5 Guitar Builders You Need To Know!

5 Names You Need to Know

By Marc Johnson for TheToneKing.com

At The Tone King, we’re always keeping tabs of the next big thing in the music industry. Sometimes the next big thing comes from a big name like Fender or Gibson, but sometimes it comes from guys who you wouldn’t necessarily recognize walking down the street. We love these guys because they are the guys who are moving against the grain and are in it for the love of the instrument rather than a fat bottom line. TheToneKing.com will keep watching these luthiers closely, hopefully before they get too big and don’t want to talk to us anymore.

Rico Jr.:

Followers of TTK will already know this guy from our review of Rico Jr. Guitar’s Hybrid Vixen. But for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Bernie Rico Jr. is the son of the founder of B.C. Rich Guitars. Yes, that B.C. RICH! Some say that he’s carrying on the family tradition, but he seems interested in going farther than that. He makes axes for any style on the musical spectrum and offers tons of options for your custom build. Everything is custom, from the point that you call in your order; you are asked a barrage of questions on how you would like your axe. They are really interested in building a guitar that suits you and not just giving you one off of their shelf. On top of all of that, the guitars look killer!  

Wayne Charvel:

It might be because his original designs have ended up in the hands of Fender, but Wayne Charvel is proud to call himself “anti-corporate”. But, that hasn’t stopped him from building great USA made guitars. If anything, it’s probably helped him. It would definitely explain why his client list extends decades and why you will find everyone from Van Halen to Jim Root on his roster.



Dean Zelinsky:

After debuting his original line of guitars at West Coast NAMM in 1977, Dean (from Dean Guitars, now DBZ Guitars) has always show his passion for guitars by producing some of the most recognizable guitars ever. Does the Dimebag Darrell “Dean From HELL” guitar ring a bell? Well, how about the ZZ Top Spinning Fur Guitars? Yeah, we thought you’d remember those. Well, Dean’s hands are the ones behind those great guitars, including the famous ML Guitar, also one of the first to use Dimarzio Pickups in a production guitar. Now, Dean has left the corporate world and has started DBZ Guitars to build guitars that continue to represent his passion and his vision.


Neal Moser:

Neal has been the man behind the scenes for just about everyone. Starting with Vox in ’65, he moved on to being a repair guy at a guitar shop on the west coast. There, he garnered a name for himself by working on guitars for guys like Jimi Hendrix and David Crosby. After that he went to work with Rico Sr. in ’74 and ended up designing guitars like the “RICH BICH”, which is still in production today. Among others, he’s also worked with Wayne Charvel. Now, he’s building his own custom guitars in the San Fernando Valley in California. But, Neal’s not as concerned with making sales as he is in continuing the Luthier tradition. To keep it going, he offers classes where teaches how to build and maintain guitars. 

Ed Roman:

The “Guitar King of Las Vegas” is probably the most controversial man in the industry today. Check out his rant page on his website and you’ll be treated to themes like, “Corporate guitar companies are ruining our industry forever” and “you are screwing the entire American way of life”. Yeah, he can talk, but, unlike most people, he can back up his talk with great guitars. He manufactures thirteen different brands in-house and offers custom options on pretty much everything. Particularly amazing is his inlay work, and he has a 2 ½ inch Hollow Body Thinline Acoustic that has probably the coolest looking neck-joint that TTK has ever seen.


All of these guys have one thing in common: They are packing up and leaving the corporate machine to start things over and to build the guitars that they want to build. You should check these guys out. Even if you aren’t going to buy anything, at least send them a thanks for continuing to bring us some great guitars. TheToneKing.com will keep telling you guys about these innovators of the industry. So, if you guys know anyone out there that you think deserves a shout out, let us know, and we’ll see if they make the next round.

Tiny URL for this post:


Filed Under: FeaturedGuitars

About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for TheToneKing.com, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

RSSComments (17)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.