Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery …

By Francis The Grin Gray

I have come across a few critical opinions. Everyone is entitled to such and should carry the right to it as much as their right to breath, but one also must consider the effect of what is being said. I have heard it said that some individuals dislike companies like Ibanez and ESP/LTD making Les Paul or Stratocaster style bodies. I can understand where their heads are and I feel they do have something, but I also think this is near sighted, if not an unfair generalization.

What am I talking about? Well I will admit, it is not exactly an epidemic, or even a man on his soapbox. I suspect it is the old guard who has these grievances. The ones who remember when the first strat came out and stayed just as loyal to Fender as their brand of beer (which also annoys me in a diminutive measures). The guitar named after the man, the Les Paul has been an often sought after guitar with many generations. Just as I am inspired by Danko Jones to play rock, or Ihsahn to play metal, it is only my suspicion that LTD was inspired by what they loved and created the EC-1000 in their own image. So to with the ST-213 or TE-212, and you can’t tell me the Phoenix doesn’t remind you of a Firebird. My Ibanez has a Fender shape body. We all openly acknowledge this as a fact, but scarcely refer to Les Paul bodies as such in my experience. It almost seems a little taboo. Even then, when an almost unheard of brand begins their line with a Les Paul body, it will sell. Names I have seen: Raven, Jay Turser and Mann. I frequent the pawnshops every so often and majority of what I see are Strat copies. Names: Rocker, Nova and Academy.

My active point in this piece is that all of the above examples are acceptable. I love my Ibanez and Peavey with the strat style bodies. A known fact about me is that I cannot, for the life of me, play a Les Paul. It just doesn’t feel right with me, but I still dream of an ESP K-500, and in that you have the answer. I can’t play a Les Paul, but other brands will have me covered as far as off the shelf guitars go.

But there is still some questions missing. What are the alternatives to the classic body styles? Off hand, many of us would look to B.C. Rich for a brand that about corners the market in literally “sharp looking” guitars. One could possibly justify the thought of a Virgin next to a strat, but what of the Beast, Mockingbird, or the ever enduring Warlock? What twisted dream did these shapes spawn from; I would like to find out one day. What if you wanted more of a Jazz friendly image, where would you look? After Rickenbacker and Danelectro, I honestly don’t know. The internet has no shortage of those who tried to make some new shape, and you will generally find them under the phrase “Ugly Guitar”, where many of them just become a novelty. Personally I hate the look of multiple neck guitars.

What about the legality of it all? I looked all over my house to find an old issue of Guitar (World/One), where they had an article about Duff Mckagan and a new album if memory serves right. He told the story about his time in Japan where he found and fell in love with a Burny guitar, who is a company associated with Fernandes. The Burny was far too close to the design features of a Les Paul, so Gibson had a copyright chip on their shoulder. The end result was that Burny guitars are not to be sold in North America, and possibly the U.K. This is all from my own decaying memory though; I would recommend fact checking before you tell your friends you’re off to Japan. The main point here is that Gibson won’t be shy about protecting their design rights, so other companies must have something worked out. I have no known knowledge of Fender doing the same.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton

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Filed Under: Commentary / Editorials

About the Author: Started playing bass at 15. It was Danko Jones who inspired me to play at all, and in a small town I couldn't be picky on what I can get my hands on, so I bought a squire with pride. Obtained a B.C. Rich guitar months later. Moved to the city at 17. At 19 joined my first metal band as a bassist which ended at 20. Joined a bass heavy rock band, which I loved being in whole heartily. I now wait to venture into a new project. For the time being though, I am exploring my abilities as a writer.

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