Fender's John Cruz on Making Pinkburst Project Guitars, Basses, and Amps
Master Builder John Cruz from the Fender Custom Shop in Corona, California, first met Jay Jay French at the Winter 2007 NAMM show. He was in the midst of conversation with co-workers outside the Fender booth when the guitarist approached him.
“Jay Jay walked right up to me and joined in on our conversation,” says Cruz. “He was telling me about this wacky dream he had about having a pinkburst guitar custom built for him. He said he had a huge array of Gibsons but really had not had a great Fender to add to his collection—especially with the left-field specs that he was thinking about. He wanted a Telecaster in a hot pink color with a cherry-red burst around it. He wanted most of the appointments that were on all of his Gibsons to be present, as well. He sent me his Gibson Les Paul to use for reference, which helped a lot in getting the color right. I told him, ‘Your sick dream is my pleasure.’”
TKL Cases – All Pinkburst Project guitars come with a custom TKL case adorned with the Pinkburst Project logo (the one shown here holds a pinkburst Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul), and a Red Monkey Pinkburst Project leather guitar strap in pink, white, or black.
The guitar was finished in February 2008, and by that time the Pinkburst Project was under way. “I remember this guitar sounding incredible and really did not want to see it leave my hands,” says Cruz. “Jay Jay received the guitar and was very excited about the whole vibe. He started showing it to other musicians and manufacturers, who were blown away and really wanted to be involved.”
Next was the custom Stratocaster, which Cruz describes as “My favorite guitar in the world. Jay Jay wanted the same appointments as the Tele to be present. It really seemed weird to be putting trapezoid inlay on a Strat, but we are the custom shop, where your dream is our specialty.” French’s next request from Fender was a ’75 Jazz bass. “He chose that because he had a real ’75 and loved the way it felt, sounded, and played.”
The last guitar was a Gretsch G6120. “I really do not build Gretsch guitars, but I spoke with our Senior Master Builder, Stephen Stern, about what I was doing,” says Cruz. “He said he had a cancelled order for a 6120 in his area that needed a home. It just needed to be finished up with detail sanding, and then to be painted and built.”
With the Gretsch complete, Cruz thought Fender had come through on everything French wanted. Then came the final request: “Jay Jay said, ‘I gotta have matching amps to pair with all these guitars.’ I said, ‘Dude, you’re killing me.’ So I spoke with [thenartist relations manager] Alex Perez about his quest and he was glad to help out. I got to see these beauties right before the chassis was installed. They stood out like a sore thumb. The women here at the plant fell in love with them, as did everyone else. They all knew I had something to do with this project and have since not looked at me the same way. Thanks, Jay Jay, for tarnishing my reputation!”
Cruz looks back on the two-and-a-half-year undertaking with great pride and some humor, but he also has quite a heart for the cause and obvious admiration for French’s efforts and determination. “The whole idea gave me a great feeling about what this long-haired, Twisted Sister-vest-wearing, thug-looking guy was up to,” he says. “I hope whoever gets these babies will enjoy them as much as I did putting my all into them.”