If you attended a Hollywood Bowl concert between 1981 and 2013, the bench you sat on might now be part of a high-end Fender guitar, reports LA Weekly. Your spilt beer, sweat and even tears from that fondly remembered concert may lurk deep within the pores of a $12,000 Front Row Legend Esquire, the bodies of which are built from wooden bench seats removed from the storied venue in 2014.

“That natural sunlight, the rain and the wind… it just makes it, obviously, look kind of old,” says Yuriy Shishkov, a celebrated master builder at Fender’s Custom Shop in Corona, cradling one of the Alaskan yellow cedar "blanks" sawn from the Bowl benches. “But inside, if you look at this piece, it looks like it just was cut yesterday - but this is about 100 years old!”

In his early 50s, with silvering hair and moustache, Shishkov’s Mister Geppetto air is completed by half-moon glasses, tidy apron and hypnotic Old World accent. The Front Row Legend Esquire is the latest in a long line of imaginative creations from this self-taught luthier, who began building guitars from salvaged parts back in his native Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union, in 1986. His early efforts were, literally and figuratively, underground creations, cobbled together from castoff timber and cannibalized headphones and transformers in a tiny root cellar beneath his apartment building in a closed-market, communist U.S.S.R. tyat frowned upon such entrepreneurship.

“In U.S.S.R., rock & roll itself technically didn’t exist, so obviously there was no need for musical instruments of that kind,” Shishkov explains, perched on a stool in his modest, tool-laden workspace inside the Custom Shop - the revered, special-order inner sanctum of Fender’s substantial headquarters in a business park near the 91 freeway. “[The electric guitar] was a symbol of freedom.”

Read more and watch a video at LA Weekly


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