Gavetone, Custom Telecaster Guitar, 1986 - Steve Vai


Custom Telecaster
The Story Behind

Gavin H. Menzies has a long history working with musicians since the mid seventies. Even if he largely works and is appreciated as a guitar technician, he found him-self building several guitars for Steve Vai for his 1986 tour with David Lee Roth.

This was the first attempt of Gavin to built one of the commissioned guitars which was custom made by Gavin "Gavtone" with the monkey grip into the body after Steve Vai had his gear stolen. 

Elwood Francis guitar tech for Steve Vat remembers in Vintage Guitar magazine the genesis of the cooperation with Gavin Menzies:

"I was the guitar tech for Steve Vai from the Alcatrazz days through the David Lee Roth “Eat ’Em and Smile Tour” and there is a lot of misinformation out there concerning (his early) guitars. Steve Soest did assemble four guitars using parts from Performance Guitar after most of Mr. Vai's guitars were stolen near the end of rehearsals for the Roth tour. Time was short, so we outsourced the job to Gavin Menzies, a well-known guitar guru in L.A., who in turn contacted Mr. Soest."

Gavin Menzies on his adventure with Steve Vai’s guitars:

“Steve Vai checked it out and didn't want a tele sound so I put in a single coil stack pickup and it sounded bad so i started on guitar number 2 for him. I built him 6 guitars. This was the very first one. I did not paint it as I wanted Steve's thoughts first.

Elwood (Vai's tech then) tells a pretty good version in VG magazine he said there was 4, actually there were 6 with a prototype.  About 8 or 9 years ago I went to Steve's house. I was working with bikers against drunk drivers. He donated annie fanny and the purple sunburst with the finger grip. 

Steve was very specific as to how he wanted these guitars to look and sound and told me exactly how he wanted them built including, the cut out “monkey grip” suit case handle feature. 

Also all necks and bodies for Steve Vai's guitars were supplied by Performance Guitars and pickups all came from Steve Blutcher at DiMarzio. Performance was not to happy I recut the headstock into a Fender shape.”

So at the end this is the very first prototype of a guitar with Vai's “monkey grip” which can be found thereafter on his Ibanez guitars.

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