With an artist list including Taj Mahal, Jerry Reid (Mell Tillis Orchestra) and members of the Grand Ole Opry and Dollywood house bands, the name Tradition seems extremely appropriate.
The company was founded in 1998 by music industry veteran Jim Matthews with humble beginnings in a horse barn in Indiana. After Jim’s passing in 2004, Tradition was handed down to Jim’s partners with operational offices in Tennessee, Indiana, and Texas. Due to the company’s direction to market primarily to individual retailers, Tradition hasn’t received the market visibility they deserve as their product line features custom shop like features at an extremely affordable price point.
While the company’s lines do include their takes on the classic designs, their models commonly include features such as high output custom wound pickups, hot-rodded pickup switching, and unique design elements setting them apart from many of their competitors. For example, the JR Signature Pro model features a single coil traditional Tele style bridge pickup, a coil tapable dual rail middle pickup, and a coil tapable full sized humbucking neck pickup. All of their product line features high quality traditional tonewoods and are manufactured in South Korea.
I got a chance to visit Tradition's Warehouse/Shipping operations (which moved from Indiana to Fort Worth, Texas in September 2008 joining the International Sales Office) to speak with Rusty Bickford, Tradition co-owner and guitar designer, about the Tradition brand and play a wide variety of their models.
The Tradition line sure features a model for all seasons including the Les Paul inspired S20 featuring solid mahogany bodies with maple tops, the double cut-away MTA semi-hollow featuring “t”-holes, and the JR series of hot-rodded Tele styled guitars. I auditioned a variety of guitars and was consistently impressed with their playability and tone. The pickups while hot displayed an impressive amount of string definition and their humbuckers sounded excellent when split. The afore mentioned JR Signature Pro was a tonal chameleon slipping between genres with ease while the S20 was a straight up rock machine with crunch and punch to spare. I was so impressed that I suggested that they offer their pickups as aftermarket replacements.
Due to recent supply issues, you may have a little trouble getting your hands on a Tradition. But in my opinion, they are well worth the wait. Select 2009 models will also feature the innovative Trem-King tremolo system.
Next month, we will feature an in-depth review of the Tradition S20 with clips.