Reverend Musical Instruments head honcho Joe Naylor began playing guitar in 1982, graduated from the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, started and ran an amp-building company, and in 1996 fired up the highly touted Reverend company in his home state of Michigan. Readers of VG are familiar with the man and his products.
Naylor’s latest creation is a collaboration with Rick Vito, the renowned guitarist who has worked with Fleetwood Mack, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Todd Rundgren, Bob Seger, and others. The new Reverend Rick Vito Special and Signature model guitars are variations on Reverend’s Advanced series Slingshot guitar, but with a few funky twists. Both employ the Slingshot’s semi-hollow design with polymer rims and 6″ mahogany center block with steel sustaining rod. Both guitars have an anodized aluminum top and back, veneered to phenolic laminate.
The guitars each have a satin-finished bolt-on maple neck with a 251/2″ scale and dual-action truss rod. Their fingerboards are rosewood with 12″ radius, 22 medium-jumbo oval frets, and a graphite nut.
The Vito uses two slightly overwound Reverend P-90 single-coil pickups, which become humbucking when both are engaged. The bridge pickup is wound slightly hotter, creating a near-perfect balance in volume and tone.
Controls include a master volume, master tone, a separate bass control, and three-way pickup selector. The bass control allows for rolling off low-end response.
The Vito’s simple design and clean lines share all the elegance we’ve grown accustomed to with Reverend, while the custom sandblasted graphics (designed by Vito himself) add a high degree of funk. Both are visually appealing, and being semi-hollow, they weigh in at a svelte 6.75 pounds.
The headstock on the Special has a satin finish, while the Signature features a black finish that matches its body. Both guitars utilize Sperzel locking tuners and feature a string-through-body hardtail bridge available with an optional Bigsby vibrato with a roller bridge.
The guitar’s look is complemented by its nearly flawless workmanship; fretwork is impeccable, and the neck is extremely comfortable, with a smooth, low, and fast action. The necks on our two testers felt identical, which would lead us to believe Reverend is consistent from guitar to guitar.
To test the tones of the Slingshots, we plugged them into an all-tube Peavey JSX with a Peavey 4×12″ cabinet. Starting with the JSX’s clean channel, we were met with a fat, warm tone with tons of low-end, with noticeably nice sparkle and a very responsive overall sound and feel. Rolling the bass to about half gave us a sweet, almost Telecaster-like tone.
The guitar’s Volume control is very responsive; even when rolled back, the tone doesn’t lose sparkle. And due to their calibrated winding, the pickups sound balanced regardless of the position of the selector switch. Run together, they proffer a fantastic blues tone and lend themselves nicely to overdrive, with more-than-ample low-end that never gets mushy and high-end response that never wanes.
We tested the Vitos against a humbucker-equipped solidbody and were pleasantly surprised to hear the Vitos actually deliver a fuller, fatter sound. Overall, the Special is a slightly more midrange-focused than the hardtail version. Both guitars sustain nicely, with the hardtail holding a slight edge over the Bigsby.
Looking to add a little snoose and snort to our tone, we switched the triple-rectified Peavey to heavy overdrive. Given its semi-hollow design, one could expect to have to wrestle the Reverend in an extreme-volume situation. But feedback was never a factor. And even when delivering heavily distorted tones, arpeggiated notes remained distinct and clear, with the same full, fat tone and no loss of sparkle. And as in the clean channel, when we backed off the volume, the guitar behaved as if we were messing only with the amp – we experienced no loss of high-end detail or tone.
Rolling the bass control all the way off was like switching guitars to a vintage three-pickup Fender. This is an extremely usable control, and the single-coils are very quiet.
Turning our attention to the Special’s Bigsby vibrato, we ramped up our riffage in an attempt to knock the guitar out of tune via classic “whammy abuse.” It didn’t work. The Bigsby, of course, doesn’t do dive bombs, but such units have a reputation for tuning instability. But this one was tough.
Both Reverend Vitos are incredibly playable guitars with excellent tone and great sustain. The bass control is supremely functional, and gives the guitars a true personality twist. Whether used clean or with massive overdrive, the Vitos are ultra-versatile, offer incredible craftsmanship, and Stylish looks.
Reverend Vito Special/Signature
Features: Semi-hollow construction with mahogany center block, sustain bar, polymer rims; aluminum-phenolic laminate top and back; 251/2″-scale maple bolt on neck with 12″ radius rosewood fingerboard; medium jumbo frets; graphite nut, Sperzel locking tuners, Reverend pickups, hardtail bridge with Bigbsy option, chrome armrest.
Price: $1,349 (Special), $1,499 (Signature).
Contact: Reverend Musical Instruments, 27300 Gloede, Unit D, Warren, MI 48088; phone (586) 775-1025; www.reverend
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.