’79 Explorer

Kevin Aram is now established as one of the world’s leading classical guitar makers, specialising in the use of very exotic woods, often from fruit trees like Pear. Back in the late ‘70’s, he worked behind some rooms in Barnet, North London, where my friend’s ill-fated neo-punk band Geneva rehearsed.  (Debut single : ‘2 Minutes 30  & Counting’).

He had made a lovely black flying V with a mirror pickguard (shown above) for the band’s guitarist Malcolm Meyher, so I asked him to make me an Explorer-shaped instrument. I gather his classical guitars now have a collector following, but the V, my Explorer and one lost(?) semi-acoustic are the only three electric instruments Kevin ever made!

I confirmed this when I started hooking up with him again recently after many years. Charming, talented bloke.  He recently shared the pix of the V and some early pix of the Explorer before he handed it over to me which I’d never seen before.  They’re the ones with the darker backgrounds, also above. 

This Explorer was my main guitar for years – it neck was modelled on my ’72 Gibson SG Deluxe (serial # 675066, RIP), and the pickups are the DiMarzio Super Distortions which were favoured at the time, and which have lasted well. It originally had a Schaller tune-a-matic bridge and fine-tunable tailpiece, and then I made the terrible mistake of having a Kahler term unit installed, a must-have of the time, ca. ’85.

This killed the sustain stone dead, and the guitar fell out of use rapidly. In fact, I almost gave up playing electric until I made some money and acquired my PRS. Whatever I might feel or say about the PRS today, I can never forget that it got me playing again and will always be grateful for that.

Many years later, in 2002, I had the f**king Kahler removed, the rout sensitively filled, and a TonePros bridge and tailpiece which lock down to the body, installed. The guitar is now rocking again, perhaps better than ever. It has a very detailed, almost hi-fi sound when played clean, but dirties up nicely! Another nice touch is the ‘Strat jack plate mounted on the edge of the body, which gives an excellent cable runoff. Surprised I’ve never seen that on another instrument.

It lives in its original flight case of indeterminately great weight and volume, whose foam lining disintegrated and was recently replaced by the very friendly and helpful Pottertons cases of Leicester (http://www.pottertonscases.co.uk/default.aspx).

A strange coincidence – when I took the guitar to have the Kahler removed, the luthier I had by then come to use for all my serious guitar work chuckled and reached up to a high self in his workshop. He had only been given, and had kept, the original template from which Kevin had cut the body shape, uniting a one-off guitar with its original form!  What are the chances of that?

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