So I was digging through the laptop the other day and found some photos of old guitars. Not something I’d say often but I actually felt honoured to own the Phil Manning Custom for a short time.
Firstly this is an amazingly rare guitar. Not by any stretch the rarest of Matons. But Maton are a boutique Aussie brand. Maton are predominantly known for their acoustics. Which is sad because they’ve made very quirky electrics. The Manning is no exception.
In 1974 this guitar cost approx. $1800 Aussie dollars. You could’ve easily bought a family car for that. So I get the feeling that this was never meant to be cheaper or rival Gibsons and Fenders (which were impossibly expensive in Australia). This was a guitar designed to do everything. From psychedelic, to chicken pickin’ to heavy pub rock without hesitation.
The spec sheet is like no other. How many guitars do you know of that give you full stereo, with bass and treble switch, coil tapping plus Aussie and Canadian woods? It’s a very short list. At first I thought it looked like a bloated Les Paul and wasn’t very taken with it. The electronics looked like the Flux Capacitor in Marty’s De Lorean in Back to the Future. Absurd, quirky, weird. All these come to mind.
Ultimately though all that is just horse shit. This guitar felt bespoke. I think the only plastic on it was on the truss rod cover. Even the electronics covers on the back were solid maple about 6mm thick. It felt like a pair or RM Williams boots. Like there’s the feeling you get when you go from a Epiphone up to a Gibson. This is one up from that. It even had an amazing smell. This particular guitar had a vinyl/canvas case that someone had done an oil painting on. A very, very special guitar.
How do they play? The neck is a work of genius. Very slim and very fast. With the neck join the upper frets are really accessible for a 40 year old guitar. The guitar itself is quite heavy approx. 4.5 kilos of solid Aussie wood. Skinny, scrawny, lanky speed freaks whine about the weight. But that’s why they play Gibson SGs (more guitars for meaty blokes, suits me).
You could get just about any sound out of it. The bass and treble switch really helps to go from a twang to heavy metal sounds and everything in between.
I bought the guitar as junk from Japan. Turns out there was nothing wrong with it and the electronics needed a bloody good dusting. My guitar fixer mate Blair had a damn good time doing the stereo boogie with it. But the wiring being so complex, I can’t blame the former owner for being overwhelmed and passing it on.
Why did I get rid of it? Well we asked a Maton boffin if he had the original bass/treble switch (it had broken off – a common problem with this model). The bloke made me an offer and it was sold. I wasn’t incredibly attached to the guitar at the time and I guess everything’s for sale.
She left a huge impression though. Some very big RM Williams boots to fill. They’re fantastic guitars and not to everyone’s taste. If you see one, get on it. You won’t regret it. For a Maton it’s actually a pretty contemporary design.