Heritage guitars

♦ Heritage Gary Moore Signature Model - Amber Burst (1991)
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♦ Heritage Gary Moore Signature Model - Almond Burst (1991)
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♦ Heritage H150CM (?)

♦ Heritage H140CM (?)

Heritage Guitars and Gary Moore

- by David Talkin (July 2010)

Let me begin with a brief history of Heritage Guitars.

Click here for larger imageHeritage Guitar Inc. of 225 Parsons Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan was incorporated on April 1, 1985. The company is going on 25 years old, it has achieved the status of one of the premier guitar companies in the world today. It is, in many instances, the new guitar line handled by countless vintage shops throughout the world. This indicates it is thought of as the collectible guitar of tomorrow. 

The idea to start Heritage Guitar began when the Gibson Guitar Corporation closed it’s Kalamazoo, Michigan factory in September of 1984 and moved all production to it’s other plant in Nashville, Tennessee (in operation since 1975). When this took place, some of the employees were asked to move to Nashville. However, since their families had spent many years in Kalamazoo, it made it difficult to uproot and move. Therefore 3 men, Jim Deurloo, Marvin Lamb, and J.P. Moats, decided to start a guitar manufacturing business. In 1985 when the company was incorporated, 2 other former Gibson Guitar Corporation employees, Bill Paige and Mike Korpak, joined as owners. Mike left the company in 1985.

Click here for larger imageThe founders biggest resource is and was the group of craftsmen they could draw from to begin operations. The owners themselves each had in excess of 25 years of hands on experience in making guitars. To this day each of the owners is directly involved on the manufacturing of each instrument. 

Heritage started operations in the oldest of five buildings formerly owned and operated by Gibson Guitar Corporation. That building was completed in 1917 and has been a center for guitar manufacturing ever since. Much of the machinery that Heritage uses today was purchased from Gibson Guitar Corporation. 

The first guitar Heritage introduced was the H-140 solid body single cutaway electric guitar. This model was shown at the NAMM show in June of 1985. 

Since that time Heritage has added many instruments. Currently Heritage maufactures Custom Carved Hollow Body Guitars, Semi Hollow Body Guitars, and Solid Body Guitars. This is to say nothing of the countless number of custom instruments made in each of the groups previously mentioned. Banjos, Mandolins, Flat Tops, and Basses, are no longer being produced because of the demand for the guitars mentioned in the above three categories. Heritage is proud of it’s older employees’ with 25 years of average experience and what it has accomplished in 24 years. Heritage is also training younger luthiers to learn this fine art of craftsmanship. 

As far as Gary Moore’s involvement with the Heritage Guitar Company, this association began in 1989, prior to the “After The War” tour. Jay Wolfe of Wolfe Guitars in Jupiter, Florida, is the largest volume Heritage dealer in the U.S. (see Jay's Heritage Gary Moore guitars - both Amber & Almond - at the top of this page) Awhile back I contacted him because the chronology of Gary’s Heritage guitars was mostly unknown. Terry Haselden was Heritage’s UK distributor and initiated the Moore endorsement, designed the guitars with Gary and supplied the certificates. Graham Zebedee, who now works with Jay Wolfe, was Terry’s UK sales manager. Graham states he personally handed two Heritage Gary Moore Signature model guitars to Gary, for him to keep and play.

Click here for larger imageClick here for larger imageGary already at that time owned a Heritage H140CM and three H150’s. Graham personally checked in the prototype GM Signature guitar, before sending it to Gary and witnessed him playing the H140CM in studio sessions for “After The War”. Graham states that Gary was photographed for the cover shots of the "After The War" album with his #1 Signature model. The first of the burst series and he took Gary to lunch after the photo shoot. He goes on to state "I was Gary’s guest for the concert at Hammersmith Odeon , where he opened the set with the #1 guitar I had given him."

Click here for larger imageGary would just authorize 75 guitars, however Japan ordered 40 alone, so I approached Gary and obtained his reluctant OK for another 75 in a different color. The first 75 in Amber Burst and the second 75 in Almond Burst, which was the color he wanted in the first place..I could go on, but hopefully it helps.” 

My questions to Wolfe Guitars were that the H150CM guitar that Gary is portrayed using in the only video from the "After The War" tour that I have been able to obtain, the Royal Ulster Hall concert, which was simulcast by the BBC on radio and television. Gary using it on the song "Blood of Emeralds", this was the same model he later played on the "Still Got The Blues" tour, the video from the Montreux Jazz Festival gig, where he uses the Heritage for the three opening numbers. “Walking By Myself", "All Your Love" and "The Stumble".

This H150CM was the prototype configuration I was led to believe, the guitar fitted with a P.J.Marx pickup in the neck position and an EMG 81 in the bridge position. The eventual ‘production’ GM Signature models had EMG 81’s in both positions.

Click here for larger imageAlso in the cover shot for "After The War", unfortunately only the top of the neck and the head stock are portrayed, the guitar having Gary’s named engraved on the truss rod cover. We are unable to see the rest of the guitar, though the guitar use by Gary live as I have stated, wasn’t this guitar. Perhaps Graham is mistaken about the gig he attended where Gary played this #1 guitar, as according to the tour programme for the "After The War", the Belfast Kings Hall show was March 9th and Gary’s only London show was 3 days later at Wembley Arena, not the Hammersmith Odeon, unless there was some change of venues I don’t know about.

I do know that on the "Still Got The Blues" tour, the famous video "An Evening With Gary Moore And The Midnight Blues Band" was shot at the Hammersmith Odeon, but Gary is not shown playing the Heritage on the official video...so? 

I first learned of the existence of this GM Signature model guitar through the Nov. 1990 issue of Guitar World magazine. There was a feature article on Gary and his new album and tour for SGTB, the article is entitled "Moore Better Blues" by Harod Steinblatt.

Click here for larger imageI am including scans of this article as it is the first mention of Gary using Heritage guitars in the US that I came across. On page 69 of that article a picture of Gary is shown playing the H150CM, the H denotes "Heritage" the 150 is the model number, and CM stands for Custom Maple top. The caption to the picture states..”MOORE POWER TO HIM: Gary Moore and his modified Heritage-150. Only 75 of the Limited Edition guitars will be made. Of course as soon as a younger Emerald saw this, he instantly went into a frantic mode, which today is termed GAS: Guitar Acquisition Syndrome! I will explain moore of my personal quest to obtain these guitars later on.

Also in the article , on a page entitled “A Gary Moore Axology-Blue Angels”, Gary’s equipment is detailed by the author. Gary basically explains he went completely away from most of his guitars and amp/effects setup from the previous tour and describes his new 'blues' set up. The Heritage is described as an "antique sunburst" Heritage 150 with a bridge position EMG 81 and a P.J.Marx at the neck position. Further on Graham Lilley comments on the Heritage: "Gary uses one of his three Heritage 150’s. It’s got real punch", says Lilley of the Heritage which features EMG 81 pickups. Moore describes the guitar as having "exceptional sweetness and sustain, with a contemporary sound."

The videos from the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1990 portray the Heritage through the Soldano SLO-100 amps, with Gary’s Marshall Guv’nor pedal, though with the powerful active pickups, I doubt Gary even uses this pedal. With his PAF equipped vintage 1959 Les Pauls, they would benefit from this lead boost, but believe me the Heritage has a massive output, moore than enough to drive the front end of most amps. Gary only using the rhythm channel on his Soldano’s anyway, this show really shows the huge dynamics of the Heritage.

The clip from the “After The War” tour is bittersweet for me, my favorite Gary Moore song “Blood of Emeralds”, I finally got to see Gary perform live, was spoiled for me by the dreadful audio problems that plague this show. I am not sure if it had to do with the live recording, ect. But all through this show with various guitars, Gary is fighting the sound, inappropriate feedback, no sustain to the guitar signal, ect. He is clearly frustrated during the performance of this most meaningful song and to the trained eye and ear of an avid Gary Moore follower, it isn’t a pleasant experience. Not the various guitars fault, something in the amp chain and monitor issues I believe, from what I can tell. How great then that we have “Blood of Emeralds” on the current tour, restored to all it’s glory. 

Now back to the story of how I managed to obtain “two” of the Gary Moore Heritage’s. I was hot to trot to get one of the Signature models when I read the issue of Guitar World that year. I immediately placed an order with the factory for one and they explained it would be a wait to get one, I felt lucky to get one at all.
Then after I had special ordered it, I placed a call to Manny's Music in NYC and they had an Amber Burst model (the first75) brand new in stock. I also purchased this, as I wasn't sure what would happen with the Heritage factory order, ect.
My Amber Burst is #55 of 75. I bought it over the phone on 2/7/91, laughably on the receipt it reads Gibson Heritage Ltd. Edition #55 !!

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With case $1085, I had it shipped UPS Priority Red at the time. This guitar came with the COA and in a rectangular Heritage logo-ed case.
When my second Gary Moore Heritage arrived at A-Z Music in Morrisville, Pa., I lived near the main line in Philadelphia in those days, I had put down my deposit on 2/5/91.
The list price was $1550 and I paid a total of $952.94 with tax included. I still was not familiar with all the colors or the production of the second run of 75 at that time, though in retrospect on my receipts it states Almond Sunburst, and when I pulled back the tissue paper after opening the case, it was a different color than my first series.

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I had spoken with Rendell Wall several times on the phone and he confirmed to me that the demand for the first 75 had been so great, they decided to produce the second series of 75. My guitar is #45 of that series. (see below the Almond Burst) I had a waiting number for my order #4027 at the time.

Here are the specifications of the official Heritage Gary Moore Signature model guitar.

Click here for larger imageThe guitars had dual EMG 81 active pickups and Gary's signature in red on the 'snake' shaped headstock, which has The Heritage at the top. This is in tribute to the early Gibson headstocks from the Lloyd Loar era, which had The Gibson written in the same way! Actually Heritage later had to change their lower bout shape and pickgaurd shape after Gibson threatened legal action! Also these guitars have beautiful maple wood pickguards which match the bodies stained colour.

The standard finish at first was Amber. The neck was of a one piece mahogany construction with a 24.75” rosewood fingerboard, with mother of pearl trapezoid inlays. The headstock had the '50's vintage correct 17 degree pitch, with a black painted face. The Heritage logo is in silver with Gary Moore's signature in red across the middle of the face. Grover tuning machines were fitted, with no pickup selector switch ring and beautiful flamed maple pickguards that matched the flame maple tops, these guards also having the cream colored binding that matched the binding on the guitar body. The back of the headstock was painted black as well with the model and serial number stamped with silver paint. The rear of the headstock also featured what are termed 'stingers', which is where the black paint terminates in a sharp point. This technique was used by Gibson to hide irregularities in this area, but are a distinct feature of these models. The conventional two volume and two tone control potentiometers are fitted. There is extra space in the rear control cavity for the 9 volt battery to power the active EMG pickups, this power is disconnected once the output cord is removed. The guitars are quite heavy though the Grover tuners balance out the overall balance of the body with the added weight of the electronics.

Now Gary being the brilliant guitarist he is, he can play anything very well, but I didn't like the Schaller roller bridges as they were designed so you could alter the string spacing, why? Also there was a lot of inherent sting buzzing from the bridge. So I debated with myself over and over about modifying these rare guitars. But I am first and foremost a player and not a collector so I chose to have both modified at the same time! I took them to John Zeilder, a brilliant luthier in Philadelphia who built his own guitars, including fantastic archtops. I gave him Gotoh Nashville bridges and Gotoh nickel Gibson style nickel chromed stoptailpieces. Due to the predrilled spacing, an ABR-1 vintage style bridge was out of the question, plus Nashville's have the ability to stay in tune well and have great sustain. Also I could not bear the skinny frets which I was suprised that Gary did not have his trademark jumbo frets fitted. I chose a medium wide oval DiMarzio stainless steel fretwire which John loved to use. He did a brilliant job of setting them up and had to indeed plane down the fingerboard of the amber one as it was 'moving around' on the bench.

These guitars are very heavy, much more so than these 7.5 to 8 lb Les Paul reissues. I use 0.10 to 0.52 gauge strings as did Gary back then. You can actually lower the action more with heavier strings, equaling great sustain. Gary taught me much about guitar technicalities, because I read every thing I could about him and his equipment, playing technique, ect. Later on Heritage did in fact offer Gibson style Nashville or ABR-1 bridges with the conventional stop tail pieces, so I was ahead of my time! So one can say that my two Gary Moore's are modified to play better and I’m sure Gary would say that given the opportunity to play one of my guitars. The question is, does Gary actually still own any of his Heritages, this is a question for our Graham Lilley. I did at one time have some photos from a Heritage factory tour many years ago that showed a prototype GM signature guitar all covered in dust, hopefully I can retrieve it.

Many people make the mistake of comparing Heritage Guitars to Gibson’s. They are missing the point. Heritage of course builds guitars 'inspired' by the great Gibson models, but the way they are constructed and the handbuilt craftsmanship, is very different, even from Gibson's Custom Shop. The Gary Moore Heritage is extremely rare, with only 75 intended to be built, that figure ending up at 150, still an extremely low number of guitars produced. Personally, the examples I own are among the best playing and sounding guitars of that genre, bar none.