As boutique builders continue to increase in numbers, they look to differentiate themselves by finding a niche within which they can specialize. Sometimes this niche is all about building the closest replica of a famous ‘50s era guitar as we see from luthiers such as Ruokongas, Nacho, Suhr, Anderson or Gil Yaron. Still other luthiers seek to create a completely new design such as guitars by Lava Drops, Skervesen, or Zerberus. And then there’s the hybrid creations. Many of today’s great luthiers including Johan Gustavsson, Nick Huber, Terry McInturff, Gene Baker and Roger Giffin all play with creating new guitar designs that combine different Fender and Gibson features.
I really like many of these new guitars, especially when it feels like the builder strikes a unique balance. However, not all hybrids are created equal or try to combine features from these famous manufacturers equally. Certain guitar features require making clear choices that can drive the guitar more towards one manufacturer than another. To use a Fender 25 ½” scale neck or a Gibson 24 ¾” neck? Or to go with humbuckers or single coils, or both? To have a more Gibson like body shape or a more Fender like shape, or a combination of both. And on and on.
Some of my favorite hybrid designs are guitars that make a statement by either finding the sweet spot between two different guitar types or guitars that unapologetically end up being something very different and very niche in terms of feel and tones.
One very fine example of something unique is Gene Baker’s B3 Phoenix. The Phoenix is a hybrid between a Telecaster and a Firebird. Aesthetically speaking, this is one very cool looking guitar. With a 24 ¾” neck, they come in a variety of pickup configurations including mini-humbuckers, humbuckers and of course, single coils. With a Tele-esque fixed bridge, the Phoenix can be had with either a side or top loaded jack. These guitars are pretty hard to come by and run around the $4K range. People love the way they play and their versatility in tones is also finding great appeal. If you haven’t seen these two videos on Youtube, go check them out.
Another great hybrid guitar comes from Jol Dantzig and is called “The Tulsa”. This guitar has a 25.5” Fender scale neck, but with “short scale grunt”, according to Dantzig’s website. Jol says that he “envisioned a guitar that would be comfortable to play for Tele and Strat lovers who wanted a little of that Les Paul muscle without sacrificing their rhythm sound.” The result is a unique instrument in both tone and feel. Have a look and listen.
Dennis Fano is another builder who offers up a variety of hybrid designs including the Fano Alt de Facto SP6, a Gibson Les Paul body shape with Telecaster hardware and electronics, and the Fano TC6 Alt de Facto, more of a Fender Tele shaped body that comes with an ABR Tune-o-matic bridge and dual humbuckers. Both guitars can be custom ordered with different pickup and bridge configurations. Check out this link...
One of my favorite hybrid builders is Terry McInturff. He has created both the Carolina Custom and the Taurus, which both lean towards Gibson, but clearly blend Fender elements in terms of body shape. Here's a clip...
Perhaps my favorite builder in this genre of guitars is Johan Gustavsson. His Bluesmaster ’59 leans heavily in the Les Paul direction. So much so, it has even been called the “Burst Buster” by Tom Wittrock. However, Gustavsson has created a beautiful body shape that is clearly Telecaster inspired. Gustavsson also makes a variety of other hybrid guitars including his Fender leaning “Fullerblaster”. For a closer look, use this link...
So which one is right for you? Well, you know the answer to this one. You’ll have to get out there and try them and decide for yourself. Even after your initial choice to lean more towards Fender or more towards Gibson, you may be surprised by what you find that has you re-thinking all you thought you ever wanted in a guitar.
Here's a list of some great hybrid builders you may want to check out: Beardsell, B&G, Dantzig, Fano, Giffin, Gustavsson, Huber, Kauer, LaGrange, McInturff, McMull, Springer, Echopark, and Yaron.