Guitar Center is continuing its support of Eric Clapton and his Crossroads Centre Antigua with a new collaboration that links ol' Slow Hand with fellow guitar greats Carlos Santana and John Mayer to benefit the world renowned substance abuse rehab oasis.
The 2019 Crossroads Guitar Collection features meticulous recreations of three iconic guitars from Clapton's career, as well as for the first time ever, recreations of guitars from the legendary careers of other famed musicians and longtime Crossroads Centre supporters.
The collection coincides with the 2019 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas, Texas, from September 20 - 21.
Mayer's Martin 00-42SC acoustic is also included, as is Santana's classic Paul Reed Smith Private Stock guitar.
For more on how the genesis of the 2019 Crossroads Collection and how Guitar Center went about designing the recreations, Q104.3's QN'A spoke with Guitar Center Senior VP of Guitar Merchandising Michael Doyle.
Read the full QN'A below.
The Blind Faith Telecaster has a unique story, doesn't it?
[It] actually has the neck that subsequently was put on "Brownie," which was the [Stratocaster used on "Layla"], so this guitar precedes "Brownie" and actually has half of that guitar's construction; it's the neck. That guitar is one of the focal points of the offering.
We also have the Gibson Firebird replica from 1964. That's another guitar that he played in Cream and Blind Faith. And we have a Martin guitar, an acoustic, that's designed to have 1930s-era tone and specification but with modern appointments, like a titanium truss rod neck to make the thing lighter, more toneful, while at the same time offering the adjustability that the modern player requires.
How about the Santana and Mayer guitars? Is the idea there to appeal to a broader audience by virtue of including more artists in the collection?
Partly that. ...It's also partly to celebrate the fact that there's Eric along with many of his great guitar playing friends who have played at various Crossroads Festivals over the years.
It also recognizes that there are more artists out there than just Eric that want to support Crossroads. By doing this, we can raise more funds for the Crossroads Centre, and we can bring more manufacturers into it, such as Paul Reed Smith.
It's a celebration of not just guitarists...but guitars. We're celebrating Martin, Fender, Gibson and now Paul Reed Smith.
I thought it was interesting that the two Clapton electrics are guitars that he's not so often associated with. Why those two?
We'd already done [several of his more well-known guitars], so the Telecaster was really interesting because it encompasses [parts used on guitars in]...three of the greatest bands in history [Cream, Blind Faith and Delaney & Bonnie]. That to me was an iconic, mythical piece that really deserved to be honored. And of course he did some tremendous playing on that [neck], most notably, perhaps, his solo on "Presence of the Lord" on the Blind Faith album, which is just tremendous.
Then you have the Firebird, which undoubtedly would have been the guitar he played on some of Cream's most epic songs, both studio and live I'm sure. A phenomenal looking guitar — one of the great guitar designs of all-time — and probably the most famous of the neck-through body construction.
I think it shows the fact that Eric doesn't just love Stratocasters; he's loved a number of guitars over the years. Each was part of his musical journey, and that's what we're celebrating as well.
Can you explain how you obtained the very particular specifications of each guitar?
There's two ways of doing it. Either you've got the original guitar or you haven't. If you haven't got it, then you need to do a lot of research.
For example, which "Blackie" and with the [ES] 335, we own both of those guitars. Other than spending almost $2 million on the guitars, it was relatively easy (laughs) for us to take those guitars to Fender or Gibson and have them be replicated through every little nook and cranny.
In the case of the Blind Faith Telecaster, we don't know what became of the body. We do know what became of the neck — it ended up on "Brownie." We had inspected "Brownie" when we did "Brownie" back in 2013, so Fender and Guitar Center were already intimately familiar with the neck. So the neck was really sorted...we'd already been there, done that.
But the body was really a case of how do you get as much detail as you can from that body from the photography and video that's available.
What I did was get the DVD from the Blind Faith concert from Hyde Park in 1969. I bought a high-definition 4K TV that does upscaling, and so I can play that video and get really great quality of it. I took photographs of every close up of the guitar during the course of that event that I could find. Using that as internal reference, we could finesse the guitar to be as accurate as those images allowed. There were only a few discerning marks on the guitar, but there were enough that we could recreate appropriately.
And by the way, we also did the strap. The guitar strap that he played I thought was particularly attractive, so I thought we'll have a go at recreating the strap as well and that comes as part of the guitar.
When you're designing the necks for the recreations, it's a much more involved process than looking at the model number and the year. You're looking to replicate the wear and the bumps and bruises it's endured.
Yeah, absolutely. For example, when we did the 335...we took it to Gibson, put it inside this massive machine the size of a small house. On this machine...they put a laser beam on [the guitar] and digitally measured the neck to within...5,000ths of an inch, I think. It took hours for them to scan the neck and get it to exactly the correct profile. Then they were able to go out there and recreate the wood and the neck shape for all the replicas that were to come.
Fender did it a different way when we did "Blackie." They would take impressions of the back of the neck and the curvature of the fingerboard and then duplicated the neck from there. They do it an every fret point, so they could track the changes in dimensions that way.
First of all, the idea is to make sure you've got the right materials, second you've got to make sure that you've got the right dimensions. Then having done all of that right, you need to make sure that the wear and tear and the kind of varnish and the quality of the varnish, all of that is recreated to the nth degree. And that's how you do it.
Have you gotten feedback from the artists themselves?
We have. I was closest to the feedback for the Telecaster and the Martin guitar with Eric. We had prototypes made, which I took to London to show Eric in March. He was playing them and fell in love with them. He loved the Telecaster just as it was.
We went there with three Martin acoustics. They were three quite different specifications, different woods, difference appointments, but there was clearly one that he absolutely preferred the most.
The John Mayer guitar is based on one that we'd done before, which is called the Stagecoach. So obviously that all met his approval. ...I'm sure Martin sent him a prototype to approve.
With Santana, I'm sure give the relationship that Paul Reed Smith has with Santana that that's all been blessed and received his input.
How much money do you expect to raise on behalf of Crossroads with this collection?
I would love to tell you because I'm very proud of the number, but if Eric wants to disclose it, obviously, he may. But I don't want to disclose without his permission.
Where can people see the guitars in the 2019 Crossroads Collection?
GuitarCenter.com will have all of the products live for people to check out the photographs and learn about these instruments, so you can see them digitally [there].
If you want to see them in person, not all of the guitars have been built yet. These guitars are being built by some of the most prestigious guitar luthiers in the world, so you can imagine that they take their time to get everything right.
There will be four stores that will have these guitars [in person]: Guitar Center Hollywood in California; Nashville, Tennessee; the North Dallas store; and Times Square in New York.
On top of that, all five guitars will be at the Crossroads Guitar Festival on the 20th and 21st of September at the Guitar Center Village, they'll be on display there.
Anything to add?
It's such an honor to be working with Crossroads, Eric Clapton, three of the greatest guitarists in history and some of the greatest guitar manufacturers in the world. And to be doing it all for the benefit of music and musicians on the one hand, and to help save lives through the Crossroads Centre in Antigua on the other, it doesn't get better than this.
For specifics about the 2019 Crossroads Collection, go here.
Photo: Getty Images