Cosmic Debris: Beau Davies' Junkyard Blues Guitar

Featuring more junkyard treasure than an episode of American Pickers, this Western Pennsylvania–inspired guitar created by blues axman Beau Davies is more than a cool collection of knickknacks; it’s also a carefully assembled gathering of items that tell his biography.

“I have lived all over, but I’m very proud of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, which is where I grew up,” he says. “That blue-collar connection has always stayed with me.

"This guitar is a little piece of my home that reminds me of my past and even my grandparents, and it’s something I can pass down to one of my sons.”

Davies’ guitar is inspired by the “cheap, made-in-Japan guitars used by dirty blues and slide players like Hound Dog Taylor and Seasick Steve.” The guitar started life as an inexpensive 1964 Kent semihollow model, but Davies added objects that he found either in antique stores or when rummaging through abandoned buildings.

These include knobs topped with Beaver Valley Motor Coach tokens, an original 1929 Pennsylvania license plate overlay, a bridge made from a harmonica and a vibrato arm created from an iron railroad spike.

Davies twisted the spike himself using an oxy-acetylene torch, crafted the fretboard inlays using crushed gold-colored rocks and installed a super-hot 16.8K-ohm humbucking pickup in the neck position.

In addition to making the guitar look unusual and distinctive, the custom features provide a few tone and performance benefits. “The license plate produces a faint resonator-like tone,” Davies explains. “Although the spike is rather heavy, you can really drop the tone in a hurry. You can even still blow into the harmonica. When you play slide the guitar screams like a John Henry train whistle.”

Photo: Zack Arias

It Might Get Weird: Guitar World goes inside the minds of some of the world’s most creative custom-guitar builders.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.