Our first entry this month is a new line of instruments, Reverend Guitars, from veteran inventor Joe Naylor, a graduate of the Roberto-Venn School of Lutherie, and well-known maker of Naylor amplifiers. Joe’s guitar designs have been cooking for about 10 years, and he has come with an innovative line offering affordable, fun to play (and possess) pieces with that special quality we vintage nuts just love – a funky elegance that combines form with function.
Our test guitar, the Avenger Model, was in ’57 Turquoise with a maple fretboard. The vibe is definitely retro, with a surf-meets-Jetsons approach to body styling. But this guitar means business. The body is comfortable, with a neat, rounded overlay on the lower bout that protects the player’s arm against the edge of the body, with the phenolic wood-based top lending an interesting resonance to the sound when played acoustically. The 6″ central bar prevented any feedback (see John’s surprise later), and overall result is quite pleasing.
The three pickups, with a traditional five-way switch, offered a fat tone similar to a 1960s Strat, but with more bite and a different character – a bit more aggressive, with more tonal range than I expected. Very usable tones! The bridge position, as promised, yielded a brilliant and cutting sound just like a Tele should, and there was – I repeat – no feedback. None.
At a list of $719, this baby is an affordable good player. Other models include the Blackcat, which is in black only, featuring humbucker in the bridge plus a single coil in the neck and a three-way switch ($598), the Avenger GT, which offers twin-blade humbuckers in the bridge with coil tap ($739), and the Rocco, with twin humbuckers, three-way switching, and separate coil taps that yield eight separate tones ($759). The Kent Armstrong pickups we tried were overwound, but had a nice character, no microphonicity, and all Reverend guitars have roller trees, the nickel plated armrest I liked so much, and of course colors, Desert Tan, Foam Blue, Fireball Red, Deep Sea Teal, and Black.
It’s nice to see somebody doing something a bit different, like brother Joe, and these Reverend guitars have their own unique quality, quite American and independent if you like to anthropomorphisize things (which I do) – and affordable!
“This reminds me of a surf guitar…kinda like that old Silvertone you have sitting in your window,” John Butcher enthused. “A really nice feel, and a cool vibe. It’s hollow but it’s well-made. It’s good at very clean tones (he demonstrates with a wicked run of double-stops ascending the neck), but I’m not sure what kind of blues machine it makes (John lives to eat these words several lines later). It’s user friendly – the neck feels really good, the finish is neat, and with this bolt-on neck, it’s a stable guitar. So while this baby leans on the cheap side, it’s effective, and a lot of fun to play.”
John straps on the Reverend, plays a bit, and comments, “For me this is probably a bit lightweight. I think if this guitar would really get turned up, it would be feedin’ [back].”
With that challenge, we cranked our Fender Hot Rod Deluxe up to seven on the overdrive channel, creating an effect similar to a 50-watt Marshall small-chassis through a half-stack, and voila! Instant blues machine. And no feedback whatsoever with John right next to the amp, wailing away!
“I take it all back!” he exclaimed. “This guitar sounds excellent at high volumes – quite a surprise. I anticipated it being on the trebly-squealy side, but the pickups sound just great.”
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Sep. ’97 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.