Reader Guitar of the Month: Prelude to a Guild Blade Runner

The emerging parts market in the ’80s, a luthier friend, and a cousin who studied acoustic engineering helped this bassist create a one-of-a-kind instrument.

Thank you for allowing us to share our bastardized beauties with you. I built this bass with the help of my friend Drew in 1980 or ’81. It was an instrument born out of necessity. Stock instruments of the time weren’t keeping up with the musical progressions that were happening in the ’70s and ’80s, so if you wanted to advance your art, you had to get creative. Fortunately, parts manufacturers and inventive minds were there to accommodate.


I wanted to build something different that would take advantage of the emerging parts market that was becoming available to players and that would also accommodate my playing needs. My neighbor was a carpenter, so I built the body and the electronics cavity cover from a piece of wood in his shop. I don’t recall what kind of wood I used, but I remember there were no knots, and the grain was very tight. The neck was from Philip Kubicki. The bridge is one of the first issues of the Kahler bass tremolo. The pickups are an original first-year set of EMG active PJs. The tuning keys are from Schaller. It has an original Hipshot D’Tuner and a Fathead attached to the back of the headstock for added sustain. I did the paint job ... I know ... it was the ’80s.

This bass was the prototype for a guitar that Drew built the following year that would eventually become the Guild Blade Runner. The Blade Runner is the guitar most people recognize Joe Perry playing in the Aerosmith/Run DMC “Walk This Way” video.

It sounds incredible and plays like a dream. The holes were strategically placed. My cousin was an acoustic engineer, and he made some suggestions as to where to make the holes based on the properties of the wood and acoustic instruments he’d studied. While it looks like an ’80s trainwreck, it has amazing unplugged resonance, tone, and sustain. I’ve never played another electric bass that resonates like this one. I’ve used it on jazz gigs as it can sing like a Jazz bass, it can give you the illusion of an acoustic bass once you dial it in, it’s great for soul and R&B, and it’s ferocious for hard rock and metal. It saw a lot of action in its day and, unfortunately, suffered some damage from a 15-foot fall off a stage.

While it looks like an ’80s trainwreck, it has amazing unplugged resonance, tone, and sustain.

When Drew made the Blade Runner for Joe Perry, he followed many of my cousin’s suggestions and a lot of what went into this bass to determine where to make the holes in the Blade Runner body. If you’ve ever played a Blade Runner or talk to anyone who has, they’ll tell you it’s an incredibly loud guitar unplugged and has endless sustain. The cuts weren’t random: There was a lot of thought and science that went into how it was done.

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