Review of GVCG Ultimate '55 Tele

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by CNP, Aug 31, 2005.


  1. CNP

    CNP Member

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    I’m new to this great forum, and I’m the lucky new owner of a Greenwich Village Custom Guitars (GVCG) Ultimate ’55 Telecaster relic. This is such an exceptional instrument, such a wonderful piece, that I feel compelled to write this review. First, a little background—I’ve been playing guitar for about 30 years, lately as a “serious” hobbyist only due to family, job, etc. During this time I’ve owned and played a ton of guitars—vintage, Custom Shop, boutique, ordinary, you name it. I’m really not a gear snob—if it plays and sounds good, it works for me. In fact, after years of collecting, I think my stock Mexican Jimmie Vaughan Strat is the best playing (but not sounding) Strat I’ve owned. True, this JV’s exceptional—I’ve played and owned several that don’t compare—but even a basic, stock guitar can have the goods... Now, to the GVCG Ultimate ’55. It is absolute magic. Jonathan Wilson, who builds each GVCG by hand, has a unique gift. (He also seems like a helluva nice guy.) Somehow, I don’t know how, he has done the impossible. He’s managed to create a guitar that absolutely looks, feels and even smells like a 50 year old, well-used Telecaster. Pick it up (it weighs only 6.5 pounds), and you just “feel” that the wood and nitro has air dried for many, many years. I don’t know if Jonathan actually uses old wood, but it certainly feels like it. The relic’ing is just unbelievable. I’ve owned and played Fender Custom Shop relics, as well as “boutique” relics, and they just don’t compare to the GVCG in these respects. I’ve also been lucky enough to own a real ’57 Esquire, and this GVCG Tele could be mistaken for such a vintage instrument, except... The GVCG plays better. Much better. I find myself sitting in my office at work, or driving in my car, just thinking about how it feels in my hands. This may seem odd, but I’m sure some of you understand! As for the tone, it is fabulous. Huge, warm, punchy, complex, “woody” (an overused cliche, I know, but really appropriate here) and just damn fine. Clean, it can sound big and deep, or smooth and warm. Dirty, it just rips. The pickups are specially made by Lollar, and they’re fantastic. I’ve always favored John Suhr’s Tele pickups, which sound great in my Custom Shop Nocaster—a bit more modern than typical vintage style pickups, but with great vintage tones on tap, too. The Lollars definately sound more vintage, not quite as in your face or “liquid” as the Suhrs, but ballsy and warm, and with plenty of cut but never too thin or piercing. The best way I can describe the GVCG overall is that to me it’s the “Platonic ideal” of a vintage ’55 Tele. Like no real one in existence, but a compilation of ideal characteristics. I know there are a lot of superlatives in this review, and I’ve read glowing reviews of lots of guitars in other forums, but this guitar really is special. In my opinion, if you can scrape up the bucks for one of these GVCG guitars, get yourself one and you won’t be sorry. I’ll just close by saying that I’m in no way affiliated with GVCG, and I don’t know Jonathan Wilson personally. However, I feel that true genius and dedication deserves to be recognized. I’d also like to say that Cliff Cultreri, a great guy and a real gentleman, was extremely informative and helpful in providing me with information on GVCG guitars. Thanks so much Cliff-- you were 100% right! Sorry if I’ve rambled here!
     
  2. Topcat

    Topcat Member

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    CNP,

    I couldn't agree with you more. I own the '55 Flatpole that is on Jonathon's site. It is an absolute 'stellar' guitar. Weighs in at 6.3lbs.-featherweight.

    Jonathon's guitars don't need no stinkin' amp. They ring acoustically like the finest vintage fiddle's. This is when you know you have an exceptional instrument.

    .......Of course an amp doesn't hurt.

    Congrats on your acquisition.

    These are the best, Terry
     
  3. fatback

    fatback Member

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    I should be getting my 53' blackguard by the end of Sept. Your review reinforced everything I'd already felt and heard about Johnathon's guitars. Great stuff!
     
  4. CNP

    CNP Member

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    Thanks, Topcat. You're right-- I forgot to mention in my review how this guitar just rings acoustically. I agree, tho-- even better with an amp! Fatback, you're in for a rare treat!
     
  5. J Purcell

    J Purcell Member

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    CNP

    Great review of a fantastic guitar. I own three of JW's creations and they are without a doubt the finest replicas I have ever had the pleasure to play. I don't know how he does it but they look and feel "and smell" like the real thing.
    Congratultions. Play it well.
     
  6. CNP

    CNP Member

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    Thanks, John. Wow, three of them? Lucky man! Enjoy them!! (And let me know if you ever want to let one go!) ;)
     
  7. J Purcell

    J Purcell Member

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  8. jerseydrew

    jerseydrew Member

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    Hi, what's the link to his website?
     
  9. DestroyAllGuitars

    DestroyAllGuitars Member

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    North Carolina
    CNP,

    Ramble on. I'm so glad you are enjoying your GVCG. I have 5
    of Jonathan's creations with a few more on the way. IMO,
    Jonathan is one of the most talented and gifted builders
    ever. I'm glad you feel the same and most importantly that you
    are enjoying your guitar and that it will hopefully serve as a
    source of inspiration for you for a long time to come.
     
  10. 57special

    57special Silver Supporting Member

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    MN
    I've been enjoying a 53 Esquire i picked up recently. It's down near the bottom of his web page (the one that was originally made for someone in NC). Really nice, a bit more playable than my old 59, rear pup, while not as arresting as my 59's in aggression, is actually more useful. Great job on the body paint and relicing. I also LOVE that he's taken pains to get old caps for the circuit. They really do make a difference... when i turn down the tone knob now i get a GREAT midrangey sound, not mud.
    Some quibbles;
    1- The finish on the neck is almost too sparse (which i can live with). The old Fenders that i've had or played had enough finish to cover the pores in the wood, creating a sheen, then age shrunk the finish back down into the pores . The necks then always felt fast due to the hardness of the finish. Jonathan has tried to simulate (on mine, anyhow) the old finish sunken into wood thing by going easy on the finish, but the "sheen ' , or hardness, isn't there. I'm not old enough to know what the mid 50's fenders felt like when they were new, but i'm betting the neck finish felt slightly thicker and smoother than what is on my Esquire. Of course many 50's fenders have had the finish worn away and blended with the oils and dirt form player's hands, the environments they were played in, etc... getting that effect is impossible. Jonathan's neck finishes feel really good to me, but not exactly like an old fenders.

    2- Lack of router "hump" in cutaway. Automatically alerts one to the fact that it isn't a 50's , early 60's tele. I would've been REALLY impressed if he had gotten this one right.

    BTW, my pup is referred to as a GVCG pup. Does anyone know what that is?
     
  11. DestroyAllGuitars

    DestroyAllGuitars Member

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    Location:
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    It's an Alnico 3 flatpole handmade by Jason Lollar for GVCG.
    Your's is from the 1st run of these pickups. A second, larger run
    has just recently been delivered. Your body was most likely
    CNC'd and then hand shaped which is why it lacks the early
    router hump, as you call it. All of the Esquires, '53 Blackguards
    and '55 Flatpoles that he has cut and shaped by hand do have
    this hump as well as the slight neck-pocket overhang and, as in
    the case with my '53, a not perfect pickguard cut and shape.
    My main '53 has fooled a few experts until they looked in the neck pocket and saw the dedication to me and some other telltale writings from it's creator. The aging under the pickguard,
    in each cavity, under the neck plate and around each screw is
    spot on.
     
  12. 57special

    57special Silver Supporting Member

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    Cliff,
    good info. I was wondering when Fuzzy from the TDPRI expressed relief at the marks being made distinguishing the GCVG's from the real thing, as he said they were "too good", meaning the possibility of them being passed off as real was high. I knew that he wouldn't have missed the router hump.
     
  13. DestroyAllGuitars

    DestroyAllGuitars Member

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    57special,

    Jonathan at GVCG is a true artist and does not want his pieces
    out there as forgeries. On the ones that are dead on, he places
    very prominent markings to let everyone know exactly what they
    are. I was offered close to 20K for one of his pieces until
    popping the neck off and having a good laugh when the
    potential buyer learned what I knew all along. That fellow has
    recently sold a '65 candy apple red Strat and bought a GVCG.
     
  14. Just1more

    Just1more Member

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    Westlake Village, Ca.
    On the "T" style guitars, the bridge plates would be anyone's first clue, the castings are different, a small round indentation in the center.
     
  15. DestroyAllGuitars

    DestroyAllGuitars Member

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    Absolutely, unless he is using a bridge plate and hardware
    from that period, which is the case with some of the guitars.
     
  16. skiraly017

    skiraly017 Guest

    ...let's see some frickin' pictures!



    Please? :D
     
  17. J Purcell

    J Purcell Member

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    Scott,
    Pictures incoming.
     
  18. skiraly017

    skiraly017 Guest

    I thought I read he was making the East to West move. Is he up and running yet? Will there be a storefront location?
     
  19. DestroyAllGuitars

    DestroyAllGuitars Member

    Messages:
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    Feb 28, 2002
    Location:
    North Carolina
    He's up and running and I'm the storefront and will have a new
    website momentarily. I will add you to the email list as we have
    somre incredible pieces in the works. Both "S" and "T" types.
    Yes "S" types. We have a series of Ultimate models coming.
    The next will be the Ultimate Blonde '60's Slab Board "T" . It
    weighs in at under 6 pounds and I will be posting it for sale
    before the weekend is out. Everyone opn the list will get the
    email at the same time and the first to respond with the buy it
    price , will be a happy camper. This guitar is possibly GVCG's
    best work to date. In Jonathan's mind it is definitely a new
    benchmark, and I couldn't agree more.
     
  20. J Purcell

    J Purcell Member

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    Cliff,
    Please add my name to the list.

    Thanks John
     

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