Just In Case...
There are still limited edition guitars available on
the market. If you’re thinking of purchasing one,
or if like me, you purchased a Moderne sans
case, you’re not out of luck—but you will have
to spend some coin to protect your prize axe.
Granted, there aren’t a lot of readily available
choices out there, given the odd shape and size
of the Moderne, but here are several options.
All these manufacturers will accommodate your
case needs. Given the fragile nature of the
Moderne’s headstock area, it wouldn’t be wise
to carry it around in a gig bag.
TKL Products, established by the Dougherty
family in 1984, is the largest producer of
stringed instrument cases in the world, and they
made the Epiphone Moderne cases in 2000–01.
They’ll make a custom case that can be ordered
through their dealer network.
Calton Cases of Moncton, New Brunswick,
Canada, is a high-end custom manufacturer
that will build an ATA flight case for $800. If
you’re playing bars and casual gigs, that might
be financial overkill. Their customers are mainly
Rock Hard Cases of Albany, OR also builds
tough ATA road cases. A basic custom case will
set you back $445 with a 30-day wait.
Ameritage Corporation will build you a standard hardshell case for $97 with a waiting time
of four weeks. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maxline Cases makes an ATA flight case
that costs $325 with a two-week wait.
TC Rocker Cases Ted Crocker of southern
NJ, inventor of the Cigar Box Guitar, also
builds TC Rocker functional, plain wooden
cases that eschew the usual vinyl covering
found on most cases. The wood is left bare
for a primitive look. A TC Rocker case will set
you back $200 with a two-month wait. Ted
can be reached at 856-404-0411.
Cedar Creek Cases of VA builds hardshell
cases to order, and there is a two-month
Mandolin Brothers, and Buzzy Levine of
Lark Street Music.
George Gruhn commented, “I have never
encountered any original Moderne guitar
made prior to their so-called reissue in
the early 1980s, nor have I ever had a
conversation with anyone who claimed [to
me] to have seen one. I have significant
doubts that they were ever made.”
Stan Jay said, “The common wisdom
is that Gibson had a patent on the
Moderne. I see it as a fantasy-based
instrument from the 1950s space age.
It just didn’t take off. The Moderne is
like the Sasquatch of the vintage guitar
industry, or those fuzzy pictures you
see of UFOs. You can’t really tell what
they are. I think it’s a wonderful thing
to have some mystery. Every industry
needs a mystery, and the Moderne is
our mystery, our Sasquatch. The real story of
the Moderne is the myth itself.”
Buzzy Levine remarked, “The only myth I
know is that Billy Gibbons supposedly has
one, but why hasn’t he shown it to anyone?
Who wouldn’t want to make it public that he
owned the rarest electric guitar ever made? If
there were Modernes out there, they should
have surfaced by now. I suppose there could
have been one or two made.”
I Want to Believe
As someone who has done his own Moderne
research and generally enjoys the “thrill of the
hunt,” I would be remiss in not expressing my
own opinion. I believe Billy Gibbons’ guitar is a
copy, an Asian lookalike—maybe a prototype
that got into this country, a custom guitar he
had built, or perhaps a mongrel that contains
some original Gibson parts. The headstock is
the standard Les Paul or SG-style “open book,”
Headstock concept drawings for the Moderne. Photo: Origin unknown