Ty Tabor of King's X Gear & Guitar Tone
Zion Ty Tabor Model Development
Abalone Vintage has had the privilege to work with Ty Tabor on
Eric first made contact with the band during the "Faith Hope Love"
tour of 1991. Their concert at Columbia's Greenstreet concert Hall
is considered by many "locals" who have followed the band,
their finest show. The first four recordings by King's X are
amongst the finest written and produced rock albums ever. Period!
Eric has said. " I listened to their first two albums for about two
years solid, drove everyone around me nuts!" he added.
"What I mean is, I listened to King's X ONLY and nothing else."
1990 Guitar Show, Houston Texas | Eric and Ty
1990 Houston Guitar Show, Texas | Doug and Eric
Ty from a King's X show at Greenstreets on June 19, 1991.
Doug Pinnick from a King's X show in
Columbia South Carolina at Greenstreets on June 19, 1991.
Ty's main Fender Stratocaster Elite, backup Stratocaster Elite,
and backup Lab Series L5 guitar amplifier.
Ty Tabors (Then secret!) guitar amplifier.
Gibson Lab Series L5 solid state guitar amp.
1985 Fender Stratocaster Elite in "Stratoburst."
Ty's backup on the Faith Hope Love tour.
1985 Fender Stratocaster Elite. Ty got this guitar from us
and used it for songs that required standard tuning.
1983 Fender Stratocaster Elite on the tour bus.
1970's E-Bow (Chrome)
1970's MXR Phase 90 (Script logo)
Greenstreets on June 19, 1991.
These Marshall cabinets were used on the Faith Hope Love Tour.
We bought these from Ty after he got his Yamaha 4X12s.
May 21, 1992 | The Roxy in Atlanta.
G&G guitars picks (2 Gross)
Various Stratocaster Elite parts - PC board etc.
July 22, 1992 | Augusta Georgia
MXR Pitch Transposer
Eric Ernest with the "Plumburst" Zion Ty Tabor Prototype guitar.
August 15, 1992 | Charlotte North Carolina
Custom built "Elite" style pre-amp.
Roland SDE-1000s (2)
Much ado has been made over Ty's "secret" guitar rig over the years.
More recently Ty has been ever increasingly vocal about his
equipment. See Guitar Player Magazine May 1996.
Eric thinks, "Ty's sound early on was very distinctive, much like
Van Halens earlier tone.
One thing that left a real impression on Eric was Ty's use of the
volume on his guitar. Eric: " I thought Ty was channel switching
his amp to go between his clean and overdriven tone. But when
I got the chance to see him live, I realized he was backing off
the volume knob of his guitar to clean the tone up. His guitar
and amp combination really seemed to be particularly
suited for this."
Eric helped design the Ty Tabor model guitar manufactured by
Zion Guitars. " In 1993 I was approached by Ken Hoover of Zion
Guitars. Ken had built a prototype for Ty some years earlier and
had shown it to him...without much interest by Ty. Ken wanted
to pursue building another guitar for Ty, and he knew I was a
huge fan. Ken and I had been friends for years, and he asked me
if I knew what amps and effects Ty was using. I told him not only
did I know what he was using, but that I had seen Ty's amplifier
rack and knew the settings. (I also owned Ty's backup guitar)
So Ken asked if I would help figure out what guitar Ty would like.
Sure. No problem.
Within a few months, I took a copy of Ty's rig up to Zion. One of the
keys to us getting Ty's tone was the use of a pre-amp. that I built.
The guitar That Ty was using at the time was a 1980's Fender
Stratocaster Elite. That guitar has an onboard pre-amp. A few
years earlier I bought a few miscellaneous Elite parts that
had been in storage at a guitar parts company. I built a pre-amp.
pedal that would create an EQ close to that of a Stratocaster
Elite tone. When I arrived at Zion's facilities we plugged every
guitar they had in, to get an idea what most closely resembled
Oddly enough, the guitar that by far sounded the best, was
Phil Keaggy's guitar that had been sent back to the factory for
adjustments! The guitar was a Zion T-model with three P-90
pickups. If my memory serves me, I believe it was also the last
guitar that we plugged in!
Ken asked what I thought Ty would like stylistically. It happens
that Ken had a Maple Top T body that was a new color,
Plumburst. It absolutely was the coolest color you ever saw.
So I'm goin' That's the one!!! Ken took measurements from the
neck of a Fender Stratocaster Elite that I had gotten from Ty.
King's X would be playing in Raleigh soon, so I returned home
while Zion built the guitar.
Ken Hoover with the "Plumburst" Zion Ty Tabor Prototype guitar.
Ken and I got together to show Ty the finished product. I brought
up a rack mounted version of my (Elite) pre-amp. pedal. I went to
the factory and hooked everything up. It sounded and looked great.
Ken had put a switch on the guitar that would alter the taper of the
volume pot, facilitating easier and quicker volume swells. The other
switch on the guitar was an on-off switch. The guitar had one
volume knob. One Seymour Duncan P-90. The neck was custom
made by Kenny Marshall. And the guitar was finished in Plumburst.
So, off we went. The show that night was in Raleigh North Carolina.
We got there before the soundcheck and showed the guitar to Ty.
He actually like the color on the back of the guitar better than the front.
(he thought it was a tad more rock and roll looking) He took it up
on stage and plugged in the guitar and pre-amp.. Instant great tone!
The problem that arose was that the guitar was too noisy. Ty went
on to explain that several guitar companies had built him prototypes,
but they couldn't make one that sounded great and was quiet.
He also added that he did not like EMGs (which are quiet!) or
humbucking pickups. We left to kill some time before the show.
Ken suggested putting a Joe Barden pickup in the guitar and taking
it to the King's X show in Charlotte the following night. I was skeptical.
I had used Joe Barden pickups, and found them a little harsh for
overdriven tones. Particularly trying to get Ty's very unique smooth
and fat, yet articulate tone. There is one thing that is no denying
about Joe Barden pickups. They are stone-deaf quiet!
They are humbucking, but they sound like single coils.
(I likethem better for clean tones)
I crashed at Zion employee Rick Helberling's house and got
up the following morning to work with Ken on setting the guitar up.
I think Kirby put the new pickup in and there was some debate as
to what value of potentiometer to put in it. I convinced Ken to put
a lower resistance pot in it than was recommended by Joe Barden.
Either a 250K or 500K pot. I then plugged in to my "duplicate"
Ty rig and tweaked the pickup height adjustment. Those
Joe Barden pickups are VERY persnickety and it took me about
an hour to hit the sweet spot I was looking for. We really ran late
trying to revamp the guitar, which practically took all day.
We returned to hook up with Ty during the soundcheck.
There were a lot of hangers-on at the show and security was tighter.
So Ken hung out backstage at the venue and I left with our sizeable entourage of friends so as not to further irritate our hospitable hosts.
I returned just before the start of the show (12 midnight). Ken
had driven back to Greensboro, so I searched out Ty's guitar tech,
Jerry Wasley. I had gotten up at the crack of dawn (not something
I'm noted for) and was about to drop! Jerry Wasley told me that
Ty and Ken had been looking for me and that the guitar was exactly
what Ty was looking for!!! As excited as I was, I could not stay for
the show. I was so exhausted and had a two hour drive ahead.
The following Monday Ken told me that Ty had agreed to let
Zion build another guitar with a few changes requested by Ty.
The guitar that Ken was to build would be solid red, have three
Bardens, three on-off switches, and have an arm contour.
One of the problems we encountered was getting those tiny
on-off switches used on the Stratocaster Elites. I finally found
the company that made them.
Ken later flew to Houston and signed a contract with Ty making
the Zion Ty Tabor model official. See photo (Thanks for the
photos Ken!) Zion also made Ty several more guitars
to be used as backups and for alternate tunings.
The original Ty Tabor prototype promotional photo with Ken Hoover in Greensboro North Carolina.
ZION Ty Tabor Signature guitar serial number 001. Our shop
had The Ty Tabor prototypes one and two...and production
guitars serial numbers 0001-0004. One guitar went to Taiwan!
Three of the first four guitars had a slightly different shade of red.
Ken also made a blueburst RT classic for Ty and he used
it on Manic Depression off the Dogman CD. The following year
Ken made an RT Classic in Plumburst, unfortunately the guitar
was stolen the night that Ty received it.
I really enjoyed working on this project, I'm always looking for
a challenge!!! Its also been great getting to know Ty's former
guitar tech Jerry Wasley. All of my business dealings with him
both during and after his tenure with the band have always
been very professional. A class act. Jerry also has a colorful
history all his own. After his work with the band he went on to
receive his Masters Degree and is now teaching school
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