GUITAR VILLA – CUSTOM BASSES MADE TO ORDER
Cover Story and Pictures By: Robin Noll
Guitar Villa was established in Bethlehem, PA. in 1988 by working owner, John J. Slog, in his garage. John played bass in regional rock bands, including Gandalf, Springfield and Bye Thunder, in the mid to late 70’s and early 80’s, and also performed in his high school stage band. Music was in his blood, instruments his passion, and Customer Service became his musical calling.
John always had a passion for classic and vintage instruments as he started playing and collecting rare examples of them. After leaving the performing music scene to work in a corporate lab environment, John found himself drawn back into the industry with calls from amateur and professional musicians alike with questions about vintage instruments, amplification and how to get specific sounds and tones. Many famous artists and bands, including the Lenny Kravits band visited his home, before the opening of the first store in search of recommendations on tone and instruments / amps. John’s experience and ability to extract the old school tone from vintage guitars and amps, plus the current knowledge of the state of the art amplification and set-up techniques seemed to be the cog that completed and complimented many of these artist’s style and sound.
With John’s love of musical, vintage gear and having experienced some rude and not so nice music stores in New York, and other places the groundwork was laid, the inevitable was plain to see: a music store with full service, an educated musician staff, and cool products would soon become reality!
John worked with Cesar Diaz, famous for his work with Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn, George Harrison and the like, to advise and supply the hugely successful band “Live” with vintage instruments and amplification / tube preamps to achieve that much sought after “Golden Tone” that makes recordings “hits” and live performances “electric”!
A trip to visit “Live”, at the world famous “Hit Factory” mega recording studio in New York City, while they were recording their hit album “Secret Samadhi”, proved to be an enlightening experience to bassist Pat Dahlheimer. John handed Pat a Demeter tube bass pre during a Sushi break from the daily rigors of the sessions. Pat called John the next day to purchase that pre and subsequently three 300 watt mono-block tube power amps. This was his new found tone!
Pat used mainly vintage basses and his tone became the standard for modern rock bands of that era. The growl of the old Fender Jazz, Precision and Gibson Thunderbird basses was the backbone of the signature “Live sound” in the studio and live venues.
Chad Taylor, the very talented guitar virtuoso with Live, experimented with various tube amps (including the Diaz amps) and incorporated many vintage instruments in his arsenal that included everything from a big bodied 1968 Gibson ES-175 to his favored vintage Fender Jazzmaster guitars. John personally delivered a pair of custom made silver sparkle Gibson Les Pauls and some sweet Takamine acoustics to the band for use on tour..
The word started spreading that there was some bass guy out there that knew a lot about the nuances, features and set-up techniques for old basses and amplifiers.The vast list of visitors on the phone and in person started growing and the realization that this might just be able to become a business was realized.
What a concept… create a world surrounding yourself with vintage instruments & amplifiers and make that into your career!
Our working director, John, has been deeply involved in design, repair and instrument set-up work for over 4 decades. With the hands on experience with many high grade examples of custom instruments by multiple world renown builders always on hand, he decided to take all this experience and create a brand new custom hand made line of instruments himself. This line of instruments is manufactured right here in Pennsylvania and distributed direct, out of our Guitar Villa location in Bethlehem.
John has always owned and played prized vintage instruments and this line of guitars and basses is heavy influenced in the overall shape and dimensions with those classics.
The big difference is the execution of the build and exacting specs, combined with the best pickups, electronics and hand selected tone woods.
The classic Leo Fender designs have been modified a bit, the wood selected resonates incredibly and the balance, lightweight characteristics and playability is amazing.
As the line progressed to add active preamps and electronics, the resulting instruments took on a real high fidelity presence and they were starting to attract more players and artists. The woods sourced are fine high grade examples of tone woods and some are sourced right here in the North-East.
World renown bassist with the Paul Simon band, Bakithi Kumalo, recognized the quality, tone and playability of our basses, and then commissioned an active five string. He loved it, sang our praises and we have developed an Artist model bass just for him.
This bass has phenomenal playability, balance and tone. It has a Black walnut top and a wenge fingerboard on a hard rock maple neck. Bakithi is an endorser for our line of hand crafted instruments. Bakithi performing with our Vibrawood BK5 Artist model pictured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in October 2015.
Check out www.Vibrawood.com for more information on our quality crafted instruments.
Yet another direction with a hand crafted drum line. With all the success in creating highly resonant and complimentary tone designs with hard and semi-hardwoods in the custom instrument line, John partnered with Rick Dilullo to create and manufacture custom built pro-grade drums next. Rick is a master carpenter and accomplished drum builder in his own right. The combination of Rick and John spawned new ideas in wood and construction that have proven to take the drum product realm to another level. The inner tone hoops in alternate and complimenting woods have taken the tone of these drums to the next level. Wisdom drums was established. www.Wisdom-Drums.com
Guitar Villa. is made up of musicians that have acquired additional product related skills, outside of the playing and performance realm, after years of experience. They all have product based specialties that span from the set-up of amplifiers for optimum performance, to the selection of wood, for a particular tone. They are here to guide you in your search for the right item to fit your needs.
They hope you become part of their family of satisfied customers. Guitar Villa strives to provide you with EVERY level of product, from high value ENTRY LEVEL instruments, amplifiers, drums & percussion products, recording and sound equipment and accessories, right on up to the BEST high grade dream gear for the discerning player and collector.Guitar Villa service what they sell (and all other manufacturer’s products too) and have a team of specialized professional repairmen that take the utmost pride in their work. They teach music and songwriting in their progressive music school and want to be your one stop shop for all your musical needs, from beginner to professional. If they don’t have what you want, they will do their best to get it and offer it to you at a great discount price or they will go out of their way to refer you to a trusted competitor that can help.
Guitar Villa inventory is made up of over 1000 hand selected instruments, amps and support gear products from all the major manufacturers for your shopping pleasure. You won’t believe the great selection of products, and caring, honest associates eager to help you with your particular needs. Guitar Villa does not simply push all products from a specific manufacturer, because of a profit, or kickback, based association with them. We constantly search all builders and manufacturers, and look for the best product value (highest quality and lowest price point) at every plateau. Our experience and ability to grade quality is evident in every item we carry, from entry level beginner grade products, right on up through the ranks to instruments exhibiting the utmost in manufacturing skill as well as the best, select exotic woods and hardware.Your dream instrument may be in stock!
If you have already made a decision on your next item purchase, please call or email us with that information. They may have that product in house, or they will do their best to acquire it for you, and at the lowest price available! When you buy from Guitar Villa, they professionally set the item up for you – FOR FREE, to allow it to “Play like Butter”, to your particular preference.
Guitar Villa’s shop and business practices have a strong ethical backbone and our policies of fairness and honesty have earned this organization a great reputation worldwide, over the years. Guitar Villa believes that every item for sale should be discount priced, labeled with that price and that items marked as new should never have been sold previously. Guitar Villa would like to welcome back previous customers and add new ones to their ever growing family of friends. Let us know what we can do to make your musical purchase experience more satisfying. That is our goal, and customer service is our specialty!
Call us to compare prices and see what we can do to make your next musical purchase and endeavor an enjoyable and fulfilling process. Call 610-746-9200 or better yet stop by and check out our very own line of hand-crafted instruments made right here in PA at 228 Nazareth Pike (Rt. 191) Bethlehem, PA 18020