Without a familiar headstock, an Erlewine Lazer guitar may look odd, yet it offers guitarists maximum playability and comfort without sacrificing on sound. Just ask Johnny Winter.
Custom built since the mid-1980s and sold exclusively by Mark Erlewine in Austin, Texas, at first glance the Lazer’s ergonomically shaped body and missing headstock are startling eye catchers. Is it a small travel guitar or some kind of electric ukulele? Perhaps it’s Martin’s latest Backpacker model. Further inspection reveals two hot pick-ups and a ringing endorsement from legendary Texas Blues slinger Johnny Winter, so you know this means some serious business.
Winter, famous for using a Gibson Firebird throughout his career, almost single handedly placed Erlewine on the guitar luthier map when he made the switch in the early 80s as a response to his back problems. On the Erlewine website, about the Lazer, Winter states, “The closest thing I’ve found to sounding like a Strat and feeling like a Gibson.”
Some traditional specs
Neck-through-body construction, Rosewood fingerboard, a 25.5 inch scale and 24 frets are the long-established features to this electric screamer. One single coil neck pick-up, a humbucker near the bridge and familiar white pearl star inlays lend a classic vibe to the mojo of this unconventional instrument.
Controls are simple, merely volume and pick-up.
And some not-so-traditional specs
A small form-fit body weighing in at 5.5 lbs. is designed for a player’s ease of use and over sized Wineomatic patented tuners, intended to aid in changing tunings on the fly, are just the beginning to the exceptional aspects of this axe. Details, right down to the strings staying in tune are addressed by the manufacturer, explained online:
“The Lazer uses regular ball-end strings, locking them at both ends so they really stay in tune.”
Access to the upper frets is completely unhindered because there is no upper or lower bout, similar to a Gibson flying V. Perhaps most peculiar of all is the way the Lazer is tuned, from the bottom, near the bridge; unusual but an efficient use of balance and weight.
The price tag
The Erlewine Lazer is custom built to the buyer’s choice of finish and just about any pick-up configuration. As a result, prices may vary. On eBay, a used black Johnny Winter model goes for $2,350.US. Contact Erlewine for prices.
Ergonomics aside, the Lazer guitar from Erlewine is no lightweight and well worth a look. Johnny Winter says so.