SCHON GUITARS

Those beautifully shaped guitars are the Schon, originally designed by yours truly, Nealhimself. At the beginning, the Schon was built by Jackson, and later by Larrivée in Canada. Jackson built about 200 of them at the legendary San Dimas factory (the factory already moved to a new location in Ontario, California), near Los Angels, CA, U.S.A. in 1986 and Larrivée did the rest (built about 500 of them) until the beginning of 90's.

Neal's Yellow Schon
Neal's White Double Cutaways Schon

On your left, the lemon yellow Schon had been the main guitar during the ROR era of Journey ('86-'87) and Bad English ('89-'91). It is a cool looking strings through body shape with the hardtails, Neal calls "Ferrari Tails." It originally had a white pick guard and didn't have a tremolo system at the beginning, but later, during Bad English era, Neal changed its pick guard to a black one and mounted a custom made Floyd Rose tremolo. This guitar is the Jackson made model with 24 frets and as far as I know, Jackson only built a single cutaway model.

Now, move to the right, the reverse double cutaways Schon was introduced sometime between 1988-89. Neal came up with this 'reverse' cutaway idea after remembering the guitar that was played by the late Jimi Hendrix (Hendrix is one of Neal's guitar hero). This guitar can be seen on the insert cover of Neal's LATE NITE ('89) album as well as on his promotional photo. This white one has 22 frets and a bolt-on neck, which was built by Larrivée. The company had built Schon guitars in a variety of models, such as, a single cutaway, a double cutaways (as shown on the right), and a curved maple top models. In fact, I've seen one single cutaway lefty model with a nice curved maple top in the past.

Well, I have been thinking to do this so many times for so many years... And here it is! I finally compiled the comparison chart for the single cutaway Schons between the Jackson and the Larrivée made models

 

The Jackson Model

The Larrivée Model

Year Made 1986 1987 - 1991
Made in USA ("Made in U.S.A." on the head stock) Canada (May have "Made in Canada." sticker on the back of its headstock or neck)
Scale 24 1/2 24 5/8 (a little longer than the Jackson model)
Radius N/A N/A
Body Shape *1 The original Schon Single Cutaway The original Schon Single Cutaway
Body Wood Maple and Alder Wings Maple and Alder Wings
Neck Neck through construction Neck through construction
Neck Wood Maple Maple
Finger Board Ebony Ebony
Fret 24 frets 22 frets
Fret Wire Slightly fatter and rounder than the Larrivée model Slightly narrower and smaller than the Jackson model
Binding (Neck & Headstock) Yes Yes
Pickguard Slightly smaller than the Larrivée model (And the right bottom corner has a round edge) Slightly larger than the Jackson model (And the right bottom corner has a sharp edge)
Pickup (PU) Cavity Rectangle for flexible PU Config. Rectangle (maybe) for flexible PU Config.
PU Type NS1 (Humbucker), J-85, and NS-SC (Single Coil), J-100, wound by Jackson, and the Jackson active circuit, JE-1000 (Need 9V battery) NS-HB (Humbucker), NS-V (Single Coil), and NS-ST (Single Coil Humbucker??) by PJ-Marx
PU Cover No Yes, Black plastic w/ "Schon" logo on left
PU Config. Humbucker (H)-H, Single Coil (S)-S-H H-H, S-S-H
PU switch 5 ways (1:Neck, 2:Inside coils on both pickups, 3:Neck & Bridge, 4:Outside coils on both, and 5:Bridge) 5 ways
Controls 1 Volume and 1Tone 1 Volume and 1Tone
EQ Yes. JE-1000, 3 dip switch EQ and 9V battery in the control cavity No
Bridge *2 Tune-O-Matic Tune-O-Matic
String End *2 String through Body w/ Ferrari Tails (Few w/ Stop Tail) String through Body w/ or w/o Ferrari Tails
Tremolo *2 ACT3, Floyd Rose licensed model Floyd Rose licensed or Larrivée model
Serial Number Position Always stamped at the last fret on its finger board as "NS6 - 0xxx" Some stamped at the last fret on its finger board as "0xxx"
For Right or Left Hander Right Right (but have seen 1 lefty)
Back Cavity Cover Steel Plastic
Colors *3 White, Black, Blue, Dark Metalic Blue, Blue, Ferrari Red, Metalic Red, Purple, Turquoise, and Gray (so far only Neal has the Lemon Yellow) White, Black, Blue, Dark Metalic Blue, Red, and Orange
Headstock Color Black *4 Black
Weight *5 N/A Heavier than the Larrviee model N/A Lighter than the Jackson model
Case G&G Hardshell Case Hardshell Case
Options *7 Charvel GTM-6 Midi, Nady 501 Transmitter/Receiver and Nady 701 receiver, Tremolo Upgrade Zeta Midi

*1 Jackson had built only a single cutaway model. Larrivée had both single and double cutaway *6 models. In addition, Larrivée introduced a flat top and a curved frame/quilt maple top on a maple neck and alder wings body models for both cutaway models.
*2 A Tone-O-Matic bridge was mounted off set for some early Schons by Jackson. There are no Tone-O-Matic nor stop tail if a tremolo system is mounted as a factory default. However, Neal's special model had both Ferrari tails and the Floyd Rose. He usually took hardtail models and later mounted the original Floyd Rose tremolos.
*3 Colors can be more than listed. For example, Larrivée's curved top had sunburst, dark sunburst and other translucent finishes.
*4 Some of the tremolo mounted model by Jackson has a matching color for its headstock.
*5 This could depends on types of hardware, but this is how I felt when I first hold each model.
*6 The double cutaway model has both a neck through and a bolt-on neck models. Both of them equipped with a tremolo. I've never seen its hardtail version. In addition, a bolt-on neck does not have bindings on neither a headstock nor a neck.
*7 So far, never seen a Schon equipped with these options, except for Neal's special model. It seems that these are just on catalogs.

Neal's Fernandes NS-3
Your lower right is one of the custom made Schon guitars. There must be a lot of custom made Schons in the past but this quilted maple top one was given by Fernandes, called "NS-3" and this is his favorite Schon. It actually has a nice mahogany back, neck, an unique neck joint, and a beautiful headstock. And of course, it is equipped with the Fernandes Sustainer!! I first saw Neal playing it at the Herbie Herbert Roast on 1993; since then, mostly with ABRAXAS POOL. Seeing this NS-3 model, I assume that "NS-1" is the Jackson made and "NS-2" is the Larrivée made but I have no confirmation yet...

In addition, between 1985 through 1987, Mr. Leo Knapp custom built number of Schon, such as, the semi-hollow single cutaway Schon, the single cutaway model with gold parts, which Neal played on BAMMIES, a Concert for the late Randy Bachman and the video, "The Dock of the Bay," featuring Michael Bolton as the lead vocal in 1988, and the double cutaway model with ZETA midi system. Those last two models were built in through-neck contruction and have hand picked sexy curved ultra-quilted maple tops on rich mahogany backs. Those are extremely rare pieces.

During my research, I also discovered that during 80's, Gibson was about to build Neal's signature model even before Jackson. Also Guild did built a couple of double cutaway proto type before Neal and Larrivée signed the contract.

[Updated] Back in late 90', I heard a rumor that PRS may build the Schon, but this was just a rumor.

[New] Recently, good friend of mine sent me his scan of Schon catalog (Thanks a lot, MM!), which I belive that it's from Larrivée era. The set is very hard to get and has become a collector item. Below are the scans for you to enjoy!

Larrivée Set
Schon Catalog Schon Catalog Schon Catalog Schon Catalog Schon Catalog Schon Catalog
Larrivée Set -Accessories-
Schon Catalog Schon Catalog
Magazine Ads
Schon Catalog Schon Catalog
Review by Rick Turner
Schon Catalog

Schon guitars are very well built and SEXY guitars! Unfortunately, the companyno longer exists; however, the Schon is now, a collector's item. In fact, you can see a white Larrivée model as the museum piece at Guitar Center in Hollywood. HardRock Cafe in San Francisco (old Van Ness one) used to have the very first proto type Schon (hand built by Leo Knapp) in blue but unfortunately, I believe it's in their warehouse.

If you have any information, comments regarding the Schon or find it in other places, please let me know.

Also I created a forum page, "Room NS," dedicated to Schon guitars. Check it out!

My research continues...