Saturday, August 9, 2008

Phantom MandoGuitar - NAMM Show Model

I am a huge fan of Vintage Guitar Magazine. It's probably like when you're a kid and you got the Sears catalog in the mail in about November and you just sat and looked at all the toys for Christmas and circled the ones you wanted. Dr. Steven Stone is a columnist for VG and many years ago he wrote a review of a Phantom MandoGuitar. The Phantom is a faithful recreation of the famous Mando-Guitar or Mini-12 made by Vox in the '60s. If you haven't seen one, they are half the scale of a regular guitar and strung like a 12-string, giving you the sound of a mandolin but played using the fingering of a guitar. George Harrison made them famous...well, maybe not famous, but at least known, and in recent years lots of country players have kept them in their arsenal to add a really nice, pseudo-mandolin sound.

They are solid body and shaped like Ren's (or is it Stimpy's?) head. They sound fantastic and really give you a different texture when recording. Plus, who's got time to learn to play mandolin? This will give you a good fake in a pinch. So, as I mentioned, Steven Stone wrote a review about a mandoguitar made by Phantom, who makes lots of cool Vox-style replicas and the guy who owns the company used the be the guitarist in Quarterflash...remember them? Later that year, I saw an ad (I think in VG) for a MandoGuitar for sale and I contacted the person. It turns out it was none other than Steve Stone and the mandoguitar for sale was the one from the review. He had liked it so much he bought it from Phantom and it had been the very first, NAMM show model that Phantom had made. It was a beautiful sunburst and had a yellow-orange/gold pearloid pickguard that really set it off. They never offered that gold pickguard on a regular model, so this was really a one-of-a-kind. It had two single-coil Bill Lawrence pickups and was very well made.

I really loved the MandoGuitar and kept it for many years. It always got some weird looks when I used it on stage each night and guitarists always came up after a show and asked about it. As I said, it really adds a nice sound in recordings. Not only can you capture a fake mandolin sound, you can even get a very chimey, almost keyboard-ish sound too. In fact, me not being the most amazing guitarist of all time, whenever our band recorded our CDs, our main guitarist extrordinaire Dave Quillen usually recorded all the guitar parts.

However, the one thing they let me do was record the MandoGuitar parts. I wasn't a complete loser.

I don't have any photos of the MandoGuitar I owned (sadly), so I have included a shot from the Phantom website. Their website leaves a lot to be desired (it used to be a lot better...not sure what happened), but the instruments are top quality. If you ever run across one I would highly recommend giving it a try. They are not easy to get used folks out there with sausage fingers might as well forget it. But if you can manage to get your fingers in place and get used to the added string tension of the short scale, you can have a blast and come up with some very useful sounds.

UPDATE: It's many months later and I just found a photo of myself (yes, a rather gay looking photo...not that there's anything wrong with that...when I was in a band in the '90s) holding the mandoguitar I'm talking about. Gold pearl pickguard and all. Here you go...


Anonymous said...

Alex Chilton played a mando-guitar on "Daisy Glaze" on Big Star's Radio City, apparently borrowed from former Box Tops bandmate John Evans.

Anonymous said...

According to RADIO CITY (the book by Bruce Eaton, not the Big Star LP), Alex played a mando-guitar for the solos on "September Gurls," not "Daisy Glaze."

Bobbofallenstar said...

I've had my mandoguitar for a little over a year now. I keep trying to make it work for lots of recordings - it only ends up staying on about 5% of the tracks I try it out on but is great on that 5%!

I enjoyed your story about your mandoguitar. Mine is a Phantom as well, in black and white. I contacted the company about what strings to use and they suggested .08's - two sets of them done up in unison.

Anyway - nice page, nice article. All the best!