On December 14th, the guitar universe lost a brilliant man, gifted artist, and most importantly- an innovative revolutionary- the legendary Bob Sperzel.
Many of you may not know the name Bob Sperzel (Spercel), but it is a name that you should know! In fact, if you enjoy the music of Jeff Beck, as well as Keith Richards, Tony Iommi, Brian Setzer, U2, Green Day, Metallica, and Joe Walsh and countless more, then you have heard the results of Sperzel's work!
Like Jim Dunlop, Ernie Ball, Floyd Rose, and many others, Bob Sperzel lent his last name to define and represent an innovative and game-changing product and design philosophy that forever revolutionized the world of guitar.
As any guitar player knows, there is NOTHING worse than being out of tune. While the strobe tuner and then the ensuing electronic tuner has helped guitarists GET in tune better than ever before, it still was no guarantee that you could STAY in tune. Furthermore, once the advent of tremolo arms and new tunings/string gauges became more popular, the prospect of staying in tune was that much more crucial.
Most of all, professional touring musicians demanded a guitar that they could rely on to stay in tune- no matter the climate, the player, the strings, the mood of the show, etc. Modern guitarists MUST be able to rely on their gear to stay solid to keep them performing at their best. As any gigging musician knows, confidence in your gear is of utmost importance.
Enter the locking tuner. For many years, guitars were tuned with simple machine heads that could somewhat accurately bring a string to pitch and hold it there. But as strings "broke in", stretched, and wore out, they would always find a way to go a few cents flat or sharp.
Bob Sperzel, a machinist/engineer in Cleveland brought the guitar world the locking tuner in 1983. The world of guitar would never be the same! The Trim-Lok operated on the very simple notion that the string was inserted and locked down, rather than being would many times around the post as it was in the past. The posts also featured graduated heights which got rid of the need for string trees, locking nuts, or anything else that could deaden the string. The tuning world would never be the same after this!
After this, guitar makers and builders made their own versions of the locking tuner, but there was really only one that mattered. In fact, the fact that so many companies copied the Sperzel idea meant that this was indeed something that the guitar world needed badly. Locking tuners just made sense to any serious musician. Once you see and try Sperzel tuners, you would be hard-pressed to go back. The form is equally on par with the function of this ingenious device. They are simply-put: artwork in both aesthetic and operation.
Some critics would argue that this tuner didn't actually aid tuning stability that much, and would merely make string changes faster. But the main point here is, Sperzel tuners were the ones to realize that less wraps around the post would indeed bring better stability to your tuners. This very simple idea forever changed guitar tuning, and is why the elite brands all utilize this concept in their building. This is why you can find high end guitars with a Floyd and Sperzels with no locking nut! In fact, if you swear by locking tuners, you can thank Bob Sperzel for this invention that both revolutionized locking tuners AND redefined traditional wound tuners!
The coolest thing about Sperzel, is that you can choose from an insanely diverse collection of tuners, that will turn your average looking guitar into something totally custom and professional. If you do not find something you like in their current line up, you can also design your own custom tuners!
Check out ALL they have to offer here: http://www.sperzel.com/default.html
And finally, here are some very touching words from the family of the one-and-only Bob Sperzel:
It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of our cherished Dad, Robert J. Spercel on December 14th, 2014. Bob is survived by his beloved children, Judy Spercel Prior, Robert M. Spercel, Cheryl Spercel Scott & Ronald R Spercel.
Bob Sperzel is a product of Cleveland and a testament to what can be accomplished with hard work and dedication.
Born and raised on East 23rd and St. Clair he attended Brownell Elementary was a graduate of East Technical High School with the likes of Harrison Dillard and Jesse Owens.Bob came from two very industrious and enterprising families. His Dad Jacob Spercel came from Germany with a pair of clippers and a razor in hand he started a barber shop. The barber shop was well known by all the executives of Higbees, Halles, and Brooks Brothers Department Stores. They all knew where to get the best cut in town. Bob’s dad eventually opened a Tavern on the corner of East 24th and St. Clair Avenue. This location was once the 10th Ward Social Fraternal Association later to be called Spercel’s Tavern.
In the same neighborhood his Maternal Grandfather Mathias along with his Uncle Matthew Allgaier owned and operated a blacksmith shop. The family was well known for their excellent service and business success. The introduction of the automobile totally changed the world and the future of the blacksmith industry. Matt and his grandfather made the decision to turn their blacksmith shop into a machine shop. That was the beginning of Allgaier Machine a well known successful machine shop on Cleveland’s east side. Here Bob learned from his uncle his machine and tool making skills.
Bob’s knowledge and skills in the machine and form tool business took off. The business continued to grow Bob Sperzel became the guy to know in the city when you had a problem. Although Bob never attended college he could match wits with any engineer in the city of Cleveland. He eventually became a consultant for one of the largest companies in Cleveland, Dill Manufacturing which later became a part of Eaton Corporation
As a child Bob saw things rise from nothing into a way of life. Bob’s family always came first. Today he believes and sees the best in all people. He is a generous and understanding man and is a friend to all that seek his help or knowledge.
At 91 years old Bob thrived with the same excitement that brought him from the East Side of Cleveland as a child to where he is now.
Bob Sperzel has many colorful stories to tell about his life and adventures living and working in Cleveland. From making a handle for the Gasinator Incinerator to developing the airdraulic door closer. Bob’s love of music led him into the Music Industry. Listening to complaints from guitar players expressing their frustrations with not staying in tune, Bob began research and development to correct major problems with the traditional guitar tuner. A problem the guitar industry had ignored.
Bob Sperzel patented and developed the “World’s Finest Guitar Tuner” as stated by the Fender Guitar Company in the May 1979 issue of the Guitar Players Magazine. Today the Sperzel Trim-Lok Tuner is manufactured totally on Cleveland’s West Side. The Sperzel Tuner is known worldwide for its superb quality a product of the USA. The best kept secret in the city of Cleveland now the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.
The list of worldwide guitar players using Sperzel’s continues to grow.
Recent Rock Hall inductee Jeff Beck, as well as Keith Richards, Tony Iommi, Brian Setzer, U2, Green Day, Metallica, and Joe Walsh are a tribute to Bob Sperzel’s success in the music Industry.
Bob Sperzel is a true Cleveland legend . From a small garage on Cleveland’s east side to West 78th & Lake Avenue to 15728 Industrial Parkway. Bob’s story is one of a natural born genius one who believed in himself, his family, and in the city. Bob Sperzel is a gift to Cleveland and to the guitar world; he forever changed the guitar industry and the way guitarist play, for the better.
Thank you Bob Sperzel for changing guitarist's lives and keeping us all in tune! You are a true legend!