WRC, Neptune Custom, 1992 – Fred Newell


Neptune Custom
Serial Number: 
The Story Behind

The WRC (Wayne Charvel) 'Neptune' Series had hand cracked abalone custom body finish.

All started with Ritz Guitar Co. which produced guitars in 1988 & 1989 over an 8 month period in Northern California and were famous for their amazing cracked shell mosaic finishes on their 'Neptune' Series, each little piece of shell was hand-cracked and stuck on the guitar body by hand. Produced by Wayne Charvel and Eric Galletta and part owned by Brad Becnel's Sunset Ladders (Sunset Guitars) of South El Monte, CA, they made around 150 guitars with only about 25 being the cracked shell 'Neptune' models. The other models were the 'Exotic' series, which used rare woods (e.g. Cocobolo) and kept them as a natural finish, there was a one off 'Exotic' model made from small pieces of rare woods stuck together like a mosaic to form the body of the guitar, in a similar idea to the shell finished 'Neptune' series. The lower cost 'Classic' Series had painted or Zolatone finishes. All body shapes were Strat style, however, there is a rumor that a V shaped Ritz Neptune exists. The examples of shell types available were; Violet Oyster, Brown Lip, Black Lip, Green Shell, Abalone Shell, Nautilius Shell, and Snake Lip. Most Ritz Neptunes had Alder bodies for their light weight and some with Maple or Bubinga bodies under the shell finish. They mainly used Seymour Duncan, PAF (pickup) or Schaller Guitarenparts pickups (The Schaller's were custom made for Ritz and looked a little like EMG's and re-named as 'Ritz pickups' for the catalog, the Schaller's were the pick ups that Michael Angelo Batio used on his Rocket model.). All came with the Kahler Tremolo System Spyder model. The guitars retailed for over $2500.00.

Michael Angelo Batio was the most famous user of these guitars. He appeared in The Ritz Guitar Ad with a 'Brown Lip' Ritz Neptune along with his famous Ritz Quad Guitar (originally built by Wayne as he was under contract with Gibson Guitars; the headstock logo later changed to 'RITZ') which had 4 necks and was famously stolen on the second night of his band Nitro's first show in El Paso Texas. A range of Ritz Neptunes can be seen in the Nitro video 'Freight Train' including an Abalone shell finish guitar originally made for Howard Lesse of the band Heart (Leese never took delivery of the guitar however). This guitar which is the Neptune that Michael Angelo uses the most in the Freight Train video is also exactly the same one that featured on the Ritz catalog cover. Also in the Nitro video a Brown Lip, Nautilus guitar and Nautilus Bass guitar (as used by bassist TJ Racer) and also a yellow Classic model Ritz. There was also a Ritz 'Rocket' model made for Michael Angelo.

Mike Hall, the guitarist with the band Killer Dwarfs also used a Ritz Neptune in the bands video 'Dirty Weapons'. Nancy Wilson and Howard Leese of Heart used Ritz Guitars in the 1990 Heart video "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You". Leese also had a Ritz custom made for him that was featured on the front of the Ritz catalog.

The Ritz Guitar Company went out of business and resurfaced with the cracked shell finish Neptunes and a slight design change under the name WRC Guitars, which is the initials for Wayne Richard Charvel (which also included some telecaster body designs).

Those guitar have to be seen to be appreciated. The good news is that they are still available. Eric Galletta, who did the original design for the Ritz and WRC guitars, still produces these beauties under the brand name Galletta Guitars. Check him out: http://www.gallettaguitars.com/

This WRC Neptune Custom guitar number 64 was owned by Fred Newell. The colors are simply stunning and the guitar has a great sustain. Electronics and pick-ups are special for this guitar.

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