Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince Has Died - The Guitars He Used Throughout His Career.

Prince Rogers Nelson known to all as Prince died today at his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota after experiencing flu-like symptoms. Prince was an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist, guitarist, vocalist and record producer. In short Prince was a prodigy.

At 18 years of age he was given not just a recording contract with Warner Brothers Records, but free reign to the production of his first album. He was known for his flamboyant stage work, wide vocal range and his variety of styles that range from pop to funk to rock to soul to hip hop and disco. His latest venture was to tour with a big jazz band.

Prince was briefly hospitalized Friday after his plane had to make an emergency landing at Illinois' Quad City International Airport. Authorities confirmed today that they were dispatched to the Paisley Park studios this morning, where they found the singer unresponsive in an elevator. Their attempts to revive him failed and he was pronounced dead at the scene. He was only 57 years old. Throughout his career Prince used several different guitars in his stage act.

One of the guitars was a distinctive Telecaster style instrument that had an ash body surrounded by a dark tortoise-shell binding on its top and bottom.

The plastic pickguard appeared to be tortoise-shell. There was also a thin strip of binding material down the center of the body, from the end of the bridge to the rear of the guitar. The headstock was very similar to that of a Fender Telecaster, except for the brand, which said Hohner.

The other feature distinguishing this instrument from a genuine Fender was its bridge. Instead of the typical Telecaster bridge, this guitar had a bridge similar to that found on a hard-tail Stratocaster. Surrounding the bridge was an oval of plastic that matched the pickguard. It was a very distinctive look.

Most of us know that Hohner is a German company well known for their excellent harmonicas, accordions, and reed based instruments.

During the 1960’s Hohner branched out into manufacturing the Pianet electric piano and the Clavinet, which was an electric version of the 17th century instrument called the clavichord, which simply described is a smaller version of a harpsichord. In the 1970’s, I was unaware they were manufacturing guitars.

Hohner, founded in 1857 by Matthias Hohner, became the world’s largest producer of harmonicas. The company continued under his family heirs through the 1965. By the 1970’s the company branched out into electric instruments.

It was in the early 1980’s when Hohner joined forces with the Sabian Cymbal Company and Sonor. Due to declining sales, the company underwent massive lay-offs in 1986 and the Kunz-Holding GmbH & Co acquired most of its assets.

By 1997, the assets became the property of K.H.S. Musical Instruments Co. Ltd., based in Taiwan. Most of the manufacturing moved to Asia, although some high-end products are manufactured in Europe.

This guitar was made by a Japanese factory called Moridaira that was founded in 1967 by Toshio "Mori" Moridaira. This company produced some high quality reproduction guitars to by "badged" by other companies. In this case it was Hohner. This Tele copy was originally known as a H.S. Anderson Mad Cat.

There were only about 500 of these guitars produced in the early 1970's.

Later on these would be made in Korea by the Cort Company as The Prinz guitar. Prince used his original Japanese model early in his career on records and in the movie Purple Rain.

When I first saw the film, I was astonished that someone who could afford to play an expensive, big-name instrument would be playing this knock-off by Hohner.

However, I have friends and know of pros that continue to stick with the instruments they started out playing.

I later learned Hohner designated this instrument the Hohner TE.

Through the years, Hohner continued to offer the guitar.. Changes occurred to make its appearance more like a Telecaster. The bridge changed to a metal plate with a six adjustable bridge saddles. The colours changed and the binding on the rim disappeared.

Hohner continues to offer a well-made version of this instrument, now known as the Prince guitar. The headstock has changed to include the German-cut, popularized by Roger Rosmeisl.

Prince had changes made to his Hohner that included the installation of Kinman Broadcaster pickups, accomplished by changing the routing of the pickguard and bridge plate.

The Kinman units come with a pre-wired harness, which replaced the original controls. You can see the neck pickup has exposed pole pieces, much like the bridge pickup.

As his fame grew, Prince commissioned some custom guitars. The first being built in 1983.

The builder, David Husain, was employed at the Knute Koupee music store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He created The Cloud Guitar. As I have done further research I find the builders name is Dave Rusan, I leave both names and links to both sources.

This is the guitar with the extreme upper horn. The original seems to have a white finish. The wood for the entire instrument was maple. It has a 24.75” scale with 22 frets and a 12” radius. The two pickups are EMG’s. The bridge pickup is an active humbucker and the neck has a single coil pickup. Schaller made all the hardware.

This includes a tune-o-matic style bridge and tailpiece and machine heads. All hardware is gold plated. The controls are simple; one volume, one tone and a 3-way pickup switch. The nut on the headstock is brass. The entire instrument, including the neck, is painted one colour.

The original instrument came in a white finish and featured spade symbol fret markers. It was seen at the end of Purple Rain. Unfortunately, it became a casualty during a concert.

Prince had thee other Clouds made, although some of these underwent multiple paint changes. The next version has a black paint job; however, the fretboard is natural maple. Another Cloud Guitar has a peach finish with small black dot markers.

Prince gave this away as a price. Prince later commissioned a blue Cloud guitar that he called Blue Angel. Like the peach version, this also has black dot markers. Another black Cloud produced, that had an entirely black finish with “bat” fret markers.

The next Cloud had a yellow paint job. Finally, another blue Cloud guitar was produced. This time the knobs were gold plated and the body’s profile was rounded. The Yellow Cloud sold for $18,750 in Minneapolis.

There is a White Cloud on exhibit at the Smithsonian. Others are at various Hard Rock Cafes. Prince named the four Cloud guitars, North, South, East, and West.

Schecter guitars offered copies of the Cloud guitars for sale on Prince’s website. However, the website recently shut down. Some of the Schecter guitars have bolt-on necks, and some have through-the-body necks. The bolt-on instruments have a 25.5” scale. None of the Schecter instruments has the “Love” symbol.

The other guitar identified with Prince is the Symbol Guitar. This instrument was custom built by German luthier, Jerry Auerswald. This guitar made from antique maple and has neck-through-body construction.

The neck scale is 24.75” and the fretboard has 24 medium jumbo frets.

Mr. Auerswald installed EMG pickups on this guitar similar to those on the Cloud guitar. The luthier custom built the bridge and installed Schaller machine heads, with custom-made buttons. The original guitar came with a gold finish.

Prince had his guitar technician built two more of the Symbol instruments. The tech accomplished this by taking measurements of the original instrument and sending them to Schecter. One guitar was white and the other was painted black over the mahogany bodies.

Due to Prince’s guitar acrobatics, the guitars did not last too long. He would throw the instruments in the air and let the guitars drop to the ground. Thus, the horns snapped off and the techs would patch them up.

Much like the Cloud guitars, the tech-made Symbol guitars underwent repainting. At times, the guitar were not only black and white, but also yellow, gold, orange and of course, purple.

Auerswald designed another guitar for Prince. This one is known as the Model C. It is a very unique instrument with two distinct features. The obvious is the stabilizer bar that runs from the body to the headstock. This is very reminiscent of the first Roland Synth guitar. If you look carefully you will notice no tuners on the headstock. The tuners are at the end of the bridge.

Prince has used several other guitars, which include a Fender Stratocaster that has an entirely gold finish. This instrument recently fetched $100,000 at a charity auction held this past April.

Prince and Hamilton

The buyer was race car driver Lewis Hamilton. The proceeds are benefiting the Harlem Children’s Zone, a non-profit organization that serves over 8,000 children and 6,000 adults.

Sadowsky with Prince's reproduction guitar
Update 09/2016. I just read in the latest issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine that luthier Roger Sadowsky built 6 guitars for Prince. He was commissioned by Prince after the artist could no longer find any H.S. Anderson Madcat guitars. Sadowsky made six guitars for Prince, two of which were reproductions of the Hohner H.S. Anderson model.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)


Unknown said...

Thank you Marc...Kimberley Slayback Beckett

Kim Beckett said...

Thank you Marc...Kimberley Slayback Beckett

marcus ohara said...

Thanks Kim for stopping by. Love to you!

Anonymous said...

Dave Rusan built the original white cloud guitar.

marcus ohara said...

I rechecked my resources regarding The Cloud guitar. The source I used said Dave Hussain. Now I see another source that says Dave Rusan. I'll update with both names. This guitar is in the Smithsonian Institute now, which speaks volumes about the popularity on Prince and the impact he made on modern music.

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