Our FoundersBlair Francey
“We are motivated by a love of, a passion for, and a hands-on commitment to our personal vision of making the best affordable custom-made electric guitars and guitar amplifiers we can.
We believe we have succeeded in doing so, and we invite you to check out our instruments and amps and see if you agree.”
I have had a passion for music ever since my brief yet pivotal experience taking drum lessons as an energetic but unfocused child at a music school in the Parkway Plaza in Scarborough, Ontario, at age seven.
While my interest didn’t translate well into regular practice, I liked to sing and soon became completely and forever in love with music upon hearing the popular songs of The Beatles. Junior Walker sealed the deal when I first heard his uniquely soulful sax intro to “What Does It Take” in my parents’ basement in my early teens.
When I was fifteen, my dad introduced me to his newest employee…a young man named Greg Godovitz. After talking with Greg, I told my dad I wanted an electric guitar and amp. It was 1970, and I had recently been introduced by my friend George Bauch to Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Cream. I soon found myself becoming the proud owner of an AGS Strat-style guitar and a small combo amp. The action and intonation on that guitar was brutal, but I was addicted and learned the first position chords.
Over the next year, I took several guitar lessons from Greg. He introduced me to barre chords, using the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” and encouraged me to practice incorporating barre chords on a regular basis. I am very fortunate and eternally grateful for his encouragement, guidance, and support on my journey to become a competent guitar player. His instruction serves me well to this day…thank you, Greg! 🙂
It was commonplace in the 1970s to get together at someone’s house and listen for hours to the latest long-playing records and 45s of popular music. The late 1960s and 1970s were decades of great originality and creativity in popular music. I was introduced to a wider world of current music, where I listened to multiple genres that included The Beatles, The Eagles, ELO, ELP, Grand Funk Railroad, PFM, and Frank Zappa. We spent an evening at John Phillip’s penthouse in Guildwood Village listening to “An Evening With Wild Man Fischer” from beginning to end.
I began to collect 45s and LP records, most of which I still have and listen to. I still remember taking the TTC to Sam The Record Man’s main store on Yonge Street to buy my first LP…“Aqualung” by Jethro Tull. I upgraded to a baby-blue Hagstrom electric guitar and was starting to learn songs. I then volunteered for my first tech gig as the lighting guy for Glass’N Eye, a four piece cover band from my high school featuring George Bauch on vocals, Dave Missen on guitar, Larry Watt on bass, and Graham Fraser on drums.
I started exploring music history. I graduated from high school and bought my first reel-to-reel tape recorder, and a decent quality component stereo system from my cousin, Paul. He owned a stereo shop on Yonge Street. He gave me an amazing deal on an Akai integrated amp, an AR turntable, and a pair of AR speakers. Now I had a high fidelity playback system for the 1st time…thank you, Paul!!!
Shortly after I started classes at King’s College at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario. I started singing and playing acoustic guitar with my newfound musical friends in residence. I was asked to join an acoustic band with four other talented new student friends …Mike “Guido” Capotosto, David “Chuck” McMillan, Mike Mitchell, and Barry Mombourquette. We still gig together occasionally to this day!
After graduation, I bought Craig Anderton’s “Electronic Projects For Musicians” and decided to build the distortion pedal project. While it worked intermittently due to my newbie soldering skills, I entered the technical world of audio without booking a return ticket.
I then moved back to Toronto and married. I worked full-time for electronics components’ distributor Electro-sonic, and part-time selling stereos and TVs for Jacobi Radio and TV in Fairview Mall. My wife was offered a great gig in Medicine Hat, so we bought a car, packed it up, and headed to Alberta in late November. I made my living mostly as a self-employed musician, performing in bars in Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia, from 1981 to 1985, making a modest living on the road. I may well be the only guitar player to play “White Wedding” in the Moose Lodge in Medicine Hat without getting fired!
I then came back to Toronto to work in my family’s business while my wife enrolled in the Master of Social Work Program at the University of Toronto. She gave birth to our first child shortly after graduation, and then two more children a couple of years apart. I was completely involved in my family business and didn’t do much musically aside from playing in my basement for a few years. I then started to become more active musically, and joined a couple of cover bands and started gigging part-time. I joined a new country cover band as lead guitarist. Brent Mason almost single-handedly made my life a living hell for the next few years while I focused on learning his solos, but I became a noticeably better guitar player in the process.
This gig forced me to improve my average technique and less-than-stellar guitar tone. I bought a 69 “picture frame” Twin Reverb and had John “Buzzy” Burak convert it to 65 Twin specs. I also rewired my JD Telecaster and installed Joe Barden pickups…a Tele bridge pickup and Strat neck pickup to eliminate pickup distortion, noise, and expand my tone options. I replaced the bridge and installed locking tuners along with a Hipshot Drop D Tuner. I replaced my Korg PME-X40 pedalboard with one of the first Boss GT-5 Multi Effects in Canada so I could access any classic rock guitar sound convincingly and quickly.
I grew tired of the unrelenting world of problems with sound systems and/or room acoustics in the venues I was playing in, and I use the word “venues” loosely. Finally, after a night of ongoing feedback problems with the PA, I went to Cosmo Music and looked at all of the books available on music technology. I bought the “ Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook”, which stood out as the best reference book on display. Twenty-five years later, I still use it to refresh my memory when physics and I are having another disagreement!
Working full-time and gigging two-or-three nights a week is not a sustainable lifestyle when you are married with children. What finally gave was my wife’s tolerance for my increasingly irreconcilable schedule and lifestyle, so I found myself separated, and then divorced. I then decided to return to live performing, earning my living gigging, providing live sound production and recording technical services in small-and-medium-sized venues in and around the 416 area code (AKA “The Six”) in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I continued to invest in equipment and specialize in providing live sound productions. I was usually working in significantly compromised acoustic spaces, which taught me to minimize sonic issues by pre-production planning; system design; and the importance of equalizing the system to the room.
We closed the family business in 2006, which freed me to focus on a career in music. I worked for Long & McQuade in their busiest pro audio rental department in the country, and joined the Audio Engineering Society to meet like-minded professionals and continue to learn. I became a product and technical support specialist for a major music software distributor for a couple of years. For the next five years I was the Registrar at Harris Institute, one of the most widely respected post-secondary audio engineering and music management schools in North America.
Last year, I decided to get out of the big city and look for new challenges and opportunities. I reconnected with Denis Tremblay at a Christmas party and he mentioned he wanted to make guitars and amplifiers. When I mentioned I was a woodworker and would love to make a guitar, he asked me to join him in his new electric guitar and guitar amp building venture.
So I jumped at the chance and almost a year later, we are now both artisans and craftsmen; winding our own pickups; making our own electric guitar bodies and necks of our own designs; doing so with a hybrid approach using power tools, hand tools, and jigs we have designed and made in our shop. We are self-financed and therefore free and able to incorporate the best of modern science and technology with traditional woodworking techniques proven over centuries of practice. We are motivated by a love of, a passion for, and a hands-on commitment to our personal vision of making the best, affordable, custom-made electric guitars and guitar amplifiers we can. We believe we have succeeded in doing so, and we invite you to check out our instruments and amps to see if you agree.