Tagged: R.C. Allen Grez Guitars
I’d like to talk a little about R.C. “Dick” Allen, a Southern California guitar builder who was well known and regarded in certain circles. He passed earlier this year and I was able to obtain the jigs, forms and presses used he used to make archtop guitars for well-known musicians Merle Travis, Hank Thompson, Eddie Dean, Joe Maphis, Del Casher, Roy Lanham, Michael O’Dorn, Bob Saxton and others. Allen had been building guitars since the early 50’s and was an important link to the past having received guidance in guitar building from Paul Bigsby and John Doypera, the creator of the dobro.
The guitars he made were everything from Bigsby replicas, to highly decorated Super 400 like guitars to mandolins and just about everything in between. Here’s some links to a little more info about him and some photos of the piles of stuff I acquired.
Any owners of RC’s guitars out there? I am about to start building my first RC, probably a 16” lower bout, maybe 2.75? deep, I’m envisioning ES-295 territory but haven’t committed yet.
I’m not a big fan of copies, but the solid body Bigsby guitars he made are cool because he was one of the few people P.A. Bigsby would let into his shop. He had first hand knowledge of these these guitars and pickups were made and even owned for the second solidbody guitar Bigsby made, after #1 was made for Merle Travis.
Vintage Guitar Magazine just did an article about him after he had passed away. It is a brief article but may help some people get interested in learning more about him. I never knew him, but I do know several people in the business, either as dealers or session players that knew him well. Everyone spoke very highly of him.
Ha, sounds like he had a great sense of humor. I’ll check him out. That blonde archtop looks amazing. Bet it plays and sounds great too.
This is my take on RC’s take on an ES-5. Not done yet but moving fast.
Very cool! It is looking good. Definitely looking to see more, and how it ends up looking in the finished process. I bet it will sound very cool if you end up putting in those Vintage Vibe HCC pickups you mentioned in the other thread. I have always loved the look and sound of the L-5 style guitars, just not a comfortable guitar for me to play due to size. I have always preferred the ES-175 sized body shape, or the Gretsch 6120. I think that is one of the big reasons the 6120 was always the guitar of mine that I gravitate towards. I get the smaller body that makes it fit me better, but then I still get that body styling of the L-5. My Guild CE-100’s are also the same body size as the Gretsch, just has the Florentine cutaway, which have also always been my favorites to play. Just something about that body size that just feels good, and fits me just right standing or sitting. I was disappointed that Tommy wasn’t able to bring the Grez guitar with him. I was looking froward to playing it. It does sound sweet.
I have one guitar question for you. I guess it is more of an opinion thing than a question. I have a Guild Starfire III that has a cast aluminum bridge and base. Like the rosewood bridges and bases that you find on the older traditional archtops. That guitar has this sick ass beefy twang to it playing by the bridge, on the bridge pickup, perfect for rockabilly and country. Then when you play it up normal, up between the pickups, on the neck pickup it has this killer jazz tone with tight bass. Then play it on the neck, or neck/bridge combined, you get this killer blues tone playing by the bridge. Playing it like that in the neck/bridge combined really starts to give it an out of phase sound picking by the bridge, and goes away as you move away from the bridge and start picking again in the middle of the guitar. Really gets you into some nice T-Bone Walker, Pee Wee Crayton type territory. Would this bridge be the reason for that, or just the nature of the guitars construction underneath.
I ask for two reasons. One I was wanting to change up the string spacing on that guitar, because the bridge is spaced a little farther than my other Guilds, and Gretsch, so when I switch back and forth it takes a little of time in adjustment in playing because my right hand has to adapt to the strings being in a different spot. So switching to that guitar at a gig can be awkward and cause me to mess up lines because the right hasn’t adapted yet. The only bridges that I have been able to find for the spacing I want, are not the same design as the bridge on there now. So I am afraid if I switch the bridge I will lose that quality, in the top paragraph, that I love in the tone of the guitar.
The second reason is, I though about it while you and Tommy were discussing the bride on his Grez guitar in the other thread. I was thinking if my guitar’s sound mojo is greatly due in part to that bridge, I think this would be a killer thing to offer on your guitar. I know a lot of people are scared of those non intonatable bridges because they feel you can’t have an unwound 3rd string. I shared this trick with Tommy when he was here and he fell in love with it, and shared it with everyone at the clinic. If you take the G string and make it at least a 20 gauge plain it nullifies that need to have a wound 3rd for intonation purposes. It intonates just like a wound 3rd but then you can still do all of the wild 3rd string bends on the guitar that blues players love. It also creates that smooth balance between the string tones that you with the wound 3rd. The only down side to some players is you have to play with 11 gauge and heavier strings, which some players do not like. However I have found that the majority of the time, someone wanting to play hollow body guitars are not wanting to play light strings anyway. Thought I would share that little trick with you because people always ask how I get my guitars to play in tune on that kind of bridge with an unwound 3rd string. Or they think I have a wound 3rd, because of the smooth sound and being in tune, and ask how do I get those whole step bend effects on wound 3rd string. Look forward to hearing your thoughts and talking shop.
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