Brendan Smyth, owner and general manager of Heartbreaker Guitars, has been designing custom, limited edition Model 1 guitars with Rick Turner for a number of years. With a positive reaction from the public, Smyth and Turner discussed the idea of doing a very unique project of pairing a Model 1 with an equally as impressive acoustic guitar. After some deliberation, the list of candidate luthiers was narrowed down to a select few, and sitting in the number one spot at the top of their list was Richard Hoover.
Rick and Richard’s professional relationship dates back nearly 50 years with their shops having only been a few miles a part at one point in Santa Cruz, California, but it wasn’t until more recently that Santa Cruz Guitar Company (SCGC) began working with Heartbreaker. Shortly after bringing SCGC on board, both Brendan and Turner proposed the idea of a collaborative project between the 3 of them, but Hoover expressed his desire for the project to have significance and involve a special, and hopefully rare tone wood. The project was put on the back burner until 2019 when Richard would find a one-of-a-kind, historic wood begging to be earmarked for a worthy venture.
What Richard Hoover had found was a redwood reclaimed from a bridge in Yosemite National Park built in the 1920’s. In 2013, during California’s peak wildfire season, a quarter million acres of the park were burned costing over 120 million dollars. Among the damaged areas sat the Hardin Road Bridge, which took extensive damage and needed to be rebuilt. When Richard was lucky enough to acquire some of this reclaimed wood, upon presenting it to Rick and Brendan as a potential ingredient for their project, it was quickly appointed and christened “Yosemite Redwood” and the Legends in Lutherie project breathed it’s first breath.
To compliment the Redwood top, our luthiers decided on master grade Honduran Mahogany. In electric guitars, Mahogany is known for its punchy voice and fantastic sustain. Turner is very familiar with the use of quality mahogany having it be the core wood to many models of his Model 1, Renaissance, and even Model T guitars. In acoustics, the strong mids and great flexibility make it an ideal option for the guitars back and sides. Hoover is no stranger to the tonewood either, being a showroom delight on many of his custom models as well.
Why the Model 1?
For Rick Turner, the life story of the Model 1 guitar is not a tiny tale. From drawing board to center stage, the guitar carries along with it the memories Turner likely considers as the most prominent of his professional career. In 1970, with the help of Owsley Stanley of the Grateful Dead, Rick Turner became part of a newly founded workshop named “Alembic.” The crew, made up of Ron Wickersham, an electronics expert, Bob Mathews, a recording Engineer and Rick Turner, the groups guitarist turned luthier. Between the three of them, they were able to tweak the sound for live recording sessions, assist with the setup of PA systems, and make both modifications and repairs to band instruments well enough to influence the crew to take their talents beyond the band. It would be six years later that Turner was called to come meet John McVie of Fleetwood Mac. The group was working on their second album (Rumors) and the group asked Rick to take a close look at the setup of their Alembic basses, as well as Lindsey Buckingham’s Les Paul and Strat, so see if any adjustments might be needed. This would be the beginning of a life-long friendship between Turner and the band, and more so with Lindsey himself. The two showed similar interests and musical influences, and Rick was quickly inspired to take what he was learning about Buckingham’s instruments, apply his talent as a guitar builder, and create a custom instrument. When the final blueprints were shown to Lindsey for the first Model 1 prototype, “I’ll take one as soon as you have it done,” are words Rick Turner will never forget.
After many months of development, the establishment of a new company, and handful of life-changing memories later, Rick Turner presented his first Model 1 prototype to Fleetwood Mac in the summer of 1979. The Model 1 was able to accomplish what no other guitar could at the time. Lindsey Buckingham turned his back to both his Les Paul and Stratocaster, replacing them both with this incredible new sound. “The guitar just sat perfectly in the mix on any and all tunes,” Rick Turner says. “Lindsey could play it clean like an acoustic, get a bit more edge, kind of like he was playing a Strat with a clean tone, or crank it up full bore with Santana-like sustain. It did the trick.”
The FS Model.
The birth of the fingerstyle guitar from the Santa Cruz Guitar Company happened over a quarter century ago. While the widely sought after dreadnought was in the hand of every notable musician, the challenge of creating a guitar that responds quickly and loudly when played with minimal energy, all while having intonation support open tuning was brought to the table of Richard Hoover and SCGC.
Artists Will Ackerman, Robbie Basho, Daniel Hecht, Duck Baker and Michael Hedges were just a few of the musicians that turned to SCGC for a new vessel to carry their style of playing. Twenty-five years later, Richard Hoover holds a number of awards and is credited with the FS Model being “the inspiration for the guitar designs of some of the brightest lights in contemporary lutherie and a strong influence on major manufacturers.”
The response from players has been incredible. The FS model consistently reports overflowing overtones, rich sound, incredible response to light touch and authoritative volume. What more could you ask from an acoustic guitar. Beauty, you say? Coming right up.
The first thing you’ll notice about both of these guitars is the aforementioned Redwood tops. What once was old growth redwoods, repurposed as a bridge in the heart of Yosemite National Park, now is reclaimed wood falling hand in hand with the efforts of Richard Hoover and his consistent commitment towards responsible harvest. The slightest of sunbursts surrounds beautiful, ebony appointments, accentuating the grain of both redwood tops. Inside Turner’s Model 1 you’ll find a full electronics package including a parametric EQ, accompanied by a top side piezo with blending electronics. Finishing the electronics for the chambered-body electric is a hot wound Turner pickup with an active pre-amp. The acoustic houses a subtle electric element as well with an LR Baggs SL pickup sittings just inside the sound hole.
The matching set both display a beautiful Master Grade Honduran Mahogany surrounded by Tortoise bindings and “midnight rope” purfling. The South American Mahogany continues up the neck, which is covered in a beautifully contrasting African Ebony fretboard. Inside the fretboard is where you’ll find the inlaid signatures of both Richard Hoover and Rick Turner, sitting comfortably just below the 12th fret, Legends inlay, designed by the infamous Harvey Leach. Atop both guitars you’ll find an ebony peghead overlay, gold Gotoh tuners with ebony buttons, and logos from the corresponding instruments.
From the building of the guitars with Rick and Richard to their demo on the Heartbreaker stage, take a look at journey our Legends in Lutherie guitars have taken in these clips from our YouTube channel!
For hobbyists and collectors, this collaboration is an absolute dream come true. Two masters of their craft have joined forces, and with the help of Heartbreaker Guitars, this incredible matching set of exquisite guitars is now available to the public. The experience for Heartbreaker Guitars Owner Brendan Smyth was beyond one-of-a-kind. "Working on this project with Rick and Richard was a joy form start to finish. It actually wasn’t work at all! Sitting back and watching these two “legends” create these incredible guitars was one of the highlights of my career. This project is genuine and from the heart. Richard Hoover and Rick Turner are truly legends in the business, and this project shows why."
Only ten sets of the Legends in Lutherie guitars were made, so if you’re interested in testing out this limited series, get in touch with Brendan at Heartbreaker Guitars in Las Vegas, Nevada and he’ll set you up with an intimate afternoon for you and this pair of beautiful instruments.
Las Vegas, NV