Trev Wilkinson

With well over five decades of experience in guitar design, construction and manufacturing, during which Trev has also developed a highly focussed expertise in guitar hardware and pickups ’n’ electronics design, he has firmly established his reputation as one of the industry’s leading experts on the history of the electric guitar and the early originators and innovators, understanding what they knew, how and why they did what they did and how it changes the face of the guitar. As a result, Trev is a master exponent of the black art of the subtleties and nuances of building truly great guitars, either in a one off custom context, or in serial volume production.

As true innovator, during a lifetime of creativity, labour and inventiveness in the guitar industry, in Australia, the USA and UK, Trev has collaborated with many other industry legends, including Leo Fender, Seth Lover and Wayne Charvel to name but three, although the list is too long for these few words, with an ethic of mutual respect, learning, and teaching with a free flow of information which led him to conceive some of the industry’s most recognisable advancements in guitars, hardware and electronics.

Ever approachable, ever inquisitive, Trev’s skills as a player, builder, repairer and guitar collector, along with his engagement with countless players of note helped him to identify the inherent shortcomings of aspects of guitar design, developing ingenious solutions to age old problems which offered much better functionality. This revolutionary approach led to ground-breaking products such as the Wilkinson “Roller Nut” along with major revisions to troublesome, vintage vibrato systems. To this day, a well set-up Wilkinson vibrato can shock the unwary with its consistently unerring return to pitch. Facts attested to by some of the greatest players around the world.

Trev has always built one-offs, designed prototypes for a multitude of companies, and been a “go-to” guy amongst the guitar playing cognoscenti who wanted something uber special. He’s also always had a very keen interest in getting guitars which would always be “keepers” into the hands of folks just starting out on their journey to guitar stardom.

In 1995, Trev first began working with JHS to help bring the Encore Vintage Series to the market. The introduction of the Encore Vintage Series Standard, Custom and Custom Deluxe guitars featured premium woods and cosmetics, genuine Lace Sensor pickups, Grover 205 tuners and, yes, a genuine Wilkinson vibrato; the range was priced from just £199.00, setting a new and very high benchmark in the hugely competitive “bang for the buck” electric guitar sector. Indeed, the Wilkinson VS50 vibrato gave the guitars such an edge in tuning stability and functionality that the Encore Vintage Series outperformed guitars more than five times the price.

At the other end of the spectrum, Trev was developing his signature Fret-King brand, handmade in the UK, and continuing to work with various manufacturers around the globe on a broad range of guitar and hardware related projects.

A regular fixture at musical instrument trade shows around the world, Trev kept in touch with the JHS team and in 2006, alongside JHS MD Dennis Drumm, set out to prove just what could be achieved when decades of experience in guitar design, construction and manufacturing were combined with a formidable knowledge of hardware, pickups and electronics design and a burning desire to build world beating product.

This, the “Vintage ReIssued” and “Vintage ICON” projects were born.

Trev’s remit was to consult to the Vintage brand, designing and building a complete range of true “player’s” guitars which although modestly priced, punched well above their weight and could hold their own on the world’s biggest concert stages, satisfying the seasoned professional guitar player, whilst remaining a “keeper” for the first time buyer.

As part of the Vintage ReIssued and ICON series design process, Trev’ specified carefully selected and matched Wilkinson hardware and electronics, but the real ‘magic dust’, the alchemy, was blending the creation of the recipe and the adoption and application of decades of production knowledge, honestly applied, with the sole purpose of achieving Trev’s constant goal; to make great guitars.

As he’s often been heard to say, “… If you can’t make a great guitar for $5000, go do something else. Making a truly great guitar for a tenth of that is the challenge. With Vintage, we’ve achieved just that!”

As time went on and the Vintage ReIssued project matured, and Trev turned his attention to reworking the JHS Encore electric guitar line, where the challenges, at entry level, were even greater. Once again, the goal was achieved and the Encore line features guitars which punch so far above their weight, they really do have to be seen, played and enjoyed to fully understand just how much has been achieved. To many, an Encore represents what is probably the single most important guitar anyone buys; their first one. Again, Encores are “Keepers”, as millions of players will confirm.

In 2010 JHS acquired Trev’s ‘baby’, the Fret-King® brand, and together they launched an entirely new line of “Blue Label guitars, with unique design features from Trev’s fertile imagination and drawing board.

The design ethic JHS and Trev wanted to imbue all Fret-King guitars with was simple. “Your next guitar is here”.

Cutting edge design, useful ergonomics, real useability, versatility and a tonal pallet so broad, each model became a true “Swiss Army Knife” capable of fulfilling a broad spectrum of jobs, so the journeyman guitar players who chose a Fret-King could, with just one guitar cover a multitude of styles and musical genres. Fret-King remains unique in this approach and the astonishing useability of every Fret-King model is testament to Trev’s design genius.

This ethic is carried forward into the present generation of Fret-King Black Label and Artist series guitars.

Fret-King, Vintage and Encore have all prospered as a result of JHS’ collaboration with Trev Wilkinson and all three brands have matured into world beaters, standing on their own two feet, available, played and enjoyed around the world.

Trev remains connected to his “fretted offspring” and continues to cooperate with JHS on a project-based basis in respect of product design and an advisory one in relation to incorporating and designing Wilkinson branded electronics and hardware for JHS guitar brands.