Reverend USA Guitars
Reverend's USA Guitars were made from 1997 until the Summer of 2006 when guitar production went completely offshore. The USA made Reverend's are classic example of "outside of the box" thinking by creator Joe Naylor. Just about every review of a Reverend guitar glows in its praise of sound, versatility, and value. Guitar Player Magazine has awarded various Reverend models with "Editors Pick" (the new import model's have racked up this honor as well!) on multiple occasions.
Reverend USA Guitar or Bass for sale ?
Please send me an E-MAIL as I am always interested in buying USA Reverends (if the wife will allow!) But if not, I might be able to steer you in the directions of someone who does, or expand your guitar's exposure by listing it here on the RevFan.com site (for Free!)
Making a Reverend: The Body
All of the USA Reverends share the basic shape that is is defined by an injection molded polymer rim. There is a white mahogany center block in which a steel sustain bar has been embedded. The tops and backs are either laminated phenolic (wood and phenolic resin) or laminated phenolic with various metal finishes.
The channels for pickups and electronics are basically the same for all the Reverends. The differences lie in the types and number of pickups used, and the pick guard that houses them. While this is great for the builder and those that want to modify/customize their guitars, it muddies the waters substantially for the collector who are in search of "stock from the factory" models as there are many Reverend guitars that have either been upgraded, customized, or changed from their original form. To make matters worse (for the collector) these changes could have been made by their owners, or they could have been made for their owners by the Reverend factory, though fortunately, Reverend kept track of most of these changes in their instrument archives.
It is not uncommon to find Reverends for sale that are currently Slingshots (two P90s), but have been Avengers, Spys, or Commandos when then came from the factory. While it doesn't affect the guitar's playability, it will effect its collector value.
One word of caution: If you do decided to "modify" your USA Reverend, be sure to keep all of the original parts. Eventually, life may necessitate the need to sell your guitar, and you get a better return on you investment if you guitar is as close to its "from the factory" condition as possible. "Extreme" (irreversible) modifications make the guitar difficult to value and thus harder to sell.
Early/Late Pick guards
The pick guards themselves only changed in format once, and they are known as "Early" and "Late" Style. The switch began at sn 00564, so the majority of Reverends were manufactured with the later style pick guard
The Early Style Pick guard has the up-facing "stairs" at the bottom of the guitar, the later style has the stairs facing downward and they are located closer to the neck. The early and late pick guards are not interchangeable as the screw hole locations don't match up.
The Banjo Armrest was not included on "all" of the early USA Reverends. The earliest instruments, including the prototypes, don't seem to have had them. The picture to the left shows the Reverend display at the 1997 Detroit Guitar show. Most of the examples on the table are either prototype (the third one from the left is Rocco Prototype #3 in Desert Tan) or very early Serial Numbered Reverends. None of them have the banjo armrest.
When Reverend decided to put the armrests on, they bought up the local supply, and soon ran out of them. So some early guitars have them, some don't. They didn't have a large enough supply to become "standard" on all USA guitars until SN 00521. Some of the early "no armrest" guitar have been retrofitted after the guitar left the factory, as Reverend offered the Armrest and Mounting instructions to those that wanted it. One example is SPY #00267 which left the factory without the armrest, but one was sent to the owner later, but never applied. The armrest itself seems to be the standard chrome Vega Banjo style Armrest mounted with two screws and is currently available through Reverend.
Making a Reverend: The Neck
Reverend USA's come with one of the most respected and admired necks in the guitar business. The USA Reverend line of Guitars went through three phases of guitar necks.
"Made in USA" Guitar Neck
- First version guitar neck
- Headstock decal says "Made in USA" under Reverend
- Truss rod adjustment at body end of neck. Note: some of the very earliest examples made by Mighty Mite had the truss rod adjustment at the headstock
- Thick front to back profile. Note: some of the very earliest examples made by Mighty Mite had a slim front to back profile
- Nut width approximately 1-5/8". Note: some of the very earliest examples made by Mighty Mite had a 1-11/16" wide nut
- Traditional one-way truss rod
- Second version guitar neck
- Headstock decal says "Eastpointe, MI" under Reverend
- Truss rod adjustment at headstock
- Thick front to back profile
- Nut width approximately 1-5/8"
- Traditional one-way truss rod
- EARLY EASTPOINTE - dark walnut "skunk stripe" on back of neck
- LATE EASTPOINTE -NO Skunk stripe, Neck has a 1/2 inch square aluminum reinforcement channel
- Switch from early to late Approximately SN 02272
- Third and final version guitar neck
- Headstock decal says "Reverend USA"
- The last run of approximately 60 necks say "Reverend" without the USA -"USA" may/may not be hand written on the back of the headstock
- Truss rod adjustment at headstock
- Dual-action truss rod
- Medium front to back profile
- Nut width approximately 1-21/32"
Making a Reverend: The Pickups
I need to flesh this section out more, and its a work in Progress. If anyone has decent information regarding Reverend Pickups that were used on Guitars during the USA Era, please let me know.
Reverend Musical Instruments used their own brand of pickups (though made overseas) on all but the earliest of their guitars. The non-Reverend pickups used were more than likely Kent Armstrongs. Even after Reverend began using "their own" pickups, they utilized Kent Armstrongs for the guitar models with lipstick pups (SPY and Early Commando). Other examples are the Rio Grande pickups that were used on the Hot Shot Jrs and the Tele size twin rail humbucker bridge pickup used in the Avenger GT.
To be honest, I am not sure when the switch was made to using the in house Reverend brand of pickups. If anyone can supply this information I'd appreciate it and get this section updated.
The Reverend Workhorse
I don't want to go too much further into the Reverend USA guitar discussion without first covering the Workhorse models as there are a lot of misconceptions about them in the playing/collecting world.
On October 19, 2003, there was a press release from Reverend announcing their "new line" of cost cutting guitars. The press release stated:
Reverend has introduced the USA made Workhorse Series Guitars starting at $539 direct. This new series uses the same patented body construction, Super Vintage neck and custom designed pickups found in Reverend's more expensive guitars. However, the single-layer non-beveled pickguard, non-locking die cast tuners and limited options allow Reverend to lower prices.
Other features include: string-thru-body bridge, two-way truss rod accessible at headstock, chrome plated armrest, graphite nut, low friction string trees, full access neck joint, tone preserving volume control circuit, custom tone control circuit.
The first of these Workhorse Series Guitars was actually built in November of 2003 as an Aged Yellow AVTL. By the time USA production ended, there were 128 Workhorse Series Reverends made. This included 34 AVTLs, 33 SCUs, 30 SLS, 15 CGTs, 11 WOLs, and 5 COMs.
Collecting wise, the Workhorse series has become the black sheep of the Reverend family, though this is unwarranted. The only real difference between the Workhorse Series and the "non-Workhorse, was the Locking Tuners and the Pickguard. The non-locking die cast tuners were the same ones Reverend had been using all along, on just about all of their guitars up to serial number 2700ish.
If there was a weak link in the Reverend chain, it was probably these die cast tuners. Reverend began experimenting with upgraded tuners and we see Sperzel locking tuners used as early as SN 00100 (though these could have been custom ordered), and Grovers appear at serial number 01670.
In August of 2001, we really start to see an even split between the die-cast non-locking tuners and the Grover 406s. But after November of 2001, the die-cast non-locking tuners fade to a trickle and the Grovers are the dominant tuners.
This didn't last long, however as the Grovers had some issues of their own. A significant number of Reverend owners had trouble and were reporting breakage issues that Reverend decided to change again to the Sperzel locking tuners. From August of 2002 we see the Sperzel as the dominant tuner and the die-cast only appears in the Workhorse Lines.
The Sperzels, and the Grovers for that matter, were expensive. My guess is that Reverend still had a good number of the non-locking die cast tuners sitting on their shelves. Multi-ply beveled pick guards are also more expensive then their single-ply non-beveled brethren. Maybe this ability to shave some cost birthed the Workhorse series, as it allowed Reverend to field a guitar under the $600 threshold.
The point though, is that everything else was the same; pots, pickups, neck, body, bridge, saddles, neck etc. Ironically, some of the Workhorse Series guitars left the Reverend Factory with multi-ply pickguards. Despite this, Workhorse series guitars tend to sell for around 10-20% less on the collector market. If you are a collector AND a player, this is probably one the best opportunities in the Reverend USA line to climb aboard and see what all the fuss is about.
The flexible construction process, along with Mr. Naylor's imagination, led to boat loads of models, colors and finishes on the various Reverend Guitars. While a Tobacco burst finish does have its place in the guitar world, to me it just can't compare to Bug Eye!.
The downside to this (if there is one) is that it created a huge uphill battle for the enthusiastic collector. I have to say, tracking down a rare or unusual model/color is a thrill all unto its own. Lava Swirl Commando? Pumpkin Rockhide Wolfman? How about an Engine Turned Aluminum Spy?
Reverend provided a color chain of samples in 2000 for those that were having a hard time choosing. If you have one of these, please contact me via E-MAIL as I still have many holes in my research.
For Guitars, the top ten finishes that were produced are as follows:
- Jet Black (566)
- Sky Blue (268)
- Aged White (244)
- 57 Turquoise (218)
- Bug Eye Black Chrome (201)
- Moroccan Gold (157 - including 11 Hot Rod Flames, 9 Hawaiian Scenes)
- Blood Red (132)
- Aged Yellow (130)
- Lava Swirl (105 - including 1 Hot Rod Flames)
- FireBall Red (85).
all of the
options and choices, the most common
Reverend USA model is the Black Rocco (two Humbuckers) with 288 models
made. I consider this one "the base line" for valuing USA Reverends.
Joe Naylor is without a doubt, the Willy Wonka of the guitar world and he cooked up some doozies during the USA era. Every once in a while a Reverend "one-of" appears on the market causing a stir in the collector community. Since there were several companies (Formica included) that had many different materials to choose from, there are lots of guitars that were experiments and thus, "one ofs". Also, a "One Of: could just be the only finish that was applied on a particular model of guitar, for example, the Hitman ordered with Sky Blue phenolic finish.
Reverend Options circa 2000
March 2000 is the earliest info
that I was able to gather web data for Reverend Guitars. This has been supplemented with hard copies of Reverend Catalogs and other original sources.
I am constantly looking for USA Reverend related information, so if you have anything that would be helpful and you would like to share (data, catalogs, advertisements etc) please contact me and I will update the site as soon as possible.
Reverend Body Colors
Part of the appeal to the musician and collector is the wide variety of color finishes that are/were available. An early (April 97) Product flyer list the color options as:
tough, lightly textured reflective finish available in: Desert
Foam Blue (28), 57' Turquoise (218), Fireball Red ((85), Deep Sea Teal
(47), And Jet
Black (588). Guitars come standard with white pick guard and white sides"
Several of the Reverend Phenolic colors "seem" similar. At this point, I can't determine if the colors are identical and just the names changed, or if Reverend received different colored phenolic materlial and thus changed the names. For example, in dark blue there is Navy and Indigo. Later Aged Yellow replaces Powder Yellow, and Fireball Red is replaced by Fire Engine Red.
If anyone HAS some of the data saved from Reverends early days and
would like to share it, please contact me and I will amend the site as
soon as I can. The numbers in parenthesis are the production numbers of guitars
in that color.
Aged White (244), White (57), Aged Yellow (130), 57 Yellow (47), Powder Yellow (61), Desert Tan (15),Fire Engine Red (54),Blood Red (132), Fireball Red (85), Aged Burgundy (66),Sky Blue (268), Foam Blue (28), Indigo (27), Navy (48), 57 Turquoise (218), Teal (47), Hunter Green (58), 69' Lime Green (44), Safety Orange (87), Pumpkin Orange (37), Lavender (4), Deep Purple (38), Rose (1), Pink (2), Jet Black (566)
Faux Wood Grains
The faux wood grains first appeared as an unusual prototype sound hole Rocco with a Red Mahogany finish. Soon after came a few colored wood grains, Blackwood, Greenwood, and Redwood, but they were mostly used on Reverend Bass models. For the first couple of years though, the wood grains are few and far between and generally appear as either Birdseye Maple or Quilted Mahogany (which were the first faux woods available to order via Reverends Website).
In 2003 however, the faux woods start to gather steam. The concept behind them was that Reverend thought that they would appeal to musicians that were wary of the "plastic like" phenolic bodies. While wood grains were phenolic as well, they mimicked traditional wood guitar finishes. From about April of 2003, the dominant wood grains are Red Mahogany and Flamed Maple. Its not until almost the end of production of bass and USA guitar models that we see the more "unusual" faux woods appear again, but in very small numbers.
In my humble opinion, these guitars and basses might be the hidden value in Reverend collecting. They normally sell a little cheaper (10-15%), then their colored phenolic stablemates. The exceptions here are the specialty/prototype wood finishes and the Formica Corporation finish.
Ash (1), Red Wood (1), Transparent Red on Faux Maple (1), Green Wood (3), Birdseye Maple (13), Formica Corporation (14), Quilted Faux Mahogany (14), Red Mahogany (67), and Flamed Maple (79).
Specialty Metal - Real Metal - Exotic Metal Finishes
From the Reverend Press Release, August 27, 2001:
Reverend Introduces Metal Top Guitars, Basses
Reverend has revamped their entire line of guitars and basses. The new line consists entirely of Metal Top instruments which feature a top consisting of a thin layer of aluminum bonded to phenolic laminate. Combined with Reverend's patented semi-hollow, high resonance body design, the result is increased clarity, sustain, harmonics, and bell-like trebles.
Finishes include Bug Eye, Lava Swirl, Engine Turn, Brushed Gold, Brushed Aluminum and the flagship Hawaiian Scene. The latter features a smoked chrome top and back with sandblasted beach scenes reminiscent of early 1900's popular Hawaiian imagery.
Standard appointments now include: Grover model 406 locking tuners, black phenolic backs, 1/8" thicker bodies, black pickguards, black and chrome pickups, and aluminum reinforced necks.
Reverend's Joe Naylor comments, "The new line further focuses Reverend's product identity in a crowded market, there's really nothing out there like it. And they're not different just to be different -- These are instruments with a pro level track record that have carefully evolved over the years into the current line. They're the best we've ever built and represent a great value in a finely tuned, high performance American instrument".
The Reverends that are considered the "most desirable" by collectors are the guitars and basses with the metal finishes. The first Metal Finish to come out of the Reverend Factory in late 1999 as a Bug Eye Commando, sn 00945.
The next to debut, at about the same time, was Ridged Aluminum, this time as a Slingshot (sn 01042).
In 2000, we see the emergence of the Engine Turned Aluminum: the first being a Slingshot Custom, 01589.
Diamond Plate was next (Commando sn 01654) and Lava Swirl was last to appear, its first instance was SPY sn 01918.
One interesting thing to note about the Specialty Metals is when Reverend first offered them (prior to selling direct) the Specialty Metals were an upcharge which included front/back. See chart above for 2000 price structure. The prices varied over the next few years, but a bigger change came in 2003.
Originally, when a Specialty Metal was ordered, it was applied to the top and the back. During 2003, Reverend starts charging and additional $60 for the Specialty Metal on the back. The extra charge is why we see a lot of the Specialty Metals from about sn 02800 to 03200 being sent out with a black back.
Unlike their phenolic topped brethren, the metal finishes seem to be more susceptible to scratches and wear. In some cases, with heavy use, the chrome looses its lustre and becomes dull. The numbers for the specialty "Real Metal" finish are as follows:
Bug Eye Black Chrome (201), Lava Swirl (105 - includes 1 Hot Rod Flames), Engine Turned Aluminum (65), Ridged Aluminum (32), and Diamond Plate (2 small, 5 large diamond).
The Hammered Gold finish is most closely associated with the NAMM Anniversary Slingshot Custom, however, there were 3 Guitars made in that finish after the run of NAMM guitars were completed. There were 32 NAMM guitars made bringing the total in Hammered Gold finish to 35.
In 2001, another finish comes on the scene. These are known as the Brushed Aluminum finishes. Along with these came the option of a sandblasted image which could be applied over any of the non-textured colored metal finishes (including Lava Swirl). Reverend had three available; Hot Rod Flames, Hawaiian Scene, and a Racing Stripe. The additional Sandblasting was an upcharge of $150 for the Hawaiian Scene or the Flames on the non-textured metal finishes, except for the Smoked Chrome, which cost $180. If you wanted the sandblasting applied to a Tremolo Backplate, it cost and additional $50.
There was no extra charge for the choice of a Brushed Aluminum. But by 2003, if you wanted the finish on the back as well, it was an additional $50.
Joe Naylor was asked during the USA production era, which Reverends would be the most collectible in the "future", he replied that he believed that the sand blasted finishes, such as the Hawaiian scene, would be at the top of the list. That "future" is now, and despite a sluggish economy, the metal topped and sandblasted finishes are still doing well.
The Brushed Aluminum finishes available were:
Black Brushed Aluminum (2), Space Race Silver (26 + 1 Hot Rod Flames), Dragonfly Green (55 + 3 Hot Rod Flames and 9 Hawaiian Scenes), Lake Superior Blue (78 + ,33 Hawaiian, 9 Hot Rod Flames, 2 Racing Stripe), Moroccan Gold (137 + 11 Hot Rod Flames and 9 Hawaiian Scenes).
In the last half of 2002, another color option called "Gloss Tone" was announced. The Gloss Tone was a sanded smooth version of the Phenolic material and was only available in Red, Yellow, Black, Sky Blue (not pictured) and Hunter Green for a limited time. There is no record in the Reverend Database of exactly how many Gloss Tones were made and thus, remain rare.
For a brief moment in time during February 2005, a Rockhide finish was offered. I have only seen one in person (I own the Coal mine Black Rockhide Rumblefish XL), and its best described as a distressed leather finish. The Reverend Database only shows 7 total instruments made in the Rockhide finish, but I speculate that there are possibly more out there that are not accounted for (mine was originally listed in the archives as "black"). In the February 2005 web catalog, the only non-metal choices for Reverend finishes were the Rockhides, Flamed Maple, and Red Mahogany.
So far, the count is; Coalmine Black (2), Pumpkin Orange (2), Western Red (1). As of this writing, no Powder Blue Rockhides have been found, though it was listed as an option on the web catalog.
Maple Fret Boards
Maple boards were offered from the very beginning, and 3 of the first 5 had them. Overall though, Maple boards only make up about 16% of all the Reverend Guitars.
During the production run of USA Reverends, several different Tremolos were offered and they were applied to about 20% of guitars made. The most common was the Bigsby (326), followed closely by the Generic Fulcrum Tremolo Bridge (320). The other Tremolos were much fewer in number and included a Hipshot (72) and a Reverend Knock off Bigsby called the "Revsby" (29) which Reverend had to discountinue for legal reasons.
The two most popular wiring options for Reverend Guitars were the Blues Phase Switch (216) which was a mini switch that threw the pickups out-of-phase when both (on a two pickup guitar) and when neck and middle were "on" with a 3 pickup guitar. The bluesy sounds resulting gave the wiring mod its name. The other mod was the Studio Switch (116) which turned on the neck and pridge pickup regardless of what the 5-way pickup selector position was in. Guitars ordered with both Studio and Phase wiring totaled 37.
Much like the Tremolo options, there several different tuner options available. These included: Sperzel (1116) and Grover (290).
Currently, the SN Archive Database is not searchable for Graph-Tech saddles. When/if this information becomes available, I will update this site.
Reverend Advanced Series 2005
In 2005, Reverend introduced their USA Advanced Series. The most significant difference between the "Advanced Series" and its predecessors, was that:
All guitars feature the new Bass Contour control. This passive bass reduction circuit adjusts between a slight bass roll-off to completely re-voicing the pickups. Humbuckers can be re-voiced to sound like single-coils, but without single-coil hum. P-90's can be re-voiced to sound like Fender-style pickups according to the company. The USA Advanced Series series consists of the Wolfman, Rocco, Slingshot, and Slingshot Custom models. Retail Prices Starting at $879
To accomodate the Bass Contour, the jack was moved to the side of the guitar. Other options for finishes remained the same. In the literature for the Advanced series, the case options are listed as the Black and White Teardrop Hardshell Case, and the Access Stage One gigbag.
Also interesting to note that while the official literature doesn't list the Avenger as a model option for the Advanced Series, five Advanced Avengers were produced.
Reverend Retro Pro Series 2006
On January 30, 2006 Reverend Musical Instruments unveiled their new USA Retro Pro series guitars. The press release stated:
These American made guitars are built to order, offering several retro finish and pickguard combinations that harken back to the earliest Reverend guitars.
USA Retro Pro guitars feature the patented High Resonance Body designed by company president Joe Naylor. This tone-chambered body uses high tech composite and polymer materials in combination with wood to produce a very resonant, lively and consistent instrument.
All guitars also feature the Bass Contour control. This passive bass reduction circuit adjusts between a slight bass roll-off to completely re-voicing the pickups. Humbuckers can be re-voiced to sound like single-coils, but without single-coil hum. P-90's can be re-voiced to sound like Fender-style pickups according to the company. The USA Retro Pro series consists of the Wolfman, Rocco, Slingshot, and Slingshot Custom models. Prices start at $1099
The phenolic options in the official literature were reduced to just 4, Jet Black, Burgundy, Aged White, and Sky Blue with either a tortoise or pearloid pickguard. The SN database, however, list Pumpkin Orange, Purple, Lime Green, Aged Yellow, and Turquoise as other phenolic colors that were used on the Retro Pro Series.
By the time the Retro Pros were being offered, the only Case Options were the new rectangular TKL case and the Access Stage one Gig Bag.
If you would like to share pictures or stories about your particular USA era Reverend, please feel free to e-mail me using this link: Comments