Engraved Series by NEWMAN Guitars and Danny O’Brien
(Washington, IN) Few rock music instruments are as recognizable and iconic as the custom electric guitars and basses first built by famed luthier Tony Zemaitis in the 1970s that featured engraved metal fronts by Danny O'Brien. They have been played by such legendary musicians as Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Ronnie Lane (Faces/Small Faces) and other notables, and are treasured for the aesthetics and craftsmanship of O'Brien's master engravings.
O'Brien now joins forces with custom guitar company Newman Guitars to create a new generation of metal-front electric guitars distinguished by their superior workmanship, tone, style and playability. The company was founded by the legendary and gifted luthier Ted Newman Jones, who was the rock music tour circuit's first "guitar technician" from his tenure working for Keith Richards on Rolling Stones tours throughout the 1970s.
The custom guitars he designed and built for Richards served as prototypes for the hand-crafted Newman guitars he created in his Austin, TX workshop. In 1978, he retired from the road to build guitars for Richards and Wood as well as Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, James Honeyman-Scott (Pretenders), Willie Nelson, Billy F. Gibbons, George Jones, Lucinda Williams, Joe Ely and his longtime bandmate and Texas legend Jesse Taylor, Rick Richards (Georgia Satellites) and other notables. Jones, who was largely known to all as "Newman," also built one of the world's most famous and expensive guitars: Eric Clapton's prized "Blackie," constructed by Newman from1950s Fender Stratocasters that Clapton bought in Nashville in 1970, and sold at auction in 2004 for $850,000.
This union of the legacy of these two electric guitar-building legends will be enhanced by noted luthier Jacob Harper which represents a further extension of the revival of the widely-admired Newman brand. Current Newman Guitars owner/CEO Jeff Smith began working with Ted after reading a 1981 Guitar World magazine article on Jones, befriending him and becoming his assistant, and continuing the company after the acclaimed builder passed away of cancer in 2016. Also noted is project manager Ian Dickey who has been close friends of both Danny and Jeff and put the two together in partnership for this legendary journey and metalwork by David Humphreys in England who expertly prepares the metal for Danny for work from.
The Newman design continues to find favor with famed players and has risen to critical acclaim. Custom guitar fanatic Billy F. Gibbons designed and commissioned Newmans to add to his collection and played them on his most recent tour. In Premier Guitar, noted player and guitar journalist/reviewer Joe Gore raved how a newer Newman is a "worthy tribute to the custom guitars that rocked many a ’70s stadium. Skillfully made from quality materials, it plays like a dream." Similarly, Vintage Guitar said of a recent build, "it’s difficult to imagine a better testament to [Newman's] continued legacy." Rumble Seat Music in Nashville serves as the primary retail outlet for Newman Guitars.
“Great guitars start with great people," says Smith of the Newman/O'Brien collaboration. "We are excited to have the very best at their craft represented in these Newman guitars. It’s a marriage or rock royalty in the guitar world 40 years in the making.”
The London, England-based O’Brien adds, “Now that my contract is Zemaitis has ended, I look forward to a productive future engraving for Newman Guitars. This project excites me and will give me the opportunity to continue further the development of my work in 2019 with the support of Newman Guitars.”