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ROBBIE BROWN

Self-taught luthier and artist whose medium of choice happens to be guitars.

Crafting a custom guitar requires dedication, self-discipline, and intuition to strike the right balance of components for each piece. The result is a one-of-a-kind, fully playable guitar that look as good on a wall as it sounds on a stage.

Discovering the Smuggler's body style with a transparent pickgaurd was the catalyst that gave me the motivation to combine art & guitars. The visible open compartments give me the venue to showcase not only the way I line all my guitars with fabric, but also creates a shadowbox frame for intricate works of art. This is the story behind one of the most unusual electric guitars ever produced.

 

E Pluribus Unum… 

…may seem like a weird way to talk about a guitar. But if the guitar strap fits… 

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In the late 1960s, post-CBS ownership, Fender started experimenting with their guitars. While Fender was already routing out cavities beneath the pickguard for pickups and wiring in their Stratocasters and Telecasters, in the summer of 1967, they were working with a heavier ash wood than usual. One solution? Expand the chambers beyond what was needed in attempt to lighten the weight. Of course, at the time their bodies and necks were still finished in nitrocellulose lacquer (prior to their switch to polyester in 1968) with a maple fretboard that became standard instead of custom-ordered, and even with the hidden extra space, the guitar still weighed in at 8.6 pounds.

 

Now, Fender didn’t market this extra space (why bother), so, being the 1960s, people assumed that the natural use for the extra space was for…smuggling. Smuggling what? What would musicians in the late 1960s need to smuggle? (Drugs. They assumed the extra space was a little wink and a nod to a musician’s need to smuggle drugs. What did you think the answer was?) 

 

 Only a few of these Telecasters were produced in the summer of 1967; by 1968, they completed the modifications that would result in the Telecaster Thinline. But the 1970s, the already quasi-mythical 1967 experiments had become known as “Smuggler’s Teles.” They still had the black headstock logo, F-stamped Schaller tuning keys, the now-standard separate maple fretboard, and the pre-polyester body and neck like their contemporaries; it was that little extra smuggling space that made them the rarity they remain.  

 

 The first time I picked up—and promptly dismantled—a Smuggler’s Tele, my mind was blown (and not because someone had left their drugs in it). Even as a kid, I had envisioned lining the “empty space” beneath a pickguard with fabric as a kind of jewel box. Now here was the jewel box I had always been waiting for. It had found me.  

 

 And why “out of many, one”? Because in this one guitar, this one wild experiment from one wild summer, all my obsessions could converge. My mother was one of the last generations who made their own clothes as a matter of course, so my childhood home was filled with fabrics and trim. I even remember going to the fabric store with her like kids remember going to the ice cream parlor: a treat, a (visual) feast. I have always been a visual artist at heart and in practice, moving back and forth between photography to painting to collages that included found objects and ephemera. Nothing makes my artist heart happier than spending an afternoon in a dusty, claustrophobic, visually overstimulating “antique” store, poring over shoeboxes of discarded family photos from 1920s Southern California. I’m also a musician, starting with my high school ska band who opened for an up-and-coming band from Orange County named No Doubt. I’ve been in and out of bands, in and out of recording studios, and like most musicians and artists, in and out of pawn shops. I have picked up and put down a near-infinite number of guitars. It’s the Smuggler’s Tele that brought everything together. Now with my musician’s ear and artist’s eye, I can make playable art. Or art that you can play. Either way, now I get to share that jewel box I envisioned decades ago with you. Enjoy.  

 

- Robbie Brown

  Founder, Quarter Panel Guitar Co.

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TESTIMONIALS

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"COMMISSIONING A CUSTOM, HANDCRAFTED GUITAR FROM QUARTER PANEL HAS BEEN A GREAT EXPERIENCE! FROM THE IDEA PHASE THROUGH COMPLETION YOU COLLABORATE DIRECTLY WITH ROBBIE BROWN, GIVING HIM THE VISION OF YOUR DREAM GUITAR. THE VIBE, THE TONE, THE LOOK AND THEN WITH HIS ARTISTIC FLARE AND SHEER BRILLIANCE, ALL THE WHILE CONSULTING AND KEEPING YOU IN THE LOOP, EVERY STEP OF THE BUILD. THE END RESULT IS A PROFESSIONAL GRADE, ONE OF A KIND INSTRUMENT WITH MOJO

LIKE NO OTHER."

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JOSH FREELING 

"KAHUNA"

"I'VE PLAYED FOR OVER 50 YEARS. I'VE HAD THE HONOR, AND IMMENSE PLEASURE OF TOUCHING, HOLDING, AND PLAYING SEVERAL QUARTER PANEL GUITAR MASTERPIECES HAND CRAFTED BY ROBBIE BROWN.

FROM THE CUSTOM BUILT TELECASTER TYPE, WITH A CUSTOM SELECTED NECK-MEASURED EXACTLY TO MY HAND, WITH A CURATED SEYMOUR DUNCAN DUAL HUMBUCKER PICKUP SET, AND A PRS STYLE FLOATING BRIDGE, WHICH IS UNBELIEVABLY FLUID, FAST, AND RESPONSIVE. I LOVE MY GUITAR! 

QUARTER PANEL GUITARS ARE LIFE!" 

BRUCE KAREY | TRIAL LAWYER | BLK

"JEAN GENIE"

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