by lmsn rds

It started off as a poor boy’s dream.

Too much had been written about it as being the most versatile guitar ever, allegedly even more versatile than a solid-bodied Stratocaster. To possess a guitar that was that unique in its physical attributes, playability or tone was a dream. I wanted an archtop, like those jazz and bluesmen. Jazz was something that I never expected to comprehend, let alone love. No real rules to it. – play it as freely as you can. Listening to cats like Tal Farlow and Joe Pass always leaves me amazed. I may never be able to play like them but nailing the tone would be within my reach.

I originally wanted an ES335, Gibson’s epitome of total versatility. Also, either a Gretsch Country Gentleman or the Epiphone Sheraton II would do nicely. The steep asking prices for the Gretsch or the ES335 meant that the Epiphone Sheraton II was the only option left standing. The late great John Lee Hooker got one. His was an American-made 1964 Sheraton, while mine is just a Korean (but still retaining the Epiphone tag) knock-off which was manufactured in 2000, bought from Peter Cook’s World of Guitars. I got for like £450, which included a Hiscox hardcase. In my opinion, the choice of wood plays a lesser role in tone department unlike proper acoustics or solidbodies. The Sheraton and other Epiphone/Gibson hollowbodies do resemble more of acoustics rather than electrics. I use her for both slide and solo work, so the action must be perfectly set up for both.

My Sheraton (or Sha as I call her) bears a gorgeous tobacco sunburst finish with gold hardware, laminated maple body and back, whilst her neck is three-piece maple. Her headstock bears the recognisable Epiphone floral motif, also seen in the Joe Pass Signature Emperor. The stock Epiphone humbucking pickups were unfortunately microphonic, so I hotrodded Sha with a Seymour Duncan ’59 at the bridge and a Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro at the neck position. I also replaced was her 3-way toggle switch with a Gibson original, in addition to the original plastic knobs with golden steel round ones. For the strings, I swear by D’Addario Flat Wound XLights.

In terms of tone, none of my other guitars could compare to Sha’s. Sha emanates a somewhat instant shimmering warmth once plugged into my Marshall TSL half-stack. I may not play that much jazz (yeah, right you are –Ed.) but Sha’s tone is definitely pure smooth jazz. Tweaking of her tone knobs when played thru a TS808, her superbly responsive tone, I dare say, is reminiscent of Ian Anderson’s riffs in Jethro Tull’s Aqualung. On the other hand, plugged to a good clean amp like the Fender Deluxe Reverb II, jamming to songs by John Mayall and Freddy Robinson makes you feel like you are one the boys on the record. She sounds sweet plugged and unplugged. I never played her on a live set but the neon had that privilege the last time when The Desperados played at the MASSOC annual dinner at Sheffield’s Cutlers Hall.

* click here for Sha’s full specs.

update: sha’s current modifications. in more ways than one.

lmsn rds is currently employed with an international medical equipment firm in kuala lumpur. when not gigging in the woods of borneo, he ventures into the rivers of deep negeri sembilan for hand-fishing. or sometimes tasik kenyir for the elusive ikan gajah.