Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Shergold, the minor-league brand, headed by Jack Golder, that built guitars in the UK from 1975 to 1982. At the time they were well-liked, and famous users include Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook.
Fast-forward to 2017 and UK distributor Barnes & Mullins – the company behind Faith acoustic guitars – re-launched Shergold with the new Masquerader designed by top UK-guitar maker Patrick James Eggle.
Another more mainstream design dropped in 2019, the Provocateur. These Indonesian-made designs, featuring various Seymour Duncan pickup configurations, and initially rosewood, then mahogany necks are still available and start just below £800.
For this year, however, in an attempt to kick-start the brand yet again, there’s a new model that comes from China, is under half the price of those now-called Custom Series models, and is once again designed by Mr Eggle.
“I’m very proud of the Custom series,” says Barnes & Mullins’ owner and MD, Brian Cleary, whose idea it was to bring back Shergold in the first place. “I think they still represent very good value for money but to achieve more mass appeal, it was obvious we needed to look at a lower price. It was a good year and half ago that we started the conversation with Patrick to get the design going.”
Well, it’s a fine slice of boutique-style design: a slightly offset T-style with a Gibson Firebird-like raised centre and echoes of Fender’s Cabronita Telecaster with its pair of Gretsch-like humbuckers.
Two fetching opaque and quite retro colours are offered and you’ll still get plenty of change from £400. The good news is that this so-called Telstar is the first of a new Standard Series for Shergold; by the time you read this there’ll be a low-cost version of that Provocateur at £409 with more designs promised.
But there’s no shortage of solidbody electric guitars at this price point, Squier being the obvious market-leaders, so, really, why on earth should we be interested here? Let’s take a closer look.
As you’d expect, the design is based around the classic 25.5-inch Fender scale length. The slab-sawn maple neck has a pretty credible ‘slim C’ profile that’s more palm-filling than it sounds, and a milk-chocolate coloured laurel fingerboard with vibrant laminated abalone dots.
Importantly, that feel is enhanced with lightly rolled edges to the fingerboard and very good fret work from a quite wide and low wire that on the 12-inch radiused face makes for a seriously good player.
The heel is nicely rounded, too, and the neck screws sit in recessed cupped washers. Thanks to the poplar body, weight is good at 7.25lb and even unplugged there’s a good resonant ring to the guitar’s response.
Plug in and you don’t quite get the sound that those pickups suggest. These are more standard humbucker pickup than true Filter’Tron and there’s no mistaking a more mini-humbucker-like voice, certainly at the neck, where there’s good clarity and depth.
At the bridge there’s more heat and midrange growl, perfect for some ’60s garage and dirty rock ’n’ roll. With both on, we’re treated to some expected jangle that hints at a rounder Rickenbacker-style voice. It plays great and has three strong sounds, while the humbucking nature means hum isn’t a problem for recording or high-gain.
But there’s got to be a catch, right? Yes, the tuners are rather generic, but, to be fair, don’t feel bad because that’s contrasted by the good-looking, thru-strung bridge which might be a knock-off of a higher-end Hipshot design, but it not only matches the look of those pickups, it’s a pretty credible piece.
“It’s a cool design that was simply available to the manufacturers for the right money,” confirms Patrick. “We could have gone with a more traditional chopped T-style bridge, but these bridges are great: they look good and are pretty solid.” Again, the low cost means the pickups, with an invented Page brand-name, are off-the-shelf Chinese-made lookalikes.
But low-cost, certainly in this case, doesn’t mean low performance. In a market area that is awash with no-name copies and lookalikes, this Shergold Telstar comes across as a breath of fresh air: a familiar-yet-original design that performs well above its price in playability, sound and style.
- PRICE: £379 (approx $460)
- BODY: Poplar
- NECK: Maple, bolt-on
- SCALE: 25.5” (648mm)
- FINGERBOARD: Laurel/12” radius
- FRETS: 22, medium
- PICKUPS: 2x Page FilterSonic direct-mount humbuckers
- CONTROLS: Three-way toggle selector switch, master volume and tone
- HARDWARE: Hipshot-style thru-strung bridge, die-cast enclosed tuners – chrome-plated
- FINISH: Champagne Gold (as reviewed), Pastel Blue
- CONTACT: Shergold Guitars