The first time I saw one of his axes up close was a bass for the bassist of Burma Jam. When played thru a few 18″ cabs this thing really shook the house. The workmanship was all there too; no loose ends everything how it should be…built to last! Later a band members housemate had a Firebird style Rodriguez: again low-frills, built like a brickhouse.
Sometimes in life you just know people through a process of osmosis. You see their band play- lots, sometimes by surprise when seeing another. Then you make food and drinks, or do a gig yourself at this or that rock dive bar. They’re there too and you rap a bit about guitars, and renovating, carpentry and of course music. The more you talk the more you realize this person has a wicked dry sense of humor that’ll either go over your head or slice it off, and they know guitars inside out. Over time you realize almost everyone you know knows this human, and they all dig his multi~string creations aka Rodriguez Guitars.
Eventually someone told me he really specialized in Spanish aka classical guitars. This is a whole other level not all electric guitar builders get into. The tolerances are more demanding and so is the clientele (not to say rockers are not also myopically guitar gear obsessed). Often this 2cd group of players need to play very structured music theory pieces which every timbre must be controlled to what the sheet music dictates. The finger vibrato must sing and the sustain…well if you thought Nigel Tufnel’s ’59 Les Paul could wail, these cats want sustain for miles too! With no further delays, Xarriviewz presents the man with the guitar building plan, Tom of Rodriguez Guitars answers what really counts for quality? How that applies from classical or steel string, from electric to ukuleles!
TR: Teles, Firebirds and Jrs make up a large portion of what I do with electric guitar building because they are classic designs that work, not many people are into something different. I can sell my own designs for more money but the market is limited and I usually do it through boutique dealers. For as rebellious as “rock & roll “ performers are they all seem to just want a Les Paul through a Marshall and there is so much more out there now.
Do these type of guitars get down to the real goal of good tone by avoiding the pitfalls of excessive switching and Rube Goldberg type trem (or as you know actually a misnomer, vibrato) bridges? In other words do too many commercial and even boutique builders put too much resources into everything except the critical core that being woods selection & build quality.
TR: I’ve gotten to the point where I like things to be as streamlined as possible, I want to eliminate anything that can go wrong on stage, maybe because I only bring one guitar to a show. I don’t like coil taps out of phase switches tremolos, it doesn’t mean I won’t do them but… A lot of people think that a custom guitar should be exotic woods but woods don’t have a class system like people. I like using woods like poplar, birch and straight grain maple and others that don’t normally get used, limiting choices because it is a cheap wood limits the possibilities. My current guitar has a sassafras body and a red birch neck, nobody would choose those but every one that plays that guitar is blown away. Build quality really is the most important thing.