PRS McCarty Hollowbody II: My God-Given Guitar
Yes, I said, "God-given."
It was given to me by God around 2003. The man through whom God bestowed this guitar upon me shall remain nameless because the circumstance of the "gifting" was kind of weird. I hold the man in high regard and do not wish the bizarreness of the situation to reflect on him in any kind of negative way.
He's a good guy; he was one of my more advanced students and later became one of my subscribing teachers. He used my method and bought books from me to sell to his own students for several years. We have since lost touch; I have not heard from him in quite a while.
In 2007 when I broke my face and had to have reconstructive surgery (see, An Open Letter), he offered to teach my students for several days for nothing so that I would not be out the income. To be clear; that was 8-10 hours a day. He was part of the reason that incident didn't set me back financially. I'm very grateful to him for that. He coordinated with my son and son-in-law and the 3 of them taught all my students while I was laid up.
At the time he was taking lessons from me I would guess he was in his early forties. I can't remember what he did for a living. He wasn't poor; he came to his lessons every week with many different guitars. One of those was this PRS McCarty Hollowbody II. At that time it retailed for about $3,000 and was in pristine condition. It was brand-new. It now retails for well over $4,000.
He played professionally and I knew that he was also in the worship band at his church, but he had never said anything to me about God, Jesus, religion or anything along those lines.
One day, as the lesson was ending, out of the blue he said,
"I don't know how you feel about stuff like this, but God told me to give you this guitar."
He then literally laid the PRS McCarty on the floor at my feet as if on an alter and walked out. I was so taken aback he was gone before I could respond.
The first thing that went through my head was, "Why would God give me this guitar? I have a dozen guitars, I don't need another one. Why doesn't God give this guitar to a motivated kid with a single mom who can't afford a decent guitar? Why didn't God give me a guitar when I was 25 with a wife and 2 little kids, struggling financially and really needed it? If I was God, things would be different!"
Sarcasm aside, I'm not opposed to the idea that God might tell people to do stuff but it didn't make sense to me that God would choose me as the recipient for a guitar I didn't need. Nevertheless, who am I to question God, hmmm? (Ok, sarcasm not aside!)
I didn't take the guitar home; I left it in my studio as a symbolic way of saying I had not yet accepted it. It was an expensive guitar. What was the angle? If there were any strings attached (ha!) - how could there not be? - I wasn't going to accept it.
In the interest of turnabout being fair play, I formulated a response using a Bible illustration in an attempt to have "God" tell the guy he could take the guitar back with a clean conscience. But he cancelled his lesson the next two weeks in a row and I began to wonder if I was going to see him again. Maybe he wasn't going to allow me the option of refusing the guitar.
Finally, after 3 weeks he came in for a lesson and I told him, "As far as I'm concerned the guitar is still on the table."
"Uhm...ok." he said.
In a most prophetic voice, I said,
"God told Abraham, 'Sacrifice your son.' Abraham did as he was told. Isaac was tied on the alter and Abraham had the knife raised, ready to sacrifice him and God said, 'No, no, wait! Here's a ram caught in the bushes, sacrifice that instead. For now I know that you fear God, for you did not withhold your only son.'"
"Likewise," I said, "You gave me this guitar - you really gave it to me and walked away. And now I'm giving you the opportunity to have your Isaac back."
I could tell he thought about it for a split-second, then he said, "But, it's not my guitar."
"Ok" I said, "It's my guitar and there are no strings attached."
"Yup" he said, "It's yours and you can do whatever you want with it. Keep it, sell it, give it away; I don't care, what you do with it is none of my business."
"So...what is this really about? Did you buy this guitar on the sly and not tell your wife?"
"No, my wife knows. I don't really know what it's about" he said. "I suspect it has something to do with greed."
Ah...so he was dealing with greed...and consequently, guilt. Giving away the guitar was an intuitive symbolic and therapeutic act designed to alleviate guilt and further personal growth. I can respect that. I've done the same kind of thing more than once - I once gave away my entire record collection for a similar reason - our possessions should not corrupt us.
His answer enabled me to bite the bullet, take one for the team, fall on the grenade and accept the guitar.
Shortly after that, on the Saturday Afternoon Jam, after showing up on the gig with the new guitar and telling the band the story of how it was given to me, Hammond organist Rich VanSant introduced me to the crowd with, "Ladies and gentlemen, Jay EuDaly with his God-given guitar!" - and the appellation stuck.
Despite the fact God gave me the guitar there were several things I didn't like about it; I wouldn't have bought it off the shelf. I guess God didn't really know what I liked, but at least He tried. It's the thought that counts.
However, one of the things I did like about it was the weight. It was the lightest guitar I'd ever played. Weight was becoming more of an issue; the older I've grown the more messed up my back has become due to hunching over a guitar for decades. The weight of my main guitar at the time (an old Ibanez Artist) was becoming more and more pain-inducing. And pain has a way of sucking the fun out of a gig!
Maybe that's why God gave it to me - to help my back. I guess He knows what He's doing after all.
So, since the price was right, I felt I could afford to put some money into it to try and make it work for me.
The first thing I knew I had to deal with was the sound. The guitar had a pair of Humbucker pickups in it but they didn't sound like any other Humbuckers I'd used. There was a harsh, upper midrange frequency that bugged the crap out of me. It was very irritating. I couldn't get the round, warm, fat tone I wanted.
At first I thought I could solve it by EQ-ing my amp differently. When that didn't work I bought an EQ pedal to get more control over specific bandwidths. That didn't work either.
Finally I decided to punt. I had the pickups from my Ibanez Artist (also Humbuckers) swapped with the PRS pickups. That solved the problem. So my old Ibanez now has the skanky-sounding PRS pickups in it and the PRS has the old, warm-sounding pickups from the Ibanez.
As I've said many times, I'm not a gear-head and I'm not into a guitar's technical aspects or the electronics; I don't care, I just know what I like. But this whole process educated me about how the number of wire windings around the magnet of the pickup, the thickness of the wire around the magnet of the pickup and the type/size of the magnet itself affect the sound. Who knew? Not me.
The second issue was the fact that there was a master volume knob as well as a master tone knob. For most of my life, I've played Gibson-type guitars. They generally have separate volume and tone controls for each pickup. I usually run the tone knobs wide open and don't touch them.
I manipulate tone by setting the pickup selector switch in the middle so that both pickups are on. I get a finely graded continuum of tonal variations by adjusting the two volume knobs relative to each other. That technique goes out the window when there's only one master volume knob.
I thought I could get used to it, maybe by using the tone knob more, but after gigging with the guitar for several months I reluctantly concluded that I couldn't. I was frustrated and irritated on every gig that I wasn't able to manipulate the tone the way I wanted.
So I decided to have another volume knob installed. My tech (Tom Hedberg) said it was doable. It would require drilling a hole in the front of the guitar. There was a risk - the guitar was hollow - it was not a solid piece of wood; it was possible the face of the guitar could split. Once begun there was no going back; any consequences of the procedure were potentially irreversible.
As Tom was holding the drill bit over the guitar he looked up at me and said, "You sure you want to do this?"
He was sweating.
"Yes." I said, "Go ahead."
We both held our breath as Tom drilled a hole in my new $3,000 guitar.
Due to the undisputed awesomeness that is Tom Hedberg, the procedure was successful (whew!) and he proceeded to install the 2nd volume pot and rewire things.
It's a horrible thing to contemplate what God might've done to poor old Tom if he'd screwed up that guitar.
So the guitar has 2 volume knobs - one for each pickup - and a master tone control. The stock pickups have been replaced with the Humbuckers from the Ibanez.
The PRS McCarty is my main electric guitar now. I use it on at least a gig a week, many times more. Obviously, it doesn't sound like a McCarty; it's highly modified and so any future potential collectability is probably destroyed.
On the other hand, it's one-of-a-kind.
Besides that, God gave it to me!
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