A Tribute to the Cars

A guitarist in Israel swapped a bass for a walnut-finished Gherson SG copy, and then turned it into an ode to the late Ric Ocasek.

Name: Rany Eskinazi
Hometown: Netanya, Israel
Guitar: Early-1980s Gherson SG copy, nicknamed “Candy-O”

My story starts about two decades ago, when I bought my first (and last) bass guitar. I was trying my luck as a bassist. However, I’ve found out that it’s rather hard for me to sing and play bass at the same time. I also realized that I’m a much better guitarist than bassist. So, I put the bass in its gigbag and left it in the closet for a long time.

One day, I asked a friend if he’d fancy having a bass (he’s the lead guitarist in one of the bands I play in). He jumped on the opportunity and brought me an early-’80s, walnut-finished, Italian-made Gherson SG copy. He said he liked it, but it was too heavy for him. He also said his Gibson SG is much lighter and so it became his go-to guitar.

The Gherson wasn’t in its best shape and needed to be serviced. The humbucker rings were swollen, the original bridge was replaced (it had a black Gotoh ABR-1 bridge), the logo was almost completely gone, and the electronics were rather dusty. Nevertheless, the guitar was still in a playable state.

As someone who really likes power pop and post-punk music, I saw a late-’70s performance of the Cars playing “Just What I Needed.” At the first palm-muted chord, I noticed that the late Ric Ocasek played a heavily modified, walnut-finished ’70s Gibson SG.

The Gherson looked rather similar, so I decided to modify it as a tribute to Ocasek’s guitar (at least visually).

I bought the following parts: a cream-colored DiMarzio PAF ’59 humbuckers set, cream pickup rings, cream toggle knob, cream toggle surround, chrome Gotoh Nashville bridge, faux pearl Gherson logo for headstock restoration, a dead spot 75 mm mirror, four aged black speed knobs, and a relic-style Cars’ logo.

I took the guitar to my local tech, Yotam Harduf, for modifications. He remarked that I bought the correct parts and matched everything rather well. Still, he needed to do some mods, especially with the pickups’ legs as these were rather long (like in old PAFs). He also set the guitar up to perfection.

The coolest part is that I’ve befriended Elliot Easton, who was the lead guitarist in the Cars. I sent the guitar scratch plate to him in California to be personally signed by him.

Although this is by no means an exact replica of Ocasek’s guitar, the first song I played once I got it back was (you guessed it) … “Just What I Needed.”

The guitar sounds fatter and punchier with some balls (I didn’t have a twin humbuckers guitar before). It’s a sound that I haven’t experienced as I’m accustomed to a brighter sound. (I play mostly Telecasters.) It made me want to bash a lot of chords and palm mute the strings. Also, due to the generally hot nature of the pickups, it made me turn up the amp volume and overdrive the amp.

I really love the new sound and feel that the guitar is really mine now that I’ve given it my own personal touch. I’ve nicknamed my guitar “Candy-O,” after the Cars’ hit from 1979.

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