Monday, August 15, 2011

Ashley Kingman's new guitar by John Munnerlyn

The exciting thing I like about this blog is it gives me a reason to write about all the talented and amazing people I know.  I believe that I have been blessed to be acquainted with many people I admire for their accomplishments.

Two such people are Ashley Kingman and John Munnerlyn (aka: Johnny Mojo). Ashley is known for his tenure with Big Sandy and his Fly-rite Boys and before that, Red Hot and Blue in the UK. John is someone I've known since the 80s, here, in San Jose. He played guitar in legendary punk bands (at least in San Jose, they were legendary) The Boneshavers, The Diesel Queens and the Have-Nots, as well as rockabilly bands, The Pattersons, The Kingpins and the Haywoods, and on his recent CD with Lee Jeffriess called Guitars In Perspective.

John's talent goes beyond music, though. Like so many guys I know in San Jose, skateboarding was a major part of his youth. Growing up in a town like San Jose, that spawned pro-skaters, Steve Caballero and Corey O'Brien, it was natural that skating was a part of his life. Young guys that skated, were also drawn to punk rock, which is how I met so many skateboarders.

In college, at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, California and Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California John studied graphic design & illustration and chose a professional career designing skateboard graphics for Santa Cruz Skateboards. Eventually he started his own graphic arts company called American Sideshow. Being associated with music, John also designed many concert posters.

Concert Posters by John for Deke Dickerson and The Reverend Horton Heat
One of John's many skateboard graphics

Last December, I ran into John at a Big Sandy Show. I snapped a photo of him sketching Ashley's guitar. I talked to him a little about what he was doing and he explained that Ashley was giving him the opportunity to use his artistic talent with his love of guitar playing for a new endeavor, making custom guitars. The first guitar John planned to build was for Ashley.
John sketching the guitar while Ashley and Joe watch

Ashley's guitar is a late 1950's Magnatone Mark V, modified with a modern "Bigsby-style" neck, in place of the original Magnatone neck. The Mark V was designed for the Magnatone company by Paul Bigsby, who made custom guitars for Merle Travis, Joaquin Murphey, Billy Byrd, Grady Martin and many other famous players.

After 16 years of constant use on the road, Ashley's guitar is starting to show it's age. It is also irreplaceable, having been signed over the years by the many famous musicians that Ashley has met. John's idea is to make Ashley a replica of his Magnatone guitar which is now rare and hard to find.

I bumped into John again, in June, and asked him how the progress of the guitar was going. He said he had it with him (we were at a Big Sandy show, naturally, since this is probably one of the only places I ever see John) and I had the opportunity to preview his work.

I was amazed. It was exactly like Ashley's guitar, although not quite finished and the wood was unstained. John described some of the frustrations he had finding suppliers for the right kind of wood, showed me the plywood templates he had with him, and talked of his hopes of continuing to make guitars. He said this first guitar has been a huge learning experience, but now with the knowledge gained from making Ashley's guitar, he will be able to design and manufacture other custom guitars.

Because I was there at the inception of this project, and I expressed a desire to write a blog about it, John was kind enough to send me some photos of the different stages of making the guitar so far:

Wood used for the neck

Wood for the body of the guitar

Roughing out the guitar

Finished roughing out


Gluing and sanding

Finished cutout

Working on the neck and  headstock

During the process of writing this blog, Ashley had a bit of a mishap with his guitar. He had leaned it against an amp and it had fallen over.

The break is right next to the legendary Scotty Moore's signature. Scotty was a session guitarist at Sun and was Elvis' guitarist during his Sun years.

Later that day Ashley posted a photo of his repaired guitar. That was a relief since the guitar John is making him won't be completed until late September.

John is currently in the process of building a website for his custom guitar work, and will be available to take on new guitar projects soon. If you would like to inquire about having a custom guitar made, you can email John at:

I chose to write about John, and Ashley's guitar for a couple of reasons. It is fascinating to me that someone is able to understand and engineer an instrument that brings so much joy to me and other people who have the pleasure of hearing it. The other is, John is a truly humble guy. In spite of his accomplishments and reputation as an artist, he still strives to grow and pursue new outlets for his creativity. 


MelodyRanch1950 said...

Howdy, Now I'm really curious of Woodstock. Birdseye maple? Other maple? XoX VidaLee, Hercules

Kim said...

Hey there, Vida Lee! You can email John to find out for sure, but I think it is birdseye maple :-)

Anonymous said...

<3 Jason jessee <3 :)

Mrs Molly Doll said...

What a talented and humble guy. My fiance has that Jason Jessee board, it's his favourite! I'm interested to see how it looks finished.
x Molly

Kim said...

I will post a follow up blog with photos when it's finished.


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