Our Favorite Yankee and his Granite State Guitar
Of course Gryphon has more than its share of California natives, but repair department ace Brian Michael is from the other side of the continent. Born and schooled in New Hampshire, Brian spent a couple of years in the Granite State’s construction trade while attending community college. But at age 22 he fled New England for Arizona to attend the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery where, as luck would have it, Gryphon co-founder Frank Ford had already been teaching two-day guitar repair seminars for several years (and still does). When we had an opening in the Gryphon Repair Dept. there was an over-the-top recommendation from Roberto-Venn’s head instructor for their star pupil and Brian has been here ever since.
The obvious question is why a New Hampshire kid would move to Arizona and for Brian such a drastic change was driven by the guitar, a romance that didn’t have an easy start. His mother wanted him to stick with piano, but by age 15 Brian was playing in rock bands anyway, and he still performs on both electric bass and electric guitar and always keeps an acoustic handy at home as well.
This is Brian’s sixteenth year at Gryphon, and we’ve never had any trouble keeping him busy. As a result, his guitar-building chops have been honed at home where he maintains a small but fully-equipped workshop. Since the birth of son Eli, however, the time needed to build custom electric guitars is far more limited and Brian currently estimates that about four instruments per year is his limit. Most “Michael” branded guitars are custom orders, such as the ’69 Les Paul bench copy he built from scratch for Stooges guitarist James Williamson after restoring the original.
The guitar shown here is an exception to Brian’s usual builds. Called the TG Granite State, it’s a blend of Fender’s venerable Telecaster (the T) but with carved contours and a set neck like Gibson’s SG. The “Granite State” part of the model name is because all the woods used to build this guitar are native to New Hampshire. It appears to have a Fender-like maple neck, but it’s actually a maple neck with separate hornbeam fretboard. The body is made from an 85-year-old slab of butternut with a carved one-piece birdseye maple cap (butternut, sometimes called white walnut, is now a difficult wood to find, especially in this size, as butternut canker has wiped out a high percentage of the trees). Not content to have only the woods used for his TG Granite State guitar be from New Hampshire, the fingerboard nut is made from a moose antler that Brian’s father found when walking in the woods near the family’s property.
When it comes to pickups and other parts the sources Brian tapped for the TG Granite State go far beyond New Hampshire’s borders. The pickups are SCFHs from Jason Lollar in Tacoma, Washington, and the bridge is a Mastery M-7 from our old pal John Woodland in Minneapolis. The SCFH pickup code, by the way, stands for “single coil for humbucker,” which means humbucking pickups could be fitted without additional routing of the top. The faux tortoiseshell celluloid pickup facings nicely match the dots in the fingerboard, as well as the coloring of the birdseye maple top. From peghead to endpin, there’s a consistent theme to the TG Granite State resulting in a balanced, versatile solidbody electric guitar that delights the eyes as well as the ears and fingers.
We hope you’ll come in and try it out.