by Jim Swanson
I’ve been extremely fortunate throughout my life to not just love music, but have the opportunity to play.
“Back in the day” in my home town of Chicago, my band “Clark and Addison” were fortunate to play with some great artists, open for some terrific headliners and play a plethora of guitars and basses.
I’ve had Fender, Epiphone, Gibson, Hagstrom, Rickenbacker and many more in my hands that are now forgotten. But I’ve never, in my 40+ years of playing, had a more incredible experience than I’ve had with my most recent purchase: A new J. Backlund Design JBD100. (Photo #1 above center)
To simply say that J. Backlund Design Guitars “ups the Wow Factor” another notch is a gross understatement. These guitars blow the “Wow Factor” off the charts.
To write a review of this guitar is nearly impossible without a huge grasp of the English language and a Roget’s Thesaurus in hand. But I promise not to use any far-fetched adjectives.
I purchased J. Backlund Design’s JBD-100 series model with a color scheme of red and ivory (more pictures below).
Out of the box, I was speechless…and that’s just the guitar case, a G&G snakeskin custom case. It’s extremely heavy, but I consider that a major plus because this allows you to make sure there will never be a single ding on the guitar’s finish. The empty case weighs in at 19.2 pounds, the guitar 8 pounds.
But that eight pounds feels much lighter wearing a strap, as the balance is so good, I could play several sets without any fatigue.
My first “hands on” look at the guitar itself showed the dedication, extremely hard work and perfection in the design.Everything on the guitar was literally perfect. Not a single flaw in the paint or finish showed me that there is absolutely no assembly line production here. All fret ends were smooth with absolutely no jagged edges.
The “birdseye” maple fingerboard is pure astonishing luxury. Couple that with the “fang” fret markers and that alone will get plenty of good looks your way.
The body shape is incredible and very unique. J. Backlund Design calls it “retro-futuristic”, but I’d have to throw “art-deco” into the mix. The JBD100 series is almost impossible to describe in words. It has to be seen to truly appreciate John Backlund’s brilliance.
The uber-talented head-luthier Bruce Bennett really knows his art and talent as a “hands on” builder.
But, as I’m sure most, if not all players know, a cool looking guitar is not going to mean it plays great.
All of the electronics are made in the USA (Good for you, Backlund). No skimping or shortcuts here.The Bridge pickup is a first class Seymour Duncan, while the neck pickup is made by Custom Vintage Vibe.
As for the sound test, I ran the JBD100 through a Fender Hot Rod De Ville tube amp at 80 watts with four 10″ inch speakers.It matters not what type of music you play, you can coax virtually any sound you’re looking for out of this gem. I ran some scales and a few riffs plus a couple of songs with some friends and found screaming overdriven Blues, hard core rock and roll, shred, coax a Telecaster-like “spanky quack”, and also dialed down the the volume & tone knobs just a hair to run some jazz chords and be reminded of Wes Montgomery.
It plays like a dream. And speaking of dream, I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure I was in the present moment and not on some outer-celestial experience.
The best way to describe the playability of the JBD100, is smooth, like a combination of silk and butter. (Yes, that smooth).
You can literally choose anything and everything about your guitar, when you order it.
Here are the STANDARD FEATURES:
Scale length: 24.75 inches
Frets: 25 medium-jumbo nickel-silver (4 partial)
Set Mahogany neck with Rosewood or Maple fingerboard
Seymour Duncan (Bridge) / Custom Vintage Vibe (neck)
Hipshot® locking tuning machines
Hipshot Baby Grand® Bridge
Steel pickguard in high-luster chrome finish
All US-made electronics
Two tone metallic paint finish
Pearl dot inlay and pearl side dots
Dual-action truss rod
Those are not your usual standard features. Optional and much more expensive would be the order of the day for other guitar builders.
As for the OPTIONAL FEATURES, you can choose these:
Body woods: Mahogany, Korina, Alder
Neck woods: Mahogany, Maple, Korina
Fingerboard Option: Figured Maple, Ebony
Inlay: Fang inlays and side-markers in Pearl or Ebony
Single- or multi-stage high-quality paint finishes
Pickguard Finishes: call for availability
N-Tune® onboard chromatic tuner
G&G® snakeskin custom case
Ultimate Support® GS-100 guitar stand
All in all, the JBD100 may be pricey to some, but if you’re of the ilk that really appreciates perfection in design, sound and quality, you are not, by any means, paying too much for this guitar.
If I were to rank the JBD100 on a scale of 1 to 10, this guitar goes to 11 with a respectful nod to “Spinal Tap”.
Superb playing, great balance and heart stopping good looks is what this guitar and J. Backlund Design guitars are all about.
Purchase one and you’ll have a guitar that’s going to last a very long time and still look retro-futuristic well beyond the 21st century.
Contact J. Backlund Design at 423.643.4999 and be sure to check out all their models at