Zemaitis Guitars ‘Art With Strings’ was the Place to Be at This Year’s NAMM Show!
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
Every year at NAMM I have a different focus… This year my primary focus was to promote the brand new Metal Babe Mayhem “Studded Star” guitar strap, custom-made by Al Bane for Leather, at the Zemaitis Guitars booth. I am so happy to have showcased my first official product at NAMM 2017, and am thankful that Al Bane and Zemaitis gave me this opportunity. The Al Bane for Leather display looked amazing inside the Zemaitis booth, and it was exciting to see the great response that the guitars, guitar straps, and guitar covers received.
While I was at the booth, I spoke with Zemaitis sales manager Dave Hager about the history of Zemaitis, technical aspects of the aesthetically pleasing metal plated guitars, and the recent collaboration with Al Bane for Leather. Zemaitis had approximately ahundred guitars on display on the second floor; room 210C. In addition, they had a stage where local and national artists were given an opportunity to play the NAMM Show using Zemaitis guitars. It was great to see so many musicians perform onstage throughout the convention, including former Megadeth guitarist Jeff Young and Jason Wilson. Part of the goal and vision of Zemaitis is to grow the local music scene. They want to help local musicians and people who are passionate about guitars. This was definitely a big move for Zemaitis from the previous years, when they were in the NAMM ‘basement.’
Personally, I have been familiar with Zemaitis for quite some time because of Gilby Clarke’s custom deluxe silvertop. However, I really enjoyed learning the history behind Zemaits, and that the purpose of their guitars’ beautiful handcrafted metal plates is to cancel the noise from the 60 cycle hum. After Tony Zemaitis, who formed Zemaitis Guitars in 1955, figured out the logistics and benefits of the metal plate, he turned it into an ornamental design and had master engraver Danny O’Brien create beautiful etchings on the metal tops. That’s how Zemaitis became known as ‘Art With Strings.’
Some of the original artists who played Zemaitis Guitars were George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Ron Wood, Keith Richards, and Greg Lake…. A lot of the great English rockers were early Zemaitis players.
I took the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the collaboration between Zemaitis Guitars and Al Bane for Leather. Dave told me that Zemaitis wanted to explore some different mediums for guitar designs. Somebody mentioned leather and he immediately thought of Al Bane. He contacted Al and they created the first leather guitar cover.
Zemaitis Guitars are really happy to be working with Al Bane for Leather, and to be working so closely with Lucky Strike in Hollywood. In addition, they are extremely grateful to be networking with well-known Hollywood musicians Barry Pointer (The Anatomy) and Michael Grant (LA Guns) as a result of these connections.
It was nice to hear Dave say, “Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen actually has a design with Al that is very beautiful. Al is a custom guitar strap maker, so any type of guitar strap, any type of guitar… He can build a matching strap that compliments the guitar perfectly. So, it’s really fun to work with some really cool people. Like Alison, Al, and everybody that’s been here.” It’s great to be part of the team for sure, and I’m happy to hear these kind words! Thank you Dave!
Al told me that hanging out at NAMM is kind of like hanging out at one of our parties, where all the cool people show up. They had about thirty guitar straps and five ‘guitar covers’ on display at the Al Bane for Leather booth. Each guitar cover has a matching guitar strap too. The five designs currently available are a Tribute to David Bowie’s Black Star, The Rising Sun, a custom-design they did for Tommy Henriksen (Alice Cooper/Hollywood Vampires) that is covered in silver studs called The Henriksen, a Checkerboard Pyramids, and a shrunken goat. The leather covers are an innovative way to give the classic Zemaitis Guitar body a brand new look and feel.
One of the great things about Al Bane for Leather is that they have wide range of guitar straps that appeal to a wide range of people. They have really simple and plain straps that a blues player would use, they have psycho drama heavy metal stuff that someone like Blackie Lawless (WASP) would use, and they have everything in between. Al Bane for Leather has a showroom located in North Hollywood and is available for custom leatherwork. Please visit the links below to learn more about Zemaitis Guitar, Al Bane for Leather, and Metal Babe Mayhem.