My musical heritage goes back to my grandfather, through my father and onto myself. I can remember as a kid maybe 5 or 6 years old, sitting on my dads knee listening to my grandfather, Naree (pronounced Na-ray) Melancon, play cajun fiddle. He learned at an early age how to play guitar and fiddle and I am told that as a young man he was one of the finest fiddle players “up and down the bayou”. My dad and uncles have painted colorful images of my grandfather showing up at a Fais-do-do (Cajun French for an all-night dance) with his fiddle and being the life of the party. Hed play those old Cajun two-step fiddle tunes and everyone would dance til all hours. Unfortunately when I was old enough to really appreciate music, my grandfather would rarely pull out his fiddle and play. Its funny how sometimes you dont realize how much talent surrounds you. Growing up, it seemed as though everyone and their brother played some sort of musical instrument.
Following in my grandfathers footsteps, my father, Richard Melancon, began his music career at an early age. He played guitar, mandolin and later pedal steel guitar in various country and western bands that played up and down the bayou. People still stop and tell me what a fine player he was in his day. I can remember when I was barely big enough to strap a guitar around my shoulder hed take me to special gigs and let me get on stage with him. I was so fired up, strumming away with a smile from ear to ear, unplugged of course, but none the less digging every second. As I got older and could sort of play some tunes, my dad would let me plug-in and play with the band. Soon, I was playing “Johnny B. Goode” and other tunes along that same vein. Well, it wasnt long before I wanted to play rock and roll!
I remember seeing Z.Z. Top at a local theater before their first album was released. That was all it took, I was hooked. My dad bought me a Les Paul copy and some friends and I started a band. I must have been 12 or 13 at the time. I dont think we even had a name but we thought we were something. Our repetoire was limited, if you didnt like Z. Z. Top you were out of luck. At about this time, I started working summers laying brick with my uncle. After about two summers, I saved enough money to buy a real guitar – a used Les Paul. I worked one more summer to save money for an amp and then my bricklaying days were over, I had to protect those fingers. Our band was really happening, or so we thought. We werent old enough to play the local bars in town but whenever someone threw a party, we played it. I still get people, some twenty-five years later that remember some of those parties.
That Les Paul did well for me until I had a bass playing buddy that loaned me his double cut-away, 3 single coil
guitar. It took a little while to get used to the feel of a Strat, but once I did I was hooked – the sound and feel of that particular Strat has had a big influence on the guitars we build today. After graduating from high school in 1978, I decided to chase my dream of becoming a full-time musician and hit the road. I joined a band and we traveled through out the US opening for national acts and were on the verge of signing a record deal with Atlantic Records but the rigors of the road took its toll and the band split up before anything materialized.
After becoming burnt out from the traveling I began doing some studio work in many surrounding studios. This is what eventually fueled my need for a guitar that would do more than what the bigger manufacturers were offering. While doing studio work I also began repairing guitars for the music stores in the area. This gave me a first-hand look at what other players were looking for in a guitar as well. I noticed what made a good guitar and what were some of the things that gave problems. At this time there were only a handful of custom guitar builders and I contacted one of them about building the ultimate guitar for me. The problem I ran into was that it would be at least a year before I would see the guitar. Well, I couldnt wait that long and had the bright idea that I would try and build the guitar myself.
Starting off in this endeavor, I ordered a body and neck from an after-market guitar parts manufacturer along with the electronics and hardware I wanted. In about two months I had the guitar that suited my needs. At this time I was sitting-in with various local bands on the weekends and the second time I had taken this guitar to a gig, someone offered to buy it from me. Of course I told him I was not interested, but he persisted and called again about a week later. I told him to give me a week to think about it. After thinking about the fun and pleasure I had constructing the guitar, I decided to sell it and build another. As often happens, one thing led to another and before long I had all of the local guitar players calling me to build their dream guitars for them. As I built more and more guitars, it made sense to acquire more sophisticated tools that would allow me to efficiently build the bodies and necks from scratch.