A replica of Jimmy Page’s Dragon Telecaster guitar for our Auction

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Jesters Care for Kids Charity Drive 2013, Sponsored by Glencore International and Canadian Jackalope Open

This is a story about an unassuming gentleman with a fascinating hobby, who has built a replica of Jimmy Page’s early Dragon Guitar for our auction. When Niven was looking for a charity to benefit here, he heard about Jimmy’s connection with the Jesters. He then came up with the idea to reproduce his iconic Dragon guitar to help raise money for children in need of safe shelter and an education.

Niven Walters, who hails from Perth, Scotland, but works abroad on a rotational basis, and builds guitars when he is home. To date, he has completed 12 of them with 20 others in various stages. Some of his more famous works, besides Jimmy Page’s, is Eric Clapton’s ‘Crash’ Stratocaster seen in the ‘Concert for George’, George Harrison’s Rosewood Telecaster when the Beatles gave their last appearance on the roof of Abby Road studio and Jimi Hendrix’s White Telecaster that he smashed in Monterey in 1967. Another renowned guitarist’s axe he wants to craft is Rory Gallagher’s battered old Stratocaster.

Niven Walters and the guitar he built.Niven Walters and the guitar he built.

This brings up another intriguing aspect of his hobby; he not only builds guitars but also incorporates their idiosyncrasies, and tries to duplicate the condition they were in when with the artist in question. For instance, Gallagher had a strong strumming style which meant his guitar had a worn out scratch plate, which Niven would integrate into his model too.

At this point it would be better to let the man himself tell you about the guitar he has donated:

“I started this project after reading in the Pattaya Mail about the Jesters Care for Kids Charity Drive. On seeing that a certain Mr. Jimmy Page was involved with the Jesters, the thought came into my head about possibly donating a guitar to the charity. I then came across the Dragon Telecaster that Jimmy Page used in the Yardbirds and also in the early days of Led Zeppelin. I then decided to build a replica of this guitar.

“I browsed various forums and web pages to try and find out exactly what the guitar was. From my research I found the guitar was a blonde 1959 Fender Telecaster that had been left to him when Jeff Beck departed the Yardbirds. Jimmy Page decided to sand the body down and hand paint the dragon design using enamel paints. A pick guard was then made out of clear acrylic in a standard Telecaster shape with the addition of a tail part between the bridge and control plate. The pick guard was lined with Mylar film, which is reflective, the idea being that this reflected different colours from the stage lights. The neck and pickups were I believe the original parts.

“My starting point was finding an ash body with a similar grain pattern as the original. I found the following body through Guitarbuild. The blank body was coated using Wudtone before being hand-painted by a lady called Ulianka in Aberdeen.

The guitar in the sunlight.The guitar in the sunlight.

“The scratch plate I cut out by hand from clear acrylic and lined with Mylar film. On the first attempt I cold see where the colours were reflecting, but also that it was see through and therefore you see through to the wiring. I then decided to put a layer of foil under the Mylar, which would help reflect light and also keep the wiring out of sight.”

Jimmy Page playing the guitar in question in the early days.Jimmy Page playing the guitar in question in the early days.

After that Niven decided on Don Mare Zepotone Live Set pickups from the States, that are hand wound to get as close as possible of Jimmy Page’s sound in the late 60’s.

For a suitable neck he settled on a Vintage Style Telecaster neck from The Music Room in Clegheaton and for the bridge he chose Fender with 3 threaded saddles, which was drilled in order to be a top loader as well as through the body.

Then came the final assembly when all of the electrics were wired using ‘cloth-covered’ wire, like those used in the 50’s.

Niven continues, “It was then that we plugged it in using just the two E strings and already it sounded huge. The pick guard was then fitted and I strung it with some old strings and tuned it. Even without any set up it played pretty good, but I decided that as I had spent many hours (and money) putting this together, it would be best to have it professionally set up and took it to Jimmy Egypt’s guitar repairs in Glasgow, where it was strung with 9’s, checked the neck alignment and intonation, adjusted the TUSQ nut and polished the frets.”

The finished product and traveling case has been handed over to us from Niven. He too will be coming to the Gala Party Night at the Amari Orchid Pattaya on Saturday, September 21st. He would like to see how the biddings go on his guitar that night.

If Jimmy could be there too, we think he would get a kick out of it. But, as much as Jimmy does for our charity drive, he is still a busy man, and we can only hope that he might show on the night.

If you would like to make a bid on an auction item, such as Niven’s replica guitar and/or learn how you can help underprivileged children, please visit www.care4kids.info or www.facebook.com/jesterscare.forkids.

Please remember that our Main Events are coming up soon:

Children’s Fair: Sunday, September 8th, at The Regent’s School Pattaya;

Gala Party Night: Saturday, September 21st, at Amari Orchid Pattaya.