By Chris M. Junior
THERE ARE CUSTOM-BUILT GUITARS, AND THEN THERE ARE ONE-OF-A-KIND GUITARS that were created specifically for The Pinkburst Project, which was founded by Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister.
The Pinkburst Project’s collection features 13 pink, custom-made guitars crafted by such leading brands as Fender, Gibson, Gretsch and Martin. Pinkburst also includes 12 custom pink amplifiers built by Marshall, Hartke, Vox and other industry leaders.
It takes a unique cause to bring together so many rival guitar and amp companies. Raising money to find a cure for uveitis — an inflammatory eye condition that, if left untreated, can lead to permanent vision loss — and to research other ocular diseases certainly qualifies as such. Raising money is the goal on May 1, when Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers of Boston will put the entire Pinkburst Project collection up for bid, with proceeds benefiting The Ocular Immunology and Uveitis Foundation.
French has a personal connection to uveitis; Samantha, his teenage daughter, was diagnosed with the disease at age 6 and has been under careful treatment. And it was a few years ago, after returning from an appointment about her condition, that French started to think about how he could raise money for uveitis research.
His eye-catching pink Gibson Les Paul got the ball rolling. Sitting in his office one day, French wondered if he could get other major guitar makers to custom build guitars that included some of the features similar to his Gibson, among them the same pink finish.
“When I was asked what I was going to do with these guitars, I said I would make a calendar [featuring them] and sell it,” French recalls. “Then over time, these guitars start coming in … [and I realized] I was going to have 13 of these one-off guitars that have never been done before. So I said screw the calendar: Maybe I should just sell them at an auction.”
French took the concept one step further by combining the guitars “with the amplifier that made each guitar famous.”
“I did all my research — which guitars work [best] with certain amps,” French explains. “To be honest with you, any guitar works with any amp. But I think guitar players are historically connected and understand, for example, that a Gretsch and a Vox are married.”
French handled all of the discussions with the guitar makers about each one including features not typically associated with their respective brands for his Pinkburst Project collection. For the custom amplifiers, he turned to Harley Hoffman of Kayline Processing in New Jersey for help to get everybody to use the same vinyl covering. According to French, Hoffman’s company had created a special batch of material that was previously unused. There was enough of it for at least a dozen amps, so Hoffman offered to call the amplifier makers and make the pitch. Originally, French only wanted iconic companies for The Pinkburst Project collection. But that changed once he decided to include a custom guitar from Ruokangas, a company based in Finland and named after founder, designer and builder Juha Ruokangas.
“Ruokangas makes, in my opinion, one of the finest boutique guitars in the world,” French says. “My girlfriend said to me, ‘If you believe that this guy is so great, then he’s a future iconic guitar maker, and you should let one future iconic maker into this collection.’”
The Ruokangas guitar needed an appropriate amp pairing, and French found a match when he contacted Diamond Industries, which offered the first of its new Positron series.
Twisted Sister fans, take note: The Pinkburst Project custom collection being auctioned May 1 will include the French-owned and stage-played Gibson that inspired his fundraising efforts.
“I had all of the guitars in my house for a few years,” French says, “and this guy picked them up a few weeks ago and drove them out of here. My girlfriend asked me, ‘How do you feel?’ And I said, ‘I feel like my adopted daughters were just picked up to get married.’”
Bids for The Pinkburst Project guitars and amplifiers will be accepted in person, online and by absentee bid. Visit pinkburstproject.org or skinnerinc.com for details.
• Gibson Les Paul, $7,500-$9,000
• Gibson SG, $3,500-$5,000
• Gibson ES-335, $4,500-$6,000
• Gibson J-200, $4,500-$6,000
• Fender Stratocaster, $3,250-$4,000
• Fender Telecaster, $2,800-$3,400
• Fender Jazz Bass, $3,250-$4,000
• Gretsch 6118TCS, $4,250-$5,000
• Epiphone Les Paul, $3,000-$4,000
• Epiphone Thunderbird bass, $3,000-$4,000
• Paul Reed Smith, Customer 24, $4,250-$5,000
• Juha Ruokangas, Duke Classic, $4,000-$6,000
• C.F. Martin & Co., Style 000-18, $3,200-$4,000
• Marshall 1959 Super Lead Half Stack, $5,500-$6,000
• Marshall JCM 800 Lead Series, $4,500-$5,000
• Marshall JTM-45 Bluesbreaker Combo, $4,000-$5,000
• Orange Rocker 30, $1,400-$1,600
• Fender Special Edition Twin Reverb, $1,700-$2,000
• Fender Deluxe Reverb, $1,300-$1,500
• Fender Bassman TV Twelve, $1,200-$1,400
• Mesa Engineering Dual Rectifier, $4,000-$4,500
• Vox AC-30 Custom Series Combo Amp, $2,200-$2,600
• Vox AC-15 Custom Series Combo Amp, $1,500-$1,700
• Diamond Amplification Positron, $2,100-$2,500
• Hartke Systems HA 2500/XL Bass System, $1,200-$1,400