More and more, guitar designers are digging deep, thinking out of the box, and using their imaginations to conjure hip, nontraditional designs. Strat, Tele, and Les Paul shapes are no longer the go-to templates. Among younger consumers, particularly, retailers see a move away from standard shapes to more futuristic profiles, early-’60s oddball, artsy flourishes, and understated tonal properties.
Steve Weller is a veteran photographer, guitar builder, and craftsman with a flair for the artistic. With a background in car restoration and design, Weller began creating boutique guitars with an eye toward separating his creations from his competitors.
His Stageliner model is striking, to say the least, geared for the guitarist looking to stand apart. The Stageliner’s lightweight chambered mahogany body is easy on the back and, for the most part, covers anything within blues, rock, or country.
The guitar’s somewhat wide oval mahogany neck is the backbone of a flawless ebony fretboard with a 24.75″ scale, 12″ radius, 22 frets, and a two-way adjustable truss rod. Medium fret wire is the icing that makes this neck instantly playable and fun to get around on.
The Stageliner features a three-position pickup selector and Volume and Tone knobs, and sports a TV Jones Power’Tron neck pickup and a Power’Tron Plus in the bridge position. It also comes with Kluson tuners and a Hipshot string-through bridge.
Resembling what you might imagine a George Jetson signature guitar to look like, the Stageliner excels in the hands of the jangly rock rhythm practitioner. Think Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers or any of the current crop of first-position strummers. Add a classy high-end combo amplifier with tremolo, and you’re ready for multiple textural situations à la The Cure or mid-’60s Beatles-esque arpeggiation.
With equal parts punchy brightness and snarky warmth, the Stageliner also offers a smidgen of Rickenbacker jangle in the middle pickup position. The neck width coupled with a flat fretboard radius makes nailing jazzy chord voicings a cinch. Right-hand picking patterns are also easier due to the user-friendly string spacing, while the guitar’s unobtrusive tonality is conducive to bite.
The Stageliner’s not the most soulful guitar you’ll ever play, but its slightly stiff personality may be just the thing for distinguishing guitar parts within an ensemble. It produces suitable spank and twang in lead mode, and the TV Jones pickups add a rugged old-school rock flavor. While modern-style shredding is not its forte, it appreciates gain of the AC/DC variety and elicits smooth neck-position semi-hollow goodness. It’s a tad too hostile for jazz, and the absence of fret markers on the neck edge display a lack of onstage field-testing. Wearing it onstage, one can temporarily lose their place.
Switching the pickups through a high-gain amp illustrates why guitarists love TV Jones pickups. They’re articulate, barky, compression-free, and allow you to hear your guitar’s wood and your amplifier’s character. The Stageliner’s hip quarter-moon cutout in the upper rear, exposing the chambered section, will get you a woody Gary Clark Jr. mojo with an Octafuzz, then clean up nicely for your weekend wedding gig.
The Stageliner requires more finesse than usual because it gives back whatever you put into it, warts and all. It’s useful for recording, looks cool on stage, and users of Epiphone Casinos and Sheratons will transition seamlessly. For the forward-thinking guitarist who needs to get down to business with semi-hollow tones and look badass doing it, the Stageliner is a welcome alternative.
This article originally appeared in VG January 2016 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.