Manson Merlin #1?

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blobbblobb Frets: 817
Soooo....

This is my daily player at the moment. I like something a bit unusual (I don't own a Strat or a Les Paul so forgive me for that) and this is something a bit special that I thought you might like to see.

For those who don't know, Hugh Manson is one of Englands finest Luthiers. Hugh's brother Andy makes stunning acoustic instruments (seek out his mermaid guitar!) and Hugh took on the electric side of things. In the 70's Manson started to make what they called custom / production guitars based on two standard designs, the Kestrel and the Merlin. A deal with formative pickup manufacturer Kent Armstrong typified the approach of making the best custom guitars available at the time.

Hugh's work developed over the years and he is now one of the most respected luthiers in the business. He is known today for his association with John Paul Jones (he made his bass and is his guitar tech), The guy from Muse (Matt Bellamy 'Mattocaster' with Kaos pad electronics) and Martin Barre.

I was lucky enough to pick this guitar up around six months ago and have just got around to taking some pictures which I sent off to Manson's to see if they could offer up some information on it. After exchanging a few emails this was the response:

------------------------

Hello Nick.

This looks like one of the first Merlins we made, maybe even THE first one.

Probably 1976 ish.

I would love to see it again if you ever pass by Exeter.

All the best, Hugh Manson.

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So without further ado, here it is, possibly the first ever Manson Merlin custom guitar and it's a belter :-)

Cheers, Nick...

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Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • stonevibestonevibe Frets: 2899
    Screams '70s and some!
    How much does it weigh? & Does it play like butter?

    You can now read my insane guitar ramblings daily here http://www.gearnews.com
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 14214
    Wow. 

    Just wow.
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  • impmannimpmann Frets: 7252
    Fantastic! Those Kent Armostrongs scream - they're nothing like the far eastern jobs you get now.
    Never Ever Bloody Anything Ever.

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  • dogloaddogload Frets: 1276
    Ooooooo! I like that.

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  • Oh my god ... I think you have got my old guitar! I spoke to Manson years ago and was told I had the first one. I bought my Merlin (second hand on the Isle of Wight in about 1978) and gigged it for several years. Ended up part exchanging it for a Flying V. The Grain looks identical ... the brass back plate everything!!! 
    Professional pickup winder, horse-testpilot and recovering Chocolate Hobnob addict.
    Oil City Pickups  ... Oil City Blog

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  • I remember reading Sounds in I guess the late 70's and they had instrument reviews in the back, I'm not sure I'd actually played anything really but I loved those reviews and the Mansons were held up as the best of the best, the dream guitar ( if possibly more so for the basses than the guitars). They had quite a few in colours like green or blue sunburst but I think the natural look on yours looks a lot better.
    I feel the warm, healing, liquid presence of God’s genuine cold-filtered grace. 
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  • TheGuitarWeaselTheGuitarWeasel Frets: 3373
    edited November 2015
    Me second from the left doing a sound check at an open air gig in 1980 or 81 and using what I think is your Manson!
    For some reason me and the other guitarist swapped sides, as behind him is my beloved JTM45 'Plexi' head and 2x12

    image
    Professional pickup winder, horse-testpilot and recovering Chocolate Hobnob addict.
    Oil City Pickups  ... Oil City Blog

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  • blobbblobb Frets: 817

    Oh my god ... I think you have got my old guitar! I spoke to Manson years ago and was told I had the first one. I bought my Merlin (second hand on the Isle of Wight in about 1978) and gigged it for several years. Ended up part exchanging it for a Flying V. The Grain looks identical ... the brass back plate everything!!! 
    Well, would you believe it? I love this sort of stuff, fantastic to see the picture, there can't be two of these surely? It must be you old guitar. How long ago did you exchange?
    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 817
    I remember reading Sounds in I guess the late 70's and they had instrument reviews in the back, I'm not sure I'd actually played anything really but I loved those reviews and the Mansons were held up as the best of the best, the dream guitar ( if possibly more so for the basses than the guitars). They had quite a few in colours like green or blue sunburst but I think the natural look on yours looks a lot better.
    I can believe that. It's really something to crank up, the workmanship is first class and the pick ups are something else. Now if only you could find a copy of that magazine.............let me google that........

    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • blobb said:

    Oh my god ... I think you have got my old guitar! I spoke to Manson years ago and was told I had the first one. I bought my Merlin (second hand on the Isle of Wight in about 1978) and gigged it for several years. Ended up part exchanging it for a Flying V. The Grain looks identical ... the brass back plate everything!!! 
    Well, would you believe it? I love this sort of stuff, fantastic to see the picture, there can't be two of these surely? It must be you old guitar. How long ago did you exchange?
    In 79 or 80 ... I think, things were a bit hazy back then ... lots of gigs, guitars and booze ;-) 
    I have only ever seen one other, and that had a broken headstock repair. I saw it, bought it because I missed my old one, but sold it on a while after, as the repair was not very sound and way ugly.
    Professional pickup winder, horse-testpilot and recovering Chocolate Hobnob addict.
    Oil City Pickups  ... Oil City Blog

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  • hobbiohobbio Frets: 3280
    This thread is amazing!

    electric proddy probe machine

    My trading feedback thread

     

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  • TheGuitarWeaselTheGuitarWeasel Frets: 3373
    edited November 2015
    hobbio said:
    This thread is amazing!
    The guitar is pretty amazing! It marked a turning point in my own playing ... it was streets ahead of the 1975 Telecaster I did a straight swap for. I got it from Ryde Guitar Centre on the Isle of Wight ... god knows how it wound up there ... I got rid of it because I was joining a NWOBM band and figured a Flying V would look better on stage. What A muppet I was lol 
    There was a review of the guitar in 'International Musician' and I believe 'our' guitar may have been that review sample.
    Professional pickup winder, horse-testpilot and recovering Chocolate Hobnob addict.
    Oil City Pickups  ... Oil City Blog

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  • That guitar must weigh a a fair bit. Would love to hear how it sounds.
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  • It was quite hefty, but very well balanced, with superb neck access all the way up, and bags of sustain. The heaviest thing was the hard case it came with ... that thing could have had it's own gravetational field!
    Professional pickup winder, horse-testpilot and recovering Chocolate Hobnob addict.
    Oil City Pickups  ... Oil City Blog

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  • blobbblobb Frets: 817

    That guitar must weigh a a fair bit. Would love to hear how it sounds.
    Ahem, your wish is my command. I already shared this with Weasel via pm so apologies for pushing stuff, all in the name of research you understand :-)







    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • TheGuitarWeaselTheGuitarWeasel Frets: 3373
    edited November 2015
    It is and was a bloody powerful brute I can tell you! But the switching options give it lots of versatility. I couldn't get the drive I wanted with my old Tele ... but those hand wound Kent Armstrongs ... potted in epoxy absolutely roared on full bore JTM 45. 

    If you are ever passing East London let me know ... come and have a coffee in the Oil City workshop! 
    Professional pickup winder, horse-testpilot and recovering Chocolate Hobnob addict.
    Oil City Pickups  ... Oil City Blog

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  • blobb said:

    That guitar must weigh a a fair bit. Would love to hear how it sounds.
    Ahem, your wish is my command. I already shared this with Weasel via pm so apologies for pushing stuff, all in the name of research you understand :-)







    Somehow, playing some Ozrics on that guitar seems very apt. Suitably 'unfashionable', I suppose.  ;)

    Is that a bespoke Manson bridge or something obscure from the 70s?
                                                                                                                                                   My 'Guitar diaries' on BandCamp
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 817
    I think it's bespoke for the Manson Merlins, all the others I have seen (not many) have it but not the Kestrel's. I don't know where they would have sourced it from but Hugh appears to be able to find people out there to provide the necessary for his creations. Brass & wood, rock solid, honestly the whole package is just stunning.
    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 817
    @TheGuitarWeasel do you know if the knobs are original? Can you remember what was on it when you owned it?
    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • The bridge was made especially for for the Merlin, I think it was so expensive to produce that it didn't last long in the range.
    Professional pickup winder, horse-testpilot and recovering Chocolate Hobnob addict.
    Oil City Pickups  ... Oil City Blog

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  • blobbblobb Frets: 817
    You have to wonder don't you, what is Hank playing in this pic? Looks a lighter shade but it could be the camera? Also note the other two Merlins hanging on the wall behind him. That's Andy Manson (Hugh's brother) far left.

    image
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 817
    Here's another stunner, from the Manson Guitar Works archive. You can see the bridge clearly on this and it has developed slightly with some additional brass on the wooden side piece (+ allen key bolt?). Switches have also changed. Oh and those inlays.......

    image

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  • If I remember the knobs were plain black hatbox, Gibson style when I had it ... but I have a feeling they weren't original either.
    Professional pickup winder, horse-testpilot and recovering Chocolate Hobnob addict.
    Oil City Pickups  ... Oil City Blog

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  • Philly_QPhilly_Q Frets: 4362
    I remember that body shape from reviews in very early issues of Guitarist - or maybe it was the gear pages in the back of Sounds.  For a while I fantasised about getting one custom built, although it would've been way more than I could afford at the time.

    Still looks cool, I like it much more than the current Matt Bellamy Mansons.

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  • MikemooMikemoo Frets: 1
    Great thread! I have a Merlin too! Great guitar, looks and sounds amazing :) 

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ns3vXrEQO3xZGIKm-Rryz0fJ1imlVeDR/view?usp=drivesdk
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 14330
    Mikemoo said:
    Great thread! I have a Merlin too! Great guitar, looks and sounds amazing :) 

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ns3vXrEQO3xZGIKm-Rryz0fJ1imlVeDR/view?usp=drivesdk
    Glad you sorted out how to reply! Nice pic too...


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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 14214
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 817
    Welcome to the (limited membership) club @Mikemoo. Is that the one that went on ebay recently?

    You will never need to buy another guitar.

    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 817
    Here's a nice p90 lefty I saw on line recently, rare beasts.

    https://farm1.staticflickr.com/947/42061596491_6d800526aa_h.jpg


    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 817
    ...for the hell of it, I did another Ozrics cover with the Manson:

    Bizarre Bazaar.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R1tEfJ3voQ


    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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