Pioneering Luthier Rick Turner, 1943-2023

The Canyon ChronicleBy The Canyon Chronicle

Share Story on:

Pioneering Luthier Rick Turner, 1943-2023
The legendary luthier Rick Turner, whose creations helped shape the design of high-end electric guitars, died on April 17, 2022, aged 78, accor In a statement released via Instagram , his children Ethan and June Turner announced that their father had died on 17 April of “complications from congestive heart failure and stroke”.
Mark Thomas, a reader of The Canyon Chronicle, recently passed this along, with this tidbit of Topanga history: “Rick Turner had a shop on Fernwood across from 850, The Old Stalin Furniture Shop. He might have lived in the house there, too. Not sure how many years, maybe five, and then went north.” In a statement released via Instagram, Rick Turner’s children, Ethan and June Turner, announced that their father died on 17 April of “complications from congestive heart failure and stroke”. Responding to the Turner family’s statement, Paul Reed Smith described Turner as a “special soul.”  “Rick Turner was a gifted guitar maker, an innovator, and a special soul,” wrote Smith. “At the beginning of my career, he selflessly helped my company through a review in Guitar Player magazine. His honesty and willingness to help another instrument maker left a lifelong, very positive impression on me. I send my very best to his family and friends.” Turner leaves behind a formidable legacy. His designs were ahead of their time. Perhaps none more so than the chamber-bodied Turner Model 1 he would make for Lindsey Buckingham in 1979, adapting it into a signature guitar for the former Fleetwood Mac guitarist.  If it weren’t for the precarious nature of the music business, the luthiery world might have been deprived of Turner’s talents. In the ‘60s, he played in psych-rock band Autosalvage, releasing one self-titled album in 1968, getting good reviews. But the band split before it could go much further.  Turner cut his teeth in guitar repairs working out of Boston with former cabinetmaker Stan Stansky and jazz guitarist Don Gadbois. Speaking to Premier Guitar in 2010, he expressed horror at some of the techniques used back them, but ultimately the experience stood him in good stead. “I learned luthiery primitive from these guys,” said Turner. “When I look back at the way we did things, I’m in shock. I mean, it was just horrendous. Those were the dark ages of American small-shop luthiery and guitar repair. Nobody knew anything outside of the factories…nobody knew Jack Diddley squat. A few classical builders were starting to do things, and I knew a few people just starting to try to build acoustic guitars.  “We who got into it in the early to mid-’60s were really on our own in terms of ‘How do you do this?’ and ‘How do you do that?’ Some of the repair techniques were utterly brutal. We didn’t know about steaming necks off for doing neck resets, we just slammed them out!” The repairing route offered Turner an in. He did odd jobs for Dan Armstrong in New York. When he was offered the opportunity to turn a smashed-up Gibson SG and parts into something new, he took it. It was a wise move. Jerry Garcia bought that guitar, then used it on 1971’s Skull And Roses. Co-founding Alembic in 1969, Turner would deepen the connection with the Grateful Dead when he helped design their infamous ‘Wall of Sound’ P.A. system. In 1976, Turner patented the graphite neck with Geoff Gould. Three years later he would form Rick Turner Guitars. In 1988, he joined Gibson, but decided to leave by 1991. His Electroline bass guitar design was originally intended for Gibson but it was never picked up. But Turner would put it into work. Besides guitars and basses, Rick Turner Guitars also made ukuleles. Turner’s designs often blurred the distinction between guitar making and art. The Pretzel was one such design, and was exhibited in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and New York City’s Museum of Art and Design. Made a year before Alembic was founded, his first neck-through electric guitar was carved largely by hand, with Turner using a diamond saw to carve the abalone inlays, then using the same saw to carve the ceramic magnet for the hand-wound pickups. The metal work on the guitar was performed using jewelry techniques learned from Anne Dick, the ex-wife of sci-fi author Philip K Dick. “Anne had set three of us up as cottage industry sub-contractors in the Pt. Reyes Station area, and I learned to do light forging, welding, and silver soldering from her,” wrote Turner on his website. But there was a hugely practical element to Turner’s guitar-making. There was form and function behind his work, and an aesthetic that referenced the history of stringed instruments to present something that was at once fresh and new. The Model 1 was inspired by Johann Georg Stauffer’s – a 19th-century design that informed a 20th-century guitar that remains just as forward thinking today. Originally published April 19, 2022 in Music Radar Newsletter (musicradar.com/news/rick-turner-obituary) Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.
The Canyon Chronicle

Share Story on:

Passages

The Canyon Chronicle

Digital Paper
Thinking Out Loud
Latest News
Pandemic
All things connected
SOUL & COFFEE
MY CORNER OF THE CANYON
OPINION
EVENTS
HOLIDAY NEWSMAKERS
LIFESTYLE
ELECTIONS
Books
Astrology
ARTS
Commentary
Columnists
Covid diary
ENVIRONMENT
Featured
CALENDAR
Schools
Fires
Science
Health
Letters
Travel
OBITUARIES
Topanga historical society
Thanks Giving
Passages
WORSHIP SERVICES
DOG DAYS
SPOTLIGHT
WOMEN TAKING CHARGE IN CHANGING TIMES
SHOUTING OUT LOUD
COMMUNITY
OUT & ABOUT
AKUMAL DIARY
Arts & Culture
Butterfly Day
ECO-LIVING
BE WATER WISE
FIRST PERSON
GOVERNMENT AT WORK
HOLY DAYS OF RENEWAL
Movies
LONG DISTANCE LISTENING PARTY
Photography
Music
Pop Culture
Poetry
RUDE INTERRUPTIONS
SCHOOLHOUSE SCOOP
TO LOVE AND BE LOVED
Theatre & Dance
TOPANGA BEFORE TODAY
TRENDING
TOPANGA DAYS
WHAT’S HAPPENING?