A summary of the Fly changes/issues through the years, and a brief history of Parker Guitars

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A summary of the Fly changes/issues through the years, and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by vjmanzo »

If you're new to the world of Parker Guitars, the Fly Clone Project’s recommendation for learning the differences between Parker Guitars instruments through the years is to simply read through the official Parker Guitars catalogs and note the different models and features introduced over time.

Below is a concise history of Parker Guitars that draws primarily from information gained through 1) the catalogs, and 2) direct conversations and interviews with and statements by @Ken Parker and others who worked at Parker Guitars between 1993 and 2015, many of whom are members of this forum who have generously contributed information. The narrative herein is presented in an effort to preserve the history of these instruments and the unique efforts of the many great people who helped to make them.

As noted, the information was obtained and verified through official documents released by Parker Guitars, direct observation and measurement, and firsthand narrative from various individuals involved in the making of these instruments. There is no definitive written source of Parker Guitars’ history in existence, and, through the Fly Clone project, we are trying to tell and celebrate the story about these fantastic instruments; please message me directly with additions or corrections. As such: the post is periodically updated.

The Quick Rundown:
Ken Parker created and oversaw production of all models of the Fly, NiteFly, and Fly Bass (FB-4/FB-5) from 1993-2004 in Wilmington, Massachusetts. A modified “refined” Fly design was introduced in 2003; this was the most significant change to the Fly in all years of production. Ken also oversaw production of the P-Series guitars from 2001-2004, which were manufactured by Cort Guitars in Seoul, South Korea.

All other models were developed by U.S. Music Corp (2004-2015) in Mundelein, Illinois or as an import including the PM and extended P Series instruments, the Mojo Singlecut, the DF/PDF/Maxxfly series instruments, and all acoustic instruments. Parker Guitars closed in 2015.

Origins:
Parker Guitars first officially entered the market in 1993 though Ken Parker began work on what became the Fly as far back as the 1980s at his shop Seymour, CT. Ken Parker met Larry Fishman around that time and showed him a bass he was working on; Larry was working on a piezo system at the time and offered to implement it into the bass. Over the next few years, the instrument and unique IP that ultimately became the Fly guitar were reviewed by a few companies who courted Parker Guitars for acquisition including Fender and (years later) Line 6. Parker Guitars became a subsidiary of Korg USA and went to market in 1993.

The First Decade:
For quick reference, the "Ken Parker years" at Parker Guitars were from 1993 (the official start of the company) to June 2004, with 2004 being a transitional year when the manufacturing site was relocated from Wilmington, MA to Mundelein, IL.; according to Ken's website, he designed the Fly (all models), the NiteFly, and the Fly Bass. During the first decade, Ken actively involved himself in every aspect of Parker Guitars' operations.

Ken Parker left Parker Guitars in September 2003 when the company was sold to U.S. Music Corp (officially announced on March 30, 2004). Parker Guitars continued to operate out of Wilmington, MA until 2004. The Parker Guitars Custom Shop officially opened on January 1, 2003 to, according to an official press release, "meet the ongoing demand from players for a customized Parker guitar". The Fly Mojo (officially released July 9, 2003) and the Fly Bass (FB-4/5 and Mojo Bass) were the last instruments sold by Parker Guitars that had Ken's direct involvement. After 2004, Parker Guitars continued to produce the Fly and NiteFly models Ken invented with some changes (described below) for the 12 years that followed. Ken returned to building archtop guitars, and, for a short while, worked with former Parker Guitars team members Cameron Willard, Linda Scherer, and Jed Kreigel to set up his shop in New City with the first of his new archtops. His completed his first archtops as Ken Parker Archtops in 2006.

The U.S. Music Corp Years:
When Parker Guitars was sold, the factory operations were relocated from Wilmington, Massachusetts to Mundelein, Illinois. Gil Vasquez, who worked for U.S. Music Corp, was the production manager for Parker Guitars from September 2003 - 2006. According to @Terry Atkins, who was production manager at Parker Guitars from 2006 until their close in 2015, while manufacturing equipment and operations were being established in Illinois, most guitars sold between 2003 and 2005 were actually manufactured in Wilmington and only completed in Mundelein. During these transitional years, some new models such as the PM-10/20 that did not utilize carbon fiber and varied manufacturing processes and components used in the production of Flys, NiteFlys, and Fly basses were introduced (in 2004) to the Parker Guitars line.

"Pre-Refined Flys" and "Refined Fly" Terminology:
The Fly guitars manufactured and sold by U.S. Music Corp were officially referred to by the company as "Refined" Flys with the prior-made Flys being referred to colloquially as "Pre-Refined" Flys; the implied “refinements” were changes to the Fly from the original design and are described further below. On July 9, 2003, in conjunction with Parker Guitars' 10th anniversary and the Summer NAMM show, Parker Guitars officially announced the “Refined” Fly Deluxe and Classic models as the "New & Improved" Fly. While this date was the official launch of the "Refined" Fly, there are reportedly examples of Flys made prior to this date that have one of more of the "refined" features implemented.

Parker Guitars was sustained and expanded for another 12 years under Terry Atkin’s direction. The company maintained production of the prior models and introduced several new guitar models like the Mojo Singlecut, several Parker acoustic instruments, and the DragonFly/MaxxFly that leveraged the original innovations and spirit of Parker Guitars in novel ways. The company also launched an official forum, which served the community of Parker Guitars players worldwide.

Acquisition by Jam Industries:
Jam Industries acquired U.S. Music Corp and, with it, Parker Guitars in mid-2009. Additional changes were made to the existing line (as described below) and a few new instrument models were introduced as described in the catalogs. Parker Guitars closed their U.S. manufacturing center in 2015, but continued to maintain the official website and the forum until September 2019. According to a conversation with a representative from U.S.M.C., the entire forum database was lost entirely due to matters related to security and maintenance. Jam was acquired by DCC in 2018 putting the umbrellas of ownership of the Parker Guitars Trademark at DCC>Jam>USM>Parker Guitars.

Fly changes through the years:
This information below contains summative notes about the Fly through the years gathered and consolidated from the official Parker Guitars forum itself [now offline].

Note: Ken Parker has said several times: "we were making $10,000 guitars and trying to sell them for $3000"; he also told me, to paraphrase: "if there was a way to make money with a Fly, we would have figured that out". Terry Atkins also confirmed this sentiment. Any "refinements" described below should be viewed in the context of these statements as efforts to reduce the cost and difficulties of the Fly manufacturing process and appeal to a larger market.

Frets - the original Flys had small stainless steel frets with the exception of the so-called “Stealth” model (advertised in catalogs as the Hardtail), which had jumbo frets like the NiteFly. Around 2008, USM switched to using jumbo frets on all Fly models. Ken has described the fret material here and fret repair here. There was a well-known un-glueing issue with frets (and in some cases fretboard delamination) in Flys made around 2008 with a solution guide released by USM. The issue of “bad glue” is sometimes conflated in some cases of frets falling off because of misuse (despite the manual’s warning to never use solvents or cleaners on the fretboard). A related issue told to me directly by Ken is that some retailers like Sam Ash and Guitar Center reportedly separated the Flys from the associated case candy when they displayed them in stores, which resulted in instruments being sold without manuals; reading the manual for a new guitar, it seems, is not a normal practice for guitarists, but a requirement for Fly owners.


Neck profile - The neck “chunkiness” on the Flys “officially” are all the same; in reality, the profiles vary on Flys to some degree from all years. The very first Fly necks, the redwood-neck Fly Deluxe, which Ken made and oversaw directly in 1993 had this thin neck profile. When issues with a composite fingerboard/frets occurred in production, instead of removing the fingerboard, an additional fingerboard was layered on top of the existing one thus producing a “chunkier” neck than others. This phenomenon has prompted the question that still exists today when buying a used Fly: which neck thickness will I get on the one I ordered?! Some members of the forum appear to specifically hunt out the thicker necked Flys and vice versa on the used market.

Fingerboard radius - the fingerboard radius was a 10-13” conical shape until around 2011+ when it became a 14” constant shape.

Headstock - some Fly forum members seemed to view the redesigned headstock by USM negatively. Generally, anything that adds mass and departs from the original philosophical concept of then Fly (a light and resonant instrument) seems to have been viewed negatively by the Fly community; the advantage in the case of the enlarged headstock would be the ability use a traditional hanging guitar stand. Many Fly players active on the forum seem to have found a guitar hanging solution that works for them either by using the “bullwinkle” or some other method with the original headstock design.

Upper horn - the upper horn of the Fly appears to be not ergonomic for all players and this appears to be related to 1) position of the guitar against the body (strap height, sitting/standing, etc.) and 2) body size of the player. The MaxxFly horn design by comparison, though a deviation from the original Fly aesthetic, addressed some aspects of the issue of upper horn ergonomics for those players who had issues with the Fly upper horn.

Body thickness - after the Ken Parker years (1993 - 2003), the body thicknesses of the Flys varied inconsistently and some bodies were reportedly thicker than others.

The exposed tension wheel - concealing the wheel inside the body seems to be viewed by many forum members with mixed feelings; some using it critically in live performance while others regarding it as something more specifically related to the setup of the guitar more so than anything that would be regularly adjusted during a live performance situation.

The step stop latch - removing the latch on the step stop is generally not seen as an improvement as it requires players to use a special tool to do a routine adjustment that you might do during a performance. Having said that, some members noted that if the latch brushes up against your body it can unintentionally flip up or down.

Saddles - The Graphtech saddles are comparable in tone to the original saddles. The departure from using stainless steel saddles is generally viewed as a mistake as these parts may rust and corrode over time. The original Fly saddles with the screw contact point are generally preferred over the dog-bone saddles with balls that can fall out.

—For reference, here is a post describing the different Fly saddle versions.

Piezo - The Graphtech piezo pre-amp system, while not inherently "noisy", seems to have a lower signal-to-noise ratio compared to the two Fishman piezo pre-amplifiers that have been used in the Fly; the Graphtech signal noise is potentially compounded by using the original non-Graphtech Fly saddles with the original Fishman piezo elements. The Graphtech piezo pre-amp is, however, also in many ways the easiest to work with and expand to MIDI because of its modularity. Some forum members prefer to have the stacked tone controls available only on the original pre-refined Fly produced prior to Ken’s departure; with this, those same users tend to prefer the original control layout.

Signal Path - a mod that some Fly players have explored is to remove the piezo pre-amp from the magnetic pickup signal path in order to keep the signal path cleaner; this is much more difficult to do on the first Flys that used a flexible tape connector instead of traditional PTP wiring. The rationale is that the active buffer on the pre-amp colors the tone of the magnetic pickups in an undesirable way. Many users also find it annoying to be tethered to battery use; the battery use also contributes to the misunderstanding that Fly magnetic pickups are active while they are in actuality passive pickups run through an active buffer.

Switches - In many reported cases, the original Tocos switches used in Flys until around 2003 all still working today all these year later. The switches used by USM have resulted in many more reported failures even within a few years of use. On 2008+ Flys, for example, forum members report hearing the bleed of the piezo signal in the magnetic pickup signal path even if the piezo is switched off and the volume is turned down; this issue is often due in part to the combination of switches, the Graphtech piezo pre-amp (specifically, the wiring configuration of passing the magnetic pickups through the piezo pre-amp buffer) and resolved by addressing one or both of these components.

Pickups - Pickups and, specifically, “the ability to swap pickups” seems to be a primary issue of contention Fly-players hear by non-Fly players. Non-Fly players tend to 1) not understand that their most cherished pickups will sound different in a Fly and 2) that DiMarzio (and to some extent Seymour Duncan with slight modifications) will wind any of their pickups to fit a Fly, and 3) that the timbre of the stock DiMarzios can be tweaked just by adjusting the height (using the approach described in the manual).

The pickup mounting rings on very late Fly models do not appear to have been well-received by forum members despite the intended added functionality. It’s hard to determine if the pickup ring option was an enticing option for prospective non-Fly owners to buy a Fly.

—For reference, here is a post describing the different Fly pickup options.

Knobs - The dome knobs for the electronics on 2003+ Flys add significant weight to the instrument compared to the original rubber knobs, which deviates from the original Fly philosophy of producing a lightweight instrument with minimum encumbrances.

Bridge - Balancing the floating bridge is a unique skill that is largely unfamiliar to non-Fly players; the manual is not clear about how best to accomplish this, but forum members have discussed best practices in detail. In some Flys, switching to fixed bridge mode doesn’t actually seat the stepstop next to the bottom of the bridge even with the proper companion spring installed; this caused the bridge to float in both modes (balanced and fixed) and indicates most likely either 1) a spring/tension issue or 2) a basic setup issue. In a very small number of cases, the bridge posts had issues leaning forward, which seems to have been corrected by USM in the mid-2000s with small internal retaining rings. Once the bridge-post leaning issue was revealed, however, many mis-diagnoses of the issue have manifested on the forum, which, in reality were corrected by addressing either 1) the spring/tension or 2) basic setup (truss rod, bridge height, etc.).

The manual states that the bridge has three modes (fixed, balanced (floating), and bend-down only), whereas fixed and bend-down only are fundamentally the same mechanically but different functionally.

The vibrato arm bushing was originally made of stainless steel and worked in conjunction with a hex vibrato arm. In 2003+, a plastic bushing was substituted with a round vibrato arm. Many forum users have reported cracking the plastic bushing through normal use.

—For reference, here is a post describing how the Fly vibrato bridge "floats".

Nut - In 1993, used a mold with nut slots in the mold to make nuts from delrin-like material. In the same year, he switched to milling nuts from Corian; the Fly Nylon continued to feature a Corian nut throughout its production, but, ultimately, and also in 1993-1994, Ken used Graphtech to injection-mold nuts from their proprietary graphite-type material. Around 2010, USM began using Gibson-style nuts on the Fly. According to Ken, In the mid-90s, Ken built a device to simultaneously cut six precise nut slots in the nuts; this machine accounted for a set up with 9-gauge strings. For Flys using 10-gauge strings, at least the G string slot should be filed to accommodate the larger string. Many people on the forum who have reported “return to zero” issues with their floating bridges have been able to resolve the issue by filing larger nut slots to prevent string binding at the nut.

—For reference, here is a post describing the different Fly nuts.

Truss System - The original Fly design featured a truss system that used heavy-gauge .078” diameter wire and a nut positioned on the side of the headstock; around 2011, the Fly began featuring a dual-action truss rod with the nut positioned in the center of the headstock.
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by rsdio »

Besides the Adrian Belew Signature Fly, how many Parker guitar models came with a Sustainiac pickup installed from the factory? Any?
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by mmmguitar »

It may just be my imagination, but I recall at least one person ordering a Fly with a factory-installed Sustainiac in that final period where every instrument was essentially built-to-order through the dealer network. It stuck in my mind because the NGD disclaimer was "No; it's not a Belew - You can order them with Sustainiacs, now (provided you're willing to pay and wait :) )."
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by vjmanzo »

mmmguitar wrote: Tue May 26, 2020 4:21 am ...I recall at least one person ordering a Fly with a factory-installed Sustainiac in that final period where every instrument was essentially built-to-order through the dealer network.
Wow! News to me! I guess it makes sense, though: if they were already doing the Sustainiac install for the Belew model, why not make it available to all custom shop guitars. :!:
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by rsdio »

mmmguitar wrote: Tue May 26, 2020 4:21 am It may just be my imagination, but I recall at least one person ordering a Fly with a factory-installed Sustainiac in that final period where every instrument was essentially built-to-order through the dealer network. It stuck in my mind because the NGD disclaimer was "No; it's not a Belew - You can order them with Sustainiacs, now (provided you're willing to pay and wait :) )."
Thanks.

The reason I ask is that I read the Sustainiac web site, and they really make it sound like an ordeal to install on the pre-refined models. The Sustainiac itself has to be modified to be smaller, and the Fly has to be routed out to make room. As thin as the Fly is, Sustainiac recommends that people leave it to them to do the modifications. They want $175 and your guitar for a while.

I wonder if Sustainiac were doing the installs for Parker for those few custom models. I also wonder whether the later Parker bodies have more room for standard pickups. I'm new around here, and just started noticing the documentation of the changes made over time for things like more standardized pickup cavities.
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by vjmanzo »

It’s definitely specialized work, but the way that they do the install on a Fly involves putting two screw holes through the neck joint area to secure the driver to the body. This approach works, but it’s not for the faint hearted.

I and others on this forum have had success working with Patrick Cummings of http://iguitarworkshop.com doing I Sustainiac install in pre-refined and refined Flys without the need to screw the driver to the body; he uses heavy-duty double-sided tape.

It’s worth giving him a call if you’re interested in doing this mod.
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by rsdio »

vjmanzo wrote: Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:58 pm Signal Path - a mod that some Fly players have explored is to remove the piezo pre-amp from the magnetic pickup signal path in order to keep the signal path cleaner; this is much more difficult to do on the first Flys that used a flexible tape connector instead of traditional PTP wiring. The rationale is that the active buffer on the pre-amp colors the tone of the magnetic pickups in an undesirable way. Many users also find it annoying to be tethered to battery use; the battery use also contributes to the misunderstanding that Fly magnetic pickups are active while they are in actuality passive pickups run through an active buffer.
My understanding is that all active pickups are a combination of passive pickups run through an active buffer. The pickup technology, cores and windings, etc., are no different than passive pickups. If someone has references to documentation of active pickups that are not just passives with an active buffer (or preamp), then please provide links because I am interested in learning more.

Brian

Edit: I suppose that if a given pickup has really low output, but the tonal characteristics were desirable, then it might be true that those pickups would basically be unusable without an active boost. In that sense, the Parker Fly pickups don't need a preamp, per se, because they're as hot in their output levels (I assume) as any other DiMarzio or Seymour Duncan.
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by mmmguitar »

rsdio wrote: Wed May 27, 2020 1:17 pmthe Parker Fly pickups don't need a preamp, per se, because they're as hot in their output levels (I assume) as any other DiMarzio or Seymour Duncan.
Indeed - They’re just regular pickups. As far as I know, the only reason any Fly pickups are routed through the active buffer is due to the option to blend them with the processed piezo signal. My ‘96 pickups are wired entirely independent of the piezo circuit, whereas my ‘97 (rewired PTP) has its humbuckers buffered by the Fishman PowerChip. For what it’s worth, I’ve experienced no significant difference in performance in comparing either, before or after their respective mods.

Side note: Something I’d always wanted to see in a Fly was a buffer that normalized the amplitude between the series-humbucking and split (or parallel) pickup.
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by vjmanzo »

mmmguitar wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 11:58 pm ...the only reason any Fly pickups are routed through the active buffer is due to the option to blend them with the processed piezo signal.
@mmmguitar is correct.

mmmguitar wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 11:58 pm Side note: Something I’d always wanted to see in a Fly was a buffer that normalized the amplitude between the series-humbucking and split (or parallel) pickup.
That would be very useful! I’ve heard many people comment on the drop in level when the pickup is split.
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by rsdio »

mmmguitar wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 11:58 pm Side note: Something I’d always wanted to see in a Fly was a buffer that normalized the amplitude between the series-humbucking and split (or parallel) pickup.
That's a great idea. The Fishman Fly 1 Rev 1 circuit already allows a trim pot to balance between piezo and magnetics.
Normalizing the series versus split would probably require wiring the pickups directly to the pcb, or bringing more than just two signals (plus ground) from the 12-pole switch along a new tape.
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by rsdio »

vjmanzo wrote: Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:58 pm the battery use also contributes to the misunderstanding that Fly magnetic pickups are active while they are in actuality passive pickups run through an active buffer.
I'm just focused on the "misunderstanding" part, because all pickups are passive. Even guitars with pickups that require active circuitry are still passive pickups run through an active buffer.

I think it's similar to speakers. You can design them for a flatter response, but then they're not as loud - i.e. - not as efficient. They're still passive transducers, but you need a bigger amplifier.

With pickups, if the signal is too weak, the guitar cable changes the tone, so the passive pickup sounds better if an active buffer is placed inside the guitar to isolate the pickup from the long cable and amp input. Parker Fly DiMarzio and Seymour Duncans don't need this isolation, but since there's already a preamp for the piezo, you might as well have an on-board mixer.

I'm one of those guitarists who never turns down the volume knob, and who especially never uses the tone control. There are much better volume and tone controls available outboard. I've only owned passive guitars before now, though. The idea of active controls is really welcome, but I do hate the battery. That's why the 13-pin Godin I have is so attractive. Plugging in the cable brings in power, so there's no battery to forget. Anyway, I'll leave the rest of the pcb ramblings for another thread.
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes, issues, and forum opinions through the years and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by vjmanzo »

The distinction I was making here is between the DiMarzios in a Fly (passive) and, for example, EMG pickups, which are active. EMGs require the active circuitry to do what they do; the DiMarzios in our Fly would work fine without a 9volt if they weren’t run through the powerchip. The presence of the 9volt often times leads to people saying “Flys have active pickups” when, in the guitar world, the designation “active pickups” really means something else.
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes/issues through the years, and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by Voice Of Reason »

I really wonder how many other changes would have occurred to the original Fly if cost cutting hadn’t been the focus.

The refined Fly seem to have had a few positive changes (no more PCB, possibility to switch pickups), while most of the rest weren’t as reliable/practical.

Is there any indication into what Ken really wanted to tweak on the original Fly design that wasn’t related to cost cutting?
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The 2lb “Potato Chip” Fly

Post by vjmanzo »

Voice Of Reason wrote: Sun Nov 21, 2021 9:53 am Is there any indication into what Ken really wanted to tweak on the original Fly design that wasn’t related to cost cutting?
@Ken Parker did not want to change the design and he felt/feels that the “refined” design removed important functionality.

Regarding some of the changes you mentioned, Ken has told me on numerous occasions that the flex PCB, the battery box, and the switches were limited by what was available at the time. In production, the flex PCB allowed them to wire up a Fly completely in about 5 minutes; the material just wasn’t so great in the early 90s.

He and Larry Fishman originally designed the Fly to be much thinner, and, in addition to the piezo pickup, used very thin custom magnetic pickups. In Ken’s words, Korg was insistent that standard-sized pickups should be used, so, right out of the gate, Ken had to make the body much thicker than he originally intended. This Fly, which Ken calls “Potato Chip” weighs two pounds and was what Ken intended (shown here without mags):

4B4AD19A-28E9-46C4-81DB-D16373770D54.jpeg
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563DFF85-43C2-4C83-A2E6-2C3210874D6A.jpeg
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but…lots of people were (are?) into the idea that they want the option to swap out the pickups, so, for better or worse: we have thicker Flys instead of one more aspect of Ken’s original integrated design.

Note that the guitar is so thin that the barrel output jack (also a "limited" component Ken and Larry had to deal with at the time) is protruding through the top of the guitar!
2B6C1301-55B6-43F8-9928-952E425D079C.jpeg
Those are my hands holding the instrument in the photos and my friend Ryan holding the instrument in the portrait photo--it is insanely light. It's very "Fly Concert" in its minimalist design, which, an hour and a 1/2 into this video, Ken says is "the guitar I really wanted to make". If you watch from 1'30"00 to 1'37'00, he mentions that he might have looked for ways to make it cost less to make, and then doubles down on "this was designed by one person to try to look like one thing".

Ken commented about this particular guitar (and his “favorite Fly model”) recently on the YouTube channel for his Archtoppery project:
…the Fly guitar project started with the question "What kind of guitar could be designed to mimic the Archtop's best attributes without the giant, impossibly huge body size, and without an enclosed air volume that's a feedback problem?" The first prototypes in the mid - 80's were super thin and very light. One, named "The Potato Chip" by my partner-in-crime, Larry Fishman, weighs in at 2.378 pounds, or 1.079 Kg! It's a loud, expressive instrument with no bad habits, and only requires .009 - .042" nickle strings to power it up. This guitar is heavily carved and shaped, averages about 3/8", or just under 10mm thick, and largely resembles in outline and contours the Fly guitars that came to market. The "Demands of the marketplace" and the clunky dimensions of off-the-shelf magnetic pickups drove the final Fly design to be much thicker. This so called "Concert" or, later on "Bronze" model…was my favorite embodiment of the Fly line, as it came closest to the original design goal. I was puzzled that the guitar wasn't widely appreciated for it's Unique Capabilities, but what do I know?
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes/issues through the years, and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by Voice Of Reason »

vjmanzo wrote: Sun Nov 21, 2021 10:32 am @Ken Parker did not want to change the design and he felt/feels that the “refined” design removed important functionality.
This is very insightful VJ, thanks! Would the original Fly design be piezo-only (seeing there would be no magnetic pickups)?

A two-pound guitar? Wow. My shoulders and neck would approve though.
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes/issues through the years, and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by vjmanzo »

Happy to help! 👍🏻

Ken and Larry started their collaboration with a conversation that went something like this:

Ken: hey I made this cool really thin guitar…
Larry: oh, I made this cool piezo pickup…
Both: let’s put them together…should probably only take about fifteen minutes!

No lie—the “fifteen minutes” thing was and still is a running joke between them. All to say: Ken and Larry made thin, flat, magnetic pickups from refrigerator coils to outfit that “Potato Chip” Fly, but, of course, they’re not shown in that photo. The Fly Concert (piezo only) was, again, the Fly design he “really wanted to make” according to that video.
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Voice Of Reason
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes/issues through the years, and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by Voice Of Reason »

How different does the piezo in a regular Fly sound compared to the Fly Concert/Bronze? Are the electronics (piezo-wise) identical?

I can't seem to find sound samples for the Concert (only for the nylon).
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vjmanzo
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Re: A summary of the Fly changes/issues through the years, and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by vjmanzo »

The electronics are identical; the bronze strings give the piezos a little something something, but you can achieve the same functionality with your Fly by stringing it with phosphor bronze strings (though the mags won't really work in an ideal way with those strings). The Fly Concert is a hardtail Fly Artist in every way except for the magnetic pickups (and the strings); it is inherently a bit lighter as a result.

Here's a little demo I made a while back that focuses on the Fishman Aura, but the recording was made with my Fly Concert:

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Re: A summary of the Fly changes/issues through the years, and a brief history of Parker Guitars

Post by vjmanzo »

Original Post Updated to Reflect the Following:
Ken Parker left Parker Guitars in September 2003 when the company was sold to U.S. Music Corp (officially announced on March 30, 2004). Parker Guitars continued to operate out of Wilmington, MA until 2004.
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