In 1980, long before he was a household name among guitarists, Paul Reed Smith was an upstart guitar builder in Annapolis, Maryland, experimenting with body shapes and wood types and field-testing his instruments himself.
He also spent a good bit of time befriending roadies at arena concerts and trying to get himself backstage. It was at a Maryland gig in the fall of 1980 that Smith managed to get backstage and meet Carlos Santana.
Santana, fresh off Marathon and his Devadip outing, The Swing of Delight, made time for the young luthier and even played an all-mahogany prototype that night. The virtuoso was certainly impressed, as he immediately commissioned Smith to build him a guitar. A photo of Howard Leese’s now-legendary PRS Golden Eagle in a scrapbook Smith had on-hand served as inspiration.
Santana chose a maple top, and the rest is guitar history.
Smith crafted the guitar in thirty days, delivering it to Santana in November of 1980. It was only Smith’s third maple-top guitar, but it laid the foundation for the PRS brand we know today.
To celebrate a nearly four-decade relationship between Smith and Santana, Guitar Center has teamed with PRS and Carlos Santana to create the PRS Private Stock Carlos Santana I Crossroads 2019. The perfect replica of that first guitar custom-created for Santana is built to pre-factory specs delivered to Santana in 1980, including the original body shape, abalone eagle inlay and Santana’s requested electronics setup, with mini-toggles to tap the humbuckers, rather than coil-split them.
This guitar is extremely limited — only six will be made.
As part of the 2019 Crossroads Collection, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this guitar will be donated to benefit Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre Antigua. The Crossroads Centre is a substance abuse treatment and recovery facility, and the beneficiary of the Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Guitar Center has co-sponsored the Crossroads Guitar Festival since 2004 and offered the first Crossroads Guitar in 2005. The PRS Private Stock Carlos Santana I Crossroads 2019 will be on display at the Guitar Center Village along with the four other guitars from the 2019 Crossroads Guitar Collection throughout the Crossroads Festival, September 20 and 21.
While PRS has in many ways become synonymous with Santana over the decades, from look to tone, this is an opportunity to feel and hear the instrument that sparked a career of collaboration, and to experience for ourselves the magic sparked on that autumn night in 1980.