I fell in love with Dennis Fano’s Alt de Facto SP6 and this Custom JM6 Set-Neck built by Dennis himself has the same instantly-bond-with able appeal. The premise of the Alt de Facto series–Fano’s creation of a “missing link” line of collaborations between the great American guitar makers of the 1950s and ’60s–might read a little clunky on paper, but the guitars are so well executed that I have yet to find a player who hasn’t uttered a heartfelt “oooh!” when handling one in person. While most Alt de Facto guitars are built with bolt-on necks, Fano kicks it up a notch with this JM6, as he does occasionally, by using a glued-in neck joint.

Fano Custom Alt de Facto JM6 Set-Neck

A list of this JM6’s pertinent details reveals the middle ground between Fullerton and Kalamazoo circa 1962. The Jazzmaster-shaped body is made from a single piece of solid mahogany, wears a nitrocellulose faded cherry finish, and carries an aged nickel TonePros Tune-o-matic bridge with nylon saddles and a Bigsby vibrato. The four-ply tortoiseshell pickguard is loaded with Lindy Fralin P-90 pickups, black top-hat knobs and a 3-way toggle switch. The glued-in mahogany neck runs to a 25.5″ scale length, with aged nickel Kluson-style tuners on a back-angled headstock, and a width of 1 11/16″ across the Tusq nut. This Custom JM6 has a sumptuous dark-chocolatey Brazilian rosewood fretboard–though this option will no longer be offered–with clay dots and 22 pristine Jescar 6105 frets, and the neck back is carved to a rounded late-’50s profile. The neck has a superb feel, and the compound 7.25″ to 9.5″ radius takes you easily from low-fret chording to upper-fret rifting and bending. The entire guitar, other than fretboard and frets, has been given Fano‘s medium-heavy distressing, a notion that might seem a little phony in theory, but which feels very authentic in the hand. The dings, chips, forearm and left-hand wear and buckle rash, as well as the gentle patina of the hardware, all help to bring home the “long lost legend” premise at the heart of the Alt de Facto series, while making the guitar feel like an old friend the first time you lift it from the case.

Tested through an EL34-modded silverface Fender Bassman and a Matchless HC-30, the JM6 displayed a willingness to go just about anywhere you want to take it, and have a great time on the journey. The entire vibe of the guitar seems to lean you toward loose garage and grunge at the outset, but excursions into country, jazz, funk, or even some early-’70s classic metal are easily navigated. Tonally, look at it from either direction: The set neck and mahogany construction add warmth and depth to the traditional Fender formula, or the 25.5″ scale livens up the Gibson-esque fur. Either way, there’s juicy bite and snarl aplenty in these Fralin P-90s, but with a bolder low-end boing than most Gibsons offer, a sophisticated sparkle in the highs, and a tautness that helps each note cut through. And the bonus is that the guitar stays in tune remarkably well, even with considerable Bigsby use. Ultimately, the Fano Custom Alt de Facto JM6 Set-Neck is a guitar with boatloads of character and surprisingly versatile talents.


For most rockers it was Jimmy Page in The Song Remains the Same, but for me, it was seeing Alex Lifeson play “Xanadu” that started a lifelong fascination with doublenecks. There’s nothing quite like a doubleneck to embody the more-is-better ethos that guitarists know so well, and when a massive Fender case arrived at the office, I could barely contain my excitement. What we saw upon opening that case was this awesome sunburst/tortoiseshell creation. It took me a second to figure out exactly what it was: a Jazzmaster paired with a Bass VI. I tuned it up and started rifting and I was blown away by how great the setup was on both necks. Easy fretting and bending on the guitar side, smooth chording and tic-tac-ing on the bass half. Without even plugging in, this is an incredibly resonant instrument, because A) its body is as big as a coffee table and B) you can’t help but get righteous sympathetic vibrations from whatever neck you’re not playing on. I was instantly hooked and needed to plug in.

Fender Double Neck JazzmasterBass VI

To amplify this beast, I ran into a DR. Z EZG-50 for huge clean sounds and into a Marshall JMP for world-destroying dirty tones. Navigating the control matrix took a little getting used to. The 2-position slider switch on the upper bout lets you toggle between Jazzmaster only (on rhythm pickup, with volume and tone handled by the cool roller knobs) and both necks on. I chose to run both necks, kicking the Bass VI neck in and out with the pickup on/off switches. The tones were what you expect from a Jazzmaster: brilliant chime and twang, with the ability to get into jazzier textures on the neck pickup and brash rock and surf sounds on the bridge. Switching over to the Bass VI was a mind-blower. I don’t consider myself a great bass player, but I do own a bass and when I play it, I really try to play it like a bass and not a guitar. This thing, however, with its guitar-down-an-octave tuning, is practically begging you to grab A and D chord shapes and move them around. When you do, it’s a huge and inspiring sound. The string spacing is tight, so I was more comfortable with a pick than fingerstyle but everything sounds good on this. And just when I thought it couldn’t be any more bitchin’, I took the two trem arms out of the case, installed them, and more than doubled my cool factor with amazing drunken Peter Gunn-isms on the Bass VI and trippy, drippy Ventures adventures on the Jazzmaster.

I can easily say that I’ve never played anything like this. I can also add that no one really needs this instrument, and, at eight large, very few can afford it. But I will say this without hesitation: Everyone who has the chance should try a Double Neck Jazzmaster/Bass VI because it’s just too much fun. And, if you do, have a friend take your picture with it. Come on … you know you want to!

 


The baseline SH550 costs considerably less than two grand–but lots of custom shop options are available, and our review instrument sports many of them. The most obvious upgrade on display is the gorgeous Honey Burst AAAA flame-maple top, matched by an equally beautiful back, both of which are complemented by the flame-maple sides, neck, and headstock, fitted with gold-plated hardware. Stainless-steel frets and abalone inlays grace the ebony fretboard. There’s even a 24-karat gold-plated headstock logo. Suffice to say, this is one snazzy guitar.

Upon closer examination, the excellent overall craftsmanship becomes apparent. The woodworking is superb, from the gently arching top with its binding-like exposed sides to the smoothly contoured edges along the back and the neck heel to the immaculate inlay work on the fretboard. The 22 medium-jumbo frets, too, are perfectly set and dressed. Attention to detail is obviously the name of the game here.

The SH550’s “Rapid Play” neck is relatively narrow and thin, which, combined with the guitar’s deep cutaway, makes for quick moves throughout the instrument’s full range. Straight out of the case the action was set very low, resulting in mild buzzing in a few spots and some choked notes when bending strings above the 10th fret–but both problems were easily remedied by adjusting the bridge slightly. Post-tweaking, the guitar played like a dream, with no dead spots anywhere on the fretboard, and even response across all strings. The intonation was also excellent, and the instrument retained its tuning even when played aggressively, due at least in part to the locking Sperzel machines.

Although the SH550 has only single Volume and Tone controls, when used in tandem with the pickup selector and the bridge pickup’s coil-splitting capabilities, the guitar proved surprisingly versatile (the $40 option provides two Volume and two Tone controls with individual push-pull coil splitting). When played through a Victoria Ivy League combo it produced big, round, warm tones suitable for traditional jazz and clean rhythm work, whereas it got down and dirty through a cranked Marshall JMP-1H, with all the requisite snarl and bite for classic rock sounds–from Page-like bridge-pickup squawk to sweet Claptonesque neck-pickup Woman Tone. Paired with a Rivera Venus 6 combo, it yielded an even wider variety of sounds–including bluesy crunch and searing fusion tones–proving that the SH550 has the flexibility to handle nearly any musical style other than, say, ultra-twangy old-school country on the one hand and supersaturated modern metal on the other.

I had so much fun playing the SH550 that I found it difficult to put down. The combination of physical beauty, inspiring tones, and appealing playability make for an alluring musical experience


I don’t often hold $12,000 guitars in my hands, and, as I have a completely innocent proclivity to, urn, “wound” instruments at gigs, I was pretty much fouling myself in fear while reviewing the CST 6120. Happily, for the sake of my intestines, the Gretsch family, and this fine guitar, the manufacturer needed the CST 6120 returned almost immediately, so all testing was done in the relative safety of the Guitar Player soundroom. I ran this custom-shop-crafted 6120 through a Marshall 50th Anniversary JMP-1H head and lx12 cabinet, a tweed Victoria combo (loaded with a 12″ Jensen), and a Fishman SA 220. For added fun, I tossed in a Hartmann Tommy Bolin Fuzz and a Boss RE-20 Space Echo.

The CST 6120 produces a full-bodied acoustic zing before you even go near an amplifier. There’s a nice chunk-and-shimmer to pick attacks, and fingerpicked parts are clear and articulate. If recorded with nothing but a decent microphone, this guitar could sub quite ably for a flat-top acoustic. It should be no surprise to Gretsch fans that, once plugged in, the CST 6120 delivers a beautiful and vibey Duane Eddy-style tone for single-note runs and bass-string riffs. You get that thick, low-midrange pop, along with a smooth treble. These tonal colors remained intact throughout clean to gritty settings on the test amps, but obviously compressed a bit for more saturated sounds (though no low-end mud was audible at any time). I preferred the bridge pickup for rockier sounds, and basked in that ballsy, punk-esque roar that The Living End’s Chris Cheney’s goes for. The tone still has some nice pop and thud, but the bridge pickup also produced a singing, stinging, edgy treble. I couldn’t bring myself to really bash on this posh jewel, but dynamic impact was excellent–both while adjusting Volume controls and easing up on pick and finger attacks.

Cosmetically, the CST 6120 is stunning. It’s hard not to be beguiled by the Lake Placid Blue finish, the gold hardware, and the cat’s eye f-holes. Workmanship is excellent, as it should be for this price. Playability is similarly outstanding for a hollowbody–although the placement and nature of the controls can take some getting used to, and for 12 grand, I’d prefer a 2-position, off/on kill switch, rather than the somewhat head-scratching 3-position switch offered here (on/off/on).

Ultimately, the CST 6120 is an exquisite example of the classic Gretsch hollowbody. But, at more than $12,000, I can’t imagine it as a gigging instrument. (I can’t even believe I held this beauty in my hands without turning to dust.) So if you’re into truly collectible 6120s, and want something spectacular to match your powder blue Bentley, this is definitely your go-to guitar.-