The incredible Joe Barrick cow’s skull doubleneck guitar—actually a bull’s skull, as it has horns—dates from the early 1950s, and it’s the ultimate marriage of California guitar ingenuity and folk art. And as with other guitars we’ve featured in this column, the maker is even more colorful than the instrument itself.
Joe Barrick was born in Oklahoma in 1922, of Choctaw Indian heritage. He played fiddle and mandolin in Western swing bands while growing up, and Bob Wills was a major influence. When Barrick got out of the armed services following World War II, he settled in California, and lived on the West Coast for 30 years. It was during this period in the early ’50s that the influences of Barrick’s Oklahoma upbringing—and the new styles of electric guitar—came together in a series of instruments made from cow’s skulls. The example shown here may be the first.
Barrick has been quoted as saying, “It was Western music—everything was Western. And in everything Western, you’d always see a cow’s skull lying around.”
The guitar is an incredible example of design, from the way that it seamlessly flows from the cow’s skull, to the birdseye maple body, to the use of carved and polished bones for the nuts, knobs, and pickup selector. While the guitar seems to be modeled loosely on Grady Martin’s highly influential 1952 Bigsby doubleneck, Barrick claims to have no knowledge of Paul Bigsby’s work.
Barrick made several other cow’s-skull guitars—including at least one other doubleneck. He also made a guitar out of wood in the shape of Oklahoma, with the neck as the panhandle. Another was made from an actual toilet seat. During this time, Barrick also invented a one-man band system with an instrument called the “Piatarbajo” (piano, guitar, bass, banjo) that allows him to play a full band’s worth of instruments simultaneously using his hands and feet.
The cow’s skull doubleneck definitely takes the proverbial cake. This is one of the most fascinating and innovative instruments I’ve ever encountered. All salute the warped genius of Joe Barrick!
(Thanks to Lloyd Tripp, Larry Briggs, and Joe Barrick.)
Watch Bryan Ladd Perform Jaco Pastorius, Outkast, and Stevie Wonder Arrangements (VIDEO)
Lando Chill Releases Video for "Early In The Morning" with Christopher Pierce on Bass (WATCH)
Tony Levin and Levin Brothers Announce Tour Dates
This Week in Free Stuff: Vocal, Neurostep and SFX Samples
New UVI UVS-3200 Captures the Semi-Modular Sounds of the Vintage Korg PS-3200
Pyramind Launches a Global Music Mentorship Network
UVI UVS-3200 Captures the Analog Sound of the Vintage Semi-Modular Korg PS-3200
Interview: Alex Lacamoire
Megadeth Get Grammy As House Band Plays Metallicaâ€™s â€œMaster of Puppetsâ€
Flea Slaps Bass on â€˜Family Guyâ€™
Are We All Tuning Our Guitars Wrong?
Rob Scallon Shreds on Sitar in New Video, "Sitar Metal"
Fit For An Autopsy Premiere New Song, "Iron Moon," Featuring Ion Dissonance singer Kevin McCaughey
Body Count Premiere New Song and Music Video, "No Lives Matter"
The Definitive Kurt Cobain Gear Guide
Why Marty Stuart Is the Heart and Soul of True Country Music
George Harrison Shows Off His Beatles Guitars in 1974 Music Video
Copyright ©2017 by NewBay Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 28 East 28th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10016 T (212) 378-0400 F (212) 378-0470