not-good-sounding guitar. Not that they didn’t
make great ones, but that particular one was
really bad. I remember watching a video of
Adrian Belew playing “Elephant Talk,” and
at the time I didn’t know he was playing a
Mustang—I thought it was a Stratocaster—so
I traded my L- 5 in for a 1961 Stratocaster. And
that’s what I played my whole life. I played
everything on that guitar, whether it was jazz,
rock, or whatever. The first amp I ever played
through was a little transistor Ampeg bass amp,
and then I got a Fender Twin—but those are a
little too harsh, so I got a Fender Vibrolux.
but I’d say the biggest thing was that inner
drive. I was ready for a new experience, and
it’s been a great one. With your own business, you create your own destiny. I had a
lot of dealers and other people telling me
I should go out on my own and do my own
thing because my name was big enough and
I was known for making quality instruments.
A lot of people wanted to see me do it as
much as I did. My wife, too. She said to me
one day, “You know what, you’re never really
going to be happy until you do it.”
Before we get into your new line, what would
you say was your biggest impact on PRS?
The first thing I did that really made an impact
on the design level was the archtop and the
hollowbody [the McCarty Archtop and McCarty
Hollowbody]. Like Paul said at the time, that was
my pinnacle. And then I designed everything
from the Starla to the Mira to the Gary Grainger
[Private Stock] bass. But I also did things like figure out stain jobs and that kind of thing. But if I
was to say what my biggest impact was,
Lead me down the path that culminated in
you establishing Knaggs guitars.
Image is everything. Image is everything.
I never dreamed I could be a guitar builder. But
I’d have to say it came from my artistic background. I was an artist ever since I was a little
kid. I would do paintings in junior high school—
they used to pull me out of English to go do
paintings on the walls and stuff like that. But
the beginning of Knaggs guitars, for me, would
be the Chesapeake guitars that I was building on the side when I worked at PRS. I would
get off work and go to my buddy’s house on
the weekends and work on instruments that I
was building for myself. I’d played a Strat all
my life, so I was starting to build some guitars
that were leaning more in that direction. I also
wanted to build an acoustic guitar that was
a bit smaller than a dreadnought but a little
bigger than a Collings C10, so I kind of mixed
those two together. My buddy Eric Johnson—
not the Eric Johnson—showed me a lot about
building acoustic guitars. So I was building that
and the Choptank and the Severn. They were
guitars really built for what I wanted to build a
guitar as. When I designed for PRS, I designed
what I thought Paul would be interested in.
And I’m not saying PRS guitars aren’t great.
I’m just saying these were more toward what I
like: single-coils, a longer scale length, higher
fretwire, all that stuff.
So why did you decide to make the jump
and start your own line?
It was twofold. One thing is that there was
this inner drive to design and make my
own stuff. That started with making the
Chesapeake stuff. We were kind of starting to
bring it into PRS, but I think Paul knew that
I wanted to go out on my own—I think that
was always in the back of his mind—and it
didn’t seem like he really wanted to embrace
that project as a different entity. So that kind
of made my mind up to go do my own thing,
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