How can you hate on Dean Guitars? To me Dean represents everything great about rock ‘n‘ roll because they are big, bold, dynamic and slightly idiotic (but I mean that in the nicest possible way).
Throughout it’s history Dean Guitars have made instruments for almost every major rock act during the last forty years including Dimebag Darrell, Michael Schenker, Kansas, Leslie West, The Cars, Heart, Doobie Brothers, Jefferson Starship, Dave Mason, Triumph, Iron Maiden, Sammy Hagar, Nils Lofgren and ZZ Top.
Founded in 1977 by Dean Zelinsky in Chicago Dean Guitars was on the forefront of the handmade electric guitar revival during the 1970’s.
In my opinion Dean Guitars are criminally overlooked and I think that’s partly because they stood out like a giant middle finger in a way that Hamer or PRS never did. Take a look at some of Zelinsky’s original designs like the ML or the Cadillac there isn’t anything subtle about them.
Named as a memorial for one of Dean Zelinsky’s friends, Matthew Lynn, the ML is the most striking of Dean’s early designs. The ML is a mutant cross between a Flying V and an Explorer that sported a giant “v” shaped headstock that was clearly at odds with what other contemporary builder were making.
For me the other early standout design was the E’lite and it’s upscale brother the Cadillac. The E’lite /Cadillac was a riff the classic Les Paul design but had a more aggressive lower bout, an angular upper bout and the massive f* you Dean headstock.
It would be one thing if these guitars were all show but no go but Zelinsky’s guitars used classic building techniques such as high quality tone woods, long tenon neck joints, and high quality hardware and electronics.
While Dean did catch some flack during his early days for using some highly suggestive ad campaigns that featured scantily clad bikini models this approach worked and eventually his guitars found their way into the hands of high-profile players including one Randy Rhodes.
As Dean’s profile rose demand eventually outstripped the small company’s ability to keep up with demand so as was with the case of B.C. Rich Dean started importing lower price point versions of their guitars from the Far East.
In 1991 Zelinsky sold his company in order to spend time with his wife and family.
Nine years later Zelinsky returned to Dean as a consultant and was involved with marketing, US production, guitar design and artist relations.
By 2008 Zelinsky had left Dean for the final time only to start DBZ Guitars and in 2012 Zelinsky formed Dean Zelinsky Private Label. While Dean’s current guitars are considerably more subdued than his previous designs it’s any one’s guess how resonant players will find them.
Love them or hate them Dean Guitars are a uniquely American guitar, loud, obnoxious, outrageous and very rock ‘n’ roll.
For more of what Dean Zelinsky has been up to check out:
Love it or hate it but YouTube has become a very big way to get noticed as a player. There’s a good number of players that have been able to either leverage their video presence to something resembling a musical career.
Let’s take a look.
Bob Margolin: Bob is one of the last sidemen to record and tour with Muddy Waters. If that wasn’t enough Margolin can also be spotted playing in the Martin Scorcese film “Last Waltz”. Margolin still records and tours and numerous “how to” videos of his tips and techniques have been released on YouTube throughout the years. If you have any interest in electric blues check out Margolin’s website. http://bobmargolin.com
Greg Koch: Koch is perhaps best known for his work as a clinician for Fender and numerous product demonstration videos for Wildwood Guitars. http://www.gregkoch.com
Rob “Chappers” Chapman: Clinician, gear demo guy, sessions musician, front person for his own band, Dorge, and entrepreneur Rob Chapman seems to be everywhere. “Chappers” has literally hundreds of videos that range from product demonstrations to travelogues to lesson plans and general goofing around. “Chappers” also has his own line of guitars called Chapman Guitars. Check out http://www.robchapman.tv
Scott Grove: Grove is a controversial choice I know. Some people just hate him and that’s okay but if you ever want to hear what some of the more unusual guitars that have been made chances are he as a video of him playing it… that is if you can get past all the talky bits. Check out http://www.freewebs.com/groovymusiclessons/meetscottgrove.htm
Pete Thorn: Peter Thorn has been a sideman to the stars with stints with Mick Jagger, Stevie Nicks and Warren Zevon to name a few. Thorn also has numerous high quality demo videos on YouTube showing off top end gear and he also has an extensive list of lesson plans on his website. Check out http://peterthorn.com
Gregor Hilden: If you ever want to see some high quality demonstration videos of high-end guitars Gregor Hilden of Greg’s Guitars is your guy. He doesn’t talk, he uses a teddy bear as a mic stand, and he uses exactly the same delay pedal and OD pedal through the same amp with every demo so a viewer can get a very good side-by-side comparison of a lot of different gear. It also doesn’t hurt he’s got some very tasty chops so he’s a pleasure to listen to. Check out http://www.gregorhilden.de
Glen Kuykendall: Speaking about “unobtanium” nothing says “unobtanium” like a ’59 Les Paul and a Ken Fischer made Trainwrek amp. But owning some impressive gear doesn’t make you a standout player, playing on the popular “O Brother Where Art Thou?” soundtrack and cutting some tracks with both Eric Clapton and Gregg Allman does. Check out http://glenkuykendall.com