Buddy Holly J-45 Replicas

Trista with the not yet complete Buddy Holly J-45 replica #1 - Jan. 13, 2011
Photo James V. Roy

Buddy Holly first saw Elvis at the Fair Park Coliseum in Lubbock, TX in 1955 and subsequently opened several shows for him there.  Intrigued with the idea of the tooled leather covers that adorned and personalized both Elvis' and Hank Snow's guitars, Buddy would later tool one of his own for his 1943 Gibson J45.  Years later Gary Busey, who portrayed Buddy in The Buddy Holly Story bought the guitar for $270,000.

Rick Turner with Buddy Holly's (Gary Busey's) 1943 Gibson J-45 and cover - ca.1979
Photo Turner Renaissance Guitars

At the time the guitar was cracked from waist to waist right through to the end block so Gary brought the guitar to Rick Turner who was working at Westwood Music in L.A. at the time.  A musician himself, originally from Massachusetts who relocated to New York and ultimately California, Rick got into guitar building and repairs in the '60s working on instruments for the Grateful Dead.  Considered by some as the father of boutique guitars after building one for Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac in the '70s, he now runs Turner Renaissance Guitars.

Buddy's original 1943 J-45 and cover - 2009
Photo Reuters Pictures

Unlike Elvis', which had a zipper, the cover on Buddy's guitar was completely stitched on and in order to effect repairs without cutting it, at Gary's insistence, he had to do all the repair work through the sound hole. Rick also refretted it and was given the original frets which he kept until December of 2009 when Buddy Holly enthusiast, Peter Bradley contacted him and purchased the frets.  He later asked Rick to build 18 replicas using one of the original frets in each.

Turner's Buddy Holley J-45 Replica #1 with tooled leather cover - Jan. 14, 2011
Photo James V. Roy

Without a clear plan of what to do with the guitars Rick suggested that instead of just giving them away they a set up a nonprofit foundation to loan the guitars out for a given period of time with a proviso that the musicians who have the guitars use them in some way to raise money for a worthy musical cause like music education. With the assistance of John Thomas, a Banner Era Gibson authority, the non profit Buddy Holly Guitar Foundation was set up.

the Banner-like headstock on Turner's Buddy Holly J-45 replica
Photo James V. Roy

the maple and walnut neck on Turner's Buddy Holly J-45 replica
Photo James V. Roy

The guitars will be built to the 1943-spec Gibson J-45s like Buddy's except that the bottom end blocks will be Baltic Birch.  They will all be put together with traditional hot hide glue, and with the original woods mahogany and Adirondack spruce.  Rick said that the 1943 J-45s had maple and walnut necks painted brown to look like mahogany and it was the only year that they did that. John Thomas thinks that the necks may have been leftover from a Gibson spin-off brand, Recording King, specifically the Ray Whitley models.

Rick Turner with the Buddy Holley J-45 Replica #1 - Jan. 14, 2011
Photo James V. Roy

the sides of the tooled leather cover
Photo James V. Roy

Trista shows the bottom of the guitar cover - Jan. 13, 2011
Photo James V. Roy

Susie Temple, of Rawhide Custom Leather in Austin is doing the replica tooled leather covers true to the original except that these will have a zipper in the back.  These are being done with the approval of Maria Lena Holly, Buddy's widow, so they can use legally Buddy's name.

Rick Turner with the Buddy Holley J-45 Replica #1 - Jan. 14, 2011
Photo James V. Roy

Graham Nash and Jackson Brown were the first two musicians invited to partake and are both on the board of directors now. They will both get guitars. The idea is they can re-up in two years. And within those two years, you've got to do something for the Buddy Holly Guitar Foundation. And the foundation will give out money to whatever the board chooses to do. There's a regular board of directors and a list of worthy recipients.

page added January 20, 2011

Much of the info regarding Rick Turner and the replica guitars presented here is courtesy articles in the October 2010 and January 2011 issues of Premiere Guitar magazine and also Rick Turner, David Hanowski and Trista Verbonac of Turner Rennaissance Guitars.


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