From Wildwood Guitars:
…The story of Suhr Guitars not with creation but with destruction. In 1976, just a couple years after he started playing, he built a body to pair with a custom neck Bob Benedetto made him. he sent it off to a well-reputed repairman to have stars inlaid on the fingerboard. When he went to pick it up after months of waiting, he was rather disappointed to find his guitar looking worse than when he dropped it off. In a rage, John Suhr did his best Pete Townshend impression and smashed his guitar to bits before vowing to just do all his repair work himself. That do-it-yourself spirit is still at the core of everything Suhr does. Throughout their history, there is a common theme: when no one can meet John Suhr’s exacting standards for quality, he and his team just figure out a way to do it themselves.
You can trace John’s DIY work ethic to the man who built the neck on the guitar he smashed, Robert Benedetto. John would hang around the renowned archtop builder’s shop and ask for tips on lutherie as a young man, and he received some excellent advice in return for his persistence. In an interview from a 2009 edition of Musician’s Hotline, he said that Mr. Benedetto told him “If you want to do this, you will just jump in. You don’t need lessons–you either have what it takes or you don’t.”
John Suhr set out to prove that he had what it took. He took a job as a repairman at Rudy’s Music Shop, a store on 48th Street in New York that happened to be a Schecter parts dealer (back in the eighties, Shecter was a parts supplier renowned for their high-quality bodies and necks). Pretty soon, on a small workbench in the boiler room, John was assembling these parts into kit guitars to sell in the showroom. Soon, these guitars–branded with John and Rudy’s last names on the headstock–attracted quite a bit of attention. Lou Reed and Mark Knopfler both started gigging with their Pensa-Suhrs, and business was booming.
But, John Suhr grew restless and dove deep into the world of electronics. He did some mad scientist experiments on a Marshall head and talked to the owner of Custom Audio Electronics, Bob Bradshaw, about it. Bob begged him to move to California to design amps for him. There, John designed the legendary OD-100 head and the 3+ preamp, both of which were huge hits.
After wiring racks and building amps for a few years, John got the urge to build guitars again, and he signed on as a Senior Master Builder at the Fender Custom Shop. There, he built countless amps and guitars as he further honed his craft. After a few years, John decided to go his own way and start his own company so he could be responsible for each and every detail of every guitar.
Right about then, John met a CNC programmer and software rep named Steve Smith. Steve told John that if John could draw the guitars he saw in his head on a CAD machine, he could make a CNC machine build it. They forged a partnership, and together they started Suhr.
Over the course of the last twenty-plus years, Steve and John have remained committed to using modern technology to capture the mojo of old instruments and replicate it in new instruments that are easy to play. Their obsessive attention to detail and maniacal drive for excellence have led them to set industry standards for tone, playability, fit, and finish. And, they still have a DIY spirit, literally–up until 2008, John did the finish for every single Suhr himself!
John may not finish every guitar himself these days, but his dedication to quality is apparent in each and every serial…