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  1. #1
    SDUGF Founder Evan Skopp's Avatar
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    Default Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Guest Luthier – Mike Eldred, Director Sales and Marketing, Fender® Custom Shop

    Q&A on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM Pacific Time.



    Mike Eldred began building guitars in 1979 at Charvel® Manufacturing in San Dimas, California (later to be called Jackson® / Charvel). He was the first employee Grover Jackson hired, and worked on Randy Rhoads’ guitars and many other artists including Gary Moore, Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck, and Edward Van Halen. After eight years at Charvel Jackson, Mike left to work at Yamaha® Musical Instruments. There, he was in charge of the Guitar Service Department and eventually became the Guitar Product Manager and the Guitar / Bass Artist Relations Manager, working with John Patitucci, Nathan East, and Billy Sheehan among others.

    In 1994, Mike left Yamaha to tour as guitarist with Lee Rocker, rockabilly double bassist from the Stray Cats. Mike recorded three CDs with Lee before leaving to devote more time to his growing family. Fender Custom Shop Manager John Page called Mike in 1996 and offered him a position as Shop Supervisor. When Page left Fender, Mike became the Fender Custom Shop Manager. Mike eventually worked his way up to his current position as Director of Sales and Marketing for the Fender Custom Shop, where he works with artists, develops new products, helps organize trade shows, and is responsible for positioning and market development of the Fender Custom Shop.

    One highlight of Mike's career at Fender came when he had the opportunity to travel to the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle to inspect and document Jimi Hendrix’ famed White Stratocaster® played at Woodstock. Every aspect of the guitar was documented and Mike hand-built four “clones” of the instrument which were detailed down to each scratch and ding.

    Another highlight for Mike was going to Austin, Texas along with Fender’s Richard McDonald and George Blanda, to document Stevie Ray Vaughan’s #1 Stratocaster as well as Jimmie Vaughan’s personal guitars to be replicated by the Fender Custom Shop.

    “Working for Fender and the Fender Custom Shop is a dream job for somebody like me who still plays and has been around building guitars for most of my life,” says Eldred. “I still get to build stuff every once and a while, and the whole team are really focused on our mission of building the best that Fender can build.”

    Please give a warm SDUGF welcome to Mike Eldred!

    =============================================

    Fender, Stratocaster, Charvel and Jackson are registered trademarks of FMIC with which Seymour Duncan is not affiliated.
    Evan Skopp, Inside Track International
    Sales and marketing reps for D'Addario, Musopia, Reunion Blues, Q-Parts, and Nukleus Pickups.

  2. #2
    GrumpyWorfologist newking70's Avatar
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Hi Mike, Did you get a chance to work with George Fullerton on his last project with Fender before his passing?
    Quote Originally Posted by Gearjoneser View Post
    Put the two together, and make it Kambone.

  3. #3
    Dir. Mktg. Fender Custom Shop
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Quote Originally Posted by newking70 View Post
    Hi Mike, Did you get a chance to work with George Fullerton on his last project with Fender before his passing?
    Yes, and we worked on some other stuff too. We shot a really cool video interview w/ him right before he died. Hopefully, we can get that up soon. George was a gift for sure.

    ME

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    Heel Whacker tone4days's Avatar
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    welcome Mike
    looking forward to your chat

    can you walk us through the decision process used to decide whether to include your own pickups or those of another manufacturer (like Duncans ) in your guitars?

    thanks
    t4d
    gear list in profile

    "no seymour - no tone ... know seymour - know tone!"

    Is it not the glory of the people of America that, whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience?" - James Madison - Federalist #14

  5. #5
    Dir. Mktg. Fender Custom Shop
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Quote Originally Posted by tone4days View Post
    welcome Mike
    looking forward to your chat

    can you walk us through the decision process used to decide whether to include your own pickups or those of another manufacturer (like Duncans ) in your guitars?

    thanks
    t4d
    Pickups are just one of those things that WE as players like to mess with. Nobody has the end-all pickup (including Fender), so you have sooooo many great choices out there. We LOVE Duncans!!! We use them in lots of different instruments, but the main thing is that we are a Custom Shop, so people will ask for certain manufacturers and we use them.

    ME

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    Mojo's Minions J Moose's Avatar
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Hey Mike! Thanks for doing this... its really awesome to have someone of your caliber & experience available for a public flogging!

    I've got a question about tremolos... to oversimplify the variables, assuming that all bridges are of "equal" quality... what tonal differences do you find to exist between 6-point and 2-point trems?

    Lets say that both are setup for dive only, non-floating.

    Thanks!
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  7. #7
    Dir. Mktg. Fender Custom Shop
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Quote Originally Posted by J Moose View Post
    Hey Mike! Thanks for doing this... its really awesome to have someone of your caliber & experience available for a public flogging!

    I've got a question about tremolos... to oversimplify the variables, assuming that all bridges are of "equal" quality... what tonal differences do you find to exist between 6-point and 2-point trems?

    Lets say that both are setup for dive only, non-floating.

    Thanks!
    Man...tonal differences are hard. A vintage trem as opposed to a two-point trem we use on our Strat Pro for example: The Vintage has bent saddles (steel) and a CRS (cold rolled steel) block. The Pro trem has milled stainless saddles, and a CRS block that is smaller than the vintage. The bent saddles don't have as much mass, but the vintage block is bigger, the Pro saddles are milled STAINLESS which is brighter but there is a smaller block, so there is this...balance thang. It all depends what YOU hear, and what YOU like.

    ME

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    Mojo's Minions J Moose's Avatar
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Eldred View Post
    Man...tonal differences are hard. A vintage trem as opposed to a two-point trem we use on our Strat Pro for example: The Vintage has bent saddles (steel) and a CRS (cold rolled steel) block. The Pro trem has milled stainless saddles, and a CRS block that is smaller than the vintage. The bent saddles don't have as much mass, but the vintage block is bigger, the Pro saddles are milled STAINLESS which is brighter but there is a smaller block, so there is this...balance thang. It all depends what YOU hear, and what YOU like.

    ME
    Aww man! I already know what I think, I was wondering what YOU think!

    Specifically, I was wondering if you had noticed any trends to either type of system... figure you've probably built & handled more guitars on a technical basis then I've played... which is also not a small number!

    Anyway, next question!

    Are there or have there ever been plans for a 'modern vintage' line of guitars? Take the traditional appointments and refine certain things for the way playing styles have evolved over the years? Thinking of things like a heel cut, flatter radius (12" ?) and pickups with flat or at least modern staggered magnets...

    I had a very low serial number EJ strat which was amazingly great... one of my clients has a real '55 or '56 and it was like the junior version of that guitar... really resonant & so alive and responsive, but after a while all the usual stuff that bugs me about strats started to get to me... like the size of the heel & string balance.

    I realize the Am. Deluxe hits some of those points... but I like the bigger neck with the flat radius, 6-point trem & that sort of thing. I can't be alone there...
    J. 'Moose' Kahrs
    mixer|producer|recordist
    mooseaudio.bandcamp.com

    Quote Originally Posted by the guy who invented fire View Post
    All you need to make a record is a mic, some tape and maybe some bad reverb...

  9. #9
    Dir. Mktg. Fender Custom Shop
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Quote Originally Posted by J Moose View Post
    Aww man! I already know what I think, I was wondering what YOU think!

    Specifically, I was wondering if you had noticed any trends to either type of system... figure you've probably built & handled more guitars on a technical basis then I've played... which is also not a small number!

    Anyway, next question!

    Are there or have there ever been plans for a 'modern vintage' line of guitars? Take the traditional appointments and refine certain things for the way playing styles have evolved over the years? Thinking of things like a heel cut, flatter radius (12" ?) and pickups with flat or at least modern staggered magnets...



    I had a very low serial number EJ strat which was amazingly great... one of my clients has a real '55 or '56 and it was like the junior version of that guitar... really resonant & so alive and responsive, but after a while all the usual stuff that bugs me about strats started to get to me... like the size of the heel & string balance.

    I realize the Am. Deluxe hits some of those points... but I like the bigger neck with the flat radius, 6-point trem & that sort of thing. I can't be alone there...
    Well, I love the trem we use on the Strat Pro. Two point. It's on my Strat at home.

    Yeah, we are working with Lincoln Brewster on a guitar that looks vintage but has all this cool stuff on it.

    ME

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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    What's your personal favorite guitar? I'm just curious as to what a master luthier like yourself hangs around his neck.

  11. #11
    Dir. Mktg. Fender Custom Shop
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Quote Originally Posted by karpathion View Post
    What's your personal favorite guitar? I'm just curious as to what a master luthier like yourself hangs around his neck.
    I've been doing a bunch more rockabilly lately, so I got this. Duncan Alnico 5's too!!!

    ME

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    Whitewater Toneologist willeubanks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Hey thanks for doing this! You'll get plenty of guitar questions, so I'll go ahead and slide a bass question in...

    Have you built any custom basses for high-profile guys, and which would be your favorite if so?
    Avatar supplied by Eliza Frye


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Quote Originally Posted by willeubanks View Post
    Hey thanks for doing this! You'll get plenty of guitar questions, so I'll go ahead and slide a bass question in...

    Have you built any custom basses for high-profile guys, and which would be your favorite if so?
    Pino Palladino. What a machine!

    ME

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    Godfather of Unholy Metal Distortion Luís's Avatar
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    First of all, Mike, thank you for accepting to do this.
    Second, let me just say that I love Fender for their sound and reliability (and repairability )

    I have two questions:

    1) I own a fine Cyclone (more on that later...) and I just ordered a Champion 600 (can you please tell your guys to ship faster to Portugal, I've been waiting for nearly two months lol). In the electric department you guys practically rule but when are you doing something about acoustics?

    You build them. They sound and look good. You need more than the Fender 6-in-line headstock on an acoustic to get them out there. We had a thread on those a couple months back and people either loved them or they didn't really get them. Slap them on some up and coming artist and get a whole new set of clients.

    2) I mentioned before I own a Fender Cyclone. It's a great guitar. Well built, looks like a million bucks (from what I gather you didn't make a lot in Caramel Metallic but they all look awesome). Most important it plays like no other.

    Sure this is all personal opinion but I have to ask... why did you discontinue it? Again, no advertisement, wait, very little advertisement, I've seen Gibson failed experiments with more ads than Fender did for the Cyclone. I've only been able to find one to this day and it was a Cyclone II (I ordered a Cyclone, would have accepted the regular, HH or II as I ordered it as soon as I could after they were discontinued).

    You people have 50 versions of the Telecaster and Stratocaster. Why not a different beast? People love the mustang shape, the contours, the shorter, yet usable scale that didn't feel like a toy. The electronics are simple yet versatile. And what makes the guitar even more unique was the price. It sure wasn't cheap but I reckon it costs about half as much as your average strat.

    It combined a lot of things while not taking away clients from the tele and strat because people that really want one of those are going to get it sooner or later. And let's face it, isn't it better to sell 3 700$ unique guitars than one 1200$ guitar that everyone knows?

    I'm using the Cyclone as an example, the Squire 51 was also discontinued despite being a great modding platform, I'm surprised you didn't market it just like that "Here you have a great guitar that you can make your own. We supplied a great piece of wood, you supply your needs and turn it into your perfect guitar".

    I'm pretty sure that when you have forums dedicated to it you are doing something right, so I have to ask: Couldn't you have killed off a couple of half inspired and severely overpriced artist models and had some originality? Wasn't Leo Fender a risk taker? Sure, you folks are trying to keep a business, not create one but where is Leo's spirit?

    I don't mean to sound mad or offensive. I enjoy my guitar, I enjoy the Fenders I have played to this day and your amps. I'm ordering a Bronco bass as soon as the champ gets here (can you guess my favourite shape and how big my hands are? ) I like the products. I just wish they stuck around a bit more.

    BTW, if you are cancelling the Bronco soon give me a heads up, please

    I'll leave you with some pics of my Cyclone (day it was purchased) so you can shame whoever cancelled it into bringing them back along with the 51's.




    Last edited by Luís; 03-16-2010 at 11:22 AM.
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  15. #15
    Dir. Mktg. Fender Custom Shop
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Quote Originally Posted by Luís View Post
    First of all, Mike, thank you for accepting to do this.
    Second, let me just say that I love Fender for their sound and reliability (and repairability )

    I have two questions:

    1) I own a fine Cyclone (more on that later...) and I just ordered a Champion 600 (can you please tell your guys to ship faster to Portugal, I've been waiting for nearly two months lol). In the electric department you guys practically rule but when are you doing something about acoustics?

    You build them. They sound and look good. You need more than the Fender 6-in-line headstock on an acoustic to get them out there. We had a thread on those a couple months back and people either loved them or they didn't really get them. Slap them on some up and coming artist and get a whole new set of clients.

    2) I mentioned before I own a Fender Cyclone. It's a great guitar. Well built, looks like a million bucks (from what I gather you didn't make a lot in Caramel Metallic but they all look awesome). Most important it plays like no other.

    Sure this is all personal opinion but I have to ask... why did you discontinue it? Again, no advertisement, wait, very little advertisement, I've seen Gibson failed experiments with more ads than Fender did for the Cyclone. I've only been able to find one to this day and it was a Cyclone II (I ordered a Cyclone, would have accepted the regular, HH or II as I ordered it as soon as I could after they were discontinued).

    You people have 50 versions of the Telecaster and Stratocaster. Why not a different beast? People love the mustang shape, the contours, the shorter, yet usable scale that didn't feel like a toy. The electronics are simple yet versatile. And what makes the guitar even more unique was the price. It sure wasn't cheap but I reckon it costs about half as much as your average strat.

    It combined a lot of things while not taking away clients from the tele and strat because people that really want one of those are going to get it sooner or later. And let's face it, isn't it better to sell 3 700$ unique guitars than one 1200$ guitar that everyone knows?

    I'm using the Cyclone as an example, the Squire 51 was also discontinued despite being a great modding platform, I'm surprised you didn't market it just like that "Here you have a great guitar that you can make your own. We supplied a great piece of wood, you supply your needs and turn it into your perfect guitar".

    I'm pretty sure that when you have forums dedicated to it you are doing something right, so I have to ask: Couldn't you have killed off a couple of half inspired and severely overpriced artist models and had some originality? Wasn't Leo Fender a risk taker? Sure, you folks are trying to keep a business, not create one but where is Leo's spirit?

    I don't mean to sound mad or offensive. I enjoy my guitar, I enjoy the Fenders I have played to this day and your amps. I'm ordering a Bronco bass as soon as the champ gets here (can you guess my favourite shape and how big my hands are? ) I like the products. I just wish they stuck around a bit more.

    BTW, if you are cancelling the Bronco soon give me a heads up, please

    I'll leave you with some pics of my Cyclone (day it was purchased) so you can shame whoever cancelled it into bringing them back along with the 51's.
    It's tough because there are always people who are REALLY attached to guitars that get discontinued! BUT, you have to make room, and certain things have to go. Sorry it was one you liked, but rejoice in the fact YOU HAVE ONE!!! And it looks KILLER!!!!

    ME

  16. #16
    Vibroluxologist B Bent's Avatar
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    WOW! How cool to have someone from my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE guitar/amp company on planet Earth here at SD!! Nothing in the world compares to the sound of a Tele into an old Vibrolux Reverb.

    Now that's out of the way, are there any plans to produce a Tele from the CS with a B Bender in it anytime in the near future? Not like an artist model, but something at the CS level w/ a bender as a "standard" type of model.

    Twang on!!!!
    I get weak in the knees at the sight of a vintage Fender amp!

  17. #17
    Dir. Mktg. Fender Custom Shop
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Quote Originally Posted by B Bent View Post
    WOW! How cool to have someone from my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE guitar/amp company on planet Earth here at SD!! Nothing in the world compares to the sound of a Tele into an old Vibrolux Reverb.

    Now that's out of the way, are there any plans to produce a Tele from the CS with a B Bender in it anytime in the near future? Not like an artist model, but something at the CS level w/ a bender as a "standard" type of model.

    Twang on!!!!
    We do the Fender Bender version. Not much call for them really. But we do them occasionally. I remember when we did the Marty Stuart Tele we offered that option. Marty said, "Me and about 6 other guys use that". It was pretty funny.

    ME

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Got_tone?'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Hi Mike, it’s great to have you here. Evan, you’re awesome for getting Fender here.

    Mike, I’d like to talk to you about the aerodyne series guitars. Is Fender USA going to release a USA made version of these awesome guitars? The only Fender Aerodyne guitars available to the states are made of basswood and what looks to be a maple veneer (for the strats). I’d love to see corona’s take on what Fender Japan is putting out. I know that they recently had a 2 piece alder version of the Fender Aerodyne Strat but it's for Japan only.

    Seeing how this most likely will never happen, would it be possiblehave one built through the custom shop? Maybe even a Master Build?

    Well, thanks for taking you’re time to stop by and keep up the good work with Fender.

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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to chat with us!
    You've worked on countless famous guitars guitars over the years... could you please tells us about the early Charvel years and specifically, your involvement with the Randy Rhoads models, the Jeff Beck guitars, the Eddie Ojeda bulls-eyes and, of course, the Eddie Van Halen black and yellow striped Charvels?
    Also, back then, did Charvel send guitars to Floyd Rose to install the systems or were you doing the installations?
    Do you remember what Charvel guitar received the first Floyd Rose bridge?
    Thanks!
    Last edited by jjimi1647; 03-16-2010 at 11:44 AM.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Live Chat Now - Guest Luthier Series - Mike Eldred

    Quote Originally Posted by jjimi1647 View Post
    Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to chat with us!
    You've worked on countless famous guitars guitars over the years... could you please tells us about the early Charvel years and specifically, your involvement with the Randy Rhoads models, the Jeff Beck guitars, the Eddie Ojeda bulls-eyes and, of course, the Eddie Van Halen black and yellow striped Charvels?
    Also, back then, did Charvel send guitars to Floyd Rose to install the systems or were you doing the installations?
    Do you remember what Charvel guitar received the first Floyd Rose bridge?
    Thanks!
    I was hired by Grover (his first hire after buying the company) in 1979. I was 18 at the time. Eddie Van Halen had given me the phone number for Charvel's Mfg. because he had bought some parts from them, and I wanted to get a custom guitar made too. I kept driving up there to pay money down on this guitar, and finally asked for a job.

    Randy was a gem. So was his girlfriend. He would come in and I would set up his Les Paul, and I assembled the white and black guitars. It was so tragic when he died. Grover and I were in Lake Tahoe and had just got off the plane when we were told that he had died.

    Jeff Beck had a couple things that we made him. There was a flame painted Strat first, and then he bought a pink Soloist, and then we made him a yellow one. I had to up to the Sunset Marquee to talk to him about neck shapes, Grover just said, "go up there and sort it out", and I went by myself! It was very intimidating.

    The pink bullseyes I think were made for Manny's or Sam Ash, and I think Ojeda bought that there. I can't remember exactly.

    We always installed the Floyds at the shop. Don't remember the first, but I remember the WORSE. Vic Verget sent over a 1956 white blond Strat with gold parts...and a Floyd Rose box. I told Grover no way, but we had to. It was a crime. I should have went to jail for that.

    ME

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