He may be a south London boy born and bred, but Phil Harris is developing a worrying taste for the downhome via the modern resonator makers who combine that old-time twang with a whole new approach
Spending so much of my life dealing with vintage gear is a real joy, and I feel like a lucky man. However, when something new comes along that knocks my socks off it’s a rare joy, so I appreciate it to the fullest – and it’s happened to me recently when I tried some resonator guitars made by Peter Turner. I was introduced to Pete through my guitar tech Andy last year, so this column includes two fine examples that have really blown me away.
What’s so good about them? Well, I’ve always loved the look and idea behind resonators ever since I had a go on one in Top Gear in Denmark Street in the early ’70s. However, as much as I’m a fan of the many great players who can make a resonator sing, they always sound a bit too much like a banjo in my hands for me to really get into them. But these Turner guitars are the perfect mix of resonator and acoustic – you can do your early blues impersonation on them, but you can also get a great acoustic sound, which to me as a player is worth its weight in gold.
Having talked to Pete about these guitars, I know that they came about through a lot of experimentation – and sometimes a bit of heartache. For example, he tried every pickup out there, but while there was nothing wrong with them as such, none of them fitted in with what he was going for. So he designed and built his own pickups specially.
Owning a hire company, it’s always been necessary to have some top-notch resonators for musicians who wanted to avail themselves of one for a period of time. Included in this column are a couple that I know hit the spot, particularly given the feedback I’ve had from countless top-level players.
But though I don’t disagree with them, they aren’t the instruments that I return to again and again – but I can see myself losing a lot of time with these Pete Turner guitars in the foreseeable future when I really should be working… and it’s nice to be able to say that about something made in the 21st century.
When the previous owner offered this to me, he told me that if I didn’t want the Telecaster pickup fitted into it, he’d be happy to remove it. After two seconds of playing it, I knew my answer was going to be ‘it’s staying’. It’s also got a pretty mighty Dobro sound if you want to avoid the pickup, and among this guitar’s many fans is Eric Clapton. I’m pretty sure he knows a good guitar when he plays it…
Just like me, this metal-bodied guitar has a few dents. It had some when I bought it, which only got worse when a band who hired it allowed it to fall down the stairs. However, it’s still going strong and it sounds exactly how you think an instrument of this nature should sound. This guitar was originally bought new by Yusuf Islam back when he was Cat Stevens, but he sold it when he converted to Islam
2012 Pete Turner Marrakech
This all-maple version is the most zingy of the various models Pete makes, but it still has great sustain. As with all resonators, the looks can just blow you away – and the design of this metal cover makes me think Sydney Greenstreet is going to appear and ask to take me to the casbah. Using the body off-cuts from fitting the cone as casings for the pickups is a beautiful touch
2012 Pete Turner Marrakech
My favourite of them all is this all-rosewood beauty. It’s got a beautiful treble response when you play at the bridge, a lovely resonator/acoustic marriage in the middle, and a wonderful growl and tone worthy of many an vintage acoustic when you play up the neck. A truly three-dimensional instrument