The tailpiece is the single most difficult part to replicate on a Francis Rossi replica guitar of this era. When Francis carried out all of his original mods to the guitar (see Home>A quick history) he decided not to route the strings, in the conventional way, through the body but instead opted to run the strings directly from a surface-mounted tailpiece which was simply screwed into the body through two drilled holes.
All we know is that the original tailpiece was taken from an old semi-acoustic guitar (make and model unknown) and subsequently adapted. My own opinion is that the donor part actually started life as a trapeze tailpiece and was adapted, so that’s how we are going to approach the task on this build.
The first of the two pics below gives you a fairly clear view of how the tailpiece looked on the original guitar for general reference. The yellow lines on the second pic highlight the very distinct shape of the tailpiece angled ends. These angled ends make finding a suitable donor part very difficult indeed as there are not many tailpieces of the same shape and overall proportions.
I’ve seen a lot of Rossi replicas with standard rectangular modern trapeze tailpieces which have been modified and others with Gibson-style stop-bar tailpieces with the lugs cut off either squarely or at an angle which makes the tailpiece a little too short in length and leaves very little room for drilling the necessary fixing holes. However, I have been using a particular vintage 1960s trapeze tailpiece which I feel is a fairly good match to the original.
If you take a look at the two pics below you will see the donor trapeze that we are going to use. This is a genuine 1960s part and does not need relic’ing as it already has a nice patina. The first pic shows that the main tailpiece section pretty much follows the right shape and proportions and whilst not an exact match to the original, looks pretty good.
The second pic shows the underside of the tailpiece and you will notice that there is a problem here. When this trapeze was fitted to the original guitar the strings would have been inserted through the six holes you can see in the picture. The strings then passed under the front of the tailpiece and up to the bridge causing the trapeze to be lifted above the body of the guitar by the tautness of the strings. We need to cut away the trapeze section of this part and then fix the remaining tailpiece firmly flat on to the guitar body. However, after the strings are inserted through the back of the tailpiece there is no exit for them to emerge at the front.
The solution to this is to do some very careful drilling. The first pic below shows the eight holes which need to be drilled. The six yellow lines represent the holes we need to drill in the front part of the tailpiece (matching up with the six holes already present in the rear part) and the two red lines show the positions of the two holes which will be used to fix tailpiece flat onto the guitar body using two ordinary wood screws.
As you can see from the second pic above, we have drilled the six string exit holes which correspond the six entry holes and we have also drilled the two main fixing holes. It’s worth noting here that the two fixing holes do not have to be too precise in terms of position as the originals are quite off centre and so it wouldn’t look right if we were ‘too accurate’. So, as you can see from the two pics below, we have now fitted our custom tailpiece to the guitar body and that is another job done on the build.
Checkout this amazing clip of the Frantic Four rehearsing Backwater and Just Take Me prior to the reunion tour back in 2013. Even though this is just a rehearsal by four band members who have not played together in over 30 years it just sounds great and remains one of my favourite Quo clips.
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