Parker Guitars is an American manufacturer of electric guitars and basses, started by luthier Ken Parker in the early 90s. Parker is most famous for making the Parker Fly.

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Parker guitars are characterized by being thin and lightweight guitars; they are generally made from lighter woods like poplar, Basswood, spruce, and (although there is a mahogany Fly. They have composite materials (resin and carbon glass skin, to reinforce a thin carved body and neck. Fingerboards are composite, and use stainless steel frets. Electronics include the integrated use of coil tapped humbuckers and piezo pickups with active circuitry.

In October 2002, Parker initiated the first production run of the Fly bass guitar, in both 4-string and 5-string versions. The 5-strings are noted for their ease of use for 4-string players, both with respect to weight and string spacing. Parker basses produced in the original factory in Wilmington, MA have seven digit serial numbers using the same formula for dating at the original Nite Fly guitars. Basses made by Washburn have serial numbers that begin with 092. Soon after moving production to Illinois, the original, more stable multi-laminate neck construction was scrapped in favor of more cost-effective construction from a single piece of mahogany. As with other Parker guitars, they offer both magnetic and piezoelectric pickups, with the ability to blend the two.

2003 was the last year of the original Flys, with the balance wheel on the face of the guitar and the 4 knob setup. In 2003 the Fly was "refined" with a new control layout consisting of a master volume, a master tone [coil tap function is on this control as well] and a master volume for the piezo eliminating the separate volume control for the magnet pickups and the piezo tone control. This instrument was more cost effective eschewing the original, higher fidelity Fly circuitry for the cheaper, simpler Nite-Fly preamp. Further cost cutting measures were made to the hardware. This included switching to the larger, heavier Nite Fly truss rod increasing the weight of the neck and diminishing the volume of wood in the neck.

In 2003 the company was sold to U.S. Music Corporation based in Illinois. Manufacturing also moved to Mundelein, IL in 2003. The Parker custom shop opened, at the Washburn factory, in 2005. Import production moved from the Cort factory in Korea, to a factory commissioned by the Nova trading company in China, after the completion of the buyout.
In late 2006, Ken Parker, who had been in seeming absentia since selling Parker guitars, surfaced with a new take on archtop guitars. Ken Parker currently builds only custom guitars. Ken Parker Archtops[citation needed]

Players include Adrian Belew, Reeves Gabrels, Vernon Reid, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Adam Dutkiewicz of Killswitch Engage, Vince Genella, Saul Zonana, Stephen Rockford Hammond and Deron Miller of CKY. As of late, Parker has released several special edition Flys. There has been the Fly Mojo Snakeskin where a stock Fly Mojo was covered in snakeskin. Also were the 4 seasons Fly Mojos which were Mojos made corresponding to the season. Also released under the select series was the koa Fly Mojo.

New production and design is currently led by Terry Atkins, of Gibson custom shop fame. (As well as Tacoma Guitars, and Jackson.) Terry has made several dynamic changes to the design of the flagship Fly model, including changing the truss rod from the original lightweight design to a more traditional, heavier version. It has also been noted by many Fly aficionados that the Washburn Fly guitars are thicker and heavier than the original instruments.

In 2009 US Music was sold to Jam Industries a Canadian Musical Instrument distributor.

In 2010 the Dragonfly model was introduced. Based on the Fly model, it features a refined headstock, allowing the guitar to be hung on a standard guitar wall hanger, a refined top horn, which is more ergonomically and traditionally shaped, standardized pickup cavities, and a slightly thicker, heavier body. It shares the same construction as the standard Fly.

Posted under: Fender Thursday, April 21st, 2011

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