In late 2014 I challenged guitar builder Tony Nobles to create a visionary Dream Guitar.
But I didn’t want it to be my dream guitar.
I wanted it to be HIS dream guitar.
Three years later, Tony succeeded.
He announced, “There is no guitar like this on the planet.”
I’ve now seen it.
And played it.
And he’s right.
It’s a masterpiece.
Let me tell the story behind it:
Tony has been building guitars for almost thirty years. He’s made them for celebrity musicians such as Joe Walsh, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Alejandro Escovedo and others.
He’s also made them for lesser known collectors and players, like me.
I have a collection of a hundred old and new guitars by great luthiers, known and unknown.
Some of them (to name drop) are Bean, Baldwin, Collings, DK, Manzer, Maton, Versoul, D’Angelico, Veillette, Bacce, McElroy, Teye, Oxbow, Huss & Dalton, PRS, Santa Cruz, Fylde, Gigliotti, Trenier, Tesla, Trussart, and Zemaitis, as well as vintage Martin and Gibson models.
I’ve also seen impressive private collections, like that of rock icon Melissa Etheridge.
Guitars are playable art.
And sometimes a good investment.
I love them.
And no, you can never have enough.
I suspected a luthier with Tony’s decades of experience might be open to a bold idea.
I wondered –
What if I acted like a patron saint of the arts and commissioned him to create something visionary from his own mind, not mine?
Tony accepted the challenge in 2014.
For the next two years he read, thought, dreamed and wondered.
He also came to my home and spent a day examining my own collection, from the Fylde guitar made out of a former Scotch whiskey barrel, to Danelectros with their lipstick pickups, to an Oxford Guitars baritone electric made from gem stones and prehistoric wood.
I would also supply Tony with coffee table sized books about some of the greatest guitars of all time.
One book in particular became the resource for what would become the Dream Guitar.
The book was a hefty volume called Archtop Guitars: The Journey from Cremona to New York.
It displayed artistic photos and inside stories of museum quality guitars from three legends, D’Angelico, D’Aquisto and Monteleone. I had bought it from Rudy Pensa, the author and owner of Rudy’s Music in SOHO in New York.
Tony would later tell me, “Whatever I created had to be of the caliber of these guitars in this book, else what was I doing?”
Fast forward to October 20, 2016.
After almost two years of research and incubation, Tony showed me a sketch of an idea.
It was a light pencil outline on a torn off sheet of butcher paper, but I could see the vision being born.
The 1970’s Ibanez “Iceman” guitar inspired Tony. Paul Stanley of KISS made the Iceman electric famous.
“I like how that guitar sits well on your knee,” Tony explained. “Builders often forget the guitar has to be comfortable.” (Tony is a player, too, being in the band The Beaumonts.)
But that was only the beginning.
He knew he wanted an archtop, like those in the Pensa book, and he wanted an electric pickup.
My only request when I commissioned this guitar was a Bigsby or whammy bar. I love them.
Otherwise, Tony had a blank canvas to create per inspiration and will.
Tony was now off and running.
Using sinker log redwood, rare Brazilian Rosewood, and more, he began to carve and build what would become the world’s first Dream Guitar.
“I wanted the fret system to be different,” he says, “so I used what’s called True Temperament.”
Those are “wiggly” shaped frets that look odd but help the guitar stay in tune better and longer.
Things got even more unique when it came to the pickup.
“The Austin Sidewinder pickup was made specifically for this guitar by Bob Palmieri of Duneland Labs in Chicago,” Tony says. “I’ve never heard anything like it.”
When I finally saw the Dream Guitar in late December 2017, right before Christmas and just days before my 64th birthday, my jaw dropped.
But then I held it.
The guitar is feather light.
I thought of the term “floating guitar.” Tony says it’s less than five pounds. It sat on my leg as if it was tailor made to fit my knee.
Playing it was a surprise, too.
Each note has a distinct ring, and a sustain that is clear, rich, and drawn out.
The odd shaped frets weren’t even noticeable as anything different as I played, and may have made my chord fingering easier.
Guitar Monk Mathew Dixon, who I’ve made several bestselling instrumental albums with, was with me for the unveiling of the Dream Guitar.
He said, “Tony has undoubtedly created a masterpiece.”
I play the guitar every single day.
It’s already inspired two new songs.
And it’s inspired a new instrumental album that Guitar Monk and I have started “allowing” to happen.
The Dream Guitar is, well, a dream.
I saw that Tony had stretched in making this guitar.
Tony told me, “The little push you gave me down the path of uncertainty really did spur some growth.”
For me, seeing a man exceed his perceived boundaries and go pass tradition was inspiring and gratifying.
My books, music, coaching, mentoring, and presentations are all encouragements to do more and be more, to dream and achieve.
Even the album I made with Grammy nominated singer Ruthie Foster, and producer Daniel Barrett, was all about stretching, so much so that we called it Stretch.
And the new book I have coming out soon about strongman feats of strength, titled Anything Is Possible, is all about exceeding what we think is impossible.
I feel I succeeded in inspiring a builder to stretch, just as his one-of-a-kind Dream Guitar is now succeeding in inspiring me to create and play new music.
What would you do if you forgot tradition, perceived limits, and everyone’s expectations of what was possible – including your own?
PS – Tony Nobles can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/tony.nobles.5
Note: The professional photos of the Dream Guitar were by Rodney Bursiel.
Bonus: Here’s a 23-minute video about the making of the Dream Guitar: