Guy. However, hearing Charlie Christian banging out amazing single-note electric runs in recordings from 1939 set me straight. Above all, Christian’s mysteriously raw tone floored me.
With this lingering memory haunting me, I started to build the Crow. My design was fueled by the writings of Ginsberg and Kerouac recalling the journey of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty across America. Their wanderings reminded me of touring musicians. Bands of traveling storytellers, who—like crows—are clever scavengers. In mythology the crow is a harbinger and messenger. I wanted my instrument to reflect the dark, mysterious lives of these souls
The Crow’s body began with a core of Honduras mahogany from my stash. Configured as a thin rim around the shape’s circumference, a center section was left to support the main essentials such as the neck and pickups. Moreover, I wanted the Crow to resonate like the hollow big bodied guitars of the ’30s and ’40s without the runaway feedback that is encountered when played really loud.
The original 1930s setup involved a huge and heavy cantilever mounting bracket that hung the pickup from inside a hollow jazz guitar—not an elegant solution. To solve this problem without altering the pickup, I devised a trestle that would allow the unit to be mounted and adjusted from the rear of the guitar.
Once mounted inside the guitar, the pickups can be raised and lowered via a pair of stainless steel hex screws counterbored into the back. This also eliminates having to use mounting hardware or bezels on the spruce face of The Crow, which keeps the look pure. The Crow is a visually impressive guitar, and the CC pickups give it an equally stunning voice. Part of this is accomplished by the fact that the pickups are not connected to the top of the guitar in any way—leaving it free to vibrate.
The carved back of the Crow is highly figured eastern fiddleback maple, which recalls the look of violins and period jazz guitars. To continue the theme and the dark brooding look of the namesake bird the maple is stained a deep transparent black and finished in a low-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer.
Spruce topped mahogany body and neck with flame maple back • Ebony fingerboard and headstock faceplate • 1930s correct Duco “feathered” nitro finish • Italian cellulose faux tortiose shell binding • Genuine Ivory string nut, Asian buffalo horn strap buttons and switch tip • Hand-turned 1947 replica lap steel perspex control knobs • Scatter-wound Charlie Christian pickups • 1018 Steel “long” tailpiece anchors • Vintage variegated nickel plated hardware • Period correct 1930s Western Electric cloth insulated wiring • NOS American-made CTS potentiometers • Oil-filled Jensen-made tone capacitors • Genuine mother of pearl and green abalone “Claw” 12th fret inlay • Pearl side and front markers. Instrument comes with vintage tweed case (with built-in German hygrometer) and hand bound thirty-two page paper journal documenting the entire thought and build process—includes many photos, drawings, poems and part-scraps from the build. This instrument is one-of-a-kind and will never be repeated.
Price: 38,000 usd
The Crow’s nest is a custom hardshell with period correct lacquered twill covering and red plush interior. The German-made analog hygrometer samples the case’s interior humidity and temperature, yet faces outward for ease of reading.
Follow complete build here: Crow Build