(photo: Shane Speal)
“Lady”, an electric guitar built illegally by an inmate in a Pennsylvania State prison
This guitar came to life inside the 126-year-old jail that is so massive, it’s known locally as “The Wall.” Junior Ben had a broken guitar neck to start with. The heavy body was hand-carved from Pennsylvanian walnut and oak with white-painted binding. The hand-stamped brass truss rod cover has the word, “LADY,” a tribute to B.B. King’s “Lucille.”
All the wiring was smuggled in from the prison shops or pulled out of headphone jacks. All the knobs are spaced very closely together, a necessary step in order to keep wiring to a minimum.
Because Junior Ben worked the front desk at the prison, he was able to get pickups mailed to the prison and smuggled back to the shop. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the correct humbucker pickups to fit the routes and resorted to mounting single coils into the body, using black construction paper to cover the gaps. The guitar spent five years in prison with him and was shipped home right before he was released in 2000. He continued to play this guitar for the next 13 years.