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PRS Guitar History

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History of PRS Guitars

One of our bestselling guitars are PRS Guitars, These are best sellers due to their innovative designs, their high quality builds and their comfortability to play; appealing to a large range of musicians who highly desire this brand. PRS guitars, fully known as Paul Reed Smith Guitars, currently produce a wide range of visually and tonally seriously impressive electric guitars as well as acoustic guitars, basses and amps and their short history shows how far this has company has come from a very modest beginning.

In 1975, Paul Reed Smith was 19 years old and building guitars by hand in his attic in Annapolis in Maryland with John Ingram after originally building his first guitar at St Mary’s College of Maryland for a project. He set up his own repair and guitar building business managing one guitar a month between 1976 and 1985 with only a few friends to help.

The early guitar models were based on playability and looks. A constant theme with this brand and Paul Reed Smith was very aware early on that his guitars needed to have an edge and selected highly figured woods and bird shaped neck inlays to make sure their guitars were trumping other models on the attractive scale.

Paul Reed Smith’s main methods of selling guitar in the 70s and early 80s were by directly taking the guitar to music events and getting the guitar taken backstage to be reviewed by the artists. This methods resulted in a number of well-known professional musicians endorsing his guitars including Ted Nugent (who tried out the second PRS guitar ever made), Peter Frampton in 1976 , Al Di Meola (who used a 12 string PRS) and after some persuading, Carlos Santana in 1980 (Carlos Santana went onto use a custom made PRS mode as his main guitar).

In 1984, PRS looked to expand hoping to gain an increase in sales as a result of a weakening in market control from Fender and Gibson partly due to more competitors entering the market. Paul Reed Smith visited retailers directly to build up pre orders. At this point PRS received a large investment from Warren Esani and in 1985 PRS Guitars was officially founded as they moved into their first factory. Also,  in this year, at the NAMM Show, they showcased the PRS Custom and three years later, in 1988, PRS were employing 45 people and were producing 15 guitars daily.

Around this time Paul Reed Smith met with Ted McCarty, a former president and CEO at Gibson. Ted McCarty became a mentor and consultant to PRS and the company debuted its popular McCarty series in 1994. This series offered a more vintage feeling and sounding PRS Guitar compared to the PRS custom and earlier factory made guitars, which became known as the PRS Standard.

In 1996 PRS moved into a larger factory in Stevensville, Maryland, which is now the company’s main headquarters and in 2000 PRS released a new series, referred to as the SE which were manufactured in Korea by the World Musical Instrument Co. Ltd.  The World Musical Instrument Co. Ltd  is a popular manufacturer also used by Gretsch, LTD and Schecter to name but a few. PRS introduced a wide range of models in this series including the Custom 24, SE245, SE Kestrel and Kingfisher bass guitars as well as signature guitars. In 2009 the company diversified and began selling amplifiers and acoustics.

PRS now produces about 1,100 guitars per month in its Maryland factory and the company imports another 2,500 SE models from Korea. Their prevalent use of Flamed Maple tops, their comfortability to play, the fantastic pickups and the circuitry they offer are always going to be recognised as excellent and are noticeably more refined than can be found on other similar guitars. They are fanatical with their choice of wood, discarding it if it is not up to scratch, contributing to their status as a high end builder. PRS, a relatively young company, year on year has become more recognised and has successfully worked its way to being one of the top three of electric guitar builders in the world.