Photography: Joshua Steadman

Rock On

In March 2021, Stuff by Melissa Howsam1 Comment

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Move over Gibson and Fender—there’s a new guitar guru in town.

Vibe this: “Perfection is a fool’s game; it’s for suckers.” So is the MO of self-proclaimed “imperfectionist” and musician Jerry Bodrie. But the guitarist and drummer isn’t your everyday musician—those guitars? He makes them—one at a time, with a pencil and eraser, by hand, with a Craftsman bandsaw and a router table (which he also made himself), and then paints them outside in the elements.

Being crafty is arguably in Bodrie’s genes. The managing director/partner at advertising, design and media strategy company Baldwin& by day, Bodrie strummed up his guitar-making biz in 2012 while doing a motorcycle restoration—after which he shifted gears and Redeemed Guitars was born. Initially a restoration concept, production evolved into unique handbuilt designs in 2018.

Instead of creating perfect axes, Bodrie focuses “on playability in the form of feel and tone.” His process, which typically takes two to three months, has yielded a dozen masterpieces to date across three model types (The DeVille, The Fleetwood and The Eldorado). He has two more in the works right now. Here, we chat up the music-maker on his inspo, his craft and more.

The first time you remember touching an instrument?
My older brother forbid me from touching his drum kit, so, in elementary school, I immediately started playing it. At 15, I joined a band, and we played at bars and clubs in and around Detroit. At 19, I went away to Michigan State, leaving the drums behind, and bought a guitar, and I’ve basically played either drums or guitar in bands ever since—I’m now 53.

You’re in a band now?
Yes, my band is called Medium Heat, and I play guitar.
So your brother is “instrumental” in your passion for playing music?
I learned a lot about drums from my brother—no lessons or school band or anything like that. I wanted to be in a band… and in a band you play a lot, work with others and learn to perform, so that was really my training ground.

When did banging the drums evolve into your love for strumming guitars?
My first memory is probably watching The Monkees on TV after school. Those guys were so cool. I loved the music, and right away I started paying attention to their gear too. They all played Gretsch gear, which is one of my favorite brands.

Gretsch is a go-to—any other brands or specific models?

That’s a moving target. If you mean guitars I own—and I own a bunch—it’s probably my 1967 Gibson Firebird or my 1959 Gretsch Chet Atkins. But, lately, I’ve been playing my guitar (ones that I’ve built) more and more, especially The Fleetwood Thinline.

From a craftsman standpoint, who’s your guitar muse?
My guitar inspiration is Paul A. Bigsby. He’s famous for the Bigsby vibrato, which is found on many guitars, but most people don’t know that he is acknowledged as the father of the solid body electric guitar. He was well ahead of Fender and Gibson. His design, his craftsmanship and his commitment to making things by hand are all very inspiring to me.
How did you go from motos to axes (aka guitars)?

I was chatting with my friend Bob Ranew about bikes, and we hatched the plan to find an old beater from the 1970s and then customize it and bring it back to life as something new, something cool. So, we cleared out some space in my basement and did that over the next few months. It was an awesome experience and a cool creative outlet. Bob kept the motorcycle angle alive with Redeemed Cycles (his stuff is killer), and I took that approach into guitars with Redeemed Guitars—initially just salvaging, hot-rodding or restoring ill-fated guitars, until eventually designing my own models and building them from scratch.

Who does your first model belong to?
The first one went to my friend Jim Vincent, who should be famous, as he’s not only a super-cool guy, but he has been a guitar tech to some of the biggest bands in the world (think Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, etc.).
How did you whittle your craft to the three styles of guitars you build?
I didn’t want to copy the guitars I own or long to own, but I wanted to pay respect to them and put my spin on them. The way I view it, the guitars I build are like the best friend you haven’t met yet. So, The DeVille was first, inspired by my love of offset guitars like the Gibson Firebird and the Fender Jazzmaster. The Eldorado came next, an homage to the guitars of Paul Bigsby (of which there are so few). And, last, The Fleetwood, which is my Telecaster-adjacent model.

Give us the beat on your “imperfectionist” MO.
My guitars are not perfect, I’m not even trying for perfection—because I don’t think that is really important. Perfection is just an unattainable goal that will make you unhappy. I work for feel, for sound, for stability, for cool details or something different. I want people to love to play these guitars, to take them out and use them often—and any imperfections on day one or day 1,000 are just part of the story.

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Comments

  1. Jerry is the man! Great Mod drummer! I want to try one of your creations! Best of luck!

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