IN ONE OF THE LARGEST GUITAR-ORIENTED gatherings in the U.S., over 2,200 fans flocked to Experience PRS 2010 at the company’s headquarters in Stevensville, Maryland, last September. The event kicked off with an invitation-only party at the home of Paul Smith on Thursday evening, and by the time I arrived at the PRS factory on Friday morning things were already in full swing as the crowd gathered for breakfast and an orientation before setting about to see the sights. And whether you chose to do an interactive tour of the factory to see how the electric guitars, amplifiers, and acoustic instruments are made (all of which are built in separate areas of the factory); try your hand at carving a maple top, installing frets, or staining woods; or drop in on some of the clinics and product demonstrations; there were lots of fun and interesting things to do.
On both days the event also featured performances by such artists as David Grissom, Cody Kilby, Bugs Henderson, Derek St. Holmes, Ricky Skaggs, Orianthi, Zach Myers, Howard Leese, Davy Knowles, Martin Simpson, and Paul Smith himself—a guy who definitely walks it like he talks it when it comes to playing guitar. The fact that the founder of this hugely successful company is still so involved in creating music says a lot about why PRS guitars deliver such consistent performance, and why they remain so popular with players of many different styles.
If you haven’t attended an Experience PRS event yet, consider putting it on your things-todo list. You’ll come away with a deep appreciation for all the hand craftsmanship that goes into a PRS, and probably be as impressed as I was by how this company’s inspired and motivated team of workers manages to produce modern classic guitars on such a grand scale.
Crowds of Experience PRS attendees packed in to watch clinics and live performances in one of several tents like this one that were equipped to serve as outdoor theaters.
In this production stage a technician does the final sanding on the guitars before they are sent to the finishing area where they will be stained to one of the many gorgeous shades that PRS offers and finally be given a high-gloss clear coat.
Here’s how the color process begins: Note how the guitar is masked before stain is applied to prevent any bleeding of color onto the fretboard surface.
The guitars in this rack have undergone final finishing and are now ready to have their pickups, electronics, and hardware installed.
The “Archives” section of the PRS factory included original instruments made for Carlos Santana and David Grissom (center left and right respectively), and early Dragon models with their amazing fretboard inlays.
One of the many great players at Experience PRS was David Grissom, seen here doing his ripping roots-rock thing through a Dallas II rig. Between songs, Grissom graciously answered questions from the audience about his technique and tones.