By Andrew Catania
Back in the summer of May 1999, Guitar Player Magazine confidently asserted that Suhr Guitars “has a reputation for building exquisitely crafted guitars.” One can’t help but keep in mind the one simple fact that as of the date of this statement – the company had only been in existence for a mere 2 years.
Started by John Suhr and Steve Smith in 1997 in California, Suhr Guitars went on to become a coveted manufacturer of electric guitars and basses, guitar amplifiers and effect units.
The circle of success only seemed to come full circle due to John Suhr’s history of focusing on building guitars. The innovative designer had started his career with humble beginnings as a guitar repairman in Ledgewood, where he was actually fired for taking too long to do a grain and polish on the frets. He then went on to work as a repairman at Rudy’s Music Shop in New York City.
Suhr’s level of intense creativity was inspired by being largely self-taught. He also credits his success to Bob Benedetto who once told him “If you want to do it, you’re just going to do it. You’re just going to have to start taking apart guitars and figuring it out.” It was this advice that led Suhr to explore building guitars from scratch – using nothing but his own common sense and discarding traditional learning methods such as books.
He created his first Suhr custom guitar in 1984 – 15 years prior to setting up Suhr Guitars. This only exemplifies his early focus on wishing to own his very own guitar company someday. During 1991 -1994, Suhr built over 50 custom guitars, mainly by focusing on amplifiers. He then went on to become a senior master builder at Fender’s Custom Shop in 1995 before taking the plunge as an entrepreneur with Suhr Guitars.
With the help of Steve Smith and his vast expertise in management, software and Computer Numeric Control (CNC) knowledge – the company revolutionized the manufacturing process by using CNC routers to produce guitar necks and bodies instead of using the traditional hand-made method. This left them with the complete control of the manufacturing process since they did not require additional human assistance for production, thereby leaving them with the highest level of control over the quality of guitars produced.
Suhr Guitars seems to remind us of a company that values quality over quantity. Rather than diving into producing hundreds of styles, the company focuses on building a select few guitars that are of the highest quality. All the guitar models are based on four distinct body shapes, each with different series of guitars.
They offer a unique touch of individuality by offering customizations based on customer needs (except for the Pro Series.) The fact that iconic artists such as Reb Beach, Scott Handerson, Mike Landau and Ian Thornley use Suhr guitars is nothing but a reflection of the dedication the company provides towards each guitar they create for their users.
We just have to get us one of those, don’t we?
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