Geoff Whitehorn’s relationship with Trev Wilkinson guitars goes back a long way. In 2008 ‘Beyond the Pale’ reported on his endorsed guitar in the Vintage range, the AV6HGW Geoff Whitehorn signature Electric Guitar. But as Geoff was happy to explain to ‘Beyond the Pale’ in a recent telephone call (January 2012) he is now the endorsee of another, ‘grown-up’ guitar from the Wilkinson stable.
Fans have often seen him playing a Fret-King with Procol Harum: so now is the time to start saving for your Fret-King Black Label GW special! Geoff comments that ‘Vintage and Fret-King are under the same umbrella: the Vintage guitars, though good, have been marketed more as the cheap’n’cheerful end of the range, around 300 pounds. The top end of the range is now rebadged, and propelled upmarket: better materials, better parts.' Hence the 600+ pound pricetag, but ‘You get an awful lot of guitar for your money,’ says Maestro Whitehorn.
So how does endorsement work, BtP wanted to know, from the manufacturer's point of view? Geoff tells us that there are fans who admire particular players’ work and go to endless lengths customising their gear in hopes that they will sound like their idols. Such committed fans will no doubt consider buying the same guitar – the endorsed model – that the artists concerned are known to use. And from the endorsee’s point of view, aside from a commission on each sale, there is ‘general bolstering of the ego!’
As for the specific tailoring of the FK Black label guitar (illustration, right), Geoff explained to BtP that he had done quite a bit of the preliminary work on the Vintage guitar that had he spec’d four or five years ago. The new guitar represents ‘more of the same’ in terms of customisation: as Geoff says, ‘It may look in essence like a Strat … as any three-pickup solid guitar does’: but he has specified a Humbucker pickup, a P90 and a single-coil. (The same unusual combination of pickups is also found on the non-signature Fret King, the blue one he uses with Procol).
And the new Black Label has enhanced switching capacity: ‘Not more knobs, but push-push switches to get more combinations.’ Whereas the typical five-position configuration allows the player to use pickups one, two and three separately, and one and two or two and three together, the new GW signature guitar allows all combinations – including one and three, and all three together. ‘One and three gives that Telecaster type of sound,’ says Geoff: not one he would typically use with Procol Harum – except perhaps on the country feel of One Eye on the Future – but as he points out, he does play with other outfits too: ‘a boy has to earn a living!’ By his own admission Whitehorn is known as ‘a gear freak’, having done so many demonstrations at guitar trade fairs. So the customer-base for the new Black Label GW guitar is not confined to Procol Harum fans!
At present white is the only colour in prospect, but that may change. As may be seen from the illustration, the model number is ‘GW’, and the initials are shown by the decal on the headstock (the guitar in the picture is a mockup, incidentally). The real guitars, currently making their début at the NAMM fair in Orange County, have Geoff's signature on the back of the headstock. ‘So … we can all sign your cheques now?’ quipped BtP. ‘Good luck with that mate!’ quipped Geoff’
Mr Whitehorn has been playing lately with Roger Chapman's Shortlist – whose upcoming shows include the Skegness Blues Festival, which Geoff describes as ‘a weekend messing about at Butlins’. He is really enjoying the Shortlist’s thinned-out sound that has followed the replacement of guitarist Steve Simpson (who has been unwell) with a sax player. This gives Geoff more freedom, and we suspect it is also less hard work, because he has an aversion to the sound of two guitars ‘unless it is very well orchestrated’ so that they avoid treading on each other's toes.
‘But we love the sound of two keyboards,’ Geoff reminded BtP, before going on to speak warmly of the Blu-ray release of the Union Chapel set. ‘Bloody marvellous!’ was his verdict; he had forgotten how many songs the band had played from The Well's on Fire. As for forthcoming work with Procol Harum, Geoff is looking forward to South Africa, and of course to further orchestral shows in Denmark during 2013. At the time of speaking, no other Procol shows were confirmed: no doubt fans will continue to keep one eye on the 2012 gigs list in weeks to come.
Order Geoff's solo albums online | Geoff Whitehorn's page at BtP | Fret-King page about this instrument