Thursday, August 6, 2009

John McLaughlin's Rex Bogue Double Rainbow

John McLaughlin has always had a penchant for unusual instruments.

And the Rex Bogue Double Rainbow was easily the most visually striking guitar that McLaughlin has used in his illustrious career.

An earlier custom built double-neck by Gibson left him largely disappointed. According to McLaughlin, Gibson had generally ignored most of the specifications he had requested.  "It took them a year to do it -- they had strikes and everything.  Finally I got it, but they had only done one thing I had asked, and that was the writing of 'Sweetest Is My Lord' on the necks.  The one thing they'd done was the least important as far as the music.  The electronics they hadn't done, the neck they hadn't done, the body shape they hadn't done, they hadn't even used the right wood."

But all was to soon change. California luthier Rex Bogue introduced himself when McLaughlin was playing at the Whiskey club in LA.

Bogue had brought with him a guitar he had built with "flowers going down the neck and this beautiful ebony board". Taken by the high degree of workmanship and attention to detail, McLaughlin commissioned Bogue to build him the double-neck of his dreams.

Bogue took exactly a year to build the instrument, completing it in July 1973. From that point, the Double Rainbow, as it came to be known, became McLaughlin's signature instrument, closely associated with the early days of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

According to Bogue, the 24 3/4" scale Double Rainbow had a body made out of fiddleback maple, laminated necks made from maple and Brazilian rosewood, and Gaboon ebony fingerboards with 22-frets. An ornate 'Tree of Life' inlay traversed each fingerboard to symbolize a musician's progress in achieving his ideals.

For its electronics, the Double Rainbow had individual volume controls for each of the four pickups and a single master volume that controlled the overall output from the guitar. There were no individual tone controls for each pickup; instead, a master tone controlled both necks. In addition, the humbucking pickups were rewound with coil divider taps so that inter-coil phasing and adjustable quad-coil phasing were obtainable with the flick of a switch. Finally, a preamp was also built into the guitar.

Sadly, McLaughlin has said that the Double Rainbow fell off a bench in 1974 under "perculiar circumstances" since no one was near it. It hit the ground on its front, splitting it down the middle and according to its owner "would have to be virtually rebuilt".

It is not entirely clear if the Double Rainbow was the only one of its kind.

Ibanez copied the famed Double Rainbow and came out with their own model around 1975, the 2670 Artwood Twin as shown in the ad on the right.

The Artwood Twin featured a simplified 'Tree of Life' inlay based on Rex Bogue's original design which Ibanez later also featured on their Bob Weir signature model in the late '70s.

The 'Tree of Life' inlay is a design that Ibanez continues to use to this day on their higher end models -- in particular, the Steve Vai Jem signature series.

Another notable design idea 'borrowed' from Rex Bogue is the 'cloud' tailpiece design as shown in detail in this previous article.

Buy Mahavishnu Orchestra CDs Here! The complete home study jazz guitar course


  1. Hi- I owned the prototype of the Ibanez McLaughlin double neck. It was purchased by Hollowood Music in McKees Rocks, Pa at the Dallas, Tx Namm Show and flown back to Pittsburgh wrapped in a blanket in it's own seat on the plane since there was no case built yet. I sold it many years ago when I was in Chicago and the owner will see that if he unscrews the pickups on the lead neck he will find 2 PAF's I installed from my 58 Les Paul Custom. I put DiMarzio Super Distortion's in the neck and bridge of the 58 (who knew)and put the PAF's in the double neck since the original pickups were (well) less than PAF's so to speak. It was an ok playing guitar and did a few trips to Bermuda and the UK with me. It was really heavy! I bought a wide hand tooled leather/sheepskin backed strap to hold it that was later stolen in Puerto Rico. I'm Jeff Saginaw--ask anybody in Pittsburgh or Chicago about or call me.

  2. Nice information on Rex, a unique guitar maker. Over on our blog we were able to share some experiences which one of our members, Michael Gnapp, had while working with Rex.

    You can see the post here:


  3. Dearest Rex, I met him when I was 15. He lived down the street from my school, that was in about 1971 I think. What a great guy! The first real hippie I ever met! So sad he died too young, I have some great stories about him, can't really write them here..........

  4. I knew Rex Bogue briefly, when he lived on Walnut Grove, in San Gabriel. He was the quintessential "mad genius," a true eccentric. I am an illustrator and artist by trade, and worked out his twin-palm pearl-inlay logo he utilized on subsequent guitar designs. He lived a chaotic, fast life, was extremely talented, matched by an equally extreme self-destructiveness. He drove an older alfa-romeo, and moved to several locations on Walnut grove, due to failures to make rent and paranoia. Many well-known musicians had contracts with him to build custom guitars or alter their instruments with his innovative custom electronics. He lived life on the extreme edge. Like many talented persons, he had a massive ego, and was difficult to pin down. He was a perfectionist, and when, and if, a client's work would be completed was always an open issue. He was a very good friend and confidant of Frank Zappa's, and maintained some of Frank's instruments. I could see by the nature of his lifestyle, he probably wouldn't live a long life. (I doubted my own chances at longevity in those days) He had a guitar he'd redeemed from Jimi Hendrix, the one (or A one) Jimi had lit on fire and smashed into a thousand pieces at the Monterey festival. Rex went on the stage and collected every piece of it, and rebuilt it into a prized, well-functioning instrument. All of his work was guaranteed for life, and if any of it ever failed, he would travel to wherever it, and its owner were on this earth, and fix it, at his own expense. That was one aspect of Rex Bogue. Rex was a connoisseur of rum, and so was I. I became a steady consumer of his favorite, which I believe no longer exists, I haven't seen it in this country for a long, long time. - J. Wray & Nephew Special Reserve, 12 years old. It may still be sold in the Carribbean, Rex spent a significant amount of his time in Jamaica. If he had diabetes, I wasn't aware of it. whether that was his demise, or if he was a "victim of the elements," I know not.

    1. Rex live on the edge, most certainly. If he came to dinner, you were never sure what would unfold. Rex was my brother-in-law, and it killed my late husband Rob and I to witness his heavy drinking and drug use, knowing that he was on a downward spiral with his health. Yes, Rex had diabetes, but never took it seriously. In the end, it took him, seriously. He was a man with great talent, but could never reel it in and pursue his craft with any certainty. He was genius, he was foolish, he was talented, he was crazed. We loved him for who he was, plain and simple. Thank you for all of your interest.

  5. could it be there's another one?!

  6. I met Rex when he lived in Green Valley ,Ca. a friend Mark johnson lived next door ,anyway I got to see the blueprints for the Rainbow and got to see Mirslav's Doubleneck Bass and Guitar Combo finish. We were just high school kids and Rex was cool.

  7. I got to meet Rex in 1980 through a guitar player named Steve Medrano. Steve brought me to Rex to get my first bass-rig.. & indeed, I did buy my first rig from him.. I remember He sold me this ridiculously heavy cabinet without casters..
    He called it a Diamond Sound speaker, as he'd named it.. It was loaded-with 2 - 18" Gausse speakers.. I remember it was soO heavy!!! It didn't matter.. I had a love for Johns music & it was a mini-honor to me, to meet him, even if he wasn't in the best sorts right-then.. It didn't matter.. he was Rex Bogue! Odd-enough, I also hung-around his studio a bit. I remember playing in a few different groups that rehearsed there. I dug Rex..

  8. I knew Rex very well, Back in the late 70's.
    I met him when he lived in Idyllwid, California. I had no Idea who he was, or what he was about until after we became good friends.He was everything everyone else says he was..
    One crazy &%$#^& ! I had my first taste of 100 year old Rum while out on the town in Palm Springs with Rex..
    The rest of the stories, are for me to remember Rex by.
    Rest In Peace BRO...Greg

  9. I met Rex at Ren Ferguson's shop in the early 70's. The double neck was in it's final phase of finishing. He was so far out there, I'd never met anyone like him. I walked out of the shop in Venice and my life was changed forever. Seeing what they were building was what I wanted to do with my life. I worked with them in Venice and when they parted ways I moved to Green Valley with Rex and his friend's Gregg and Bill. Oh ya, the rare rum, and all the excesses of youth were what we indulged in. It was a wild time. Rex, Bill and Gregg had had a band in high school and one day they played a recording of a performance they had done in their senior year
    (the Prom I believe). It was silent in the hall after the first tune, everybody was blown away. Rex was not only a innovative and progressive guitar designer, he was good player as well. Life at the summer camp in Green Valley was a real eye opener for a kid like me in his early 20's. I spoke to once about a couple years before he died, and he was as wild as ever. In my life he stand out as one of the most interesting people I had the pleasure to know. I suspect I'll see you soon!

  10. eya gang!
    Rex was my cellar band lead guitar in the late 60's. i visited him in the garage when he was inlaying, gave him some tips on finishing and took some pix as well, he did an amazing violin as well at the time.
    call anytime
    604 864 9649



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