Custom guitar by R.J.Bartram

My grandfather died a couple of years ago, and left me some shares in his will. WIth them came the stipulation that I should use the money to buy something musical. Since I've always wanted a custom electric to my specification, this wasn't hard!

The guitar was made by Richard Bartram in Ely, Cambridgeshire. The body is solid maple, with a bolt-on neck, gloss laquered, of slightly unusual shape, I think you'll agree. The inspiration for the body shape is from the cover art to Gossamer Axe, by Gael Baudino (see right), adjusted a little for playability and balance. (I can thoroughly recommend the book, if you can find a copy - it's inspired several songs in Phoenix's repertiore.)

The bridge pickup used to be a Seymour Duncan 'Jeff Beck', but has been changed to a Di Marzio 'Tone Zone', and the neck a Di Marzio 'Humbucker From Hell' which, despite the name, isn't a tilt overdrive mega-distortion job, but instead basically sounds like a Strat pickup only in a humbucker. The resulting clean sounds available are amazing, especially with the two coil taps and the phase reverse, as well as the two tone pots. Distorted, it sings if you push it, and can produce a really ballsy rhythm guitar sound as well. (The reason for removing the Jeff Beck - it was too bright, and is now in my other electric.)

The bridge is a Wilkinson. We did, initially, try and get hold of a Fishman bridge with piezo saddles, but after three months of waiting, their distributor finally confessed that, actually, they don't do it in black. Neither, it appears, do L.R. Baggs (after a couple of transAtlantic phone calls), and the only other two people who do are Mike Christian pickups, who went out of business a year ago, and RMC, who were a bit expensive. So I settled for the WIlkinson, which I'm very happy with. On top of that, it has a Wilkinson roller nut and a set of Schaler locking machine heads. I can dive-bomb the strings slack with the vibrato arm, and it returns spot on to tune.

The strap's a DiMarzio Quicklock - normally I use Schaller straplocks, but the guitar in the picture has what's clearly the Quicklock, so when I saw one on a stall at the National Music show last year, I couldn't resist.

If you want to get in touch with Richard, drop me email, and I'll be only too glad to pass his details on.

I wonder what my grandfather (and my gran) would say...