1983 Carlo Greco Electric Guitar

 

The late Carlo Greco is something of a legend among Guild fans. He started working at Guild’s factory in Hoboken in 1959; four years later, he was put in charge of production, making him one of the chief architects of Guild guitars for the next decade and a half. He stayed with Guild through their move to Westerly, leaving the company in 1977 to build instruments on his own in New York City. While his subsequent output shows a personal touch – he seemed to like fancy ornamentation in all its forms – Greco’s hand-made work from the last few decades shows a very strong resemblance to Guild products from his tenure.

This archtop guitar is an excellent example. Strip away all that checkered binding and you find a rather unusual design: a carved-top acoustic archtop modified for electric playing without the use of conventional floating pickups. Instead, the top has two oval soundholes through which the pickups protrude. The pickups are mounted on a rod suspended between the neck and tail blocks so as to minimize the dampening of acoustic vibrations. It’s a strange but successful approach that actually dates back to the Guild George Barnes Acousti-Lectric models of the 1960s. Barnes himself came up with the concept as a way to combat feedback; whether it does that is questionable, but it’s hard to argue with the resulting tone. The controls were all suspended on a pickguard so that nothing would interfere with the vibration of the top.

Few Acousti-Lectrics were built – one sources says less than a dozen – but apparently someone commissioned Carlo Greco to revive the design. There are a number of differences between this guitar and the old Guild model: the larger sound holes, the binding, the headstock, the tailpiece, the second toggle switch… but the body shape is nearly identical to all of Guild’s 17” archtops from the early ‘60s onward. The oval soundholes recall a number of one-off Guild archtops built in the ‘60s, including an ornate one for Merle Travis. Greco continued to build guitars until 2011, and commissioning an instrument from him must have been the closest possible experience to finding a time machine and ordering a customized guitar from Guild in the ‘60s. Greco signed the underside of the top in October, 1982, and the serial appears to indicate that the guitar was completed in 1983.

The high-output DiMarzio humbuckers have a very different sound from the classic Guild anti-hum pickups of the ‘60s, but the guitar has a thick tone that works for a range of styles. The second toggle switch is a coil tap for the bridge pickup, which gives it a thinner sound when engaged. Unplugged, the guitar has a loud voice with a surprising amount of bass considering it’s strung with medium-gauge nickel strings. The feel of the guitar is very similar to a Guild X-500 (no surprise there), with a similarly wide and thin profile and large frets. The guitar has survived in remarkably clean condition, with minimal wear all around and no damage or repairs to note.

 

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