As the world reeled at news of the sudden death of superstar Prince, few people knew that a guitar he played at his last public concert was hand-crafted at a tiny, purpose built studio near Heathfield.
Founder and inspiration behind the Gus guitar making studio, Simon Farmer said: “Like every other lover of music, guitar and all things funky, I was deeply shocked to hear the news about Prince. It was particularly poignant for me though as one of the last known photos of Prince pictures him showing off a guitar I’d built for him to an audience at Paisley Park.”
Simon attended Christ’s Hospital school near Horsham and then went on to study craft and product design at university. On graduating, he set up his workshop with the help of a Crafts Council Award and some funding from SE Arts. He set up Gus Guitars in 1994 and, despite concentrating on guitar design and construction throughout his schooling, he had little exposure to conventional guitar construction techniques. He explained: “At school I was surrounded by furniture and jewellery makers, metal workers and ceramicists, so I generally worked out my own way of doing things.”
“The first two years were spent finalising the design of what would become my main guitar, the G1. The G3 bass was then launched in 1996.”
He described how the Purple Special he built for Prince was the ultimate expression of his G1 design and every aspect was tailored to suit him. He said: “Focused as he was on solo piano recently, I was nevertheless so looking forward to seeing Prince rip it up on that guitar as only he could and am devastated to think that won’t happen now.
“Prince liked the design and had asked if I could make him a bass version. I sent some pictures for him to look at and he ordered a black and gold four string which I’d just started building over the last few days. He’d left the specification to me and I had some ideas that I think he would have liked and would have made for a cool bass, so I feel his loss personally, even though I never met him.”
Simon has also made guitars for top performers including Tin Lizzie and Peter Gabriel. They can cost from £4,000 up to £15,000 and beyond. He treats all his designs as starting points for custom creations and no two instruments are ever the same making every part of the instrument - bar the strings - in Heathfield.
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