Philip Kubicki, a renowned guitar designer and builder who was active in the musical-instrument industry for more than 50 years, died March 18, 2013, at his home in Laconia, New Hampshire. He was 69 years old and had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer that January.
Kubicki began building acoustic guitars at age 15 after discovering the music of Andres Segovia. Upon learning of his interest in the guitar, the parents of a friend introduced him to Ernie Drumheller, who had a hobby workshop where he made classical guitars, and he let the young Kubicki try his hand at the craft. By 1961, Phil had built three guitars working only Saturdays and during the summer. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Fullerton Junior College, where he studied engineering.
One day in 1963, he went to Fender’s assembly plant in Fullerton and asked for a tour, where he got to see Strats and Teles being manufactured. Along the way, he mentioned to the guide that he made acoustic guitars. The guide told him of Fender’s plans for an acoustic division, and suggested he apply for a job. Two weeks later, at age 19, he was hired by Roger Rossmeisl in the company’s instrument research and development department. Though his focus was on acoustic guitars and the Coronado semi-acoustic line, Kubicki helped design the Telecaster Thinline and built a rosewood-bodied Telecaster that was given to George Harrison, who used it to record the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” In nine years with Fender, Kubicki also built guitars for Jimi Hendrix, Buck Owens and Don Rich, Albert Lee, Eric Clapton, John Sebastian, Jim Messina, and others.
In ’72, he moved to Santa Barbara and established Philip Kubicki Technology, which built acoustic guitars, custom electric guitars, bodies, necks, and mini-guitars. Among them was “Slugger,” the baseball-bat guitar used by John Fogerty during performances of his 1985 hit “Centerfield.” That same year, Kubicki also designed and began building the Factor Bass. High-profile players including Duran Duran’s John Taylor, Stuart Hamm, and others gravitated to Ex Factor basses, driving demand beyond the capacity of Kubicki’s small operation, and in ’88 he entered a licensing agreement with Fender to build and sell Factor basses. The arrangements lasted until 199, after which Kubicki resumed building and selling Factors direct from his factory. He moved to New Hampshire in 2008.
Kubicki’s penned an autobiographical feature, “The First Days of Fender Acoustics,” for the November ’97 issue of Vintage Guitar, and it can be read at www.vintageguitar.com/1763/philip-kubicki/. – Ward Meeker