ken parker and I had a fine conversation. I told him how much I loved the parker fly. how much I adored the way it played. I asked about the possibilty of customizing a parker to my needs. ken graciously put me in touch with Will resulting in my first phone conversation with Axel Ruddich. what ken parker is to guitars, axel is to wires. an electronics genius, axel had already begun modifying parkers for customers who wanted midi capability. he had his own company outside san francisco called AR Design.
no sooner than axel and I had begun serious discussions about the perfect parker for me, I learned the company was being sold. ken parker was tired of running a business. I didn't blame him, he is after all an inventor. naturally he wanted to cash out and get back to his real love: inventing. parker guitars were sold to washburn guitars. they moved to chicago. a fresh dialogue with new people ensued. happily I found out they were fans and in fact they wanted to produce my baby as a signature model! during all my years of playing stratocasters I had hoped fender would make an adrian signature model but they didn't. now my dream was coming true. (I still love you, fender)
I gained a great new friend in John Vitale who became the artist rep and champion of my signature model. and the odyssey began. axel was fanatically detailed in his approach. along the way we decided to add in a new wrinkle: my guitar would have the Sustainiac, yes, and necessary midi pick-up, yes, but also would include the electronics for the Line 6 Variax.
the Line 6 Variax is a remarkable new technology which gives the guitarist a wealth of sounds unlike ever before by faithfully reproducing the sound of 25 different instruments. Les Pauls, Strats, Telecasters, Rickenbacker 12-strings, Martin acoustics, Gretsch, Dobro, a plethora of Gibsons, you name it, the variax even includes a Coral sitar and a Gibson banjo! all of which sound and react like the real thing. (software, phew! I'm in the wrong business.) if you had a semi-truck and an unlimited budget you could carry around all the expensive vintage instruments I now have access to with one knob on my parker fly. and yet axel's design would have fewer knobs (only 3!) than a regular parker fly. an incredible feat of engineering which took two years, a hundred e-mails, and endless phone conversations and alterations.
nothing was changed about the actual parker fly which was already revolutionary and perfect.
but the added electronics take the guitar far into the future of guitar technology.
two Christmases ago, axel had a fender bender. no one seemed hurt. no broken bones. just a slight accident. but in the weeks to come axel began to black out. the accident had in fact caused some strange neural damage. over time he was unable to work more than a few hours a day. eventually he could no longer drive a car. his work days got shorter. couldn't use power tools for fear of blacking out. it was taking longer and longer for my dream to appear. axel fabricated several keys parts of his design. he hand-made them.
january of 2006 was supposed to be our first face to face meeting. me, john, and axel were going to meet at the NAMM convention for parker's unveiling of the new guitar. axel had made 3 prototypes that were nearly complete. working at the parker factory outside chicago I had chosen 3 colors. the paints were custom car colors, 12-stage paint jobs that looked like you could bite into them.
but axel could not come to the NAMM show. he was not well enough yet. I was able to take home 2 of the prototypes so axel and I could fine-tune them over the phone.
I took one guitar to Joe Glazer. joe is considered one of the very best guitar technicians in the whole country. when he opened the back of the guitar his jaw dropped open as well.
"how did he get all that stuff in there? that's brilliant!", said joe.
we were getting very close now to having the guitar ready for production when john called.
the unthinkable had happened.
axel had committed suicide.
I have the 2 prototypes. that's what I play when you see me in concert.
the third parker prototype is in chicago where parker guitars are trying to reverse engineer axel's miracle working. remember, axel hand-made some of the parts.
and that's where the odyssey stands as of today march 1, 2007.
soon I hope to see the first production model Adrian Belew Signature Parker Fly.
I hope you can see it too. I only wish axel could.
in my humble opinion it is "The World's Best Guitar".