The Charvel Surfcaster debuted in 1992 and at the time it was a bit of an anachronism. A little too early to cash in on the grunge-inspired attraction to vintage designs, and a little too late for the kind of clean-toned, ‘The Cure’ type tones it excelled at, the Surfcaster’s most notable user was probably Anthrax’s Scott Ian, who used one for the clean tones in the track ‘Black Lodge’ from The Sound Of White Noise and was pictured with one on the cover of a 1993 edition of Guitar World. These semi-hollow, lipstick pickup-toting axes never quite got the respect they deserved, although those who did buy them evidently loved them because it’s quite rare to see them on the used market. When you do find them, expect to pay around USD$1,000. The Surfcaster design lived on until 2005, by which time it had been shifted to sister company Jackson, with production moved from Japan to India. Personally I’d love to see Surfcasters return to regular production under Charvel.
I love these retro designs. The SGV series was probably a bit to wild for most players, with its slight upside-down melted Rickenbacker bass look and unconventional whammy bridge which worked great when you gave it a little TLC but was maybe a little too high maintenance for some. The SGV-800 (and the more upscale SGV-1200) had a pair of P90-style single coils which were fat and growly. The SGV-700 (and lower-priced little buddy the SGV-300) rocked a smaller single coil and a very unique humbucker. The retro/modern look wasn’t lost on Meegs from Coal Chamber, who used a black custom shop SGV with twin humbuckers, a fixed bridge, drop-tuning lever on the low E string, and number-shaped fretboard position markers, Jason Becker-style. You can find SGVs on eBay and in pawnshops pretty regularly and while they were underappreciated in their day, a little set-up know-how makes them a bargain well worth seeking out today.
Washburn Steve Stevens
These models were advertised somewhat heavily in the guitar magazines when Stevens was a member of Motley Crue singer Vince Neil’s solo band circa 1993. I remember seeing the truss rod adjustment at the base of the neck, as well as the 2-humbucker, 1 volume, 1 tone control layout and thinking “Dude’s trying to make a Strat-style guitar out of an Ernie Ball Music Man Edward Van Halen.” Funnily enough, by the time the Vince Neil tour rolled around, Stevens was playing… Ernie Ball Music Man Edward Van Halens. There were three versions of Washburn’s Steve Stevens signature guitar: two Chicago custom shop-built models (the SS80 and SS100) and the Korean-made SS40. The SS100 had a white front with a Frankenstein graphic and black back and sides, while the SS80 was solid black. Pickups were a set of slanted Seymour Duncan JBs, and the body wood was poplar. Check out this old-school Washburn advertisement.
CLICK HERE to see Yamaha SGV guitars on eBay.
Fender Tommy Emmanuel Telecaster
Tommy Emmanuel is well known for his amazing acoustic playing, but those who started following Tommy’s career in recent years might be surprised to know he once had a signature Fender Telecaster. Very similar in design to Fender’s Nashville Telecaster, this Mexico-made axe was made exclusively for the Australian market, and it added a Strat-style middle single coil to the traditional Telecaster layout. It also had a six saddle bridge with old-school saddles (not those big flat ones like you see on Deluxe series Fenders), and a blue finish which recalled, without directly copying, Tommy’s blue Fender Custom Shop Telecaster, which had three black Bartolini single coils and white body binding. Tommy’s main Telecaster squeeze though was a gorgeous 66 Custom, also with Bartolonis. See that one here. (Fender Tommy Emmanuel Telecaster photo from the Fendertalk forums).
Ibanez Steve Lukather (SL1010SL)
Steve Lukather’s current Ernie Ball Music Man signature is so kickass a guitar that it’s easy to forget that in the early-mid 80s he had a signature Ibanez. Part of the Roadstar II series, Luke’s model featured a carved birdseye maple top on a basswood body, a maple neck with ebony fretboard, two Ibanez humbuckers (a Super 58 in the neck and an SL Special – essentially an overwound Super 58 – in the bridge position), 22 frets, subtle cross inlays, coil splitting performed via the volume and tone pots, and the much-maligned Pro Rock’r bridge, which had a locking nut and fine tuners but wasn’t as stable as Ibanez’s later Edge series models.