“Comically ridiculous appearance aside, this guitar plays great”: Boasting “a Mayan temple of angles” this custom Crosley Radio Tone guitar combines bizarro looks with snappy, versatile tone

Custom Crosley Radio Tone guitar
(Image credit: May Yam)

Ever since I can remember having my own money, I have collected two things; guitars and radios (records don’t count). So you can imagine my glee when I first saw Jon Trickey’s radio-guitars! I immediately bought his radio-themed Bass and Tenor models. But guitar number three – the radio-guitar shown here – was made for me. 

Jon and I share a love for weirdo guitars, so when he was visiting the San Francisco Bay Area from his studio/gallery in Sonora, California, he circled over to check out my whack jobs, as well as my radio collection. When I asked if he could make a guitar body from a blue-and-gold 1950 Crosley E-15TN tube radio that’s been in my collection for about 30 years, he quickly said yes. 

A few months later, it came back as the pink-and-gray beauty you see here. While it would satisfy me if it were just a surreal and almost absurd piece of art, it’s actually a high-functioning electric guitar with a sonic vibe as cool as its look.

Weirdo Factor 

Aside from its unique build, this is a very practical guitar with great workmanship and top-of-the-line components. 

Custom Crosley Radio Tone guitar

(Image credit: May Yam)

Playability and Sound 

Comically ridiculous appearance aside, this guitar plays great. The maple neck is a Warmoth Gibson-style Flying V or Marauder replacement that sports 22 nicely dressed medium-jumbo frets on a deep rosewood slab. It’s fast, smooth and friendly.

Because the body has no upper cutaways, bending for a high E on that 22nd fret is an easy grab. The locking tuners are made by Guyker, and thanks to the Tune-o-matic bridge, this guitar’s intonation is spot-on. 

Jon selected Fender Tex-Mex pickups that, obviously, sound great, but because of their spacing – and perhaps because of all the metal pieces on the face of the body – all five pickup positions reveal a distinctly chimey character. I call that a feature, not a failure! 

Custom Crosley Radio Tone guitar

(Image credit: May Yam)

As for that body, Jon tells me this was one of his harder builds. He fabricated a piece of alder that had to be geometrically articulated to meet up with what he calls “a Mayan temple of angles” in order to connect the beautifully sculpted back to the radio front. 

The radio’s original knobs are now used for global volume and tone control. Overall, the tones vary from Strat-like to a very snarky P90 midrange biting tone in the bridge and number two position. Played clean, it’s a cool strummer and funk-er. With overdrive, it’s smooth and sustaining.


I paid about $1,500, not including the radio I supplied. Not bad for a commissioned piece, but its intrinsic value is priceless. 

Why It Rules 

It rules because its look belies its sound and playability. In short, no matter what music you play on it, seeing it makes people smile. 

Thanks to Jon Trickey for making such a cool piece and for keeping it affordable. Please visit his website to see his other builds. Got a whack job? Feel free to get in touch with me at rtcarleton@gmail.com. Who knows? Maybe I’ll write about it!