Samick Motherlode

December 2014
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My Gibson J-45 Skull Guitar

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My Gibson J-45 Skull Guitar


This was once a Gibson J-45—we think. Now, it looks like a cross between Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” and the townspeople in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Pretty cool, wouldn’t you say?

I have an artist friend named Brian Davis with whom I used to trade guitars when I lived in L.A. One day he showed me a Gibson J-45 flattop he had acquired in a trade. Brian said, “Some idiot painted it refrigerator white. Got something you wanna trade for it?”

We both looked at it and laughed at the kind of fool who would take a ’60s or ’70s Gibson acoustic and not just paint the body appliance white, but paint over the entire headstock too, forever obscuring the logo and serial number—jeez!

So I ended up trading him some guitar parts for it, not completely sure it even was a Gibson. However when I got it home and played it, I was pleasantly surprised that it actually did play and feel like the other Gibson acoustics I had owned over the years. But it sure was ugly.

In a moment of inspiration (or temporary insanity), I decided what the guitar really needed was some black skulls to offset all the white. So I borrowed some paint from my artist wife Gayle and spent the afternoon painting skulls all over it. It seemed like a good idea at the time, plus it was really fun to do.

Next I found a local guy who sprayed what amounted to many layers of lacquer clear coats over my sloppy, uneven paint job that I was now strangely proud of. What little acoustic tone it had before was diminished even more after all the clear coats dried.

I then decided to mount an inexpensive Martin Thinline pickup under the bridge saddle so I could amplify it at gigs. The only problem is, I never had the balls to gig with it.

So how does it sound? Acoustically, not as bad as you would think. And when plugged into an amp, the sound is actually pretty decent. The neck is straight, the action low, and it’s actually a dream to play. It’s also quite a nice conversation piece.

Bottom feeder tip #239: If a guitar is really ugly and you have nothing to lose, go ahead and have some fun with it. Get creative and see what happens. You can always find a good therapist or repairman later if need be.

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