The custom guitars made by English builder Tony Zemaitis
in the 1970s were coveted by rock stars as much for their performance as for their
sexy shapes and outlandish tops made of engraved metal or inlaid pieces of shell.
You pretty much had to be a rock star to afford such finery back then, but more
affordable (though by no means inexpensive) options now exist for modern players
who want a guitar with similar styling.
Austin, Texas-based Teye puts its own spin on the theme with a line of lavishly
decorated guitars that includes the Electric Gypsy La Llama S-Series on review
here. This dazzling piece of guitar artistry—which is one of Teye’s lower priced
models—features a select mahogany body with a lovely figured-maple top, and a
bound mahogany set neck that supports an ebony ’board with 24 carefully finished
frets. The deep, ultra-smooth finish on the body and neck is due to Teye’s use of
a hand-rubbed mix of shellac and mineralized oils. This type of finish is used on
violins and some classical and flamenco guitars, and its feel is smooth and supple.
The La Llama’s headstock has an overlay of engraved metal, and there’s a scroll
plate on the back bearing the inscription “Custom Plus.” Other engraved metal
parts include the pickguard, pickup-selector plate, and the surrounds for the three
humbuckers. The chunky aluminum bridge features ornate adjuster wheels, and the
strings anchor to an engraved tailpiece that’s also of Teye design. On the back, a
swooping metal plate helps protect the finish from belt-buckle dings and scratches.
Beneath this cavalcade of wood and metal is fundamentally a Les Paul-style guitar
with three humbuckers. However, the La Llama’s switching system takes things
in new sonic directions via the 5-way selector that provides the following
choices: Position 5, (switch up) neck pickup; position 4, bridge +
neck (out of phase); position 3, bridge + neck; position 2,
bridge + middle; position 1, bridge. Having three
humbuckers so close together definitely
crowds the picking area, so some
opt for the
available two-pickup configuration,
which also has 5-way switching.
Along with the two Volumes are a master Tone and a
Mood control. The latter is a passive filter circuit designed
to provide a single-coil sound without the usual coil splitting
or tapping, which Teye says he does not favor.
Combined with all the switching options, these controls
provide a lot of interesting and useful sounds. By varying the
volume balance in any of the dual-pickup configurations and then using
the Mood and Tone controls to shape the sounds toward brighter or darker, you
can get richly textured tones that are reminiscent of single-coils or P-90s. The
neck pickup has a juicy warmth that’s cool for throaty blues solos and jazz comping,
and the bridge pickup has the right proportions of meatiness and slice for
heavier rock stuff. The Lollar pickups feel powerful, but Teye says their output is
on the low side, and that the natural resonance of the guitar is what makes the
output seem so strong. At any rate, the La Llama can really push an amplifier at
full throttle, yet this responsive guitar will also pull right back to sparkling clean
when you turn down.
The La Llama’s comfy neck and excellent
setup—including a perfectly cut bone nut—
make it a very sweet player, and the tuneful
intonation works in tandem with the selected
woods and tight coupling of the neck to the
body to give this guitar an impressive range
of tones that would be great for blues,
rock, and lots of other styles.
The La Llama is a costly proposition,
but if you want a guitar that celebrates oldworld
craftsmanship with a stunning visual
presentation and the sounds to back it up,
you’ll need to try a Teye out for yourself.
CONTACT Teye Guitars, (512) 922-0789; teye-guitars.com
La Llama S-Series
PRICE $5,100 direct (including TKL Vectra hardshell case)
NUT WIDTH 13/4"
NECK Mahogany, set
FRETS 24 jumbo
TUNERS Grover Imperial Super Rotomatic
BODY Mahogany w/flamed maple cap
BRIDGE Proprietary Teye
PICKUPS Three custom-wound Jason Lollar humbuckers
CONTROLS Two Volumes, Tone, Mood, 5-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.86 lbs
KUDOS Awesome look. Big range of sounds. Great playability.
CONCERNS Center pickup crowds the picking space.