If you’ve seen advertisements for Vaccaro’s guitars on the internet or magazines, you may have noted their slightly confrontational slogan: “They’re not for everybody.” This statement, it seems, is absolutely true. The reactions I’ve seen when whipping one of these unorthodox instruments out of my gig bag have ranged from shock (“Where di you get that?”) to covetous (“Awesome! Where can I get one?”).
Brought to you buy the people who created Kramer’s distinctive aluminum and wood-necked guitars in the late Seventies and early Eighties, Vaccaro’s guitars feature daringly designed popular bodies, bold finishes and unique aluminum, maple and ebonol composite necks. The Groove Jet evokes the unholy alliance of a Gibson SG and a satanic dung beetle, and features two Seymour Duncan Custom ’59 humbuckers, a three-way switch pickup selector located on the top horn of the guitar, two volume controls and a master tone control. Our review model was flawlessly finished in a stunning see-through emerald green. The X-Ray, whose sleek, orange sparkle body has a space-age Rickenbacker vibe, boasts two Rio Grande Muy Grande pickups: a humbucker in the bridge and a single coil in the neck position. Both pickups are topped off with the same mother-of-toilet-seat plastic as the pickguard, adding to the instrument’s undeniable ie ne sais quoi. The X-Ray’s control layout is simple yet versatile: a three-way pickup selector, coil-tap switch for the humbucker and single volume and tone controls. The hardware on both guitars (Sperzel locking tuning machines, super-sleek Tune-O-Matic-style bridges and top-notch components) is bullet-proof. The phenolic “I can’t believe it’s not ebony!” fingerboard are smooth and natural feeling, and the well-finished frets provide a sleek, effortless playing surface.
Run through a Bogner Ecstasy head powering a vintage Marshall 4×12 cabinet, both guitars performed admirably well. The Groove Jet’s Duncans are not obnoxiously hot, yet they provide full, articulate, distorted sounds that are both aggressive and musical. Backing off the volume controls allow for dead-on bluesy “in between sounds,” and on clean settings the instrument responds exactly as a two-humbucker contender should. The X-Ray’s Muy Grande pickups (as the name so subtly indicates) have a zingy, refried Texas tone, and when the single coil is combined with the humbuckers in single-coil configuration, they produce extremely hot ‘n’ tasty Fender-like tones. These guitars may look wild and crazy, but their sound and feel are full and old-fashioned goodness.