VOL. 128 | NO. 20 | Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Saint Blues Guitar Workshop Launches Line
By Andy Meek
Saint Blues Guitar Workshop is launching a new line of affordable, made-in-Memphis guitars.
The guitar maker’s Juke Joint Series is meant to offer guitar players and enthusiasts an affordable gateway into the Saint Blues product line. The new guitars are unbound and include a crystal satin finish, as well as the original Saint Blues logo from the 1980s.
There’s the Bluesmaster, with features that include a 25.5-inch scale alder body with a maple neck. The Mississippi Bluesmaster has a nearly 25-inch scale mahogany body and neck, and the Legendary Bass has a 34-inch scale alder body with maple neck.
The series will be priced at $1,299 for the guitars and $1,349 for the bass.
“Customers love the Workshop Series quality,” said Saint Blues president Bryan Eagle, referring to the company’s higher-end line of guitars. “But many couldn’t afford the price tag and have been begging us to build a quality guitar in our body styles that would sell for under $1,500.”
The Juke Joint Series is Saint Blues’ answer to those customers.
Until recently, the guitar maker has enjoyed a kind of unknown quality among Memphians about the scale of its operation – in fact, of its very presence.
Saint Blues operates Downtown. It’s a stone’s throw from Sun Studio in an unassuming warehouse, a cavernous space where workers handcraft instruments that will be shipped around the world.
The business has an attached storefront, where customers can peruse everything from cigar boxes and washboards to small, unique gifts like bottled gravel from the famed crossroads in Mississippi – the place where bluesman Robert Johnson, the legend goes, sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to play guitar.
On a busy afternoon, it’s not uncommon to see customers picking up something like the cigar boxes – a kind of folk novelty instrument that looks like it came straight from the Civil War era – and start an impromptu jam.
Saint Blues launched in Memphis in 1984 and evolved into a highly sought after boutique guitar brand in the mid and late-80s.
The production line was shut down in 1989.
It was restarted in 2006 by a Memphis investment group that brought production back to Memphis and created the Workshop Series of high-end guitars, the roots instrument line of cigar box guitars and electric washboards, and now the Juke Joint Series.
The company’s guitars are available in its Downtown showroom, via its website and at select dealers worldwide.
Saint Blues insists it will never be in the business of cranking out thousands of mass-produced guitars a month. It intends to remain a boutique builder.
Moreover, Eagle says the company’s products carry a premium of between 10 and 20 percent over a competitor’s guitars that might simply read “made in the U.S.”
On every Saint Blues headstock, on its logo, on almost everything it touches, the company hammers home the fact that its products are made in Memphis. And when customers around the world buy those products, Saint Blues is sending a little piece of Memphis to them.