Oh, A Wise Guy, Eh?

In the guitar world the Three Wise Men refers to the iconic triumvirate of the Fender Telecaster, the Fender Stratocaster, and the Gibson Les Paul.

Despite an exponential explosion of guitars in the last generation these three, still, are the undisputed kings of their realms. Why? The prices are right for American-made guitars, they're still reasonably well made, you've heard them a million trillion times on the radio and on your favorite recordings, they look cool, and they are functional, etc. In other words, there are a lot of good reasons these guys are called The Wise Men. Hey, choosing one of these as your main axe is, in my opinion, a pretty wise move if you shop around and find a good one -- lots of duds out there and with Fender and Gibson it's pretty much a hunting and gathering mission. Anyway, assuming you find one to your liking, between the three of them you can cover any and all guitar territories and fit into any musical situation.

Still, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since these guitars were designed and many good innovations (both in design, materials, and manufacturing processes) have been made over the years. Maybe there are wiser choices?

Over the last three decades I've owned a LOT of guitars, something like 40 or more I guess, and the Wise Guys were among them, but, if I had to christen a new trinity, I would change things up a bit. Here are my candidates for the The Three Geniuses:

The Tele Genius = My original suggestion was the G&L Bluesboy ASAT. Here's what I had to say about it: "The Bluesboy is a recent, post-Leo era instrument concocted by a retailer and, in my mind, represents the best evolution of the Tele concept. Everything is a notch above a Fender product and the sweet MFD bridge single coil matches particularly well with the Seymour Duncan Seth Lover neck hummer. Man, what a sweet axe! It weighs just under seven pounds and features a fast 12" neck radius. And the brass bridge saddles take things up a notch."

However, since putting together a Warmoth partscaster I think I'll revise my Tele Genius recommendation. After finishing and assembling my Warmoth partscaster I hardly ever touch my G&L guitars, they just cannot compare. Why? The Warmoth neck features a quarter-sawn maple neck; asymmetrical SRV neck carve; compound radius (conical) that feels Fender at the nut but flattens out to Gibson at the higher frets; it features tall and skinny stainless steel frets; and the kingwood fretboard is dyno-might! With the addition of some Fralin pickups and a Barden compensated bridge this partscaster just eats other Teles and variants for breakfast.

The Strat Genius = Parker NiteFly SA. Specifically, I am thinking of the relative handful that rolled off the lines during the golden days between Korg and Music Corp ownership (the "Ken Era").
(Just look at that old beast! The guitar, dummy!)

The SA had a two-piece swamp ash body, a mahogany neck sheathed in a carbon glass fiber composite, a compound radius neck (conical), low mass headstock, locking tuners, and, among other innovations, stainless steel frets. The guitar is light, sustains 'for days' and, stays perfectly in tune despite all kinds of vibrato use, is rugged, and with a pickup swap, sounds great. The cool thing about the old NiteFly model was that, unlike the upscale Fly models, the NF was for 'guitar guys' that liked to modify stuff and swap out electronics. The frets were taller on the NF as well and the neck carve was in the vintage realm (chunkier) making them better players than the Fly. As futuristic as they look the NiteFly retains the vibe of a great old Strat.

My runner up in this category is the G&L Legacy.

After Leo died the new ownership (doing a great job, by the way) concocted the Legacy and it was a smart move. It has been their best-selling guitar since hitting the market. It's a Strat on eleven. The Legacy has within it all the classic tones plus more, more of everything. When people ask me: Fender or G&L I usually come down on the side of the latter.

The Les Paul Genius = The Paul Reed Smith SC58. Want the best Les Paul that never was? The 58 was designed to be the head-to-head competitor to the Gibson historic reissues and, for me, the PRS is the clear winner.

Top shelf materials and breathtaking build quality, endless sustain and ethereal resonance combined with classic tone all characterize this guitar. The bird inlays are stunning and the guitar plays like butter with its Pattern neck carve and tall frets. The finish is the best of both worlds: the durability of poly but the mojo of nitro. And those 57/08 hum-buckers absolutely nail that late 50s, idealized Gibson Les Paul tone. The SC58 just rings like a bell. And the one thing I always disliked about the Les Paul, the crowded string spacing at the bridge, is bumped out for added comfort -- great for those that like to hybrid pick.

What's your three genius list look like?