Noela Evans wrote: “Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth – tame the dragon and the gift is yours!”
Since 2012, I’ve made a musician’s addendum to that: Tame a dragon and your MUSIC WILL SOAR!!
That’s because I am the glad owner of a Jay Turser Serpent Electric Guitar, model JT-200. I call it “Bruce“, after the esteemed kung fu expert Bruce Lee. I took kung fu for some years with my son and Bruce Lee’s movies gave us endless inspiration. If you haven’t seen “Enter the Dragon”, you’re missing out on some sweet 70s film history.
I choose this guitar to review today because I know many of you readers would just LOVE to grab a new guitar for Christmas; that musician G.A.S. is just CHURNIN’, BABY, and it would be great to get some relief.
This model and make could very well do that for you; it’s very affordable, well-made and worth at least the effort looking into. Check it out…
The Jay Turser company is headquartered in Buffallo Grove, IL. He created his first guitars in 1988. Since then they’ve been shipping out reasonably-priced guitars around the world, helping riff-ready youth (and beyond!) start their trek to stardom!
Rather than seeking high-end guitar demographic, Jay opted to instead help the little guy, and try to make available solid, dependable guitars without a lot of fluff with an affordable price tag.
Looks like he achieved his goal, because in 2004 he received Guitar Player Magazine‘s Reader’s Choice Award for Ultimate Value because of his JT-200 line, and then in December 2011 he also earned the Editor’s Pick Award for the JT-LT-RW models he was making, and even the Reader’s Choice Award for Ultimate Value!
I picked Bruce up from a fellow git-picker down in Ohio. She was quite pleased with it but had to let some of her arsenal go so she could afford Christmas presents. When you’ve got more than 15 guitars, ya know… you’ve got some wiggle room to some go!
Glad she did too. She turned me on to a manufacturer I probably would never have given the time of day, but now that I’ve played a Turser I am VERY open to what he has to offer.
My Turser cracked its egg from the JT-200 series. It’s basically the Gibson Les Paul single cut-away style: mahogany body, volume and tone knob for each of the two pickups; set neck; rosewood fingerboard… It has the look, weight and demeanor of a Les Paul.
They also, as usual, offer several different finishes depending on what year you buy.
What sets my Bruce apart, however, is the pickups: I have looked and looked and still not found a single Turser 200 model that uses the Seymour Duncan pickups that this has. Every dragon guitar I come across uses the standard Les Paul block humbucking pickups.
Apparently, one of Bruce’s former owners must’ve wanted a little bit of tonal variety from the norm and did some special swapping.
And, man, am I glad he did! This guitar now has a tone unlike any other guitar I’ve ever owned. If I want to sound “different”, “unexpected”, or “purple”, as I describe it, I fly this beast.
The closest thing I can compare Bruce to is how Brian May’s homemade guitar sounds on the old Queen records, like “News Of the World”. Its tone is just not like anything I’ve ever heard, and I know it is because of the interplay between the Les Paul body and these replaced pickups.
I haven’t pulled out the pickups to be sure, but they look like the Alnico 5 models from Seymour Duncan, the “59” and the classic “JB”. One day I’ll be brave and pull ’em out to check. For now, the tone is just to tantalizing to mess with ’em!
The motifs inlay work on this guitar are amazing, and I must admit that it’s this cool look that peaked my interest in the first place. Unlike Smaug from “The Hobbit”, you’ll find no missing chink of armour on this dragon.
Check out the picture above. This close-up shows how the mother-of-pearl has been meticulously placed for optimal visual effect.
This guitar gets so much attention when I play out. Whether close or far, people see this guitar and they know it’s something special. Is it the fancy-schmancy mother-of-pearl dragon inlay stretching its wings across my fretboard?
Is it the full-body coiling dragon nipping at my fingers from the pickguard??
Or perhaps just the beautiful quilted pattern underneath the red wood stain that pulls their interest??
Whatever it is, it’s often stealing my spotlight! Heck, when I’m home I even stop and look at the detail on this beauty on my studio wall. Sometimes Bruce just takes me over the hills (and far away?), flying on his back to some distant land, to strike awe into the inhabitants there. And look for Khaleesi. ;-o
Since he’s a little small though, I’ll have to try to strike awe with my next album instead.
My latest recording with the Turser was in 2016. I was producing an album for a fine, upcoming songwriter, Sweda, and on this particular day I was working on one of his songs called “The Tide”.
When I got to the chorus I intuitively knew it needed something. The chords were there, but the bed alone just wasn’t cutting it.
Since “The Tide” is a Pink Floyd-esque exploration of inner turmoil and emotional angst, I went to my “wall of axes” and spied immediately what I needed: my hand instinctively reached out for Bruce. As I went back into the control room and in my head I could hear the soundtrack spinning… from “Enter the Dragon”!
I’ve provided for you here a little taste of the musical Weltschmerz woven into this Sweda song. The main melody is done with Bruce. The harmony line below it I did with my EVH Wolfgang. You can check out that review here. The amp I played through was the EVH 5150 III 50 watt head, played through the EVH 2×12 cab.
Now,.. let’s hear the serpent sing, shall we?:
Like what you hear? The full song and album will definitely draw you in then. “Tempus”, the full album, was a pleasure to make, produce and play on. Most artists don’t allow themselves the time or effort to be as creative as he is, and the results speak for themselves.
If you’re the kind of person who really likes to listen to an album, not just a haphazard collection of songs, do yourself a favor and go listen to “Tempus” right now on Spotify, or, even better, download it from Itunes.
For me it’s one of those rare albums that I’ve worked on for someone else but end up listening to for a long time afterward. Repeatedly.
It’s also a stellar headphone album so… don’t forget the cans!
I would put this guitar in the category of “perfect for rock”. I don’t necessarily mean hard rock, mind you; more like a classic rock vibe.
That being said, we all know recordings that have used guitars out of their usual category to good effect.
What really matters is if the investment is a good one to start with, with regards to longevity, usability and cosmetic likeability for the artist.
For the record, I have had ZERO issues with this guitar since 2012 when I picked it up. Now, I take immaculate care of my toys, so that definitely enters into the equation, but there’s been no dropped signal, buzzing, parts breaking, ground-down frets, etc. Plus, I still can find no flaws in the finish or wood choice. It really looks amazing.
Jay has his guitars made in China, and, tho’ that makes some skeptical based on past Chinese poor quality, in the last decade they’ve really upped their game. Turser also apparently keeps quality inspections up at the plants he uses if my wild winged wonder is any indication.
Obviously there will always be quality exceptions to ANY guitar company’s selections. A luthier or assembler had an “interesting” night at the bar last night ’til 3?? Then a guitar might get through that’s not exactly optimal. All I can say is my Turser axe is one I’m proud to own and show off, and it’s never let me down.
So if you seek classic rock tone, I give the JT-200 a solid thumbs up. If you’re looking for American-made, then you’ll have to move on to other options, that’ll more than likely be more expensive.
Bruce naps cozily on my studio wall and awaits his master’s call, with class and mystery, his wings waiting to soar the singing feedback, his dark oxblood tone ready to spill in the hero’s quest.
Hmm. Sounds like a new song snoozing in there somewhere too. lol
It’s pretty rare to find a guitar that truly sounds unique. The Turser JT-200 with modified pups has finally flown me there tho’, and I always relish coaxing out his fire for a session or a gig.
Now if only a raging wave of fire would shoot out of its mouth when I solo above the 12th fret. lol
So, until I can coax such out of our lava-breathed friend, I ask you: do you have a guitar with a signature sound? Have you ever snagged an axe with impressive detailing? Do you have an instrument that you just love to play like I do Bruce?? If so, tell us! Share the flame in the Comments section, and warm all our ears with the telling!
If the Turser Serpent has you G.A.S.-ing for piles of gold in a distant mountain lair, FRET not… this is an affordable beast of prey. Check out its specs and lowest price here.
But beware… the eyes of a dragon can hypnotize even the strongest of heart!
Until we hear your stories then, go… make… sounds!!