Someone asked about the decisions leading up to the final design on Alembic guitar #1, and I had to respond. Even though I wasn't there until 1975 I've had extensive conversations with Rick and Frank about what was going on back then. Prior to building guitars together They worked at Satterlee and Chapin's music store in San Francisco doing repair work. Rick had come from the East coast and Frank had been apprenticed to a violin maker named Mr. Lundt in Santa Cruz starting at age 13. The first whole instruments built as Alembics were made in a basement on Judah St, with a recording studio on the floor above, and monitors in the basement so while they worked, Rick and Frank could listen to CC&N , Santana, the Dead end others while they were recording.
Not much in the way of formal design process was happening. It was more like, "Hey, I bet this would look cool!" Lighter weight or better balance was likely an afterthought.
Another related post comes to mind here. I've heard it said that all the Alembics were team built. When I started out there, it had only been a few months that Voldemars "Bob" Redins had been hired as the shop foreman, and about a week after I started the company had a big party because they had just hit #200 in instrument serial numbers. After Frank and Rick worked together for a year, Doug Irwin showed up with a guitar he had made on his kitchen table, and on the strength of that, as well as a government program that paid half his wages, they hired Doug. The first few years were about everyone building what they wanted to and putting an Alembic logo on it, which is why you'll see such disparity in the early ones. Even after the production line got going there was a process by which we each got to build a custom order for a customer from start to finish. Obviously, we didn't make the harness or pickups, but my first one was a doublenecked bass that you'll still see floating around on Ebay occasionally. I did the inlays, sprayed the finish on it, made the custom hardware and set it up.
Another fine builder before my time there was Bruce BecVar, who was the first modern luthier to have an electric guitar in the NY Metropolitan Museum's collection.
One of my all time favorite Alembic's was this one, built for Johnny Winter by Rick.
- Winter Alembic.jpg (105.94 KiB) Viewed 855 times