Where Am I?
339 Belgrave-Gembrook Rd, Emerald, VIC 3782, AUSTRALIA
Access and parking is via rear laneway, Madigan Way, off Ferres Rd
In Melbourne's beautiful Dandenong Ranges,
on the Puffing Billy Steam Railway line from Belgrave to Gembrook.
Who Am I?
London workshop. Photo by Thomas Butler, Red Bull Magazine 2011
BLACK GUITARS is the trading name of Guitar Builder and Repairman Jon Free
What Do I Do?
Black Guitars was first established at London's Camden Market in 2002. In 2004 I was invited to set up and manage the Guitar Repairs Workshop at ROSE-MORRIS GUITARS on Denmark St. For the next ten years I also provided repairs and custom work for MACARI'S MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS on Charing Cross Rd.
In 2014 I relocated to Melbourne, Australia and became a MATON GUITARS Approved Recommended Repairer. From 2015-2016 I also worked alongside Adam Cole, founder of Cole-Clark Guitars, performing on-site repairs at FOUND SOUND. From 2017 to 2023 I was in-house repair technician at COLEMAN'S MUSIC. In 2022 I resumed work at FOUND SOUND and also started supplying repairs to MELBOURNE MUSIC CENTRE
BLACK ROSE Archtops Painstakingly Rebuilt Vintage Archtops. These one-off Vintage Beauties are handbuilt 'Hot-Rod' style using a 1950s European Archtop Guitar as a chassis, which I then structurally re-engineer and electrify to rival or surpass classic Vintage Gretsch designs.
TIN-TONE Sonic Fascinators Innovative yet Primal! Tin-Bodied Guitars handbuilt from adapted Antique parts. These designs were inspired by the ingenuity of the c.1920s Cigar-Box Guitars which launched the careers of many early blues players. Each Tin-Tone is unique, and has an evocative and timeless sound all of it's own! Owners include Johnny Depp, Seasick Steve, Sonic Youth & Deep Purple!
(photo by Moritz Steiger - Independent London 2013)
Originally established in London in 2002, Black Guitars relocated to Emerald, near Melbourne, AUSTRALIA in 2014
How I Got Here...
In 1982, at the tender age of 13 I restored (including refinishing & re-fretting!) my first guitar, an almost-ruined 1958 Selmer/Grazioso 'Futurama' inherited from my uncle. This guitar is now owned by Tom Cullinan from Th' Faith Healers... who still pulls it out for occasional Quickspace gigs! From that early starting point on I carried on obsessively buying, opening up, exploring, repairing and customising guitars. By Summer 1986 I was gigging regularly in London, and had studio and live plays on BBC Radio London whilst still at school.
After graduating from London Guildhall University in 1993, I devoted a further 20 years to performing & recording as a professional musician, releasing three studio albums with Penthouse aka Fifty Tons Of Black Terror (Beggar's Banquet/Rough Trade Music), another couple with Gin Palace (Artrocker), and most recently with The Amusiacs. I was also at various times a member of the bands Country Teasers (Crypt/In The Red), Quickspace (Domino/Matador), and The Cesarians. I made guitars for and recorded with Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray at NY Hed studio, and gave several collaborative performances with Lydia Lunch, for whom I also made a custom guitar. I toured extensively in Europe, America and Australia, playing CBGBs, Pukkelpop, Reading and Leeds Festivals, and supported bands such as The Fall, Dirty Three, Rev. Horton Heat & The Damned (all London Astoria), Link Wray & The Acemen, Thee Headcoats, Bob Log III & Gallon Drunk (all London, The Garage), The Kills (UK tour support)... plus various other supports with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Spiritualized, The Black Keys, The Cribs, The Gossip and even Finlay Quaye at the Jazz Cafe!
Alongside these on-stage performance experiences, I also worked as a Live Sound Engineer from 1998-2012 at many notable London Venues (Barden's Boudoir, Hope and Anchor, Buffalo Bar, The George Tavern, Ryan's Bar, The Eye) mixing everyone from the Glitter Band to Paloma Faith, which has given me a uniquely diverse understanding and thorough knowledge of how to achieve what musicians and sound engineers demand from their equipment.
Below are some photos & videos from my four-decade musical history!
Playing an outdoor show in South London, England 1987
Penthouse music video directed by Tim Claxton 1996
Penthouse at Camden Palace (now Koko's), London 1997
On bass with Country Teasers at Tapestry Goes West Festival, August 2003
Gin Palace music video directed by David Solomon 2004
Recording with Jon Spencer for the first Heavy Trash album, New York October 2003
Gin Palace at CBGB's, New York City, USA 2004
The Amusiacs with Lydia Lunch, The Lexington, London 2012
Photo by Naomi Creek, Emerald Messenger 2018
Me playing live at Zo Damage Gallery, Nov 2019