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Paul Reed Smith McCarty Soap

I was lucky enough to encounter Ted McCarty at the Summer 2000 NAMM Show in Nashville, a frail old gentleman being wheeled around the floor by a doting young lady. I was so moved to see him that I shook his hand and thanked him for all of the great instruments. During his reign as the president of Gibson (1950-1966), McCarty oversaw the company’s most furious period of creative expansion since Lloyd Load headed up their design team in the 1920s. McCarty personally generated or oversaw the development of the gold-top, solid-body Les Paul Standard and the semiacoustic ES-335; such radical hot-rod designs as the Flying V, Explorer and Moderne; the elegant, functional, sublimely contoured SG and the neck-through-body Firebird-not to mention the stop-bar tailpiece, the tune-o-matic bridge and the original, PAF humbucker pickups. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Hell, Ted McCarty and Leo Fender’s images should be carved on Mount Rushmore!

Like McCarty, over the past two decades Paul Reed Smith established new standards for build quality and aesthetic perfection. Beautifully contoured and balanced, the classic PRS double-cutaway design suggested a brawnier, more stable offspring of the basic Stratocaster/SG configuration, while the deep dish, carved body of maple and mahogany represented a more scaled-down, manageable variation on a Les Paul. And with their basic 25-inch fingerboard scale, the PRS guitar split the difference between the feel of a Les Paul (24 3/4-inch) and a Stratocaster (25 1/2-inch)-although the graveyards are littered with the spent carcasses of marketing-man instruments claiming to give you the sound of both.

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