GUITAR OF THE MONTH
Messenger guitars were built in
Astoria, OR in 1967 and 1968 by the
San Francisco-based Musicraft, Inc, and
were the first to feature a magnesium-aluminum alloy neck—a design that
preceded those of Travis Bean and
Veleno guitars by some seven years.
The unusual neck extends as one piece
from the peghead through the instrument’s hollow body, bolting on at the
neck-body joint and endpin. The neck
is removable and forms a tuning forklike structure that was actually tuned to
ring A440, which was believed to lend
to the resonance of the instrument.
This morning sunburst hollowbody
Messenger is loaded with D’Armond
single-coils that are said to buzz and
hiss like a banshee, yet can provide a
balanced, acoustic-like clean tone.
The guitar also features two ahead-of-the-curve appointments for
1967: stereo output and a built-in fuzztone circuit. There are two
outputs and the switching system allows for routing both pickups
through one output jack or sending them to each jack separately
to be hooked up to two separate amps. The fuzztone circuit was
referred to as the “Tone Messer.” It gave a large signal boost and
an incredibly ratty distortion. Indeed, the guitar would vibrate wildly
when the “Tone Messer” was employed, and the hollow body
would break into controlled (usually), endless feedback. The best
known player of Messenger guitars was Mark Farner of Grand Funk
Railroad. Farner used the “Tone Messer” circuit often on solos. He
would stuff the hollow body with foam rubber and tape over the
“Cats eye” sound holes with duct tape to control the feedback the
guitar produced with his cranked West Fillmore amplifiers and JBL-
D150 15" speakers.
A special thanks to PG contributor Ken Settle for providing the photography and backstory on this Messenger guitar.
PREMIER GUITAR MARCH 2010 183