Stella Luna

Name When John saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show (he was just 8 years old), he thought, "That's the job I want." He grew up playing in garage bands in Florida while studying to be a professional musician and composer. John's introduction to Alembic was a picture of Johnny Winter's custom guitar in Guitar Player magazine.
In the late 1970s he acquired his first Alembic: a Series I with a Zebrawood top. Unfortunately he needed a jazz box for his paying gig and couldn't afford to keep multiple guitars at the time. A few years later he acquired an Electrum but he missed the Series I double filter arrangement and soon let that one go as well. Eventually he opened his studio in an old movie theatre a la Stax Records and focused on building that business, but the Alembic guitar was never very far from his mind.
As a voting member of the Grammy Foundation, with 40 years of knowledge as a composer, professional musician and studio owner, and a 35 year familiarity with Alembic, John knew what he wanted in his first Alembic custom guitar.
Wood Stella Luna started with John perusing the wood bank online and finding this beautiful Buckeye Burl slab large enough to bookmatch to center (where we cover the neck with the top laminate). John was very fond of the Triple Omega body shape we made for John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. The version John selected is scaled properly for guitar and includes a pistol grip detail on the upper horn.
Ebony pickup cover Even though the general look of the pickups is similar to standard, we made Ebony shells to cast the pickups. Just one of those features that does not stand up and shout for attention, but rather sits patiently awaiting to be discovered.
Careful cutting allowed us to maintain the bookmatch to center with a continuous wood cover over the humcancelling pickup.

Sandwich John liked the look of Purpleheart accent laminates, and we think it is just striking against the Buckeye Burl top and back. A tidy pinstripe of Maple offsets the Purpleheart laminates on either side of the Mahogany body core to complete the body sandwich.

Flame Maple neck The neck is made of highly figured Flame Maple with two Purpleheart laminates surrounding a center Cherry laminate that is flanked by pinstripes of Maple. John requested no inlays on the fingerboard, simply pure unadorned Ebony like the violins he plays.


peghead peghead
The peghead alone is a stunning work of art. We heard numerous comments about the figuring of the wood on the peghead, but "topographic" was the term that we all remembered best. The grain does appear as if hand drawn, rather than Nature made.
Logo Inlay While subtlety is not the hallmark of this guitar, the monochromatic inlaid logo is a pleasant surprise nestled under the upper strings. John wanted something unique for the logo and he always liked the Stanley/Thomas "Steal Your Face" image for The Grateful Dead, so he talked to Susan about integrating that design into the logo. Susan designed the combination so the hand grips the top of the skull instead of the dragon circle.
Made of both black Tahitian and white mother of pearl plus sterling silver, the various shades catch all of the details and shadows of the original, and blend in with the shades of grey in the surrounding Buckeye Burl.
Backplates Wood like this is why we make continuous wood backplates. Because of the smaller guitar body, the shape and the Series II electronics, we had to get creative with battery access. We came up with continuous wood adjacent back plates for the preamp and the battery compartment in the upper body half.
John requested side-mounted output jacks. The 5-pin connector is on the edge between the two switches. The 1/4 inch connector occupies a lot of space, and so great care must be taken to avoid in-cavity collisions, so it's placed up higher, symmetrical with the strap pin around the omega cut.
Skyway Tremolo Placement of the controls was important to John, as was the addition of a tremolo. He commented, "if you ever watch a really good Hammond player, they are playing the drawbars almost as much as the keys. Alembic electrics have this huge, high definition tonal palate and I want to be able to access that while Iím playing."
The tremolo was trickier. Traditional guitar tremolos require routing out huge sections of the body and back which would remove a significant portion of the laminate and reduce the overall beauty of the instrument. Many also suffer from limitations of metal on metal pivot points that wear over time. Fortunately Skyway Technology is close to the factory, and their flexure design is just what we wanted for Johnís custom: no rear routing, no wear points, and firm, stable performance.

nut A graphite nut keeps the strings from binding. We also installed locking tuners.
While John has long been a fan of Alembics in general, he pointed out the guitars are a whole different breed of cat than the basses. "The guitars don't sound like anything else out there. Nothing else has this fidelity. They sound more like an acoustic guitar Ė very high definition. Other guitars sound like going back to the past."
He's found Alembic electric guitars sound best through darker sounding amps. He has a pair of 1969 Marshall combos through which he has played the guitar in stereo, but it's a bit on the bright side. He prefers playing it with the neck pickup running through a 1964 Fender Vibroverb (a la Stevie Ray Vaughan) and the bridge pickup through a 1965 Vox AC-10. "It's like having two guitars at once." John also likes the sound of his guitar through his 1968 Ampeg B12XT - a flip-top 2x12 with a dark sound.
LEDs Blue LEDs just seem to go with Buckeye Burl, as does the nickel plated hardware. Both compliment the cool coloration of the guitar.
"These instruments are the Stradivarius of our time. Alembic didn't stand still in the 35 years between my first guitar and this guitar. They continued to evolve, refine, and improve, and my new guitar reflects that 35 years of evolution. I'm convinced 400 years from now people will seek out Alembic instruments and hold them in the same esteem we hold the Stradivarius instruments today."
You can't look at the back without seeing an ethereal grey bat looking back at you, not ominous, but sweet like the main character in the children's book "Stellaluna." In it, Stellaluna is separated from her mother when attacked by owls, but never forgotten. Years later, Stellaluna tells her story and is reunited with her long lost mother. We'd like to think Johnís Stella Luna is the return of his never forgotten love all grown up 35 years later.
And if John is correct, someone will be sharing this legacy as part of a rare instrument auction in the year 2415.

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SPECIFICATIONS

  • Series II 6-string guitar
  • Buckeye Burl top and back
  • Triple Omega body shape with pistol grip
  • Skyway tremolo
  • Flame Maple, Purpleheart, and Cherry neck
  • Dragon Claw peghead shape
  • Custom inlaid logo in mother of pearl and sterling silver
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Continuous wood backplates
  • Nickel plated brass hardware
  • Side LEDs in blue
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Text by John Terry and Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2014 Alembic, Inc.
Photos by Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2013, 2014 Alembic, Inc.

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