Hello fellow players,
Today we have a subject that I have been asked about hundreds of times and I see it has flared up on the Steel Guitar Forum again. The subject is a guitar that Lloyd Green owned and played for several years and cut an extremely famous album on with Charley Pride.
The first time I saw this guitar was in January of 1970. Lloyd was playing it in RCA Studio B doing a Charley Pride session. I remember the session well and even remember the tunes that were on it on that beautiful January day.
I asked Lloyd many questions concerning the guitar. He gave me a lot of information and told me if I wanted to know anything more about it to ask David Jackson at Sho-Bud. Within a week I went to David and asked him several questions about the guitar that Lloyd could not answer.
This guitar is referred to among most people in the United States now as the Thunderbolt or Lightning guitar. The reason for this because of the flaw in the birdseye maple front. I say flaw, however it’s not really a flaw, it’s just a discoloration in the shape of maybe how a cartoonist would draw a lightning strike in a cartoon.
I asked David about this wood on the front of Lloyd’s guitar and he told me a very interesting story. It seems as though the guitar was going to be sold to Lloyd on a no profit basis so David was trying to keep the expense down on the entire guitar.
The wood on the front was actually a scrap piece of wood that David had discarded but dug out to build the body of Lloyd’s new masterpiece. He also confided in me that there were a few other pieces in the guitar that had been mis-drilled or improperly manufactured during production.
I thought this was very interesting and thought that it might turn into a legendary guitar when its image made the cover of several of Lloyd’s albums. Of course, this guitar was a double neck fingertip tuning style and quite possibly Lloyd’s last double neck made by Sho-Bud.
It wasn’t too long until Lloyd had a new Sho-Bud built Baldwin double neck crossover guitar. Lloyd vehemently complained about the weight of the guitar. He went back to David at Sho-Bud and told David he wanted a single neck guitar that was much lighter, to just go ahead and take the inside neck off.
So David removed the inside neck and put a pad for Lloyd to rest his forearms on. Several people saw this new Lloyd Green guitar with a total aluminum frame and liked it well enough to order one like it.
Then Lloyd and David decided that by doing away with the aluminum frame they could even save a little more weight, thus was produced the Lloyd Green model that we all know today.
However, going back to the original fingertip Charley Pride guitar named so because of being on the Panther Hall album that Lloyd recorded on with Charley. It is also known as the Panther Hall guitar.
This guitar was traded in to Sho-Bud after Lloyd received his new guitar made from a Baldwin crossover and realized that it worked equally as well if not even better than the Lightning Bolt guitar.
A dealer from St. Louis that we all know and respect ended up buying the guitar from Sho-Bud, took it back to St. Louis, had it disassembled and refinished, pretty poorly I might add. A couple years later he sent me a picture of the guitar. I immediately recognized it by its famous flaw in the wood. The price was agreed on and I bought it.
I brought the guitar back to Nashville and totally disassembled it again, had it refinished for the third time by the actual Sho-Bud employees that built the guitar in the beginning. There were several parts that Lloyd had pretty well worn totally out so after much looking and digging through Sho-Bud parts bins, I found what was needed with all original parts, carefully reassembled the guitar and it was a thing of beauty.
Naturally I called Lloyd. He came to my store, sat down and played it for three or four hours. Many pictures were taken by myself and others of Lloyd’s reunion with this guitar. I was thinking I had a sale on the guitar back to Lloyd, but he decided to pass on it.
He related several interesting stories to me about the guitar. One thing that I thought was pretty funny was he told me how the low G sharp string would continuously but slowly and uniformly go out of tune as he was playing. So every few minutes, he would reach down and give the tuning nut on the sixth string about a quarter of a turn to the right. He said this always put it exactly back in perfect tune.
I myself used the guitar on one session thinking I might want to keep it myself. However the guitar felt pretty strange to me and I really didn’t like the tone of it as much as my Emmons PP.
Meanwhile, I had a friend in Texas that said he was very interested in buying the guitar. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse which was a lot of money and two boxes of freshly canned vegetables and fruit. This gentleman that we shall call Gary still has the guitar today as far as I know. I know he could sell it today for much more than what he paid me for it.
Famous steel guitars that were on well known albums seem to be coming up in value like I never thought they would. I think this is wonderful because it shows that people care about steel guitar in general and about specific steel guitars and what they have done in their lifetime. This is much like rock n roll guitars that are owned by famous players that sell at auctions for a million dollars or more.
I have had several fingertip tuning Sho-Buds and restored many of them. This one was as good as any, however I have had some that I didn’t really care for. The tone on every one of these guitars has been very good and I feel they sound as good as any Sho-Buds ever made.
The complete pedal mechanism on these guitars is buried down into the body which can have a lot to do with the tonal characteristics. I know Paul Bigsby buried the entire neck on some guitars he built about an eighth of an inch into the top of the body and improved the tone that he got out of the Bigsby. The Ethel Starr guitar is one of several.
I just thought that many of you would like to hear more of the detailed history of this famous guitar. I’ve had many players tell me this is the guitar that influenced them to play steel since they still have the album and would like to know whatever happened to the guitar.
Since I have owned this guitar and have been following its history for several years and even had to restore it once, I figured I would pass on some good accurate historical information. As far as I know it is still living happily on an 1100 acre ranch southwest of San Antonio with an owner that loves it very much.
Keep watching my website if you’d be interested in purchasing a wonderful old collectible guitar.
Check out our monthly specials at www.steelguitar.net/monthlyspecials.html and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.
Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday