Saint Blues Adds New Guitar Models

By Andy Meek

Thanks to Saint Blues Guitar Workshop, Memphis native and blues guitar player Eric Gales now has a guitar with his name on it.

Tom Keckler, Greg Hooper, Jeff Cox and Bryan Eagle of Saint Blues Guitar Workshop join musician Eric Gales at a public event announcing the launch of a signature production model guitar for Gales, shown.

(Brian Anderson Photography)

The Memphis-based guitar maker has created an Eric Gales signature Blindsider guitar, an all-black production model with an ebony fret board and right-handed body. It retails for a little more than $3,700, in keeping with the premium price tags for the custom and top-line guitars that emerge from Saint Blues’ workshop.

Earlier this year, meanwhile, Saint Blues also launched a new line of more affordable guitars. Saint Blues’ Juke Joint Series was designed to offer guitar players and enthusiasts an affordable gateway into the Saint Blues product line, and the guitars include the original Saint Blues logo from the 1980s.

The guitar maker also will be adding new models next year – Saint Blues’ 30th anniversary year, by the way – said company president Bryan Eagle, who added that sales are up over last year and the company is continuing to build and add new distribution.

“We’ll have a 30th anniversary model coming out in January, which will be an interesting deal,” Eagle said. “The Juke Joint series has really done well and continues to improve. And we’re getting an awful lot of requests for custom colors, custom pickups, custom this, custom that – and that’s good. Because we charge more for that, and customers are willing to wait to get the guitar they want, which means we can produce upon order.

“That’s a really nice position to be in, as opposed to having to build a lot of inventory and waiting for people to show up. These are all things we were hoping to have happen.”

Custom products such as the model Saint Blues worked on with Gales help promote the brand. If Saint Blues builds the guitar specially for a musician, Eagle explained, they’re not only going to play it – they’re going to play it on stage, where it gets seen.

Saint Blues launched in Memphis in 1984 and evolved into a highly sought after boutique guitar brand in the mid- and late-1980s.

The production line was shut down in 1989, and it was restarted in 2006 by a Memphis investment group that brought production back to Memphis and created several new product lines and guitar series.

The business wears its status proudly of operating as a boutique builder. It doesn’t crank out an extensive inventory, and at the same time its cachet is such that guitar players from around the world frequently will order a Saint Blues guitar online – despite the high prices, which Eagle originally thought might limit the company’s Internet sales – and will fly to Memphis to pick it up.

“I was worried at first that we wouldn’t have a lot of people who’d want to buy a $3,000 guitar online, but they do and they have,” he said.

A bigger concern is the changing nature of the music industry, with smaller shops like his having to scrap even more to compete against larger institutions.

“The music industry itself continues to change, and the small independents are becoming less and less relevant unfortunately and being replaced by big-box stores – which we’re never going to be in, I don’t think,” Eagle said. “Firstly, because we don’t want to be in it. That ruins the whole cachet for our brand. So what happens is we rely a lot more on artists to get out there and tell the story, and we rely a lot more on the Internet.

“We’re doing a lot more now to sell things directly. For example, we’ve instigated this ‘Hump Day sale’ every Wednesday. It gives people on one day an opportunity to get a really great deal on something we’ve got in the store and really promote sales through the Internet. Making it easy for people to do business online is really important for us.”