Chicago Music Exchange's Best of 2019


2019 was quite the year! We played some incredible gear, hosted new artists and introduced awesome new brands to the world. Check out our year in video:


But before you go remaking your rig, dig our favorite new releases of 2019. 

This heavily modified 4003S is outfitted with the Om and Sleep bassist’s specs of choice, including a re-engineered bridge with adjustable saddles, double action truss rod, removable thumb rest and pickup bezels, and “Sleep” green inlays. 

Designed and constructed in collaboration with Fender, our CME Exclusives preserve all you know and love about your favorite short-scale bass while adding new colorways with color-compliment pickguards and PJ pickup configurations to our complete line of Fender Offset Series guitars.  

Dressed to impress, the Rebel, Jupiter, and Silhouette hark back to Harmony’s glory days as a favored producer instruments with a fun and funky edge.  

The Les Paul Junior and Special are even more spartan versions of Gibson's first iconic solid-boy guitar model. Originally intended to be a more affordable, accessible alternative to Gibson's expertly-crafted, carved maple topped Les Paul guitar, the Junior and Special are excellent examples of Gibson's "simple done well" mantra.  

Go from acoustic to electric, in between, and back again with the Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster. Offering an infinite range of acoustic and electric sounds in just one instrument, the Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster proposes a new answer to the question of what a guitar can be: everything.  

We put our exclusive Fender MIJ lefties into the hands of one of our favorite left-handed guitar players, Mdou Moctar. 


Take a closer look at some of your favorite brands and the people behind them with the year’s best installments in our Inside series.  

If you can believe it, Banker Custom Guitars is exactly what it sounds like: custom guitars, made by hand by a former banker. Matthew Hughes opened Banker Custom Guitars to the public in 2016, and he’s never looked back. 

The Santa Cruz Guitar Company has one goal: to make better guitars for a better life. Drawing inspiration from violin makers, SCGC is all about the harmony of process.  

“Made In America” has become synonymous with quality as over the years more and more things are being outsourced for manufacturing in China, India, Vietnam, and all over Asia. But unlike other drum companies Barton wears its “Made In China” tag like a badge of honor.  

When Josh Scott speaks, he speaks simply. His company, JHS, makes simple pedals, each with a simple goal: to contribute to and further the history of the electric guitar. 

Ludwig is synonymous with big names, big sound, and bigger stars, and like many small businesses that grew into giants, the Ludwig brothers started theirs from the ground up. Literally.  


The trippy travelogue chronicling our vintage buyers’ most memorable misadventures and significant scores of 2019.

Eastern Dupage County’s largest sports and expo center did not disappoint with over 20,000 square feet of wall-worthy pieces to satisfy our vintage vice.  

We headed for the city of brotherly love with a healthy side of November malaise and a budding desire to absolutely obliterate any notion of a “vintage guitar diet.” 

Intrigue, romance, murder: that’s Dallas. Okay, maybe that’s just Dallas the TV show, but how about two jet-lagged guitar nerds, 200,000+ square feet of possibility, and one bone white Camaro? That’s our Dallas. 

San Antonio was a trip! From the character of the hotel to the quality of guitar presence, we had a ball and are happy to say we have quite a haul for you!  

They never expected to see our faces ‘round those parts again, not after what we did in Dallas, and again in San Antonio. But you can’t keep axe-slingers like us away from a good day in the Texas sun.  


It’s all about heart, but what keeps the old ticker ticking? We asked some of our favorite artists of 2019. 

Steel-string guitarist and Santa Cruz Signature Artist Eric Skye stopped by our Lincoln Avenue showroom for his very first CME Session and told us about the importance of mindfulness, scale length, and pushing past “just good guitar playing” to an improvisational place where melody thrives.  

21 year-old singer-songwriter Gretta Ray is based in Melbourne, Australia, and is renowned around the world for her catchy, yet intricately-woven tunes that'll have you tapping your foot while deep in thought. 

2017 Blues Music Award Nominee Guy King’s music is fresh and unique while maintaining a strong link to the musical masters that came before him. His natural musical abilities and his one of a kind blend of Blues, Jazz, Soul, and R&B are some of what makes Guy King so special in the music world.  

Multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter duo OHMME is made up of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart. Their aggressive, yet meditative and trance-inducing sound stems from a rich background of musical influences.  

Listening to John R. Miller feels like you're talking to an old friend. His honest, inspired lyrics accompanied by his folky finger-style guitar playing make for a perfect match with our acoustic room. 

First distributed through a secretive trade network of cellphones and memory cards in West Africa, the music of Mdou Moctar draws from a particular style of Berber music unique to the Tuareg. 


Put some Visine in your third eye. It’s time for the year’s heaviest Vintage Vibes. 

Issued initially as a Gold Top, the Les Paul got a new look in 1958, when Gibson introduced a new model with a sunburst finish: the Les Paul Standard. 

Previously likened to a "plank" or "canoe paddle," the Blackguard Telecaster is now one of the most coveted guitars in history.  

One of six natural EB-2s made in 1958, this fine example comes complete with original specs like the round neck, large neck humbucker, and banjo tuners, which were installed on all EB-2s until 1961. 

Special-ordered from the factory with a natural finish, split parallelogram inlays, and a Bigsby, this semi-hollow body beauty was once a part of the Chinery collection and is all original down to the wiring harness and PAF humbucking pickups. 

Not a baritone, not a bass, and not even really a guitar, this 1965 Fender Bass VI is somehow all of those things at once, and more.  

The Gibson Everly Brothers is one of the most sought-after signature acoustics the brand has ever produced, and it’s unclear how many Naturals were made or how many remain to this day.  

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