Most of the time this happens when a popular guitarist signs a deal with a corporate instrument manufacturer, but sometimes an artist just becomes so associated with a particular model that it gains their name. So is the case with the Avalon Shaggs model, seen played by Dot and Betty Wiggins of The Shaggs.
These shaggy-haired girls (hence the unfortunate band name) are arguably the most bizarre musical success story of all time. The group consisted of the three (eventually four) Wiggins sisters from New Hampshire.
Apparently, their father was told by a fortune teller that his daughters would form a band and become famous. Withdrawing them from school and forcing them to take vocal and music lessons, Austin Wiggins eventually payed for them to record the above album. Of the one thousand copies that were pressed, only one hundred were every officially distributed.
In the pre-YouTube age, even a cult following was unlikely, but somehow a copy of the album may its way into Frank Zappa's hands. Frank promptly declared they were better than the Beatles and were his third favorite band of all time. As to their music, it has been described as fresh, naive, creepy, melancholy, brilliant and terrible. Frankly, there is absolutely no way to describe The Shaggs music so I've uploaded a video courtesy of YouTube member hoglevid. You must play it to believe it.
Okay, I'll give you a minute to recover from that song. You may be thinking the same thing I am - they had music lessons? The second thing that comes into my mind as I hear their music is the poor engineer who recorded it. What was he thinking? I just picture some old guy with a crew cut and a polite smile - his eyes glued to the recording levels trying desperately to focus on anything but that sound coming through his headphones. At some point, I picture his mind giving up and him thinking - "Please, someone just shoot me!"
Now back to the gear. The Avalon guitars, which were made in the late 60s, are still a bit of an enigma. They're likely of Japanese origin given the over-curved cutaways and headstock. The Japanese companies of the 1960s and 1970s loved this style as they were reminiscent of Moserite guitars which were played by the most popular American band ever in Japan - The Ventures. The guitar could also have been inspired by the Burns Bison
Makers of catalogue grade musical equipment often sold similar gear under different brand names. As to the Avalon brand however no one knows exactly which company made them.
I have heard mixed reviews on these guitars. Some consider them terrible, while others love them. Considering the girls could afford upscale Gibson and Fender amps, this off-brand seems an odd choice. However, when one considers that that Avalon featured a bass done in exactly the same design - the choice of guitar becomes clear. I can picture Austin Wiggins - the girl's father - choosing these instruments for their visual symmetry. This was obviously important to him as the the girls usually dressed alike.
The group's cult popularity, when added to the fact that no one else of any consequence ever played these bizarre looking Avalon instruments, have made the group synonymous with this brand of gear. Both the bass and the guitar are now known to collectors as Shaggs models.
Much and all as I may make fun of The Shaggs music, one thing is clear - they will enjoy a musical place in history and a popularity that I'll certainly never attain. And what's the likelihood that there will ever be a guitar that the world associates with me?