Play like a Rock Star with a Guitar Made in Memphis
What do B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Dizzy Gillespie and Donald “Duck” Dunn all have in common? They each play or played guitars that were made right here in the Bluff City.
If you want to play like a rock star, Memphis has you covered. We may not be able to give you the talent, but we can make sure that you have the proper gear to keep you rockin’ all night long. Gibson Guitar Factory and St. Blues Guitar Workshop build guitars, from start to finish, right here in the Mid South. While the methods between the two shops are very different, one thing is certain: you’ll walk out of there with an amazing instrument and a piece of music history.
Gibson Guitar Factory Tours
The Memphis branch of Gibson Guitar Factory opened in 1999, although the company dates back to the early 1900s. While the factories in Bozeman, Montana and Nashville, Tennessee build all of the electric models, purists come to Memphis for the hollow body and semi-hollow body, semi-acoustic guitars.
A Gibson guitar is usually made from maple, rosewood, poplar or mahogany. The bodies are stamped and cut by machine to reduce human error, but the necks are crafted completely by hand. Once the guitar is assembled, twelve coats of lacquer are applied and the guitar is waxed three times. Each Gibson guitar goes through an intense quality check. Out of every 100 guitars, approximately five don’t make the cut and are destroyed. It takes three weeks to make one guitar from start to finish, and Gibson Memphis produces over 20,000 guitars every year.
Gibson guitars range from $400 to $10,000 and can be purchased at the retail center or online. The retail center is open Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Gibson Guitar Factory Tours are given every hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday - Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Tours cost $10 per person, and advanced reservations are required.
St. Blues Guitar Workshop
St. Blues started making electric guitars in 1984, and the first model was called the “Bluesmaster.” They stopped production in 1989, but reopened in 2005 with a renewed dedication to creating quality, small batch instruments. Every St. Blues guitar is made completely by hand using woods like ash, walnut, mahogany, alder and bubinga. While the majority of the construction is completed in their workshop on Marshall Avenue, the lacquer is applied off site, but still in Shelby County. It takes about 3 months to make one guitar from start to finish, and St. Blues produces 275 to 300 guitars every year.
With names like The Bluesmaster, 61 South and The Blindsider, it’s no wonder that musicians such as Bono and Elliot Easton own these handmade works of art. St. Blues guitars start at $2399 and can be purchased ready-made at their workshop. They will also build your dream guitar, but be prepared to spend a little more and wait 3 to 4 months for delivery. St. Blues Guitar Workshop is open Monday - Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. St Blues also offers free tours of their facility Monday – Friday at 11 a.m.