Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - 26
he brought our designs to the attention of Tom
Presley, Westone's product manager, and by
'87, several Westone Dana models were being
produced. I started DSR, which owned Dana,
as a trademark and the patent on the Scoop,
both of which I licensed to SLM.
How do you approach restoration?
Here's the Scoop
any know Dana Sutcliffe from his classic
guitar design, the Alvarez Dana Scoop
produced from the late 1980s through the early
'90s. But most are likely unaware that today
he runs a top-notch repair/restoration shop,
Dana Sound Research (DSR), just outside
Did playing or working on guitars come
Playing the guitar. I was actually a piano
player from age 5 and just transposed the piano
over to guitar. I still see piano keys when I play
the guitar. It's nuts!
When did you first start working with
I bought a four-pickup Lafayette Radio
guitar in 1967 - yes, four pickups! When I
soon after got a Univox bass amp, I realized the
pickups weren't so great. I applied my experience rewinding HO-scale slot car armatures
to rewinding the pickups. They were very
powerful, but they were microphonic as hell.
But, I didn't care - I was 13!
How did you get into guitar repair?
My dad was building dreadnoughts in his
garage and that gave me the bug. I eventually
did some electronics work for John Marshall,
who in '78 hired me to work at Renaissance
Guitars. There, I learned everything about
guitar construction. John was a perfectionist
and instilled that in me. After Renaissance, I
did music-store repairs until I started Guitar
Repair Company in '83, which was very successful. That's where the first Dana guitars
were born, including the Detonator Pickup and
DSR5 circuit. I started doing custom work for
national acts including George Thorogood. We
serviced, built, and rebuilt 14 white ES-125s
and all of his amplifiers. George's taught me
how to work with the preferences of other
How did you join St. Louis Music (SLM)?
In 1985-'86, we began teaching the sales rep
for SLM, who was not a musician, how to set
up Crate amps for his customers using Dana
guitars. He'd write down the settings and go off
to his store clients, but the amps never sounded
the same. He'd actually get mad at me! So, we
better explained pickups and electronics, and
I do everything according to historic protocol.
I approach each instrument or amplifier as it was
built. Unless there's a factory error, I restore the
instrument to original condition. If finishes are
destroyed and bare wood is exposed, I have an
array of cosmetic epoxies, varnish mixes, and
lacquers. I also have a huge amount of old-wood
resources around the country in case something
really catastrophic comes in.
We keep everything extremely neat and
tidy for a woodworking shop. It has a radiant
humidity room, which is crucial for bringing
dried instruments back to life. It's always
crowded. The buffing, sanding, sawing, and
drilling are all done in a sealed, enclosed
room with proprietary ventilation on all
the machines. There's also a sanding box to
keep dust to minimum. Two of my building
neighbors are a jewelry artisan and a cabinet
maker, which is a blessing because I can do
tricky metal restorations on 100-year-old
tailpieces, and if we need anything unusual
done to a piece of wood, the machine to do it
is right next door!
What is most satisfying about what
I love bringing instruments back from the
dead so you can't tell what condition they were
in, originally. And, the art is never dull; no
instrument or tube amp is identically the same.
I also really enjoy making demanding
clients happy by making all their instruments
perform with the consistency they want. I'm
very lucky to have found talented apprentices
who are sacrificing a great deal to learn the art
of musical instrument restoration and repair.
What's the story on your Dana Scoop
Right now, I have a monthly budget for
buying original parts and whole instruments
whenever possible. If the bodies don't need
re-painting, we wet-sand and buff them to be
brighter than the original. We re-fret necks and
apply the original Dana logo. If the electronics
are original, I upgrade the pots and circuit,
and I pot the pickups. If the electronics aren't
original, then I install USA pickups that are
similar to the original Dana pickups, and I
still have DSR5 mid-boost units available.
Otherwise, I try and keep everything stock.
Scoops are really increasing in value these
days, so there's plenty of demand for these
resuscitated guitars. - Michael Wright