I have the pleasure of owning several TK Smith pickups and one of his Telecasters. Several months back TK sent me his Summertone pickups to try. They are a Bigbsy inspired design/tone that drop in a P90 Dog-Ear route. I have been waiting to find the right guitar to put them in and decided on a Baritone! This was not a drop-in! I had a luthier route the body and the pickguard to accommodate. The results were phenomenal. I wrote this little ditty below with the Summertones. It is an appropriate tune!
I have recently had the privilege of working with Michael Tuttle Guitars as an artist. It is a real honor. Michael makes very high-end instruments. Classic, but refined. Known as one the best ‘fret’ men in the business. My own guitar was made to my specs and is a beautiful example of modern vintage. 2 tone burst Classic ‘S’ style with a humbucker in the bridge. A few touches like roasted neck and stainless frets are further examples on his exemplary luthiery.
I have a few video examples on the site and on my instagram page here: Rodney Gene Junior Instagram
From a recent session for Carr Amplifiers – Watch in HD!
Recently was asked to do to a last minute video shoot and product demonstration. I had essentially ONE day to prepare tracks, write parts, get to know the guitar, find tones etc..! And then one day to shoot the video and one day to edit! We did three 14 hour days in the studio back to back to pull it off! It was intense.
In the end we got some really sweet tones, I played well and I was able to find some good examples with this Lollar/Collings combination! The video is below! Hope you enjoy!
TK SMITH DESIGN One of my main gigging and studio guitars for a very specific old school country/rockabilly jump swing vibe. Stunning Tones! And unique as it gets!! Cool factor 1000~
Based on the original Bigsby designs, TK Smith is a rare craftsman and artisan in the guitar business and one heck of a great guitar player himself. It’s a long waiting list to get a guitar made, but man oh molly what a guitar!! That is bakelite folks, and hand-cut, hand ‘inlaid’ pickguard, cut out by hand on a 1930’s band saw and then inlaid, one letter at a tine by hand…way-back old school. Hand carved, hand made neck, handmade pickups…handmade custom Bigsby Arm, bridge plate etc…Too much info to describe here…go HERE and enjoy the beautiful guitars!
Stephanie Lollar recently sent me a set of pickups for my Suhr Classic Antique Telecaster. It is such a phenomenal playing instrument, perhaps the best I own in terms of Telecaster feel and playability. Still the tone of the guitar while usuable and pleasant was always slightly lackluster for me. Hi-fi tone in the bridge and murky tone in the neck. That is not a reflection on Suhr guitars in any way, but rather a common mis-match for my own needs and for this guitar in general. The real-time truth about a pickups response, feel, tone etc is going to be revealed only after the pickups are installed, the guitar strung up, setup, plugged in and played. This is why we cannot simply state as an absolute that ‘pickup XYZ’ is the best choice for rock, jazz, blues, country etc… Pickups should be matched to the instruments unplugged sound. At the least it should be considered as a reference. It is the key to a successful replacement IMO. The exception might be high output pickups designed to be used under alot of tone coloring distortion in which case the guitars natural tone becomes less relevant.
I currently use a Lollar Special T, Vintage T, Lollar Charlie Christian, Imperial Humbucker and Low Wind Imperials. So I have some real-world knowledge and experience with the tonal character of Lollar pickups. Some. Although I am often consulted by other professionals, luthiers and hobbyists on pickup choice based on my years in tone consulting and pickup combination knowledge, wiring knowledge etc., I decided to ask Jason (Lollar) for his advice and recommendation. I gave him a basic description of what was lacking in the current guitar/pickup balance as well as what the guitar sounded like unplugged (resonate and singing). I did not mention what I wanted except that my current tones were not ‘vintage’ enough for me. I had already decided on a Lollar Royal T neck, but was mixed on the bridge choice.
Jason recommended the Lollar Royal T neck, which was super fantastic for me as it confirmed my own thoughts, and then he recommended the Lollar Alnico 3 Bridge pickup as the match. Once I looked into the specs on the A3 I decided it was a really smart idea to try. As it turns out, it was indeed a smart recommendation but also an obviously intuitive one. Like I said before, pickup ‘specs’ alone are not enough. And when you are dealing with musicians like myself who are on the quest for ‘refined’ shifts in tone and the last small percentage of our tonal needs, it usually comes down to a combination of experience, knowledge and intuition. I finally had the chance this morning to install the set.(See install photos here)
Man… I hate to gush as I am rarely ‘over the moon’ with new pickups as I have owned so many but… goodness gracious. Can pickups sound and feel soulful? Yes, of course if they are a match. These sound present, harmonically rich in brilliant clear overtones but with body and fullness. This combination in this guitar is lively, juicy and exciting. LOL (Exciting may be a little gear geekery showing through). But it’s always fun when your tone gets more musical.
Really all I can say at this point is thank you. At this stage in my tonal refinement and personal gear development, I don’t get excited just because something sounds ‘different’. I know when a piece of gear works or not in about 20-60 seconds. Yep, that really is all it takes. Whether amps, pedals, plugins, strings, picks and certainly pickups of which I have many and a long history in. I know if a piece of gear CAN work, but is not ideal. I know if something can work in a different situation etc.. and I always know when a piece of gear is absolutely right on point. I have intentionally developed a hyper-sensitivity to my own tonal preferences as well as the ‘global’ balance in guitar related audio. I have to say that because I am not interested in ‘experimenting’ per se but rather landing on the specific tones in my head and hands, I can only express my deepest gratitude to Jason, Stephanie and all the insanely talented crew at Lollar guitars for providing such high-level pickups.
It is very apparent that this company is listening. Literally.
Big ears at Lollar guitars.
Sound clips soon! Cheers, RG