There is no doubt whatsoever about the influence behind this used Rock n Roll Relic Thunder 1 – But some of you may well be asking who are the Rock n Roll Relic guitar company – Click here to visit their web site and browse accordingly – Whilst you are at it, then click here to read a review of a similar model, courtesy of Music Radar/Guitarist Magazine, to give you some additional info – I know the whole principle of a buying new guitar, that is then aged, to look old and played in, is similar to the discussion we can have about Marmite – You either love it or hate it – And on that basis some potential buyers have already move on – Yet if you have a soft spot for a quality, custom built guitar, that captures all the best of a vintage guitar, that is now over 60 years old then check out this used Thunder 1 – Even Billy Joe Armstrong owns one, whilst Gilby Clarke and Peter Buck now own a Rock n Roll Relic Guitar – So in no particular order let me update you with a host of info :-
- This is a used model from 2017 – A date that is easily arrived at thanks to the appropriate certificate that is included within the package
- Note the headstock on this used 2017 model – I dare say after a letter or two from Gibson’s legal team they have now changed the headstock so as to look a lot less ‘traditional’, with more of a ‘slash’ vibe about it
- Whole guitar weighs in at only 6lbs and 5oz
- Double cut design based on the late 50’s LP Junior, hence a one piece mahogany body
- One piece mahogany neck with a ’59’ profile – Measures .898″ around the top nut end, then fattens out to .990″ around the 12th fret -Meaty without being chunky, so very comfortable – More of a fat C profile that is easy to handle
- 12″ fingerboard radius
- Jescar frets that measure .45 x 100 so effectively a medium jumbo size – More medium/vintage than super jumbo, but certainly not old school vintage
- Very dark + smooth grained ebony fingerboard
- The aged hardware is mainly vintage old school – Hence 3 on a plate Kluson Supreme machine heads with white tuning buttons – Original spec’d bridge changed to a light weight Faber locking wrap over bridge/tailpiece that has the pre-set ridge that is suitable for a plain 3rd/G string
- Custom spec’d Dave Allen Cool Cat P90 soapbar – Alnico V magnets – Measures 8.62K
- Emerson Custom pots + a .022″ military grade tone cap
- Distinctive aged nitro black finish over a salmon base coat – I believe Billy Rowe offers different levels of an aged finish – I have to assume this is heavy or even extra heavy – Plenty of lacquer checking, along with worn patches to show the salmon base coat – Note the tortoiseshell pick guard to complete the visual package – The aged finish is thin and well done and I believe a lot of this is done by Billy Rowe himself – Rather than trying to capture the authentic 50’s aesthetics of say a Tom Murphy spec’d Gibson Custom Shop replica, the Thunder 1 captures more of a ‘players grade’ refin model, hence black over salmon – Certainly distinctive, plus very authentic in that ‘punk’ kind of spirit
- Package includes a deluxe ‘soft case’ – Not sure if this is original – I’ve seen and sold such cases before – Lighter than a regular oblong case yet with more protection than a gig bag
- Includes a copy of the certificate, spec sheet and soft polish cloth (not sure why you’d ever polish such a finish – But hey ho
Playability :- Re-strung with a set of Ernie Ball Mondo Slinky 10.5-52 gauge strings and set up with a slinky action that responds to a light touch – I initially set it up with 10-46 gauge strings, but it always felt to slinky with to much ‘rattle/zip’ about it – The 10.5-52 gage strings just make everything a touch tighter and in my opinion suits the guitar – I’m a fan of the LP Junior style guitars, but some can feel less user friendly to play – They might be fine to dig into blues chords, Muddy Water style riffs and power chords, yet can be somehow ‘stiff’ to handle for any fancy licks, plus string bending – Some might like this ‘fight’ – But after playing modern guitars like a PRS, that are so slick to handle, I like an old style guitar that is still slick and easy to handle – Over the years I’ve played, owned and sold what we might term a players grade vintage guitar – ie not all original, but now ‘upgraded’ with a set of chunky frets, so somewhat easier to handle- And this is the vibe that Rock n Roll Relic’s have captured – It is so fun and easy to play, be it rip roaring riffs, fancy speed licks, punk style power chords, or old school blues – The neck is meaty but with more of a C, rather than D or U profile, so the ‘slimmer’ shoulders make it more comfortable to handle – Yet you need the depth in the neck to aid tone, sustain and stability – I had no issues playing this Thunder 1 for a while
Tonal character :- It is what you’d expect it to be – Raw, but in a musical way, so balls, body and bite but without those spikey harsh highs – I dare say many will not play such a guitar through a clean amp setting, to often – Yet and maybe somewhat surprisingly, it has enough class and warmth about it to handle chilled out chords and melodic lines, even those kind of Hank Marvin tunes – Use the volume and tone pot, to soften the voice as required – But I dare say most will play such a guitar through some overdriven amp/pedal set-up – Be it old blues style from the days of Chess Records, with far less gain, to saturated filth, the Thunder 1 is on home turf – Yet despite it only having one pick up, the Thunder 1 is not a one trick pony, that works only with that full on voice – Use the volume and even the tone pot to fine tune the level of gain, as required – On less gain amp settings you can roll it off for a more chilled out cleaner tone, so kind of ‘The Thrill is gone’ chord backing, to ripping it up for a Johnny Be Goode solo – So plenty of control and emotion available from within you and the volume pot – On higher gain amp settings, such an approach, will trim the gain level from full on to far more subtle – For some styles of playing, then a Thunder 1 might be the only guitar you’ll need – Yet for many players, such a guitar can bring something extra to the table and you’ll have yours of fun exploring its use and tonal capabilities
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