The Graphic Guitar Guys are trailblazing a new industry
A guitar can be more than just a musical instrument. For Scott Friedeck, it makes the perfect blank canvas for promoting a band’s tour, remembering a wedding celebration, or conveying a unique thank-you message. At The Graphic Guitar Guys near Dripping Springs, Scott is trailblazing a new industry—wrapped guitars—that continues to surpass his wildest expectations.
Six years ago, Scott was in his late 20s, roofing houses by day and spending nights around Texas as a roadie for country bands. He remembers seeing a musician autograph a fan’s guitar and thinking that the scrawled signature didn’t make clear just who had signed it. Gears started turning in his head. Scott had grown up in his family’s sign shop in southeast Texas and was familiar with the then-new technique of wrapping cars with vinyl graphics for advertising or art. “Why not do the same thing with guitars?” he wondered.
Within a couple weeks, Scott had designed three different guitar wraps for a friend’s band. He asked his parents—who were supportive but skeptical of his venture—to print them on vinyl in their shop. Then, using only a heat gun and a razor knife, Scott wrapped his first three guitars on his dining room table. Later that week, he took them to a concert and immediately sold all three.
Within a year or so, Scott was producing vinyl-wrapped guitars by the hundreds for artists such as George Strait, Blake Shelton, Merle Haggard, Robert Earl Keen and Randy Rogers Band. He produced one of his first big orders—430 guitars for a George Strait concert—in the reception hall of his in-laws’ wedding venue. “I worked in there during the week, and had to clear everything out for the weddings on the weekend,” he remembers wearily.
Six years and thousands of wrapped guitars later, he’s producing his GGG guitars on the same land as the wedding venue, in a former horse barn that he’s remodeled into a full production facility. He’s also purchased a ten-foot-long, state-of-the-art vinyl printing machine. “I use basically the same process I used on my first three guitars,” he points out, “but now with a fancy shop and big machinery.”
These days, his parents are completely supportive and not a bit skeptical of his business, he says. “They’re proud—especially when I can do things like send them tickets to a George Strait concert in Las Vegas,” he adds with a smile.
Many of the musicians for whom Scott produces guitars are country artists who he met at his father-in-law’s studio, Zone Recording Studio, located on the same family property. Scott is amused, amazed, and grateful that he’s been able to combine his experience in the printing, concert merchandising, and music industries into one successful endeavor. The best part of his business, he says, is being around the music industry. “I get to go to a lot of cool shows!” he laughs.
At the urging of his friends in the music business, Scott ventured to Nashville to promote his new enterprise. He now travels there monthly for meetings and to sell wrapped guitars to country music stars who use them for promotions, include them in VIP packages, send them as thank-yous to radio stations, and sell them to enthusiastic fans for concert memorabilia. “Nashville has become my home away from home,” Scott says. “In Texas, a musician might buy twenty guitars for a tour; in Nashville, they’ll buy hundreds.”
Currently, GGG produces about 8,000 guitars per year. Scott says he looks forward to the time when he’s selling 8,000 guitars per month.
The Graphic Guitar Guys’ studio is usually filled with boxes of blank guitars stacked shoulder-high, waiting to be embellished for upcoming concerts and promotions. Most are beginner acoustic models—Epiphones, Fenders, Savannahs. Less often, Scott wraps electric guitars. “They’re more expensive,” he points out. Since one of the main uses of wrapped guitars is to serve as a reminder of a concert (“Like a t-shirt, but better,” he explains.), acoustics are always more in demand.
But these are real guitars, not toys. In fact, Merle Haggard liked the way one of Scott’s guitars sounded so well that he stole it. As Scott tells it, “He did end up paying for it, but he was originally supposed to just sign it and give it back.”
Beyond selling as concert merchandise for country music stars, Scott’s guitars are finding new niches as novel guest books at weddings, as an interesting way to display family photos, even as a deluxe picture postcard to remember a trip. Recently, he’s sold several guitars with the iconic Austin mural reproduced on them. “You can put just about anything on a guitar,” he claims.
But the most surprising aspect of his business for Scott—and the part that’s come to mean the most to him—is that his guitars are being used to raise money for charities. In 2015, Ray Wylie Hubbard held a benefit for the victims of the Wimberley Flood, and Scott donated a GGG guitar wrapped with the benefit’s logo. To his astonishment and delight, the wrapped guitar sold for more than a guitar autographed by Garth Brooks, Merle Haggard, and the Dixie Chicks. More recently, one of GGG’s guitars raised $17,000 at an auction for the George Jennifer Strait Memorial Foundation (founded by George Strait in memory of his daughter, who was killed in a car accident).
Scott is so enthused about the ability of his guitars to raise money for charity that he’s begun to see it as the main purpose for his business—and his life. “It’s the best way I have to give back,” he contends.
One wall of the GGG studio is a “memory wall” where Scott hangs photos of family, friends, and other important people in his life. Only one guitar sits on that wall, and it isn’t made by GGG. It’s a kid’s guitar from 1952 decorated with a Lone Ranger graphic, and it’s in remarkably good condition. The guitar is Scott’s pride and joy—and his inspiration.
“Someone carefully kept that guitar for 65 years because it meant so much to them,” he says. “Maybe someone else will keep one of my guitars that long because it means a lot to them.”