Crook CUSTOM GUITARS
How’d you get into guitar building?
Well, I’m 50 years old. Growing up around
here as a kid, music stores were more worried about saxophones and violins than
electric guitars. And my dad was one of
those guys who, if your roof leaked, you
climbed up there and fixed it; so when my
guitar didn’t work, I figured out how to fix
it. And I buggered up a bunch of them and
went from there.
How do you approach the building of a
Tele-style guitar? What’s your philosophy?
I love the looks of the past. It’s a timeless
look and feel—and that tone! But for a lot
of modern players there are some shortcomings that vintage instruments have. So
I try to keep a lot of the looks and classic
vibe, but I try to make them a little more
user-friendly for modern players.
What do you mean by making them more
Some simple stuff, like compensated saddles and compound radiuses. Growing up,
something that always drove me crazy with
old Teles was trying to intonate them. And
with a vintage radius, you were always hindered in how low you could get your high
E string and bend it—of course, if you grew
up on them, you didn’t know any better and
you thought it was okay.
What would you call your flagship model?
Well, everything is built to order, so there
really is no flagship model. But the basic
model, if there was one, would be the 9. 5
compound radius neck that I use a lot, with
a very traditional bridge made by Callaham.
I use those almost exclusively unless somebody’s looking for something different.
Who do you think is making the best Tele
pickups right now?
You know, for the neck pickup, my favorite
is the Adder Plus neck pickup; it’s a small
company out of the Chicago, Illinois area,
and I’ve used them for years, and they’re just
a great pickup. My favorite bridge pickup is
made by Peter Florance of Voodoo Pickups.
What do you hear in those pickups that
you’re not hearing anywhere else?
There’s a richness in the midrange. It’ll be
clean when it’s supposed to, but, like a
good pickup should, when you dig in you’ll
hear more harmonics and growl out of it.
You know when you pick one up, and you’ve
got an amp just sitting there on the edge,
and you dig in and it gets big and fat?
That’s what Peter’s pickup does for me in
What makes your guitars unique?
A lot of it is the attention to detail. The final
neck shaping I do by hand; I roll the edges
of my necks because I want them to feel
like a pair of shoes you’ve owned for years.
I want it to be comfortable. The way I finish
my necks is a little different, but again, it
feels like old lacquer that you’ve played— it
doesn’t feel sticky or glossy. I spend a lot
of time on the fretwork, the nutwork, just
going over the details.
My necks are held on with threaded steel
inserts and machine bolts, as opposed to
wood screws. I really like what it does for
the sound of the guitar; it helps with the
resonance and the sustain. And I build a lot
of guitars that use string benders; guys are
pushing down on that, and that’s anywhere
from 16 to 22 foot pounds of pressure
they’re applying. So besides the neck fitting
in the pocket tight, it just keeps everything
much more foolproof.
A lot of people know you for your paisley
guitars; how did those come about?
It’s funny; I had never thought about doing
them until Brad [Paisley] got his record
deal—I’ve known him since he was a little
kid. Myself and couple of friends of mine
threw our money together, and I got the
parts to build him a guitar as a congratulations present. He said that he really liked
the [guitar] that I had previously built him,
but he was wondering if I could do paisley.
So I started researching it, and I knew that
the originals had been done with a paper-type covering, so I looked everywhere I
could, on the internet, wallpaper stores.
But even when I could find it, it looked like
something from someone’s grandmother’s
den. So this went on for a couple of years,
and I ended up hooking up with a graphic
artist. And we figured out how to do it, but
it was an ongoing process of being able to
get a print that looked like something—
finding the right kinds of ink. Some of the
first ones I sprayed—I didn’t know any better—I was using a lacquer-based sealer, and
I watched the ink run right off when the
lacquer hit it.
Who should be playing your guitars?
Ideally, a guitar player that wants to just
play, and not fight the guitar, in terms of
playability. Because ultimately you’re there
to make music, and the guitar is just a tool
to do that. And there’s nothing worse than
trying to make music when you’ve got to
worry about things like intonation.