Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - 103
names like Orbiter, Spacetone, Stage II,
Voyager, Golden Comet. Even the colors
were spacey-sounding - Martian Sunburst,
"I'm especially drawn to the first-gen/
Style 1," he added. "I love the DeArmond
pickups and clipped-together body with
the gasket. And that creak when you
move while playing? I love it - gives them
character. Plus, that first-gen Calibrato is a
beautiful piece that borrows heavily from
Stang has researched Micro-Frets' history and runs a website where he gathers
literature, receipts, stories, and photos. He
has owned several models, often holding
one for a couple years before selling it to
try something different. One particularly
memorable example was an Orbiter he
bought for $460 from someone who'd
acquired it at the factory's closing sale then
essentially forgot it in his closet for 25 years.
"Soon after I got it, a guy from Georgia
offered me $1,800," Stang said. "I was
thrilled and took his money, thinking I'd
replace it with another. Turns out, though,
the Orbiter is rare, and finding one has
proven difficult. I saw one for sale more than
a decade ago with a $3,500 asking price."
The building that housed the original
Micro-Frets factory still stands.
"I frequently drive past and dream of
being a fly on the wall there in 1967,"
said Stang. "I recently bought a Style 1
Plainsman from Christian Wargo of the
band Fleet Foxes, and I drove it over for a
reunion. She got to tour the world and is
now back home in Frederick."
While Stang and Meadors agree MicroFrets suffered an inglorious end, the latter
sees a bright side.
"What's important is that these cool
guitars were ever conceived and built, and
still exist 50 years later. It's just amazing.
And, being in a small town, the fact they
didn't ultimately succeed is unfortunate;
these were people we knew, people from
our neighborhoods. The Micro-Frets story
is woven into the history of the town."
And it's not over.
In late 2016, Stang followed in Meadors'
super-fan-to-builder footsteps when he is
assumed operations with intent to re-launch
the brand. He's now building prototypes.
"I hope to have a website launched soon,
and will have an initial offering of four
model including the Spacetone, Swinger,
Signature, and Stage II," he said. "On the
50th anniversary of the original factory
opening, Micro-Frets will continue to be
made in the Maryland tradition, in-house
with as much locally sourced materials as
possible. And yes, the legendary Martian
Sunburst will be among the color options."
uddy Merrill became a
Micro-Frets endorser in
the late '60s, after a similar
deal ended with Fender.
One of the lead guitarists on
Lawrence Welk's television
show, he commanded a
huge audience each week.
Micro-Frets initially gave him
a sunburst Spacetone, but it
wasn't to his liking and within
a year or two they sent him
a blond Huntington - top of
In 2008, I paid a visit to
Buddy, and while looking
through some of his personal
memorabilia, we found the
Huntington in his closet, water-damaged from a plumbing
leak. Its discovery spurred
a brief discussion during
which he told me that he
liked Micro-Frets guitars -
maybe not as much as a
Strat - but thought they
were nice instruments.
Then, as we discussed
what it would take to
repair his, he said, "You
can have it, just promise
me you'll practice."
Buddy always liked the
pickups, which are some
of the best-sounding I've
ever heard. They cut through
a stage mix with staggering
clarity - "like ringing a bell"
always comes to mind
when I use it onstage.
It's an exceptionally well-made guitar.
The body and neck are
gorgeous maple and the
Calibrato is a beautifully
simple thing that works
exactly as it's supposed to
work. The only issue I ever
had with the guitar - and
probably the reason I don't
play it as much as I'd like - is
the Micro-Nut. Micro-Frets
did a great job with the
design; it does allow calibra-
tion of its intonation and
plays perfectly in tune. But
the company dealt primarily
with players who never bent
strings, and apparently didn't
consider that in its
you bend the
move in the
Dickerson with the Huntington
that once belonged to Merrill.
unfortunately, not returning to original pitch.
I'd cast my vote for the
Micro-Nut being one of the
main reasons Micro-Frets
guitars didn't catch
on. It's a good
idea, but didn't
translate well for
rock and blues
players. Too bad,
great-looking, greatsounding guitars.
- Deke Dickerson