Five Cool Things: Spacerangers, Gov't Mule 'n other stuff

I remember when I saw my first Musicvox Spaceranger guitar in person.  It was right before a Gov't Mule concert in 1997 at a guitar shop in Philadelphia.  I was in town to see "the Mule" using a special backstage pass from their bassist, Allen Woody.  I arrived in Philly early in the day and had time to do some window shopping at guitar shops.   

Little did I know on that spring afternoon that Woody and Musicvox would be milestones in my life.  

Welcome to my special "Musicvox & Milestones" themed Five Cool Things...

THING ONE:  Gov't Mule's Cigar Box Guitars

I've shared this picture a thousand times... and I still don't get tired of sharing it.  This is the iconic jam band, Gov't Mule, standing inside a York PA motel room way back in 1998, holding cigar box guitars that I proudly built them.  I had been contacted by bassist Allen Woody in 1997 and was asked to build him a cigar box bass.   Soon after, I was meeting them at concerts and bestowing other instruments on them, such as these three string cigar box guitars.   

This was the first time rock stars had ever played my instruments.  A report came back to me that Warren Haynes played his cigar box guitar in his studio for a couple hours after getting back home.  (I hope that story was true!)

Sadly, Allen Woody passed away in 2000.  There were many. guitar builders who made custom instruments for him (including Musicvox) over the years.  He was a true friend to us all.  

THING 2:  Experimental Musical Instruments Magazine

If there was one resource that changed my life as an instrument builder, it was the mighty Experimental Musical Instruments magazine, a quarterly publication put out by Bart Hopkin.   Each issue was jam packed with innovative, outrageous and historic instrument designs.  No musical subject was taboo and each wild creation was researched in detail.  Although the magazine only until 1999, I had the chance to get one of my own instruments on the front cover.  Of course, it was the bass commissioned by Allen Woody of Gov't Mule!  (Above).

You can order the entire set of back issues as a CD-Rom direct from Bart Hopkin.  I highly recommend it!  In fact, I've taken my copy of the CD rom and printed out ever single issue on two reams of paper.  My collection is now marked up and dog-eared.  EXPERIMENTAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS BACK ISSUES 

THING THREE:  Making Musicvox Guitars' Insane "Pulp Fiction" ad campaigns

I've been a fan of Musicvox guitars since their first days of production back in the 1990's.  Their globular shapes, inspired by cheesy guitars of the Sixties stood in direct contrast to the same-ol' Fender/Gibson guitars that are supposed to be industry standard.  Musicvox's are bold, bizarre and inspiring. 

Ten years ago, I started corresponding with Musicvox founder/madman, Dr. Matt Eichen on the guitar company's Facebook page.  (I probably came across as a raving lunatic or gushing like a smitten schoolgirl.)   One evening as I was goofing around with my Photoshop computer program, I took a science fiction pulp book cover and graphed a Musicvox Spaceranger guitar onto it.  Dr. Matt was delighted at the goofy fan art and asked me to do some more. 

Within a couple months, I was being commissioned to create the national advertising campaigns for Musicvox guitars, mashing up artwork with guitars.  This was the first time I ever had my ads published in a national magazine.  

See more of the ads I created for Musicvox here.

THING FOUR:  THE MUSICVOX SPACERANGER XL GUITAR.  Pictured below and at the top of today's Five Cool Things is the Musicvox XL Spaceranger electric guitar, one of only a few produced in the last year.  

I'm proud to say I had a part in the design of this guitar.  

Based on the classic Musicvox Spaceranger Guitars, the XL features a larger body that retains the absurd bottom horn, but also features a semi hollow body design.  The larger body was first made by mistake in a short run of XL bases that came from an overseas factory for Musicvox.  When I saw the larger bodied Spaceranger basses, it reminded me of old Gretsch and Harmony hollowbodies.  "You should really make a jazz version of the guitar using this body," I told Matt Eichen of Musicvox.  I even sent him a couple photoshopped versions.

Unbeknownst to me, Eichen had taken the idea to heart and issued the instrument as part of his 20th Anniversary line of instruments.  This taxicab yellow sweetheart was sent to me as a thanks.  

Sure, it ain't a simple thing, but it sure is awesome...

For more info on their wild instruments, go to www.musicvox.com

THING FIVE:  How this all fits together:  Making Poor Man's Guitars

Milestones are funny things.  You don't realize you're making them until after they happen.  Pictured above is page 141 from my book, Making Poor Man's Guitars which tells more of the Allen Woody story.

Wow...I published a book!  I'm still amazed.  

If it wasn't for

  • the encouragement to build instruments from Allen Woody,
  • the confidence to promote them from Experimental Musical Instruments
  • and the reassurance of my writing and marketing abilities from Musicvox 

...I probably would have never written the book.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so let me say this...

Thank you, Allen Woody.

Thank you, Gov't Mule.

Thank you, Bart Hopkin and Experimental Musical Instruments.

Thank you, Matt Eichen.

And thank you to all my friends.

You are loved.

Shane 


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