American guitar manufacturer Guild have produced several copies of Brian's Red Special guitar commercially with Brian's assistance.
The first Guild copies of Brian's guitar were introduced in 1984. The BHM1 was visually very similar to the Red Special, but Brian was not completely happy with some of the details and they were not produced for very long. The pickups were by DiMarzio, with black covers and the tremolo system was a Kahler unit. Unlike the Red Special, the body of the BHM1 was solid wood (semi-solid on the Red Special). Around 300 copies of this guitar were made.
Brian has three Guild copies dating from this era which he has used live and in the studio many times, but these are prototype models built specially for him rather than the commerical version.
In 1993, Guild re-introduced the Brian May Signature Series, a limited run of 1000 guitars, with three new models. These were:
* BM01 Brian May Signature/Pro
The top model of the series, the BM01 is a very close copy of Brian's Red Special. It features Seymour Duncan pickups, which are very good copies of the Burns Tri-Sonics on the Red Special. The tremolo/bridge system is a custom Schaller unit, which is also a very good copy of Brian's original. The body and neck on the BM01 are mahogany and the fretboard is ebony. The body has binding on both the front and back and a 5-ply scratchplate. The construction of the BM01 is semi-solid, again exactly reproducing the details of the Red Special. Initial models were known as the Brian May Signature and featured a transfer of Brian's signature on the back of the headstock. Later models were known as the Brian May Pro and did not have the signature, but were available in a range of custom colours.
* BM02 Brian May Special
The BM02 is a slighly cheaper version of the BM01. The main differences are that the BM02 has a rosewood fretboard and binding on the upper side of the body only. This model has a fixed bridge (Gibson style) and the middle and bridge pickups are positioned next to each other.
* BM03 Brian May Standard
The BM03 follows the same outline of Brian's original Red Special, but is a rather different guitar both visually and electrically. The fretboard is rosewood, with no binding on the body. Three pickup options were offered: BM033 3 single coils (Fender style), BM032 2 humbuckers with coil taps (Gibson style) and BM031 1 single coil + 1 humbucker with coil tap (hybrid). The switching has no phase change options, so the sounds available are much more conventional than the Pro and Special models. The body construction is solid (ie no routed sections like the BM01)
These Guild copies of Brian's guitar were available in a variety of colours. Initially transparent red, transparent green, gloss white and gloss black were available. Later in the production run, other custom colours were also produced. The picture below is a stunning transparent green prototype which was made for Brian.
The Seymour Duncan pickups used in the 1993 Guild Brian May guitars were an goodcopy of the original Burns Tri-Sonics. Brian modified the original Burns pickups on the Red Special by re-winding them with reverse windings and also by potting them with epoxy resin to prevent them becoming microphonic. This means that Brian's pickups sound rather different to the original Burns design. The Seymour Duncan pickups were visually and tonally better copies of Brian's pickups than the DiMarzio's which were used in the 1984 Guild BHM1.
Many thanks to Dan Astor for the pictures of the Guild guitars and lots of useful information.
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