For more than a few weeks now, I’ve kept this blog pretty
much on the topic of speakers and guitar tone.
I warned ya all that every now and then I’d be off on a wild tangent, and
I think I’m overdue. Let’s talk about
American vs. World manufacturing, and just so as we don’t stray too terribly
far, we’ll keep it in the arena of guitar and amp manufacturing. This will be kinda like a David and Goliath
story; pitting a huge multi-national company against an American
micro-manufacturer (what we in the guitar biz like to call a boutique manufacturer). Playing the part of David will be the Burriss
Amp Company, and Goliath will be embodied by the giant Samick Corp. Sound
good? Well, let’s get going!
I met Bob Burriss while doing a review of his "Dirty Red"
amp for Vintage Guitar magazine. Visiting
the Burriss facility in Lexington, KY was a lot like what I
envisioned it would be like to visit Fender in about 1949 ... and to me, that’s
very cool. Bob’s amps are 100% made in America and nearly all the parts are sourced
from the US
as well. His amps are phenomenal, and
his business is doing great. So, it
turns out we will still pay a little extra for a hand-made in the US amp. Awesome, right?
Me and Guitar design guru JT Riboloff
Here’s where it gets interesting. In this month’s Vintage Guitar you will find
a feature story I did on JT Riboloff, a prolific American guitar designer. JT headed the Gibson Custom Shop, Historic
Division, and R&D dept for many years, right here in good ole’ Nashville, TN. He’s a blue blood through and through. But, and like I said, this is where it gets interesting! He’s now working for the huge Korean based Samick corp. He’s overseeing their guitar production
facility in Indonesia
and has designed a line of guitars for Samick that carry his moniker on the
headstock. When I asked JT what it was
like living and working in Indonesia,
he said "it’s total freedom man, like it was in the US decades ago" (I’m paraphrasing a
little here). In essence, he went on to
explain how capitalism is exploding throughout the pacific rim, and that he is
not the only Yankee in the area shaking things up and making guitars like it
was still 1959. JT longs for the good
ole days when the US
actually encouraged and supported domestic manufacturing instead of doing
everything possible to run manufacturers out of the country. He’s got a point, ya know.
I’m going to wrap this up with this conclusion: both David and Goliath are winning here. Small American manufacturers like Burriss and
our own WGS are managing to trim their sails into the wind and still make some very
respectable headway, while folks like Riboloff are proving that fine guitar
craftsmanship is not the exclusive domain of American workers. The common thread: good old fashioned capitalism
and market economics. In other words,
they are all making products that are worth what they cost and that people want