Photograph by Rayon Richards
A 41-year-old Englishman who has lived in the U.S. for the past 12 years, Neal Davies runs the New York marketing consultancy Naked Communications, recently described by Fast Company magazine as one of the five most innovative companies in advertising. Neal can’t remember not listening to music, and not playing the guitar. He is married, and his two four-year-old twin girls believe him to be a personal friend of the Beatles.
How did you get started collecting guitars?
Growing up in the relatively humble environs of the north of England, I rarely ever saw a real Gibson, Fender, Gretsch, or Rickenbacker, even in guitar shops. Those things of beauty were almost alien. My first electric guitar was a third-hand Strat copy called a Satellite. Once I convinced my parents I was serious, they saved up and got me an Ibanez Roadstar RS135 for Christmas. I traded that for a Yamaha SG200 (in homage to guitar heroes Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers and Stuart Adamson of Big Country), which in turn was traded for a mid-Eighties Korean-made Epiphone Sheraton. By the time I moved to America, not only could I afford better guitars but I also realized that guitars were so much cheaper and in abundance than back home.
How do guitars fit in with the design aesthetics of your home?
I have too many guitars to leave them all out on display, so most are upstairs in the attic and a couple of others are close at hand so they can be easily picked up and played. My SJ200 is in the TV room, my White Falcon is in the living room, and my Country Gentleman is in the bedroom.
What was your first major purchase?
Probably my custom “Pop Art” Rickenbacker 330 like Paul Weller’s, painted by artist David Arcadian.
What motivates you to purchase a guitar?
It’s a balance between playability and looks, with playability being the deciding card. But I’m also a sucker for the guitars my heroes play. Hence, I have the Joe Strummer Tele and Elvis Costello Century of Progress signature models, plus a 1971 Gretsch Country Gentleman (George Harrison), an Epiphone Elitist ’65 Casino (Lennon) and a “Pop Art” Rickenbacker 330 (Paul Weller)
What are some of the guitars in your collection?
A Fender Strat ’57 American Vintage reissue, a ’09 Gretsch White Falcon, ’09 Rickenbacker 330 (Mapleglo), ’66 Gibson ES-125, Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II, and ’68 Eko Ranger.
What’s your dream purchase?
Getting the Gretsches was a dream come true. Beyond that, a Rickenbacker 760 “Jazz-bo” (although I don’t believe they actually exist).