Forward by Brendan Smyth (Owner, Heartbreaker Guitars):
"I have known Rick since 1999 when I bought my first Turner Model 1 guitar. I’ll never forget the conversation. I was seeking out the elusive Model 1 (they were hard to get at the time). I called the shop. He informed me there was a 2 year wait for a new Model 1. Are you kidding me?!!! And then he said… “Oh, but I have one that's slightly used that just came back from a studio in LA I could sell you.” I jumped at the chance. The guitar showed up. I’ll never forget the feeling when I opened the case. At the time the guitars were simply a mystery. Nobody knew much about them, let alone where to find one. I was simply entranced with Lindsey Buckingham's guitar playing and I had to see and play this guitar for myself. Unlatching the buckles of the case, I slowly opened it. Excalibur was revealed to me. The guitar was so much more beautiful in person. I could not believe the beauty of the guitar. I didn’t need to play it. I just knew it. I had made the right decision. I had purchased a guitar I could not afford that I would own for the rest of my life. I treasured this guitar for many years long before I had eventually created a friendship with Rick Turner. As my Turner collection grew I got to know Rick.
"Congratulations to Rick on an incredible career. He does what he loves and it shows. More importantly, on behalf of all the Turner fans out there, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for creating a guitar that inspires us. As a collector I have many guitars. The Model 1 continues to bring me new songs, new ideas, new inspiration and just plain joy of playing. It sits on my wall where I can admire it every day. On the days I don’t play it, it still brings me joy. The joy of a guitar like this can not be easily explained to a non-player, but the people out there who have been so lucky to own one know. So once again, Rick, I say… Thank you!"
- Brendan Smyth of Heartbreaker Guitars
In reading Brendan’s words, I took it upon myself to not only look deeper inside some of these amazing guitars, but also to see how this incredible journey began for the Model 1, Rick Turner and his guitar company.
Turner was a sophomore in high school in 1959, still just a kid, when he bought and restored his first stringed instrument. He found an old banjo, disassembled it, varnished and restored it using parts borrowed from both his and his Father’s workshops. The town he grew up in was a boat-building town and making or modifying things on a daily basis was common practice. While Turner built rubber band-powered airplanes and blew things up with fireworks (as many of us can relate to), his father used his shop as an artist, a painter and plunking musician. During either of their projects, there would always be guitar music playing. Whether driven by his own curiosity or forced on him by his surroundings, Rick never put the stringed instruments down and a few years later while attending Boston University, Turner found himself deep in the folk revival of the late 50’s visiting coffee shops while his classmates kept to their studies. His integration into the folk music world was amplified when Rick decided, of all things, to make custom guitar straps. It was the String Instrument Workshop, a repair facility in Boston at the time, that found his straps worthy of a larger audience, and offered to carry his product if he’d produce a larger number. Quick to jump on the opportunity, Turner landed himself a job, and as his presence became more steady, the shop decided to test his abilities with random repair jobs as they entered the shop. This was another turning point that would eventually shape the future for Rick Turner.
It was in 1965 that Turner began his traveling gigs as a part-time musician. While the charts were littered with big names like The Rolling Stones, The Righteous Brothers, Elvis Presley and The Beatles, Rick played along side a Canadian folk singer and made his way through clubs, music festivals, quickly moving up the ranks and even performing at the Hollywood Bowl. It was at the end of his tour that Turner found himself in New York and began his first experimentation with the building of his own electric guitar.
Rick’s entrepreneurial spirit was tested in 1969 when he was introduced to The Grateful Dead and Augustus Owsley Stanley III, a legendary audio engineer for The Dead credited with the development of the famous 'Wall of Sound' and the band’s famous skull logo. Owsley had a vision of bringing musicians, technicians, engineers and artisans together to make a new generation of gear. In 1970, Turner took that idea along with Ron and Bob Mathews, fellow Dead technicians and engineers, and formally created Alembic Incorporated. Their combination of sound engineering skills and custom instrument building and modification with The Grateful Dead got them attention from Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills and Nash and many more. After a move to Cotati, California and the purchase of a recording studio in San Francisco as well as a well-timed article in Rolling Stone Magazine titled “Sound Wizards to the Grateful Dead,” it didn’t take long for the flood gates to open for Alembic. Custom orders came in from all directions. Orders from Santana, Stanley Clarke and the Who to Emerson, Lake and Palmar and even Led Zepplin.
Even with the seemingly endless success and attention from such big names in the industry, Turner was getting reviews of his guitars sounding “cold and sterile” and he had enough. Rick loved the warm mahogany of the Les Paul’s custom body but sought more clarity, like what you’d find in a Fender Stratocaster. As the 1970’s reached it’s final years, Turner had been working independently with clients and among his loyal clients was John McVie of Fleetwood Mac. With the bass projects from three or four Alembic basses, he’d also done some side work on all of Lindsey Buckingham’s Strats.
When Rick shared the ideas for the new project with Lindsey, he quickly requested one of his own to try out when they were finished. Turner returned with what we now know as The Model 1 during a soundcheck for Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk tour, and after playing just a short time on the new model, Buckingham allegedly abandon his other guitars and made his new Rick Turner Model 1 his go-to guitar. For almost 22 years, it held the spotlight on stage.
The Model 1’s iconic sound, rich history and beautiful craftsmanship have influenced Turner to make as little modifications to the original release as possible. On a new model you’ll find the offered addition of a piezo pickup system. An improved bridge on the front finishes off the changes, as the rest of the guitar is just about identical to what was introduced cover 40 years ago. A closer look at the bones of this guitar are in order.
The body shape was inspired by an 1825 European guitar that Turner had in his collection. He added the cutaway and the basic shape was born. With the body being made of solid Honduras Mahogany, Turner decided to arch both the front and back of the body to reduce weight. The neck is constructed of Maple and Purple Heart with a Brazilian Rosewood fretboard.
For the electronics you’ll find a single humbucking pickup, custom made in house by Turner himself, and a series of active electronics. Due to Lindsey Buckingham’s satisfaction of Turner’s previous addition of a pre-amp to Lindsey’s Stratocaster, Rick decided to include it in the Model 1 in combination with a switchable semi-parametric equalizer, a volume control, passive tone control and a frequency/boost cut control. The new release of the Model 1 features a push-pull tone control, allowing the player to switch the humbucker to a single coil for a bit more versatility, tone-wise.
On the face of Lindsey Buckingham’s original model one, with closer inspection, you’ll see some slight modifications to the electronics. The passive tone control and output jack have both been relocated, mimicking what you’d find on the updated model.
In the video down below, Brendan gives you the rundown of a few of these newly released Model 1 variations that he's lucky enough to currently have in stock at Heartbreaker Guitars in Las Vegas.
The first of the four models is the Rick Turner Model 1 Standard in Honduran Mahogany. As the most affordable model, it has black binding on the front side only, single piece maple neck and basic tuners, yet the same body shape, pickup and layout as the other more complex models. The second model featured in the video is the Rick Turner Model 1 Lindsey Buckingham. Also featuring a Honduran Mahogany body, the color of this guitar features a burgundy red stain which has quite the history with Buckingham's guitars. This more extensive model has black binding on the front and back sides, laminated Maple and Purple Heart neck, Gotoh tuners, ebony backstrap overlay and a bound fretboard. The electronics have the same volume and tone control knobs, but also included are the parametric eq and boost/cut and eq functions.
Next of the featured models is an absolute stunner. The Rick Turner 40th Anniversary Model 1 Lindsey Buckingham Edition. This guitar has 'throw back' written all over it with its natural wood grain, original 1979 styling, but updated features and a beautiful, actual, white signature from the man himself, Lindsey Buckingham. This model was released to the public in Anaheim at NAMM 2019 just last month and Heartbreaker Guitars holds the first available in the United States with 6 (of just 18 being made) on order.
The final model presented to us in the video, and one of Brendan's personal favorites, is the Rick Turner Model 1 Sinker Series Featherweight (#5 of 5). This guitar gets its name from the pound and half lighter, cedar core.
This featherweight features a blend control piezo knob, and in combination with the light weight body the guitar has an almost acoustic feel to it making it one of the more unique Model 1s available.
Hopefully, you were able to watch the video and allow Brendan to make his surprise announcement himself, but just in case you missed it, here it is: Heartbreaker Guitars has the original 1979 Model 1 played by Lindsey Buckingham while on tour with Fleetwood Mac... FOR SALE! This guitar is one of only three made and believed to be the only of the three left in existence. The guitar is rich in history with Lindsey's personal modifications, slight differences from the newly released Model 1s and the long list of incredible stories that come free with this historical guitar. To make push this collector's item over the top, the guitar has remained playable over the last 40 plus years and will most definitely find itself in the hands of an admirer soon.
Before signing out, I must make a personal request to all those who are fans of Lindsey Buckingham as either an accomplished artist or fellow human being that's touched so many people through his music over the span of his lifetime and career. Lindsey's wife, Kristen Buckingham, posted on social media some news concering her husband's health that has left the music world a bit shaken:
The post reads:
I am sad to say that late last week Lindsey underwent emergency open heart surgery. He is now recuperating at home and each day he is stronger than the last. While he and his heart are doing well, the surgery resulted in vocal cord damage. While it is is unclear if this damage is permanent, we are hopeful it is not.
This past year has been a very stressful and difficult year for our family to say the least. But despite all this, our gratitude for life trumps all obstacles we have faced at this moment. We feel so fortunate he’s alive. As does he. He looks forward to recovery and putting this behind him. Needless to say, all touring and shows currently scheduled have been put on pause for the moment as he gathers the strength to heal completely.
Our family thought it important to share what’s happening with Lindsey with the hope that inspires someone else to seek preventative care. Lindsey’s family has a history of heart issues, having lost both his father at 56 and his brother at 46 to heart related illness. If anyone is experiencing even the mildest of symptoms we encourage you to seek the care of a physician.
We are so thankful for the kind and generous love given by the people surrounding Lindsey, me and our kids throughout this emotional time. We can’t thank you enough for all you did for our family. We will never forget you. XO
- Kristen Buckingham
In whatever way you deem appropriate, please take a moment to put Lindsey and his family in your thoughts as they push for his speedy recovery.
If you're interested in one of the featured Rick Turner Model 1 guitars featured above or any of the others now in stock at Heartbreaker Guitars, you can see them online here or visit them in person at their amazing show room in Las Vegas, Nevada. They are a proud Rick Turner Guitars dealer and would be beyond happy to help you find more information on these exquisite guitars.
Heartbreaker Guitars Contributor