Rhinegold Photo credit: Matt Curtis Photography
A colleague had a very rare 1964 Burns Orbit 3 amplifier and kindly loaned it for the MT photoshoot. The sounds of Patrick James Eggle’s redesigned Jack Golder guitar model through this amplifier (from early in Jack Golder’s career) was wonderful, bringing old and new together

Al Summers

Stunning poetry: the new Shergold Masquerader

8:00, 22nd June 2017

Al Summers reviews the new Shergold Masquerader from Barnes and Mullins

It is fitting that Barnes and Mullins supplies this range: the Shergold marque’s origins can be traced back to the late 1960s via a distinct link with this long-standing British music distributor stalwart. To build on Jack Golder’s original Shergold vision, there is perhaps no one as appropriate as guitar designer and engineer Patrick James Eggle.

The instrument reviewed here (the SM01SD) is in some ways the most basic model, and is perhaps also the most interesting, given its unusual pickup configuration of a neck P90 and bridge humbucker (with a coil tap, giving a wider choice of tones), both from Seymour Duncan.

The modern design has less fussy switching than many of the original Shergold (and related brands’) guitars, a notable improvement to both operation and looks.

The mahogany body has a semi-transparent finish which shows off the pleasing wood grain, and the colour is described as ‘dirty blonde’ – a pretty alternative to traditional 1950s butterscotch finishes.

A plateless bolt-on rosewood neck, with rosewood binding and fingerboard topped with excellent-quality locking tuners, all belie the modest price tag. This is a lot of guitar for well under the £1,000-plus that many of us might have guessed its retail value to be.

The subtle and graceful linear aluminium fret markers typify the thoughtfulness behind this guitar. In my book, fretboard markers are the least beautiful part of any guitar. Those on the surface of the fingerboard also have negligible value, being useless to any player with good posture (although having a use as a visual guide to students if and when the tutor is demonstrating, particularly in small class situations). Here something at best prosaic is turned into the poetic, adding to the guitar’s simple and stunning looks.

While giving a respectful nod in the direction of the old Shergold looks, the sleeker headstock – with straight string-pull angle giving the strings an easy journey over the high quality TUSQ synthetic nut – is the best of old and new.

Eggle’s own bridge design, an upgrade of the down-to-earth Leo Fender invention, has three bridge pieces designed to give good intonation on all six strings: pragmatic and handsome.

In practice, the instrument is as good as any I’ve played and sounds superb. Several of my students (from young novice to experienced and hardened professional) tried it: each delighted at every aspect of it. Those with collections of historic instruments with which to compare were all astonished at its extraordinary appointments and value.

Two other models are available currently. These have more customary configurations: the Masquerader SM02SD (£835), which has two single-coil pickups and a single humbucker; and the Masquerader SM03SD (£809), which has three single-coils. Perhaps these reflect versions of Leo Fender’s later designs, and they do at the least make useful reference points for those acquainted with more familiar guitars. All are available in the review model’s colour, as well as two other see-through finishes of cherry and black, and a solid battleship grey.

History and background
Golder, described by guitar historian Paul Day as ‘the godfather of the English electric guitar’, set up Shergold with Norman Houlder (frequently misspelled ‘Holder’ then, as now) after their work and associations with Burns, Hayman, Ned Callan, Shaftesbury and other similar guitar brands – including making some guitars for the current range’s distributor, Barnes and Mullins.

Famed and respected for craftsmanship, Golder was friendly, modest and enthusiastic, retaining his own determined approach to producing some of the finest British-made guitars and basses. I remember his guitars particularly for their excellent woodwork – the necks especially being lovely to play. This instrument takes me straight back to these superlative necks: a joy to play.

Shergolds were among the best production guitars in the UK at that time and, given the attention to detail from such a small company, near-handmade (as some special orders actually were). Mike Rutherford is perhaps the most famous user: he used a Shergold double-neck with Genesis. Models such as the Modulator, the Marathon and the Cavalier were variations on a theme, the Masquerader being part of this family.

Eggle has designed the new Shergold guitars. His wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience has enhanced Golder’s ideas to a point where it is difficult to imagine any improvement.

For those less familiar with the contemporary luminary of guitar design and luthiery, in the early 1990s, Eggle’s guitars were considered by many to be the UK equivalent of such top names as PRS. In 1994 he parted company with the brand. His significant contribution continues with high-quality acoustic and electric guitars under the PJE and Faith names, the latter an esteemed acoustic guitar range launched in 2002, distributed to the trade by Barnes and Mullins.

The Shergold Masquerader SM01SD is available from Barnes and Mullins at £765.

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