electric guitars

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Ron and Susan Wickersham founded Alembic in 1969 as a consulting firm that worked with the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills Nash & Young to improve the quality of their live sound and live recordings. After improving the technical aspects of the PA systems and live recording techniques, Alembic turned their attention to the electronics used in the guitars and basses the musicians were playing to further improve the live sound. Touring bands were experiencing was too much electrical interference and unreliability with their instruments. Ron Wickersham designed low impedance pickups to increase the bandwidth. This also made the pickups low output and so he had to design an active on-board preamp to boost the signal. These were the first guitars with active electronics.


A.C.E. stood for Acoustic Classical Electric guitars. They were made by the Poly-Tech Company of Somersworth, New Hampshire. ACE offered classical, acoustic, archtop and solid body guitars as well as strings.


Tanglewood Guitars was established in 1989 in London. The company supplies electric, steel-string acoustic and classical guitars, bass guitars, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, and guitar amplifiers which are made in China. Tanglewood moved to Biggin Hill, Kent and have also a opened distribution centre in Yorkshire. While their early focus was distribution in the UK and Europe by 2005 they were also selling their guitars in the USA.

Source: Tanglewood website (22 December 2020)


Overwater Basses had its origins in a cellar workshop in Denmark Street, London in 1977 where Chris May and business partner Andy Preston made and repaired guitars and basses. Overwater was officially established in 1979 and soon an additional workshop was opened in Newcastle and then an Overwater factory near Alston. In the early years Overwater made guitars and basses, but by the mid 1980s it became best known for its innovative bass designs. Chris May and the original Overwater team then split from the Newcastle and London businesses to form a separate company. Overwater Basses is now located in Carlisle in the old Atlas Works, where the Overwater team continue to make innovative electric basses.

Source: Overwater Basses website (30 October 2018)


The 9stein combination bass and guitar is pretty rare: designed in the mid 1990s by Michael Reizenstein of Yonkers, New York and made by luthier Tommy Doyle. It has nine strings, tuned in consecutive fourths to allow easy playing in any key.The ergonomic body shape has an adjustable arm rest and lap support. It also has a built-in Boss BU-12 chromatic tuner, to help keep those 9 strings in tune.

The 9stein has a hand wound single humbucker pickup at the neck and fixed tune-o-matic style bridge


Kramer was founded in 1976. It is best known for electric solidbody guitars (played by Edward Van Halen). The Kramer company went bankrupt in 1990, was revived in 1995 and acquired by Gibson in 1996. The current Kramer line includes electrics, acoustics and gear, made overseas since 1998 and sold though MusicYo.

Philippe Dubreuille

Philippe Dubreuille started making guitars in the early 1980s. Dubreuille grew up in Paris then Geneva, he made his first guitar to replace his own lost instrument. He began making guitars for his friends and ended up working in a Geneva guitar repair shop. After working in  a Portugese guitar factory for a while he ended up in London, where he has a workshop in Denmark Street.

Source: Dubreuille Guitars website (17 March 2017)

John Birch

John Birch (1922 - 2000) was an important figure in the 1970s UK electric guitar industry. He is known for making eye-catching guitars for many famous UK guitarists of the era including Roy Wood, Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, and Barry Devlin. He started out making pickups in the early 1960s while working as a service engineer for Ampex. He founded a business in Birmingham selling his pickups and other guitars parts. He also modified guitars - by adding his own pickups, hardware and refinishing them (these changes were not always an improvement!).


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