The Life and Times of Number One
In September of 1991 a rosewood back-and-sides, spruce-topped dreadnought model, EF360S SN - 91072458 would reach final stages of completion at the Takamine Guitar factory in Sakashita, Japan. There it would be set-up, play-tested, cosmetically inspected then forwarded to shipping where it would be cleaned, waxed, bagged and packaged.
In this sense it was no different than any other guitar to leave the Takamine factory that day, or that decade. It would have benefited from the same uncompromising quality-control standards as any other hand-crafted guitar from that world-class factory.
But this particular 6-string had a date with destiny. It would arrive at Takamine’s West Coast Distributor, Coast Wholesale Music in Los Angeles, be inspected once again – selected - then gifted to a particularly talented and successful American singer-songwriter named Glenn Frey.
Glenn had been a Takamine player since the mid-70’s, well before the factory had introduced their game- changing Palathetic pickup. In fact, one of the most recognizable acoustic guitar parts ever recorded, the minute-long 12-string intro to the 1976 recording of The Eagles Hotel California, is in fact the voice of Frey’s pre-electronics Takamine F385.
After the band’s split in 1980, Glenn’s solo career would produce several top 40 hits like, Smugglers Blues, The One You Love, You Belong to the City and The Heat is On, but his acoustic-based Eagles compositions remained very much a part of his live-concert mix, and so did his Takamines. A rare circa 1982 photograph shows Glenn being presented with an early acoustic-electric model PT-015-ST by Takamine’s now legendary leader and master luthier, Mass Hirade.
By early 1992 the Eagles had been apart for 11 years and the only agreed upon timeframe for any sort of reunion was “When Hell Freezes Over”. Still, when Glenn learned his friend, Bobby “Norton” Thompson, former Eagles road-dog and founder of N. Hollywood’s Third Encore and Nashville’s Soundcheck had a strong connection with Takamine West Coast Artist Relations, Glenn asked for a meeting to be arranged.
By the end of the several hour visit at Frey’s Coldwater Canyon home, where everything from touring with Nils Lofgren to Joni Mitchell tunings was discussed, the official relationship between Glenn Frey and Takamine guitars had been firmly established. He would soon take delivery of 2 new Takamines, an EF400S 12-string and the previously mentioned EF360S.
Successful solo projects aside, The Eagle’s body of work would prevail, as masterpieces tend to do, and by the spring of 1994 Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit and Don Felder were in a Studio City Soundstage rehearsing for the MTV Unplugged performance that would eventually be released as their first post-reunion album, appropriately titled: Eagles: Hell Freezes Over.
Glenn’s EF360S would soon be accompanied by a growing number of Takamine models acquired to facilitate the band’s ever expanding set list. Henley, Frey, Walsh and Felder would all play a Tak at one point or another during the MTV Unplugged performance. From that point on, Glenn’s EF360S would simply be referred to as Number One.
The Hell Freezes Over tour was a huge success and extended right up until the band’s release of their double-album, Long Road out of Eden. It was at this time that Glenn and his longtime guitar tech, Victor Rodriguez began discussing the idea of having Number One duplicated to serve as backup. That opened the door to the idea of creating an honest Glenn Frey signature model. Frey liked the idea and would later describe the subsequent process in a May ’09 interview with Premier Guitar.
“Some designers and engineers from Takamine took my Number One for a couple days and made extensive measurements of every part of the guitar” Frey said, “from the thickness of the top and exact placement of the braces, to the thickness of the finish—everything about it. We took a pretty straightforward approach to it” he continued. “The only extra is the little ‘GF’ on the headstock. I’ve had ten or twelve of these in my hands, and they all sounded great and needed very little set up.”
And so, as signature model guitars go, Glenn Frey’s EF360GF is about as genuine as they come. It quickly became and remains one of Takamine’s most popular models. Glenn took great pride in its quality and authenticity - And for everyone at Takamine Guitars, it didn’t get any better than that.
Between 1992 and his tragic passing in 2016, Glenn and Number One would team-up for over 800 Eagles concerts around the world. To this day that scared 6-string continues to appear on the Eagles stage in the talented hands of his eldest son, Deacon.
The power of the guitar. It’s a phrase we use a lot - and never more clearly demonstrated than in the case of the great Glenn Frey and his beloved Takamine, Number One.
Deacon Frey Photo © Greg Brodsky/BestClassicBands.com; used with permission)