Burns Guitars 50-year anniversary commemorated with the Dream Gold
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Burns Guitars and Jim Burns's contribution to the development of the legendary electric super-sound guitar, Barry Gibson launches a special, limited edition model, the Dream Gold
By: Barry Gibson
Fifty years ago, Jim Burns designed Britain's first solid-body guitars and through the early 1960s Burns guitars were chosen by many bands, including the Shadows, the Honeycombs and the Searchers.
Way back in 1964, Jim Burns worked closely with Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch of the Shadows to design a guitar that had style and an incredible sound. Together they developed the solid-body electric Burns Marvin, an exceptional guitar that Hank played on record, stage and screen from 1964 through to 1970 that was equally on par, in terms of sound and performance, to the Fender Stratocaster.
Back then, Jim Burns carefully manufactured guitars and his instruments bore Jim Burns's name and marketed under the 'Burns-Weill' banner. The range comprised three solid-body guitars together with matching basses, styled after the Japanese-built Guyatone/Antoria guitars as used by Hank Marvin in the days he played with the Drifters.
Burns introduced the Black Bison in December 1961, which reflected the confidence of his new venture. With its gold-plated hardware, this guitar made a bold visual statement and its innovative features included four Ultra-Sonic pickups and 'Split Sound' circuitry, a 'boomerang' tremolo unit and a 'gear box' truss rod system that was revolutionary at the time.
Jim Burns was very much a pioneer, and his continual development and refinement reflected his vision to make the perfect electric guitar: early features included the heel-less, a glued-in neck; a 24-fret fingerboard, a knife-edge bearing vibrato unit; active electronics;
At that time, the Shadows were experiencing tuning problems with their Fenders and approached Jim Burns asking him if he could build them a Stratocaster-
According to Hank Marvin, around 30 prototypes of the new model were assembled before the guitar finally met with his approval. Jim Burns had incorporated various improvements to the original design, which included the Rezo-Tube vibrato unit and Rez-o-Matik pickups. And with this, the Marvin replaced the Bison as Burns's flagship model.
The 1980s saw new designs that included the Scorpion, a model favoured by Blondie guitarist Chris Stein. The building of the guitars by hand was in the UK, but later Burns began production in the Far East.
Today, from the Club Series to the upmarket Custom Elite range, together with limited editions such as the Dream Noiseless are the stock in trade of Burns London. The Dream guitar is a Burns flagship model made to celebrate their 50th anniversary and features include a figured maple top and maple neck with 22 frets instead of the standard 21.
Today, The Burns Guitars is run by Barry Gibson, whose love affair with these guitars began in the 1970s. In a recent interview he recalls: "I was trained as a cabinet-maker but I was also in a band back then. I had an original Burns Marvin, a Bison and a Nu-sonic. They were the only guitars that I used in a 12-year professional career."
While restoring vintage guitars, Barry became curious as to how certain models were built and what made them successful. "Burns guitars took my interest more than any other brand because I liked the way that they looked and of course being British, they were accessible,"
"We had launched an affordable version of the Marvin with a Fender-style tremolo system at the 1999 Frankfurt Trade Show and I decided to explore the possibility of getting a similar model built by a Korean factory." Dubbed the Marquee, the result was an immediate success. "In order to survive, we needed to get a guitar on the market for £300 and that was impossible, coming out of the UK.
The timber alone would cost you that here!" When the first sample arrived from Korea it was so good that Barry thought the factory had simply returned the prototype he had sent them. "We opened the box and were astounded at the quality."
For the last two or three years, Burns has employed Alan Entwistle as chief engineer. As he says about the technology: "Achieving a true single coil sound such as our standard Rezomatik in a noiseless format is not simply achieved by making a stack coil pickup…What we have done at Burns and Entwistle Elecronics is to take a full standard size Rezomatik single coil using exactly the same type of Alnico 5 magnets, and winding wire gauge and then apply ENR (Entwistle Noise Reduction) technology to this by means of a specially wound smaller canceller coil that sits directly beneath the original Rezomatik single. The result is a true Vintage Rezomatik sound without all the noise!"
The new Dream Gold will be available In January next year and includes:
• Body and matching neck in gold metallic
• Ebony Fingerboard with tortoise edge binding
• 22 frets
• Gold Hardware with 50th anniversary engraving
• Locking machine heads
• Gold effect pick-guards
• Push/pull pickup selector
• 5-way selector switch
• Master volume
• 3 x tone controls
• Locking strap nuts
• Fitted case
• Certificate of authenticity
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James Ormston Burns, an early pioneer of the electric guitar, formed Burns Guitars with a policy of continual development and refinement, which is still true today. For more information, visit the Burns Guitars website at http://www.burnsguitars.com