Making guitars for the stars
By Allen Rich
Sep 7, 2023
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Fannin County, Texas -- Music fans in the Bonham area are familiar with the career of local guitarist Dale Clark, but nowadays he's moved on to making guitars for the stars. Right now, Dale is making a guitar and a bass for ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons.

It all seems like a natural progression for a self-taught student of music who started young and never lost his love for the discipline.

"My dad started me playing the guitar at age 12," Dale recalls. "He said 'you can put it down after two weeks if you want,' but I never let the guitar out of my hands. We both developed a love for bluegrass music and he took me to a lot of bluegrass festivals."

At first, Dale was entertaining at high school assemblies; later on you could catch him playing lead guitar for a band at Bubba Lovelace's Packing House in Bonham. My favorite performance came when I stepped into a full house at Poor David's Pub in Dallas. The fraternity guys were hanging on every word by vocalist Max Stalling, but there was a lead guitarist with a cowboy hat pulled down low over his eyes and he was seamlessly moving from slick country picking on one song, to a flurry of flamenco-tinged chords on the next song, to a gritty rock riff when he got the chance to slip one in. I was thinking to myself that this wasn't your average barroom guitarist when he pushed his hat back and I recognized Fannin County's own Dale Clark.

So, how do you make the jump from shredding a guitar to making them?

"It started in 2004 as a hobby," Dale says. "As I was ordering necks and bodies, I wanted to make the guitar bodies out of pine so I found a lumberyard in Euless, TX and bought some large pine boards to send off to get them made into bodies. Then, when I looked for parts, there were none out there that I liked. The key to the Tele [Fender Telecaster] is the 'bridge-plate and saddles'. I took my first pine Tele to a guitar show and met a guy who sold old guitar parts. We talked for hours about Tele-compensated saddles and how they did not fit together or line up properly. So I took it upon myself to reinvent the wheel so to speak."

Dale Clark

Whether you are learning to play a guitar or build one, it requires countless hours and dedication to a demanding discipline. Most never make it to the next level, but a determined few persevere.

"It took me around a year to get the saddles to line up so they 'play in tune' and fit together the way I wanted," Dale shared.

There are three saddles, originally made from steel and then brass, that are used on a Telecaster guitar. The struggle to solve this problem even worked into his subconscious. In fact, that's where the answer came from.

"I have to say the break angles on the ends of the saddles came to me in a dream," he stated. "Really, I made the parts and guitars for me as a guitar player first and foremost, and I hoped others would like the parts and guitars as much as I do."

He must have been right because, when the phone rang, it was legendary ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons on the other end.

(L-R)Billy Gibbons and Dale Clark. courtesy photo

Two guys who had spent their lives with a guitar in their hands found plenty to talk about.

"We talked for at least one hour that day," Dale says. "Billy is super nice and easy to talk to. It's funny how I could have so much in common with him. Billy wanted me to make a bridge-plate for his Tele-style guitar.

That part was soon christened the "Glendale Billy Gibbons Strate-Plate."

"He wanted the bridge-plate pickup to be straight and not angled like a traditional Tele," Dale shared. "He told me the reason was that a Humbucker pickup is mounted straight and that was the sound he wanted. He would be using a small Humbucker that would fit the plate."

Billy F Gibbons 'have mercy' Glendale Guitar

Paulownia neck 24 3/4 scale Maple cap veneer
Paulownia body super lightweight
Set neck Access Heel
Glendale/Gibbons stainless steel Strate-Plate Top Loader
Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates bridge Humbucker pickup
Small Wire Stainless Steel Frets
Stainless Steel 'Conversion Volume/Tone' Control 'Knife Blade'
2 AL Glendale GOM knobs
Glendale Jack Cup
Optical Illusion 3 color paint neck and body
"It was great to see him on stage using my parts -- the saddle set, bridge-plate, and jack cup," says Dale. "Right now, I'm making a guitar and bass for him."

You may have heard owners of classic cars say they "took it down to the frame and rebuilt it from scratch."

It is the process of starting from scratch that makes Glendale Guitars special. And Dale's innovations have already left an indelible mark on the age-old art of guitar construction.

"What makes my guitars unique is that I make all the parts for my guitars," Dale explains. "I began using a lot of different material that others were not using at that time such as an aluminum E/A saddle, and brass for the others. I was the first to do that. I made the first vintage-style, double-cut bridge-plate 'low cut sides'. Now everyone copies me on that one. I was one of the first to make the pine and paulownia bodies popular. Fender made pine bodies on some of his very first guitars then he changed to ash."

According to Wikipedia, paulownia wood, native to Eastern Asia, is very light, fine-grained, and warp-resistant. Paulownia once occurred in North America, with fossilized leaves found in Tertiary strata of Ellensburg Canyon of Washington state.

"All my guitars are lightweight, look great, play great and have an incredible sound," Dale adds.

Evidently, Billy Gibbons agrees.

So, where did the name for the business -- Glendale Guitars -- originate?

"I was playing in the Max Stalling band and driving all over Texas back when I started my hobby of making guitars and parts," explains Dale. "During these road trips, I would keep yelling out from the back seat bad names for my new guitar company. The bass player, Aden Bubeck, was sitting in the front seat and finally he couldn't take it anymore. 'Just call it Glendale Guitars!' Bubeck yelled back at me. Glen is my first name Dale is my middle name so that made a lot of sense to me."

To learn more about Glendale Guitars Custom Guitars and Parts, visit the company website. Or, go check out a ZZ Top concert and watch the Billy F Gibbons 'have mercy' Glendale Guitar in action.