Airline is a brand of electric and acoustic guitars originally made in the United States from 1958-68 by the Valco Manufacturing Company. Today, original Valco guitars are played by a host of celebrities including David Bowie, The Cure, Kurt Cobain, and Jack White of The White Stripes.
Sam Moore, Auckland based proprietor of Moore Guitars and a guitarist who describes his style as 'psychedelic noise rock with hints of surf guitar, had been interested in Airline guitars since 2012 when he was looking for a new guitar. At the time he was listening to PJ Harvey who uses an Airline and loved the way they looked and sounded. He discovered that a company called Eastwood had acquired the rights to the Airline brand in the early noughties and was reproducing the classic guitars with modern componentry, making them sound better than the originals and easier to play.
As luck would have it, he was going for a vacation in the US and could get one shipped to a relative in that part of the world to save on postage. On arrival, the instrument was everything he imagined it might be and he began using it at gigs. Members of the audience would ask him about it all the time and this interest got him thinking about setting up a business to sell the Airline in New Zealand.
Mid way through 2015 he moved from thinking about the business to discussing the idea with friends, none of whom thought it was crazy, and in October he mustered up the courage to email Mike Robinson, the head of Eastwood. He told Mike that he thought there was a market in New Zealand for the Airline and Mike agreed. Sam was suddenly their dealer in the territory.
For Sam there is nothing better than opening the case of a brand new guitar and smelling that "fresh guitar" smell. He plans to cater for the musician who wants something a bit different, someone looking for a classically stylish instrument with a great sound that is well made and solidly constructed. In essence he wants to provide the 'certain something' that he was looking for 3 years ago.
If you're interested in finding our more about these special guitars, you can have a look at Sam's website or his Facebook page but he is also happy for people to contact him directly and arrange a test drive on any of the guitars he has in stock. You could also check out this extensive, science based guide to choosing a guitar penned by Ray Beck at Beginner Guitar HQ.
Another of Sam's musical inspirations is Ripley Johnson of Woodenshjips and late last year Eastwood/Airline got together with Johnson, who has been using the '59 3P for many years to work out how to make the guitar even better.
Ripley said, "The '59 Airline is the most versatile guitar that I've ever owned. The three pickups, 5-way switch, and Bigsby give me such an infinite range of tones and sounds. It's perfect for any situation, in the studio or on stage. Plus, and this is especially important to me on the road, it is durable as hell. To take the playability to another level, we could simplify it - master tone and volume controls only - but then blow everyone away with the addition of a built-in preamp boost. I would love to really push my amps with the simple flick of a switch - to get some really rich, burning tones. And it would be perfect for leads. I can't really imagine it getting any better than that!"
Eastwood listened and Sam has the result, the '59 3P "Ripley" Custom featuring the proprietary Transwarp Drive, in stock now. You can find out more or buy it here.
You can also listen to the way it might sound in your hands by listening to Ripley playing the instrument on the Woodenshjips track, For So Long. Enjoy!