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Paul Reed Smith once attempted to build Carlos Santana a guitar with 25 onboard effects

Carlos Santana during the Santana Divination Tour 2018 at the Cape Town Stadium on April 11, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa
(Image credit: Dereck Green/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

John Mayer recently sat down with Paul Reed Smith to discuss why there will never be a sunburst PRS Silver Sky model. But there are also plenty of other gems to be found in the conversation between the Dead & Company guitarist and the premier electric guitar builder.

Among them is the fact that Smith once attempted to build Carlos Santana a PRS with an onboard effect system.

“Carlos Santana and I worked on this project for a long time,” he tells Mayer. “We put about 25 tones in the guitar that you could rotate through different people’s pedalboards. You would set the pedalboard, and then you would have all that circuitry on a DSP in the guitar.”

“And so I built him this big pedalboard and it had [EarthQuaker Devices] Bit Commanders and all these wild-sounding pedals on ‘em. I put tape over the whole thing so he couldn’t see it. He just had switches to hit.”

Smith continues, “It sounded immense. And I wanted to put it in the guitar so somebody sitting in the store just goes, click click click… I think it’s a good idea. Never gonna make it.”

Mayer, for one, was impressed with the idea. “I love hearing about things that are good ideas that nobody’s gonna want,” he says. “It excites me tremendously!”

Mayer then ends the interview with his own challenge: “Finish this sentence,” he tells Smith. “Hey guitar manufacturers, cool it with the blank.”

Responds Smith, “Bad guitars. The frets being in the wrong place, the nut’s in the wrong place. Buy a guitar it won’t stay in tune, it won’t play in tune. You can’t get a recording tone out of it. The kid gets frustrated and gives up the guitar because the guitar wouldn’t do its job. That hurts."

He continues, “It happened to me once and I sent the guitar back to the manufacturer. I said, ‘This doesn’t work. My nephew can’t play it.’ I got a new one!”

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Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.