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April 14, 2017


A Sneak Preview From the Custom Shops of Gretsch and Fender


Gretsch Custom Shop
(From left: An assortment of rainbow-colored binding to construct one-off Gretsch Custom Shop hollowbodies)

When Chicago Music Exchange crafts exclusive or custom instruments, we leave no stone unturned in the process. From handpicking tone woods to developing exclusive finishes to hand selecting every pickup component, we spare no detail ensuring that our best is, in fact, our best. When we're offered the opportunity to be a hands-on part of the process, we never turn it down, and that's exactly why all of our CME Exclusive instruments—from our specially housed pedals to our Gibson Custom collection—is instilled with the utmost Chicago-style character and pride. Last week, we accomplished exactly that when we ventured to the West to work hand in hand with Gretsch and Fender on some of our exciting forthcoming models!

Gretsch headstocks

(Headstock samples at the workbench of famed Custom Shop Master Builder Stephen Stern.) 

We're giving you a sneak peak at exactly what went on behind the scenes as we masterminded the coolest custom instruments and bring these pieces to life. When we rub elbows with the famed Fender Custom Shop and Gretsch Custom Shop, there's always some impeccable gear to share.


(Gretsch's modern, new "V" style tailpiece is currently being used on its new Player's Edition Series instruments as well as some new CME Exclusive models.) 

We initially met Gretsch Custom Shop Master Builder Stephen Stern during our travels to NAMM back in January, and we wasted no time to ideate on some insane custom Gretsch designs to be released later this year. Ever the impatient gear lovers, we had to see these Stern masterworks in process for ourselves. So we met with Stephen right where the action happens in Corona, Calif., to check out their status before their arrival. These, beauties exceeded our expectations, even being only halfway through production! 


Gretsch Custom Shop
Gretsch Custom Shop

(A sneak peek at our brand new Gretsch Custom Shop double cut Duo Jet, currently in production.)

During our hours behind the scenes, Stephen was generous enough to first peel back the paper on the chambered mahogany body for a sneak preview of our soon-to-be-released custom double-cut Duo Jet. Our very unique rendition of the timeless model wielded by George Harrison, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour and more is a standalone masterpiece in its own right, sporting a red pearloid finish and alternate vintage-style Gretsch headstock logo.

The "moto" color treatment, as we've informally been calling it, hearkens back to Gretsch's golden-era rock 'n' roll years during the ’50s and ’60s, but ironically was not a very common finish for its guitars. Interestingly, it was adopted as a drum wrap during those days and is very rarely, if ever, applied to Gretsch Custom Shop guitars!

Gretsch Custom ShopGretsch Custom Shop

(From top: General Manager Alex Chadwick holds the in-process Custom Shop pearloid White Falcon to be released at CME in June; CEO Andrew Yonke selects between variants of walnut stain at Stern's desk.)

Speaking of pearloid finishes, we loved the idea of decking out our custom Falcon in a moto treatment as well—a classic white variation in true Falcon spirit. While at the Custom Shop, we also spent time handpicking the walnut stain for the guitar's gorgeous mahogany back (and of course, documenting the evidence for our fellow Gretsch enthusiasts). Both of this stunning "moto" models will be ready for purchase when Stephen visits CME on June 28 for an exciting panel and custom build session (details coming soon).

Gretsch Custom ShopGretsch Custom Shop

(From top: A treasure trove of limited-edition Malcolm Young "Salute" guitars; Chadwick takes the Malcolm for a spin.)

Along with our own Custom Shop creations, we managed to catch a glimpse of Gretsch's extremely limited-edition Malcolm Young guitar, the "Salute" jet—a meticulously recreated version of the AC/DC rhythm guitarist's longtime axe. This rare instrument boasts "stripped-down" finish and two removed pickups, along with a substantial "U" profile and performance-friendly 12" fingerboard radius. Alex Chadwick wasted no time taking "the Beast," as its informally called, for a test drive while at the factory. Best of all, we're getting two of them available for pre-order now!

(Freshly painted Fender Custom Shop bodies waiting for the next stage of their build.)

During our travels to the California, we of course felt obliged to stop into the Fender Custom Shop to check out the scenery and pick up a few select items. While scouring the lab for potential souvenirs we came across this 2017 Artisan Series Telecaster—decked our in exotic, highly figured Tamo Ash and coated with a special "Midas" nitro finish to make that grain pop! It's a hybrid all right, sporting a ’60s Tele neck with ’63 Strat "C" profile, handwound ’58 Tele pickups, original-era inspired gold pickguard and much more hidden treasures under the hood. It's already in our showroom and waiting for your loving arms alongside a gorgeous 2017 Artisan Series Spalted Maple Stratocaster that you'll have to see to believe.

Fender Custom ShopFender Custom SHop

(From top: the 2017 Artisan Series Telecaster Tamo Ash, a Yuriy Shishkov Master Built 1959 Stratocaster in Journeyman Relic finish.)

On the topic of Stratocasters, Master Builder Yuriy Shishkov—who is famously revered for his ornate, granular details and luxe materials—supplied us with a one of a kind 1959 Stratocaster in a finely faded Journeyman Relic Sonic Blue finish. It's equipped with a rosewood neck to boot, along with many other fine details indicative of this hallmark transition year for Fender. We were also privy to another top-secret Stratocaster undertaking—a new Eric Clapton model to add to our collection! Unlike previous Clapton incarnations, this one is the first to incorporate a Heavy Relic treatment—a first for Slowhand signatures. And naturally, the Fender Custom Shop delivered, meticulously wearing the exact frets and back-of-neck locations to Clapton's discerning specifications. 

Fender Custom Shop

(A glimpse at the in-production Eric Clapton Signature model in Aged White Blonde with Heavy Relic neck.)

Can't get enough Custom Shop goodness? Need more tasty gear? We have plenty of models arriving in house this year from NAMM. You can also shop our entire collection now of Fender Custom Shop and Gretsch Custom Shop models now.






Hilary Brown
Hilary Brown