THE HOL[E]Y GUITAR
Some might say it is Russ's trademark, some still question why there are holes in and some very few people had the chance to even touch it. You might imagine, there is a long story behind the holey guitar and of course it starts many, many years ago...
If anyone out there is interested in ‘My First Guitar’ - (and how I acquired it).....There’s a good book for guitar enthusiasts, written by top session bass player, Mo Foster. He persuaded many guitar players to tell the story of their first guitar. It’s a good read and has most of the well known players of the past fifty years, with photographs. My story is in there, along with a pic. of my first group, Norman Eddy and The Imperials, which included sixteen year old Bob Henrit. Cliff Richard is in the picture pretending to give us tips about showbiz...(The photo was taken by The Hertfordshire Mercury)....
The Holey Guitar - It's a strange thing, there's a lot of stuff online about that guitar - many people have copied it: Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult has a similar axe, which he calls the Cheeseburger and Roger Daltrey asked a carpenter some years ago to cut holes in his Les Paul to make it look like my old lady. There's a company making the guitar....Feline Guitars of Croydon. Originally, it was a 1965 Strat.... but let's make it a good story and start at the beginning of my guitar life:
I’d been going to piano lessons for five years, from the ages of eight to thirteen and I really didn’t enjoy the process. Oh!, I liked playing tunes but not being taught or having to practice everyday. I wanted a guitar, and I plagued my Dad over and over,
“I WANT A GUITAR”
That was my mantra for months...”You’re not having one, stick to the piano”. (That was my Dad). I apologise now for sounding so disgustingly spoilt, however, throughout the weeks I worked on him. I knew he could be worn down by continuous nagging...The overpowering need to have a guitar became too much. “This is the night” I thought.
It was a Saturday night and I waited for him to come in from work. Actually, he was in a rotten mood - I think he was tired. As soon as he walked in to the house I gave him my opening gambit....”Dad I want a guitar”. - “You’re not having a guitar, stick to the piano”, he said. “I want one” - I pleaded, “Please” - “No” - “Pleeesse” - “No” - “Pleeaasse”.
“This is not working”, I thought...Now I will use a new plan.... I laid on the floor and kicked the fireplace - “I-WANT-A-GUITAR”. This was either going to lead to the back of Dad’s hand...or....I don’t know where... this was new territory.
Then, as I waited for, I don’t know what, Dad shouted, “Get your coat on” - I wasn’t ready for this, My Father had surrendered and we were in his Lorry driving to Cheshunt to Moore’s music shop. “He wants a guitar...Give him a guitar” - There were probably eight guitars. I chose the most expensive, 10guineas (10pounds fifty pence) I also got a guitar tutor, Burt Weedon's play in a day... We jumped in to the lorry ...”Thanks Dad”. I tried to sound humble....Dad just blurted back “Another bloody five minute wonder". I think he and Mum both enjoyed being part of the journey.
And so my "Guitar-life" began. James Burton was a big influence when I was growing up....I couldn't figure out how he could bend G strings...many people said he used a banjo string. He played the great solos on the Ricky Nelson records. I played a lot on my new guitar until my fingers bled, but soon found out that an electric guitar would be even better... or louder? After I was in hospital the next time, my mother promised me an electric guitar. It was a Hofer Club 60 and with that guitar I got a Truevoice TV10 amplifier.
Well, a Hofer Club 60 is still not my "Holey Fender".... In 1968 I got the guitar ....a black, normal Fender Stratocaster, which I bought from my friend Buster Meikle. When Argent was just beginning, I wanted a personal kind of guitar, so I asked my good friend, Jim Wilkinson to cut some holes in it.... [I liked those holey, metal chairs that were popular in the sixties] and give it a unique colour - gold! It didn't have a Telecaster neck in the 'Hold Your Head Up' days by the way.
As Argent was on tour in America I often threw it up and caught it again, it looked very cool on stage. But one night I did this again and just as I threw it up again, the lights went out and I couldn't see it. It fell down and the neck split. The repairer wrongly fitted a tele neck. I still have this guitar and it sounds better now than ever and I also still have the 'Humbucker' pick up from 1970. Through the 80's I used a Gibson Les Paul, I love the overdrive on it and I have a Heritage series 1978 Les Paul. There are lots of good guitars around and brilliant pick ups. For Rock guitar, Les Paul guitars and Humbucker pick ups are great for edge and distortion - Fender Strats are great for cutting through a track, also, the top end of Fenders, Teles and Strats are probably the best.
One more interesting fact for you.... as mentioned before, there is a company making the guitar, well a replica. They did the first one in 2015, which was an 'inspired by' guitar and then, in 2016, a true lookalike was built, where the guys from Feline Guitars measured every hole exactly... have a look here, the result is amazing. This guitar is owned by a RB Ultra, a longstanding fan.
That was basically my guitar story and the truth behind my holey guitar. Just one more thing, just in case you have seen me live on stage: When I'm on tour now I still throw up my guitar from time to time, but then cross my fingers that nobody will switch off the lights and I catch it again. I can't really explain.... it might be just a "rock stars do this on stage thing" but all the time I'm happy I need no more wrong new necks on my guitars....although this makes my old lady also very special.