Do we like Valley Arts Strats?

IMMusicRulz

Strat-Talker
Aug 10, 2020
379
Atlanta, GA
Whilst Valley Arts lacked the quality of guitar making, they made a lot of good Stratocaster-esque guitars in the Seventies and Eighties.

Mike McGuire and Al Carness founded the company in the mid-1970s in North Hollywood, California, a district of Los Angeles, California in the San Fernando Valley; the name "Valley Arts" is a reference to the firm's original location. Partners in a music store and repair shop, their repairs and customizations gained the attention of Los Angeles studio musicians and jazz guitarists such as Lee Ritenour, Steve Lukather, Tommy Tedesco, Mitch Holder and Larry Carlton. They began building custom guitars from scratch in 1977, and by 1983 demand for these guitars had increased to the point of requiring a separate manufacturing facility. Most of their guitars had a radical styling similar to that of a superstrat; others were modified versions of Fender's popular designs, the Stratocaster and the Telecaster. "Signature" Valley Arts features often included highly figured wood grain on the front, translucent colored finishes, gold hardware, Floyd Rose locking tremolos, EMG and Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups.

Here is what a typical Valley Arts Strat looked like:
1657039627408.png

I have a friend named Mitch Holder who is a pretty well known session guitarist in California, but he recently moved to Colorado.
He has been emailing me a few times, and here is what he had to say about his guitars:
"Starting in the early ‘70’s, I used a Fender Princeton Reverb that I eventually had Paul Rivera (who later started Rivera Amplification) modify it with more power and a mid-boost. I used a 1969 Gibson modified ES-355 then. In the early ‘80’s, I went to the Fender London Reverb, which Paul Rivera designed when he got hired by Fender. I had two and ran them stereo when we all had racks built for all the new digital and midi gear. I used a 1963 Fender Strat with a rosewood fretboard and then went to a Valley Arts Strat with the Floyd Rose whammy bar that Eddy Van Halen had started using extensively. In the late 80’s, I had another rack system built with an Egnator ie4 pre-amp. It had four control panels, one for Fender clean, Fender dirty, Marshall 60 watt and Marshall 100 watt and used a midi switcher to change patches. The Egnator output then went to a VHT 250 power amp. It ran stereo and was 125 watts a side. I had another Valley Arts Strat built with active EMG pickups which was also set up with the Floyd Rose. I had to have the VHT it tamed down as it was so powerful. It got pretty involved with all the electronics going on. Nowadays there are so many of everything out there, you have to try them out and decide which ones work for you. Have you gotten into pedals and electronics? I did use backline amps sometimes on tv shows and when I traveled. They got mostly Fender Twins or, sometimes the Roland stereo 120 Chorus amp. "


I hope you guys enjoy this detailed history of Valley Arts Strats.
 

revtime

Senior Stratmaster
Jun 17, 2014
1,450
kansas
Valley Arts made some good guitars. The acoustics were pretty sweet.
Very hard to find the strats.
The guy in Gibsons learn and master guitar course used them.
I have that and the learn and master fingerstyle course.
 

dspellman

Senior Stratmaster
Mar 24, 2013
1,040
Los Angeles
I was in and out of there often in the late '70's, but was never interested in their strats. OTOH, I did pick up a pair of Moonstones they had hanging on the wall at that time.
 

John C

Most Honored Senior Member
Silver Member
Jul 17, 2012
7,997
Kansas City
I played a few of them in the early 1990s (pre-Samick); very nice instruments. They could be a mix of in-house and Warmoth parts though - I think they had Warmoth do all of the 7/8 scale bodies-24.75" scale length parts for them (to their specs). I also believe that Dudley Gimple had a hand in designing the 7/8 scale/24.75" scale length models before he quit to go work for Sterling Ball at EBMM not long after EB bought MM from bankruptcy but I could be wrong on that.

Don Grosh worked for them for a short time before they were sold to Samick; he was doing the in-house neck shop there at the end of the pre-Samick era.
 

Danny D

Senior Stratmaster
Aug 2, 2019
1,137
The swampy desert.
Whilst Valley Arts lacked the quality of guitar making, they made a lot of good Stratocaster-esque guitars in the Seventies and Eighties.

Mike McGuire and Al Carness founded the company in the mid-1970s in North Hollywood, California, a district of Los Angeles, California in the San Fernando Valley; the name "Valley Arts" is a reference to the firm's original location. Partners in a music store and repair shop, their repairs and customizations gained the attention of Los Angeles studio musicians and jazz guitarists such as Lee Ritenour, Steve Lukather, Tommy Tedesco, Mitch Holder and Larry Carlton. They began building custom guitars from scratch in 1977, and by 1983 demand for these guitars had increased to the point of requiring a separate manufacturing facility. Most of their guitars had a radical styling similar to that of a superstrat; others were modified versions of Fender's popular designs, the Stratocaster and the Telecaster. "Signature" Valley Arts features often included highly figured wood grain on the front, translucent colored finishes, gold hardware, Floyd Rose locking tremolos, EMG and Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups.

Here is what a typical Valley Arts Strat looked like:
View attachment 574683

I have a friend named Mitch Holder who is a pretty well known session guitarist in California, but he recently moved to Colorado.
He has been emailing me a few times, and here is what he had to say about his guitars:
"Starting in the early ‘70’s, I used a Fender Princeton Reverb that I eventually had Paul Rivera (who later started Rivera Amplification) modify it with more power and a mid-boost. I used a 1969 Gibson modified ES-355 then. In the early ‘80’s, I went to the Fender London Reverb, which Paul Rivera designed when he got hired by Fender. I had two and ran them stereo when we all had racks built for all the new digital and midi gear. I used a 1963 Fender Strat with a rosewood fretboard and then went to a Valley Arts Strat with the Floyd Rose whammy bar that Eddy Van Halen had started using extensively. In the late 80’s, I had another rack system built with an Egnator ie4 pre-amp. It had four control panels, one for Fender clean, Fender dirty, Marshall 60 watt and Marshall 100 watt and used a midi switcher to change patches. The Egnator output then went to a VHT 250 power amp. It ran stereo and was 125 watts a side. I had another Valley Arts Strat built with active EMG pickups which was also set up with the Floyd Rose. I had to have the VHT it tamed down as it was so powerful. It got pretty involved with all the electronics going on. Nowadays there are so many of everything out there, you have to try them out and decide which ones work for you. Have you gotten into pedals and electronics? I did use backline amps sometimes on tv shows and when I traveled. They got mostly Fender Twins or, sometimes the Roland stereo 120 Chorus amp. "


I hope you guys enjoy this detailed history of Valley Arts Strats.
I enjoyed the history lesson. I’ve always considered VA guitars to be a studio players dream but have never played one. I’ve only stared at them in Hollywood music stores.
 

John C

Most Honored Senior Member
Silver Member
Jul 17, 2012
7,997
Kansas City
What bridge is that? A Kahler? Floyd?

It's the Schaller-branded/Schaller made Floyd Rose II model. Schaller first made these for the Kramer imports (Focus and Striker models - so they could keep the Original Floyd Rose and Floyd Rose Pro models for the USA-assembled Kramers) but they had the "Floyd Rose" logo in the oval. Then Schaller started selling the Floyd Rose II to other guitar manufacturers - they could have the Schaller logo, bus toms companies put their logo on them like Hamer and Jackson. I don't believe Valley Arts ever got them with their logo; they just used the Schaller logo version.
 

ajb1965

Old Enough to Know Better
Gold Supporting Member
Silver Member
One of my favorite guitarists of the 80's Steve Farris (Mr Mister) used to play them but I've never seen one in the wild. I was never particularly fond of the headstocks.
 


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