Name: Mike Murphy
Hometown: Tavares, Florida
Guitar: Flying Star
I’ve been building/modifying guitars for over 50 years. With the recent passing of guitar legend Leslie West (of Mountain fame), who was one of my greatest influences, I thought this might be of interest to your readers.
In 1987, I walked into the famous Manny’s Music in New York City to drool over all the gear that I couldn’t afford and came across this Guild X-88 Flying Star. They were selling them off at a 50 percent discount, including a custom-fit hardshell case!!! I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Here was a name brand, 100-percent-American-made guitar with a Kahler pro whammy, ebony fretboard, and American-made “California” pickups (EMG humbuckers). I pulled out my wallet and bought it right on the spot!
Not being very fashion-conscious, I later realized the reason for the great discount … spandex-wearing hair bands were on the way out in the late ’80s, and demand for pointy guitars had dropped significantly.
I dressed and polished the fretboard to take care of some sharp fret ends. I changed the bridge pickup to a high-output DiMarzio X2N humbucker. (Leslie West used DiMarzios at that time.) I also changed the volume/tone pots to top-quality, smooth-taper Carvin pots and wired them ’50s-style to preserve highs when rolling back the volume knob. (Leslie always fiddled with his volume pot to go from clean to crunch.)
The guitar now played and sounded great, but as time went on, I didn’t like the look and balance of the guitar. Indeed, I would get a bit of ribbing, sometimes even laughed at, if I showed up for a blues jam with this pointy guitar. It’s kind of like showing up for a formal affair in a ruffled shirt from your 1970s prom. Something had to be done. I decided to draw radiuses and cut off all the points on a band saw, and then primed/painted those areas. Next came the custom paint job, which was done freehand by my wife and is based on the album cover of Mountain’s Climbing. A bonus is that the guitar is now perfectly balanced hanging on the strap—no more neck riding up due to an overly heavy guitar body.
This is now a total custom job that I find to be a good-looking, good-sounding, good-playing guitar. I have a modest guitar collection. Without fail, when I have musicians over, this is the guitar everyone gravitates to, asking questions about it, and they all want to play it.
Thank you for providing a forum for us readers. Your magazine is excellent, and I look forward to every issue.
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