To use a slightly skewed metaphor, John Brown builds guitars to the beat of a different drummer. After all, who wants a custom builder without vision, churning out yet another version of a Strat or Les Paul?
Brown heads Brown’s Guitar Factory in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul. He’s a third-generation instrument builder and repairer, and his atelier has been a going concern since 1982. There, he makes a range of no-nonsense electric basses, guitars, and lap steels that you won’t confuse with anyone else’s wares.
Witness the BGF chambered electric. It’s built with a padauk-wood chambered body core topped by stylish book-matched lacewood and highlighted by Brown’s unique signature f-shaped sound holes. Other exotic woods are readily available.
The neck is crafted from quarter-sawn two-piece Honduras mahogany with a fingerboard of Madagascar ebony and a headstock crowned by a lacewood faceplate and cherry medallion. The body is finished in a clear acrylic urethane while the neck is hand-rubbed with a modified oil, making for a fast, liquid action. In short, you needn’t worry that another shredder will show up with anything similar.
So, the guitar is supermodel gorgeous. But how does it sound?
It sounds uniquely itself. And for a variety of good reasons. The two BGF special-formulated Alnico II humbuckers are easy to spot, but not so the individual piezo pickup saddles hidden within the TonePros tune-o-matic bridge.
Controlling this array of pickups are push/pull Volume knobs providing series or parallel arrangements. Or use the Tone control and three-way toggle to opt between the magnetic pickups. Alternately, there are an Acousti-Phonic volume pot and Mid Boost switch to choose from. Finally, a Quick Switch “mini” can blend the magnetic and Ghost signal. Should you so desire, a Ghost Hexpander mod offers synth/MIDI capabilities.
Going full open with all pickups blaring, the BGF is pure beast. It can do crunch and grind, but with a sharp edge to cut through even the loudest, proudest rhythm section. Or you can go for a warm, rich voice, then switch over to sheer shriek for a solo. The sounds this guitar can make – as you may expect from the pickup array and that cool chambered body – are near endless, from lullaby sweet to wake-the-neighbors rocking.
Should you want something a little more special, Brown offers guitars in six- or seven-string versions as well as his “Fretted/Less” and fretless editions.
This article originally appeared in VG September 2017 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.