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Reader Guitar of the Month: Alameda Clam Shack

Reader Guitar of the Month: Alameda Clam Shack
Name: Mel WaldorfHometown: Palm Springs, California
Guitar: Alameda Clam Shack

This month’s guitar comes equipped with its own Gretsch-inspired custom pickups, sure to deliver surfy sounds.

My name is Mel Waldorf, and I’ve been a guitar player since the mid 1980s. I’ve been tinkering with guitars for most of that time, because, hey, is it more important to play the guitar or to futz with them? I suspect the answer is playing guitar, as your magazine is Premier Guitar, not Premier Futz-with-Guitar.

I've always been the kind of guy who likes to put existing things together in unique ways. Take, for instance, my band, Meshugga Beach Party—we play traditional Jewish melodies in the instrumental-surf-music style. Who knew surf and yiddishe melodies would go together like bagel and lox? Needless to say, we’re the world’s premier Jewish surf music act—which is easy to say when you’re the only one doing it!

I started modding guitars in the early ’90s, with some mods coming out successfully and others, monstrosities. Two highlights are a Kay Upbeat hollowbody with a Tele neck, three P-90s, and a Jazzmaster tremolo; and my Jazzmaster with a middle pickup and a Jaguar mute. After decades of modding, I decided to try my hand at all-original guitar and pickup designs. I named my little business after the town I lived in at the time—Alameda, California.

Enter the Alameda Clam Shack guitar! I've always liked the pitch travel of a Strat tremolo but have never been able to get along with Strats, between having difficulty palm-muting and rolling the volume down constantly. So, I decided to use a Strat trem, but with a separate bridge. I use a Vega-Trem tremolo because they’re awesome, have a really smooth feel, and return to pitch even on my goofy guitar. I also designed my own pickups, which I call Off Kiltertrons. It’s an asymmetrical, dual-bobbin, multi-coil design, which, in conjunction with a 6-position rotary switch, gives the pickups six unique voices—three single-coil and three humbucking. The voices are produced by turning on and off different parts of the pickup coils; no fancy schmancy tricks here. Finally, I also create my own “tortoid” pickguards which have depth to the tort to give a more vintage look than modern tortoise-shell guards. I also make left-handed versions, because, while I’m a lefty who plays right-handed, I feel for my fellow southpaws. And why “Clam Shack?” Well, you try and come up with a name for a guitar that hasn’t already been used. Besides, I’ve never been accused of being cool, so why even bother with a cool name? Also, what’s not to love about a clam shack?

I’ve never been accused of being cool, so why even bother with a cool name? Also, what’s not to love about a clam shack?

As for my Off Kiltertrons, I started by putting them in Gretsch guitars, hence the name. I wanted to make a pickup that could sound like a Filtertron and a Dynasonic. The wiring and switching required to accomplish that led to the four other voices in there. I now make them in several formats, including Jazzmaster, Gibby HBs, and P-90, with others underway. I’m also working on a version for bass.

While making guitars and pickups that I like, I really enjoy seeing how players with drastically different styles use my guitars and pickups in ways I wouldn’t have even dreamed up. I guess my creativity in designing opens up creativity in the player’s mind. So, my life has meaning. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Are you a passionate guitar modder? Submit your guitar story here for a chance to be featured in our Reader Guitar of the Month column! If your story is chosen, you'll also receive a $100 virtual gift card from Allparts, the industry’s leading supplier of guitar and bass parts. All entrants will receive a 20%-off coupon to (Please note that the coupon cannot be combined with other promotions.)