The Most Famous Guitar of 2004
by Todd K Smith

“Tone like I’ve never heard before…and believe me, I know fucking tone.” ~ Leslie West

Dean guitars have been around since 1977, but nobody really noticed till Dimebag Darrell started wailing on the axe with Pantera. Suddenly the world was a buzz with this new-fangled gee-tar and its V-shaped headstock. The Dean is a metal mans guitar, it looks metal, acts metal and sounds metal. From it’s harsh angels with the Dave Mustaine VMNTX series, the Rick Emmett Triumph V, US SplitTail to the Leslie West signature and Michael Angelo Batio flamethrower, the axe screams “bang your head.” Created by Dean Zelinsky who began building guitars at an early age took rock guitar design retro –copy cat bodies to designs that included "pointy" shapes with large V-shaped headstocks. These designs quickly gained in popularity because of the radical look and also because of the improved tone and sustain of the guitars.

Dean's set up a marketing campaign that had totally hot babes holding the guitars in alluring poses, mostly between their legs which caught the attention of every budding guitarist from the age of twelve on. The heyday of metal soaked it up until the onset of grunge rock movement. In 1986, Zelinsky decided he did not want to continue making guitars and sold the company to make furniture. In the late 1990s, Elliott Rubinson (CEO of Dean Guitars) revived the brand name, later bringing Zelinsky back aboard as an executive and creative consultant. Since then, Dean Guitars has grown in to one of the leading guitar companies in the world.

So what is it about Dean that cranks heads? “It’s their powerful sound,” Scorpion guitarist Rudolph Schenker told us over the phone before their gig at Reno’s Event Center. “They have this big, meaty, aggressive snarl…and they look the part.” Schenker has recently joined brother Michael (UFO, MSG) for the creation of a special signature Dean flying V. Only 200 with be produced worldwide. “It is laser engraved with flames coming from the neck,” says Schenker. “There is an artist picture of me and Michael on the body, which is maple, with a pearl inlay and both of us will sign it.” While he used to play a Fender Stratocaster, Schenker is known for playing the Gibson Flying V and popularizing the guitar among faithful fans. Over the past 10 years Dean has made a visible effort to cater to bother Schenker brothers raising the companies profile considerably with the Schenker electric and acoustic series.

Not far from the Scorpion/MSG camp is the Dean connection with UFO guitarist Vinnie Moore. According to recent photos, Vinnie Moore has not only joined the Dean team, but apparently there is a Vinnie Moore signature Dean in the works. Moore told “I have been playing Dean guitars since July and am seriously diggin' them. They are making some great stuff and are an extremely hot company right now. We have been working together on a VM signature model which should be available in early 2008 and it is going to be smokin'. These guys really know what they're doing.

“I had two or three phone conversations with Josh Maloney from their custom shop about the details of what I wanted, and they put together a guitar for me within like 10 days. I went down to Tampa to visit them and was floored by how great the guitar played and sounded. I could have used it onstage that very night. The guys working in the custom shop are great players themselves and I think this is a big reason why the guitars are so awesome. 
Pat Baker is quite a shredder and he tweaks my guitars and when I get them they feel great.... I don't have to do anything but play. We are making some small refinements to the Signature model but are pretty close to finalizing the design. Besides the VM model, I have fallen in love with my Dean Z79.  I have wanted a guitar with a 24 3/4 scale for quite a while but other things wouldn't stay in tune for me. The Z stays in tune extremely well and sounds way cool. I am extremely excited to be with Dean and see great things in the future.”

Recently Mountain guitarist Leslie West has been selling the brand with his interview with Eddie Trunk. Says West, “The reason I’ve never had a guitar series is because I wanted to have my own guitar. I wanted a model that was only mine. I wasn’t just going to stick my name on anything. When Dean called I was skeptical but once you sit in the seat and drive – it just feels right. It’s made like a Royals Royce with a neck that fits the slot in my hand. The knobs on my guitar actually go to eleven. That was important to me and it’s wired for that extra hump. The Dean guys are real carpenters – if you try a Dean guitar you realize they are a cut above. It’s a hot rod, one pickup, volume, tone, let’s go!”

The list is heavy on Dean endorsed musicians from the titanic duo of Trivium’s Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu, Hellyeah’s Tom Maxwell and Saliva’s Jon Montoya and Wayne Swinny. They all say the same thing; there really is no other choice in high performance guitars. They are crafted my musicians that are dedicated to the guy playing the guitar.

“What I love about Dean guitars is the sexiness of it. Wings shooting everywhere. The greatest logo on a headstock anywhere. Wings man, that means you can fly – you can be whatever and wherever you want with that guitar.” ~ Dimebag Darrell

Website: Dean Guitars