watching the Fiesta Red just come off the
guitar onto my white shirt. I didn’t realize
how much the guitar would eventually be
worth. When I think back, it is hilarious that I
was literally wiping the paint off the guitar.
That guitar was Dakota Red originally, but at
the factory they put Fiesta over the top. I didn’t
know any of that stuff until I got to Austin
where I met Danny Thorpe, who started the
Greater Southwest Vintage Guitar Show with
Charley Wirz. He said, “I used to have one of
these guitars, this is absolutely original.” Six
months later, at my first rehearsal with Lucinda
Williams, we were in the room next to Stevie
Ray Vaughn. He had a bunch of Strats up on a
stand and he had the exact same Fiesta Red
with Dakota underneath. Apparently it was
not uncommon for them to shoot Fiesta over
Dakota. The back of mine is pretty battle-scarred—where you put your arm over the top
you see more of the Dakota than the Fiesta.
I’ve still got the guitar. I tried to sell it a couple
of times, but my wife wouldn’t let me.
You were a pretty early adopter of PRS
guitars. What drew you to them?
I got to Austin and everybody was playing a
Strat, me included. I traded a 1959 Esquire
for an all-mahogany Sea Foam Green PRS in
’ 85. I thought it would be something different. I met Paul Reed Smith at a guitar show
in ’ 87, and he gave me the Gold Top that
became my main guitar for many years.
What is different about your signature
model PRS, the DGT?
It started with a PRS McCarty that I ordered
in ’ 91 or ’ 92. I played that McCarty for over
10 years as my main instrument. It had a
tremolo on it, which for some reason was
not stock. Every time I went to Nashville,
somebody would pick up my guitar and
say, “Man if I could have this guitar I would
absolutely buy one.” That was in the back
of my mind, and at the same time I was
making a mental checklist of what I could
do to make it even better.
Over two or three years, working with
PRS, we did a bunch of experimenting.
The topcoat on the signature model is
a specific type of nitro [nitrocellulose
lacquer] that is very close to what was on
guitars in the ‘50s. A lot of guitars out
there advertise nitro finishes, but their
nitro will peel off like rubber. Nitro is supposed to harden, but initially we found
that it was checking too quickly—you
can’t send a guitar to a dealer and have
it show up checked. Personally, I will pick
the lacquer that checks because I like the
way it looks, but PRS figured out a way
to do it where it doesn’t check unless you
try to make it check.
We discovered that on my ’ 87 Gold Top the
neck was a little bigger than a regular carve,
and my McCarty Gold Top’s neck was a little
smaller than a wide-fat carve. We interpolated to come up with the neck shape that is
basically a hybrid of my two favorite necks.
We installed Dunlop 6100 frets that are a
little bigger than a stock PRS fret. When I
bend a note with slightly bigger frets there
is a sort of harmonic that can rise out of it, a
bloom to the note that I don’t get in a little
fret. Also a slightly bigger fret lets you use
a heavier gauge string. I use .011–.049s, but
with these frets they feel more like a