Sumner Vibes: A Shergold Guitars passion project to build the Masquerader ‘Barney’

A Shergold Guitars passion project to build a faithful one-off replica of Bernard Sumner’s guitar played in Joy Division.

Shergold Guitars have announced an exciting passion project to build a faithful replica of Bernard Sumner’s Shergold Masquerader played by the British guitarist in Joy Division in the late 1970s.

The one-off Shergold Masquerader, affectionately named the ‘Barney’ in a nod to Bernard Sumner’s nickname, is the result of Shergold Guitars owner Brian Cleary’s long-standing fondness of Joy Division and Bernard Sumner that saw him buy an original all-black Custom Masquerader as a teenager.

My story with Shergold started when I was sixteen or seventeen, and I was a big Joy Division fan. I bought a black Shergold Masquerader Custom in 1979. [British guitar luthier] Patrick James Eggle is a close friend, and we were talking one night and I realised with his help I could achieve the original dream of having Bernard Sumner’s guitar.

Built in the UK workshops of British guitar luthier Patrick James Eggle, who has overseen the successful relaunch of Shergold Guitars by UK distributors Barnes & Mullins since 2017, the Masquerader Barney replica has been built to the exact specifications of Bernard Sumner’s original customised guitar using original Shergold parts.

Cleary states, “I started scouring for months trying to find original Shergold parts. It was very important to find an original set of West German black plastic cased Schaller machineheads, which we did. We had to get an original Masquerader bridge and some original bridge saddles. So, we were able to find all these bits and pieces over a number of months.”

In line with modifications Sumner made to his, the Barney is fitted with the same cream DiMarzio Super Distortion humbucker pickup in the bridge and DiMarzio PAF in the neck. Additionally, in order to further guarantee the Barney faithfully replicates Sumner’s tone, it comprises the same electronics and out of phase pickup functionality as featured on the original guitar, albeit with some minor tweaks to the switching to make it more intuitive and for an even greater array of tones.

Patrick James Eggle states, “The layout was preordained so it was a case of deciding what to do with that layout using more contemporary switching. We’ve got three three-way selectors.The top selector works as you’d expect – front pickup, both pickups, bridge pickup. The middle selector controls the neck pickup – in its forward position, you’ve got the front coil, centre position you’ve got both coils, and in its back position you’ve got the back coil. The bottom switch does the same thing for the bridge pickup.”

Eggle continues, “On top of that, we added a phase reversal switch to the circuitry, engaged via a push/pull on the tone control. So, you’ve got a lot of combinations and variation with a fairly simple control layout, which is generally how I like to do things.”

The Masquerader Barney is a one-off model for Brian Cleary’s personal Shergold collection. “This was a passion project for me. I was conscious that if Shergold was going to build this guitar – even as a one-off, it would have to be a true custom model. I didn’t just want to create a ‘copy’. So, thanks to Patrick, one of the UK’s best-known luthiers, this fantasy guitar of mine really is a custom, UK-made, Shergold.”

Under the ownership of guitar-builders Jack Golder and Norman Houlder, Shergoldestablished itself as one of the most pioneering electric guitar brands of the late 1970’s and early 80’s.

With current brand owners, Barnes & Mullins best placed to continue that legacy having been involved as distribution partners ever since day one in 1975, Shergold Guitars in 2023 are finding success in the hands of a new generation of young guitarists who want to push boundaries and break the mould just as the likes of Bernard Sumner did in Joy Division with his Masquerader.

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