Our Story.

Guitar Villa was established in Bethlehem, PA. in 1988 by our working owner, John J. Slog, in his garage.  John played bass in regional rock bands, including Gandalf, Springfield and Bye Thunder, in the mid to late 70's and early 80's, and also performed in his high school stage band. Music was in his blood, instruments his passion, and Customer Service became his musical calling.
 

John always had a passion for classic and vintage instruments as he started playing and collecting rare examples of them. After leaving the performing music scene to work in a corporate lab environment, John found himself drawn back into the industry with calls from amateur and professional musicians alike with questions about vintage instruments, amplification and how to get specific sounds and tones. Many famous artists and bands, including the Lenny Kravits band visited his home, before the opening of the first store in search of recommendations on tone and instruments / amps. John's experience and ability to extract the old school tone from vintage guitars and amps, plus the current knowledge of the state of the art amplification and set-up techniques seemed to be the cog that completed and complimented many of these artist's style and sound.

The groundwork was laid, the inevitable was plain to see: a music store with full service, an educated musician staff, and cool products would soon become reality!

John worked with Cesar Diaz, famous for his work with Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn, George Harrison and the like, to advise and supply the hugely successful band "Live" with vintage instruments and amplification / tube preamps to achieve that much sought after "Golden Tone" that makes recordings "hits" and live performances "electric"!

A trip to visit "Live", at the world famous "Hit Factory" mega recording studio in New York City, while they were recording their hit album "Secret Samadhi", proved to be an enlightening experience to bassist Pat Dahlheimer. John handed Pat a Demeter tube bass pre during a Sushi break from the daily rigors of the sessions. Pat called John the next day to purchase that pre and subsequently three 300 watt mono-block tube power amps. This was his new found tone!

Pat used mainly vintage basses and his tone became the standard for modern rock bands of that era. The growl of the old Fender Jazz, Precision and Gibson Thunderbird basses was the backbone of the signature "Live sound" in the studio and live venues.

Chad Taylor, the very talented guitar virtuoso with Live, experimented with various tube amps (including the Diaz amps) and incorporated many vintage instruments in his arsenal that included everything from a big bodied 1968 Gibson ES-175 to his favored vintage Fender Jazzmaster guitars. John personally delivered a pair of custom made silver sparkle Gibson Les Pauls and some sweet Takamine acoustics to the band for use on tour..

As an 11 year old starting bass player, and after graduating from a cheap Hofner Beatle Bass copy, John played his first Fender bass, a used Olympic White Mustang Bass. The next was a stripped '68 Jazz Bass. The dream, though, was a checkerboard bound, 4001 bass by Rickenbacker. The finally happened and the life long love of Rickenbacker basses was cemented!

John Hall, the President of Rickenbacker Inc., and Dick Burke, Production Manager from 1958, stopped by for a personal visit and dinner at the local Steak house many years ago while traveling to the area. They couldn't believe their eyes when presented with a vast collection of over 14 Rickenbacker guitars and basses ranging from 1957 through 1968, at that time.

 

John has always been a serious Rickenbacker aficionado and performed with vintage Rickenbacker, Fender and Gibson Thunderbird basses concurrently on stage whenever space would permit.

It wasn't uncommon for Rod Stewart bassist, Phil Chen, to call John and request "Old Dead flatwound strings" for that deep thud Motown sound on some of his basses.

The word started spreading that there was some bass guy out there that knew a lot about the nuances, features and set-up techniques for old basses and amplifiers.The vast list of visitors on the phone and in person started growing and the realization that this might just be able to become a business was realized.

 

What a concept... create a world surrounding yourself with vintage instruments & amplifiers and make that into your career!

John was subsequently hunted down, contacted and hired by Bass Player Magazine to write a series of 33 consecutive monthly columns entitled "The Great Basses" for their international publication.

This column chronicled various vintage basses and provided the reader with, not only the historical facts and players that made it famous, but also provided the reader with a current valuation of similar models of that instrument.

 

Bass Player Magazine, the industry leader in it's category, is a national publication that contains all the gear, all the players and all the interviews that
are important to the history and current activity in this field.

John's articles, showcasing various basses and the artists that performed with them, spanned the diverse line up of basses from a Les Claypool favorite Carl Thompson to a Gibson EB-3, as used by Jack Bruce of Cream.

 

Watch this site for these articles to be posted in the future!

Bass Player Magazine, the industry leader in it's category, is a national publication that contains all the gear, all the players and all the interviews that
are important to the history and current activity in this field.

John's articles, showcasing various basses and the artists that performed with them, spanned the diverse line up of basses from a Les Claypool favorite Carl Thompson to a Gibson EB-3, as used by Jack Bruce of Cream.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I’m a great place for you to tell a story and let your users know a little more about you.​

Vintage Guitar Magazine was also interested in John to come on board and author a monthly column for their publication distributed worldwide.

That association turned into a 7 year tenure with the "Bottom Line" monthly featured articles in VG.


This column not only showcased vintage instruments but also allowed John free reign to nurture his comedic writing style with subjects that strayed from music and entertainment into Imported Beer tasting, fine foods and journaled escapades in the pursuit of personal happiness.

John also filled the pages of Vintage Guitar Magazine with various interviews of professional artists that have played with some of most famous rock bands in history.

Chris Squire of "Yes" fame was a very cordial and insightful interview. Both John and Chris, being lovers of vintage Rickenbacker basses, got along tremendously.
A GIANT revelation in the music industry came as John popped the infamous question to Chris about his brash, "wiry' tone in Yes recordings and especially "Roundabout".

We all knew Chris played through multiple tube amps with an assortment of speakers, that he used a pick (most of the time) and roundwound strings on a Rickenbacker 4001 bass. When asked how he got that tone on "Roundabout", Chris said "that was nice … we doubled the bass track with a Gibson J-200 Jumbo acoustic guitar with fresh strings on it"!

One of John's personal favorite interviews was with Billy Cox, the premier bass player with Jimi Hendrix during the Band of Gypsys point in time.  After Billy continuously denied interviews with many writers and magazines over the years, John established a rapport and a deep trust with him and uncovered an in depth account of the life and times of The Band of Gypsys with Billy Cox, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles and all the other characters that formed what many feel to be the foundation of "over the top" guitar inspired electric rock.

In addition to the "usual" stories about the life and times on tour and the Rock 'N Roll craziness, Billy offered up some interesting Hendrix oddities.

A favorite inside tale of the wackiness of Jimi was the time he went out and bought a new 1968 Corvette Stingray with a 4 speed stick.   He was hanging out in the Hollywood Hills area, jamming with various musicians and constantly going to parties.   He seldom got the Stingray out of 2nd gear and used to wind up the motor beyond belief through all those hills and turns.  Yes, Jimi was also a gearhead with cars as well as guitars, amps and pedals!  

John got to know Roly Salley, of the Chris Isaak band, many years ago, after supplying them with a Blond 1962 Fender Showman stack.  Roly is an accomplished bassist and Chris is as nice a guy off stage, as he seems on! These guys live the phrase "class act"! Roly is a very talented musician, a tasteful Bass Player and truly a group member, in the literal sense of the word, as he steadily holds down the solid bottom end and allows the remainder of the amazing musicians to shine during their performances.

When asked to solo, Roly digs in to his tall action basses and does very melodic upright inspired bass passages that really do impress.   Chris's act is both highly talented and very funny. Don't miss Chris Isaak live, if you get the chance.

 

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1992, after continually being disappointed in the inventory of local and regional music stores, getting treated poorly by them and being subjected to a serious lack of customer service and product knowledge, our founder and working director / owner knew that one of his important life's missions would be to open the "dream store" you are now viewing on the Internet.

Guitar Villa's tremendously successful first small shop in Bethlehem paved the way for a second location to open in Quakertown in 2002. This much larger shop is an extension of the original Bethlehem store in that it is manned by a team of expert musician / product specialists that have performed both locally, nationally and in some cases internationally with tours of Europe and Australia.

The original Bethlehem storefront gave way to a brand new expanded facility on the top of the original property. This made a trip to both the Quakertown and Bethlehem stores high on list of anyone interested in cool and unique new, used and vintage instrument at a nice price. The entire staff of honest, friendly product specialists have a passion for instruments and want to make your music store experience a happy one.   
We are happy to offer our years of experience in this field to help you choose the right products for your particularneeds. We will try to find the best suited product at the lowest price to fulfill your requests and needs.


John J. Slog, and Guitar Villa consigned and sold the famous original Ken Smith 6 string bass for legendary bassist John Patittucci.
Patittucci, amazingly, put down his 4 string Jazz Bass and picked up this massive 6 string for the first time 2 weeks prior to using it exclusively on a world tour with the Chick Corea Electric Band!

John is a really talented bassist with melodic passages unlike any other player. His master of chording and solo work on the bass has cemented his legacy among his peers. He has moved deep into acoustic upright bass work and is considered one of the most versatile and solid studio musicians alive.

John has done some tasty clinics, over the years, in conjunction with Guitar Villa. Pick up some of his solo work or Chick Corea's Electric Band CD's for a real treat!  His passion has shifted into the performance with his treasured vintage upright bass.   He has gained industry fame on both his electric and upright bass work.  
 

When Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead percussionist) and some friends, including Steve Kimock and Mike Gordon (bassist with Phish) were meeting at a studio to rehearse for an upcoming tour, Steve called and invited John to watch the practice live. An inspiring collection of artists, to say the least, this practice showcased some of the most outrageous live performance based musicians in one place at one time! Needing to get back to the shop, John said goodbye and continued to work the store that day. 10 minutes before closing, the guys called ahead to make sure the Bethlehem Guitar Villa store would be open when they arrived. Of course, an exception would be made to humor these guys! 

John sent a buddy out for a case of Imported Beer and kept the store open after hours for a little hanging out, and a massive jam with the boys! An accomplished bass player since age 11, John chose to play only hand percussion with these total pro's laying down some amazing lines. If only there were a video camera in the shop that night!

 

 

When Victor Wooten and Bela Fleck stopped by word got out fast and within 45 minutes there were about 15 bass players milling around, pretending to shop as they listened and started at one of the biggest icon bass players alive today! Bela sat in the corner and played anything that was handed him from, of course, a banjo, to a dobro, a lap steel, mando and various other stringed instruments.

 

Victor, one of the nicest musicians in the industry, proceeded to strap on his Fodera and politely amaze everyone in attendance.

When Leslie West stopped by John HAD to ask him to dispel the rumors that were circulating over the years. The buzz on the street (pun intended) was that Leslie pin poked tiny holes in his 12" speakers to get that strong growling tone during his tenure with the massive heavy band "Mountain" over the years.

Leslie just smiled and asked us to hand him a reissue Les Paul double cut, slab body Jr. (of which he made famous). As per his request, we plugged that into a non descript tube amp that was about 10 years old. Wow—it was the sound … so that meant it was the guitar, right? Wrong! He asked for an SG … and that was the sound too! The he asked for a Strat, a Les Paul, an Explorer, a 175 … and, with every guitar he played—that sound came through! The moral of the story was (and is) … tone is in your hands,. His talent and grip on the instrument, with all the personal inflections and nuances MADE that famous Leslie West tone jump out from any instrument he touched!  Leslie continues to make amazing music and adds color to any venue he performs at.

After numerous calls from long time Cheap Trick bassist and bass brother, Tom Peterson, John agreed to thin the herd a bit and supplied Tom with a beautiful Pelham Blue 1963 and Metallic Gold '64 Gibson Thunderbird basses for his touring and recording needs.  

 

He immediately added those basses to the perfomance lineup and did the Hollywood Bowl New years Eve show with them that year.

Tom used original Gibson Thunderbirds in the early days of the band and, while listening to some past recordings, decided to add that old style growl to his current live touring set-up. Tom has also been known for his creative use of Hamer 8, 10 and 12 string basses over the years.
 

His bass sound incorporated both the rock solid bottom as well as the angelic high end tone.  

 

Tom likes to use multiple amp set-ups for live performance and most of the time, they incorporate tube amp technology for that beatiful hint of diatortion.

 

He is also in possession of some vintage Rickenbacker Transonic amps, made famous by artists such as Jimmy Page, in the 60's and 70's.

These amps look like a cracature of a large Vox Super Beatle amp, and also have the famlous chrome plated tube amp stand surrounding them.

World famous Bassist and 26 year member of the Paul Simon band, Bakithi Kumalo, has become a close friend of John and an associate instructor at Guitar Villa.  

 

Born is South Africa, Bakithi's captivating talent was recognized by Paul Simon when he departed the United States to capture the natural roots sound of South Africa, for his Graceland album.  He is a vital live performance musician, as well as a songwriter and vocalist. Bakithi is regarded by many as one of the best performance and studio bassists in the world.

 

Bakithi is very well known for his composition and performance on the "You can call me Al" tune on that album.  His original ascending bass line was very melodic, percussive and fast.  The studio engineer took that line and added the reverse recording, playing that track backwards (creating a mirror image descending line) after the ascending line to form what is on the record.  Bakithi was forced to learn his own composition backwards as well as forwards, to duplicate the bass line on the record!  

 

I guess that's the kind of thing a real pro can do in his sleep!

Bakithi has also played with and backed Chaka Kahn, Herbie Hancock, Gloria Estefan, Cyndi Lauper and Sting, to name a few.

 

His approach to the bass, instinctive groove inspired melodic interpretations and unyielding stamina, place him on top of the heap of super talented bass players out there!

 

Recently, while on a break from touring with Paul Simon, Bakithi was called in to do a tour with The Tedeschi Trucks band.   Derek's forst request was that he use a Fender Prercision bass, to lend that tone to the massive band's sound.   Not having a nice Precision in his stable at the time, Bakithi called John for a solution.   He ended up taking John's loved Olympic White '61 Precision on that tremendous Stateside tour.   Quite a loaner bass!

 

Bakithi is currently adding clinics, Groove Workshops and personal instruction and mentoring, to Guitar Villa's itinerary. 

Patrick Dahlheimer and LIVE back on the concert circuit - with our Vibrawood custom instruments! 

A new direction and addition to the business plan - custom hand builds.

Our working director, John, has been deeply involved in design, repair and instrument set-up work for over 4 decades.  With the hands on experience on many high grade examples of custom instruments by multiple world renown builders always on hand, he decided to take all this experience and create a brand new custom hand made line of instruments himself. 

 

Vintage, collectible guitars and basses play and sound incredibly, due to the selection of stable resonant woods and the hand building process used up through the 1960's.    These instruments cost anywhere from $6000. to 15,000. and up.  It is impractical to use these prized gems in public on a gig, so that is why we design and hand build our Vibrawood recreations of these fine instruments. 

They are very reasonably priced and can be replaced should the worst happen - unexpected damage or loss.   

 

This line of instruments is manufactured right here in Pennsylvania and distributed direct, out of our Guitar Villa location in Bethlehem.
 

John has always owned and played prized vintage instruments and this line of guitars and basses is heavy influenced in the overall shape and dimensions with those classics.   The big difference is the execution of the build and exacting specs, combined with the best pickups, electronics and hand selected tone woods. 

The classic Leo Fender designs have been modified a bit, the wood selected resonates incredibly and the balance, lightweight characteristics and playability is amazing. 

As the line progressed to add active preamps and electronics, the resulting instruments took on a real high fidelity presence and they were starting to attract more players and artists.  The woods sourced are fine high grade examples of tone woods and some are sourced right here in the North-East.

World renoun bassist with the Paul Simon band, Bakithi Kumalo, recognized the quality, tone and playability of our basses, and then commissioned an active five string.   He loved it, sang our praises and we have developed an Artist model bass just for him.

This bass has phenominal playability, balance and tone.  It has a Black walnut top and a wenge fingerboard on a hard rock maple neck.  Bakithi is an endorser for our line of hand crafted instruments.

Bakithi performing with our Vibrawood BK5 Artist model pictured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in October 2015.

The legendary Steve Kimock playing one of the Vibrawood instruments he has.  This one is old growth Yellow pine with a Koa top.

www.Vibrawood.com

Yet another direction with a hand crafted acoustic & bass guitar line - Szlag Customs 

We are proud to offer hand crafted Szlag Custom Acoustic guitars as well.  These instruments combine classic styling, body shapes that have been proven over the past century as well as the most modern breakthroughs in acoustic guitar manufacturing.  We are employing torrefied Adirondack and Sitka spruce tops and braces on our custom builds, to achieve that "seasoned and played in" tone in every hand crafted instrument we complete.   The playability, natural tone, ergonomics and stunning woods are showcased with what we feel are the best techniques in guitar manufacturing. 

 

Like the finest made acoustic guitars from the 1940's and 50's, the build process is slow and precise and we are using old school nitro-cellulose lacquer to finish these fine players instruments.

 

All instruments are available at a manufacturer's direct price - exclusivley at Guitar Villa, Bethlehem PA.

Make an appointment to stop in to our showroom at Guitar Villa (4 miles from the Martin Guitar Factory) and play one of these instruments to experience the best comfort, feel and tone attainable at any price.

 

Design / Manufacturing / Artist Relations:  John J. Slog

Szlag Research and Design LLC      610-746-9200

Thanks for taking the time to learn about our history and Guitar Villa.  We are an old style full service music shop and we hope we can help you whenever you have a need for an item or service.    Guitar Villa is made up of musicians that have acquired professional product related skills, outside of the playing and performance realm, after years of experience.   We all have product based specialties that span from the set-up of amplifiers for optimum performance, to the selection of wood, for a particular tone. We are here to guide you in your search for the right item to fit your needs.

We hope you become part of our family of satisfied customers. Guitar Villa strives to provide you with EVERY level of product, from high value ENTRY LEVEL instruments, amplifiers, drums & percussion products, recording and sound equipment and accessories, right on up to the BEST high grade dream gear for the discerning player and collector.We service what we sell (and all other manufacturer's products too) and have a team of specialized professional repairmen that take the utmost pride in their work. We teach music and songwriting in our progressive music school and want to be your one stop shop for all your musical needs, from beginner to professional.

 

If we don't have what you want, we will do our best to get it and offer it to you at a great discount price or we will go out of our way to refer you to a trusted competitor that can help.   Our inventory is made up of over 500 hand selected instruments, amps and support gear products from all the major manufacturers for your shopping pleasure. You won't believe the great selection of products, and caring, honest associates eager to help you with your particular needs.   Guitar Villa does not simply push all products from a specific manufacturer, because of a profit or kickback, based association with them.    We constantly search all builders and manufacturers, and look for the best product value (highest quality and lowest price point) at every plateau. Our experience and ability to grade quality is evident in every item we carry, from entry level beginner grade products, right on up through the ranks to instruments exhibiting the utmost in manufacturing skill as well as the best, select exotic woods and hardware.Your dream instrument may be in stock!

 

This web site is a sampling of most of our in-stock inventory.    Please call us if there is something not listed that you need.    We have a very high rate of sale and some items do not ever make the list, as they are sold days or hours from their delivery into our inventory.

If you have already made a decision on your next item purchase, please call or email us with that information. We may have that product in house, or will do our best to acquire it for you, and at the lowest price available! When you buy from us, we professionally set the item up for you – FOR FREE, to allow it to "Play like Butter", to your particular preference.

Guitar Villa's shop and business practices have a strong ethical backbone and our policies of fairness and honesty have earned this organization a great reputation worldwide, over the last 26 years.   Guitar Villa believes that every item for sale should be discount priced, labeled with that price and that items marked as new should never have been sold previously.   Guitar Villa would like to welcome back previous customers and add new ones to our ever growing family of friends.

 

Let us know what we can do to make your musical purchase experience more satisfying.

 

That is our goal, and customer service is our specialty!

 

Guitar Villa
 

       Music Store & Custom Shop

  • 228 Nazareth Pike (Rt. 191) Bethlehem, PA 18020​

 

610-746-9200

Open 7 days a week Visit us! 

 

Monday~Friday: 10:00am - 8:00pm

 

 

Saturday:  9:00am - 5:00pm
 

 

 

Sunday: 11:00am - 5:00pm

 

 

 

We Ship Worldwide

 

GV Music School

Guitar Villa has the most progressive lesson program in the area!

 

Guitar, Drums, Bass, Piano, Violin and all stringed and wind instruments, Saxophone, Banjo, Mandolin, Ukelele, Lap Steel, Slide guitar & Vocals 

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