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David Grissom Interview

Issue #9

For those (no need to be ashamed now) who see serious limits to shredding as a guitar style, Grissom, just in case you're not familiar with his work, is a breath of fresh air.
Gary Cooper

David Grissom talks Stuart Bull through his new signature PRS and explains why what a guitarist really needs is a good bass amp! Meanwhile, Gary Cooper profiles one of America's best-kept guitar playing secrets.

It's pretty rare for a guitar or amp company to put its collective finger on why one of its endorsing artists really matters. Most often what you read is just corporate advertising blarney that probably makes even the artist's mother's toes curl with embarrassment at the weapons-grade hyperbole. But guitar maker PRS gets it absolutely right when it says of David Grissom: “Blues, country, R&B, rock and roll... somewhere in our collective imagination, there’s a crossroads where all of America’s great musical traditions meet. And that’s where you’ll find David Grissom....”

For those (no need to be ashamed now) who see serious limits to shredding as a guitar style, Grissom, just in case you're not familiar with his work, is a breath of fresh air. He mixes together Blues, hard Rock, Jazz, Bluegrass - elements of all the great guitar styles and he never lets technique get in the way of what he's trying to say, for all that his technique is superb. Pedal steel bends on a six string? You'd better believe it!

Though currently based in Austin, Texas and is very much associated in many peoples' minds with Texas, Grissom actually grew up in Louisville Kentucky and it was there that he first took guitar lessons - from a Jazz player. Alongside that early Jazz influence, though, Grissom has already been exposed to Bluegrass - and the Blues was just a give for a guitarist of his generation.

Joining forces with Joe Ely in 1985 was Grissom's first move into the limelight, since when he has worked with John Mellencamp, the Allman Brothers, The Dixie Chicks, Buddy Guy, Martina McBride, John Mayall, Chris Isaak and Bob Dylan (no less!). It's a grown-up, eclectic array of tasteful artists which signposts Grissom as what you might call a guitarist's guitarist.

Starting out in the Joe Ely band with a 1960 Fender Strat, Grissom had gravitated to a mahogany bodied PRS around 1985. It was an interesting move from a player who was very much part of the mid-80s Fender thing and it marked the start of a long association with Paul Reed Smith which has resulted in some interesting developments - including what some argue is be the best stock PRS model you can buy.

By 1987, Grissom was playing a PRS Gold Top that became his main guitar and then, in '91, he acquired a PRS McCarty with a difference – it had a trem. In 2007, PRS announced a DGT model which rapidly became one of the most liked PRS guitars in the company's catalogue. That’s the one the cognoscenti drool over.

And here things take an interesting (if slightly geeky) turn. By and large when someone introduces a new guitar they talk about breakthrough in pickups, whammy bars or some other hardware, but we're deep in tone country here and the talk has switched to guitar lacquers. There are those who believe this is just make-believe on the part of guitar snobs, but whatever the iconoclasts say, real guitarists often believe that they can hear the difference between a guitar finished in a modern polyester finish and one finished in the traditional nitro-cellulose varnishes. It's a controversial point but it's one of the things that Grissom and Paul Reed Smith and his team worked on for a launch in 2010 - what the company calls its V12 finish ('12' because that's how many years it took them to devise, apparently). Without revealing the secret formula, PRS says it's halfway between a nitro and an acrylic finish - delivering the benefits of both. 

Cue 2012 and a brand new PRS DGT is with us, this time an all-mahogany bodied guitar (the major difference from the old model) still with the slightly fatter Dunlop 6100 fretwire (explained in detail in our video interview), still with the whammy, but better locking tuners, but retaining the DGT pickups which have proved so popular and, of course, with that V12 finish.

As Stuart Bull says in our interview, the PRS DGT is a growing choice among Country players,  despite seeming like a heads-down rocker, so maybe some of Grissom's crossover magic has rubbed-off?

Beyond his allegiance to PRS, Grissom is a Collings man when it comes to acoustics - and he has an array of them: a Collings D1 with Adirondack spruce top and a varnish finish, a D1 with a Sunburst Adirondack top and a 0001 with a sunburst Adirondack top. For amps, he is a longtime Marshall user (though he has be known to use a Sixties vintage AC30, a Victoria and old Fenders) but has been most recently been working with PRS and Doug Sewell on PRS's evolving amp range, which now seems to have pride of place in his line-up. Watch the video for more! Strings are D'Addario 11-49s. The rest? Just sheer, blistering, talent.

Ig9 Coversmall

Issue #74

Jim Root

Out Now

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