I have long been a fan of the music of the Grateful Dead. As a player myself, I was amazed how Jerry (Garcia) was able to squeeze such a wide palette of colors and tones out of these instruments. When I first set eyes on the Tiger, I was amazed at its beauty and elegant design.-Leo Elliott, Scarlet Fire Guitars
Leo Elliott, founder of Scarlet Fire, is an expert on Jerry Garcia’s iconic look of guitars, and is revered as one of the leading luthiers in this style today. His attentive and careful emulation of Doug Irwin’s work, coupled with his inspired and thrilling modification infuses the Scarlet Fire line of exceptional guitars with a sense of energy and thrill you can appreciate whether you’re a deadhead or not. Today, in our TopShelf Luthier Series, we are thrilled to highlight Elliott for his truly masterful dedication to the craft and his visionary approach to bringing this exceptional style of guitar to a new generation of guitarists.
Leo Elliott – A History
Although not a traditional luthier in origin, Elliott draws from a deep well of history and skill for his particular degree of music making. Growing up, Elliott would work directly with his own mother in a woodshop, developing a sense of craftsmanship and skill, all-the-while noting and indexing woods he would soon come to favor and appreciate for his future as a luthier.
But in 2009, as if spurned by some form of divine inspiration, Elliott decided he would pursue a love that had followed him over the years: he decided was just going to make a guitar of his own.
When he finally finished, Elliott took his first handmade guitar to Bryant “Pablo” Russell, a restoration and repair expert at the famous Charley’s Guitar Shop in Dallas. After looking the guitar over Russell said he was amazed, and that of all the “homemade” guitars he sees at the shop, “None of them looked and played like this”.
Elliott sold that very guitar on Ebay to an elated buyer in Germany and from there he knew there was something to this guitar-making. Never forgetting who he is or what he appreciated, Elliott embraced the incredible look of Jerry Garcia’s guitars, and now focuses the majority of his projects on that famed series of guitars made by Doug Irwin.
Scarlet Fire Guitars and Jerry Garcia
When you arrive at Scarlet Fire Guitars website, the first thing you will see are the poetic and evocative terms at the top menu of the landing page: Tiger, Wolf, Rosebud & Lion. These are the monikers of those iconic models created by Doug Irwin for Jerry Garcia to play over the years in the Grateful Dead. Elliott creates these guitars with deft and astounding accuracy, but each features their own extraordinary execution all in a class of their own.
The Tiger tribute model is constructed with a three-piece cocobolo top and back, each piece carefully selected for color and figure. The top is adorned with the signature mother of pearl tiger inlaid on an ebony oval that is accented with brass. The multi-piece neck is constructed using curly maple with a vermillion center stripe and adjacent are thin veneers of vermillion and maple.
Conversely, the Wolf Tribute model has a neck-through-the-body configuration. The more delicate curves made from rich purpleheart core give it a gorgeous hue whose design is only rivaled by its playability. The Rosebud Tribute Model construction specs are very similar to the Tiger model but features a more riotous and thrilling design perfectly suited for Jerry Garcia in his hayday.
Finally, the Lion model is built from Mexican cocobolo and is a set-neck configuration. Each piece is selected for color and figure to capture the essence of the original models. The final look is both fearsome and irresistible.
No matter what you select though, Elliott maintains that all of his guitars are designed with the player in mind:
“I see this process…as a collaboration between myself as the builder, and you, the owner of your new instrument. I want you to feel that this instrument is an extension of yourself and your artistic vision…
…I strive to help realize your vision, customizing your instrument to fit your specific needs.”
Forged in Scarlet Fire
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but enhancing the craft is the most genuine declaration of love you can proclaim. Leo Elliott celebrates the style of Doug Irwin, but applies a touch so distinctive and exceptional, that his work is revered for both its attention to detail and its capacity to evolve and grow for the better of guitarists and musicians for generations to come. Leo Elliott’s work is truly unrivaled and he is a luthier we are thrilled to celebrate today for all of his achievements past, present, and assuredly future.
For your own Scarlet Fire Guitar guitar, visit https://www.scarletfireguitarsllc.com/ or to customize your Calton Case for Scarlet Fire guitar or bass go here: https://www.calton-cases.com/scarlet-fire-guitars-electric/