Catch of the Day: 1991 Ken Parker Archtop

Sometimes we even inspire ourselves. Case in point, our previous Catch of the Day got our synapses firing–wouldn’t it be cool if we could find something out there in the market for each and every one of the builders who have graced the pages of the Fretboard Journal? We think so. Honestly, it’s not going to be easy. The luthiers we’ve profiled build highly coveted instruments, they don’t build many, their waiting lists are long and the folks who have their instruments, by and large, don’t want to part with them. Still, you have to try, right? It’s not like nobody’s ever sold a beloved guitar…

Working our way backwards, chronologically (a methodology that might not last long), we got lucky, straight out the gate, and found a most interesting electric-acoustic archtop from Ken Parker available from our friends over at Retrofret. (Ken was featured in issues 38 & 39–our first two-part interview.) The guitar’s an older example (from 1991), fascinating in the way it seems to point the way toward the instruments Ken’s building today, from the shape of the soundholes, already scooting toward the guitar’s edges, to the ergonomic considerations in the neck joint, with it’s offset, cut away heel. Other classic Parker elements include the “instantly recognizable” headstock and the tailpiece, not quite as elegantly engineered but with lines that are echoed in his current design.

Beyond that, this certainly is an intriguing guitar. It’s big (17” at the lower bout) but shallow (1-3/8″); it’s clearly an “electric” guitar, with a center block and a neck-mounted humbucker, but it also has a pickup in the rosewood bridge (very Parker, indeed). The guitar has a spruce top and highly-figured maple back and sides, but Ken attached a mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard. The scale length is 25-1/2″ and it sports a 1-3/4″ nut. The proportions seem ever-so-slightly exaggerated, with the width and length of the body set against that neck and headstock–the bridge sits conspicuously forward, and a whole lot of string spans the space from bridge to tailpiece.

Needless to say, this is an instrument we’d love to hear in person. We did check out the Gary Wittner recording that Retrofret references in the accompanying photos, but without knowing for sure that this guitar is used throughout, and given the studio setting and very electric nature of the instrument, it’s difficult to make a judgment, even if the record does sound good. Given the price tag and the quirkiness of the thing, it certainly seems like a difficult internet sale and maybe not quite a “catch,” but it is the one Ken Parker we could find at the moment, and it is in fact on the low end of prices for his archtops, so, in the spirit of the new, aforementioned initiative, here it is…

UPDATE: Retrofret recently reduced the price from $25,000 to $20,000.