William Russo

Harrison Hughes Testimonial

IHHughes Headstock Custom Acoustic Guitar’ve been what I call a decent guitar player for almost twenty years. Even after several years in school for jazz guitar, I was only decent, not terrific. However, that never stopped me from loving and playing the best guitars. I am partly a gear-head but also convinced a great guitar can elevate, or the very least, inspire one’s abilities and willpower to want to practice and be better. Up until a fateful late-night Google search of Luthiers close to my home of New York City, I thought I had been playing the best, or at least the barometer of which all other guitars are judged: the Martin HD-28. I’ve had this beauty for almost 15 years. It was one of six at the store at which I bought it, and it sounded the best of the lot. I’ve accumulated other great guitars including a custom Tom Anderson Hollow Body Telecaster, a Gibson Montana Custom shop J-60, and a Taylor 914ce. As far as Luthiers, I had heard of the famous shops whose prices are in the upper 4 to 5 digits. I’ve played most of them at demos or in stores. The idea of owning a custom acoustic was always intriguing, but financially out of reach. However, on that fateful night of Google searching, I found what would elevate my perception of high quality instruments. That search led me to Bill Russo, and I am incredibly thankful for finding him.

First and foremost, Bill is a stand-up guy who I found myself calling unnecessarily and frequently with hardly any reason, but I enjoy talking guitars, woods, and all things in-between, and Bill took the receiving end of those discussions. Maybe I would come up with some minor excuse like discussing a different binding option, which would lead to a fascinating conversation about wood types and ultimately some great pieces of Koa binding for my guitar. Perhaps even more importantly, a friendship and level of trust came into play where I knew I was in good hands. There were several times when Bill would call me and ask what I wanted with this or that, and my reply was simply, whatever you think will look or sound best. And that is a safe answer with Bill.

1-dave-matthews-band-triple-000-custom-acoustic-guitar-front-photoAs a business-person, Bill’s only flaw is his honesty and inability to totally rip you off a-la the well-known custom shops. As a customer, aside from the finished product, this is his greatest selling point. I came away with a guitar that was so far above my expectations but yet so far within a reasonable budget. Had I known Bill when I bought my Martin or Taylor or Gibson, I wouldn’t have. And I’d certainly have some dollars to spare. My guitar pictures are under the photos tab as the DMB-000 model with the most stunning Zircote back and sides, sweet sounding Adirondack top and expertly-laid abalone rosettes and inlays. Whatever Bill does with the bracing–it really sings. This was my first 24.9 scale guitar and despite the 000 size, it sounds like a canon. I’m a short scale for life guy now. The most unexpected result of Bill’s methods is that it is hands-down the most balanced guitar I’ve ever heard. As far as playability, it’s like the neck and fret board were mixed with some hefty percentage of butter.

I’ve not touched the above-mentioned guitars since I received Stella (that’s what I named her!) In fact, I’ve since sold several of the above-mentioned guitars. No need to “play-down”. She sleeps next to the humidifier in case she gets cold and dry. We’ve already started discussing the next one we will build (I say “we” in the same capacity in which men say “we are pregnant” while the wife rolls her eyes). I’ve a hunch I’m going to have more of Bill’s guitars than I’ve room to store them in a short period of time. I need at least one of each possible model. Then we’ll do everything again, but in cutaways.

Thanks, Bill, for what I believe to be the most beautiful and best sounding guitar on the planet today. That is, until our next one is done.

~ Harrison Hughes, New York

Click Here to see the Gallery Photos of this Guitar

Zach Laskowski Performs Original Piece for upcoming WR Custom Guitars Video

Zach Laskowski of Anchour Studios performs an original song on a WR Custom Guitars Triple-000 built for Harrison Hughes of New York. The song lays down the foundation for an amazing new video we’re releasing this week which was produced for us by Anchour.

Harrison is an accomplished musician and it was easy to work with him as he has a solid understanding of the guitar building process. This was a very unique build as both Harrison and I collaborated and planned for many hours on the design and key performance characteristics of this guitar and selecting just the right components and materials for it. This was one of the most enjoyable builds I’ve undertaken yet. Harrison was very professional yet relaxed and very passionate about this custom acoustic guitar. There were certain elements that he really wanted to include but to his credit he left the final choices to my experienced touch. He was a lot of fun to work with and I was blessed with a new friend as we worked through some of the more challenging aspects of this build.

This was a very special custom build using the finest materials offered. We used Zircote back and sides, an Adirondack Spruce Top & Braces, and custom Koa marquetry and embellishments. This guitar produced one of the most open and warm sounds that I’ve built to date. The response and overtones are stunning. The guitar has immense power and sustain yet when played lightly displays a delicate, even balance. It’s set up with a super-low action and a slender and fast neck, so the playability is as good as it gets. This is the first guitar I’ve built using Zircote but it certainly won’t be the last. It’s rounded out with a Fishman Matrix Infinity preamp under-saddle transducer so whether playing this guitar acoustically or plugged in you’ve got the best of both worlds. This guitar truly could take the stage anywhere in the world.

Zach Laskowski WR Custom Guitars Triple 000

Here are some rough photos a friend snapped in the shop. We’ll have some real ones from our photographer Jose Leiva very soon!

HHughes Headstock Custom Acoustic Guitar

HHughes Back Custom Acoustic Guitar

HHughes Front Custom Acoustic Guitar

Devonsquare’s Tom Dean – Custom Cutaway Acoustic Guitar


I have not put the new guitar down yet. What a beautiful instrument you have made me. This guitar responds to every nuance you can throw at it. For a while I thought I was losing my ability to play as well as I used to, but the feel of this guitar is amazing. The playability is superb. Thank you for a beautiful new friend.

~ Tom Dean

Click the photos to zoom in…

Longtime Bluegrass Musician Gene Schramm, A Welcome Friend

Longtime Bluegrass Musician Gene Schramm is a welcome friend here at WR Custom Guitars. Originally from Springfield, NJ, he is a long-standing member of the New Jersey Bluegrass Association. Gene has played with some of the very best, and at 71 years of age is still an active player. And he’s versatile, playing guitar, stand-up bass, banjo, and mandolin. Gene’s visits to the shop are always a blast! Playing some of the old standards is always on the menu when Gene shows up. This visit included Gene’s cousin Rick Carmella, a talented artist and art instructor at Kean University, and Gene, Rick, and I spent some time jamming together. Thanks for the encouragement, guys, and Keep On Pickin’!

~ Bill


Bluegrass Jam at WR Custom Acoustic Guitars WIlton ME photo

The Joys of being a Custom Luthier

For the past eight years I’ve been dedicated to building high quality steel string acoustic guitars, and making it possible for others to experience the complete building process in The Builder’s Workshop. The quest for the ultimate sound and playability is the driving force and passion at the center of every guitar built here. With this video I wanted to share the fulfillment I experience spending my days as a custom Luthier, and how much I enjoy the experience of working with people all across North America and having this part in creating the custom acoustic guitar of their dreams.

Singer Songwriter Tom Dean Martin D-18 Acoustic Guitar Retop

Singer Songwriter Tom Dean was here recently for a retop repair on his 1970 Martin D-18 acoustic guitar. This is his first guitar and he’s had it for his entire 30+ year career, writing songs and singing and performing not only solo but with prominent bands Devonsquare, Schooner Fare, Dave Mallett, and The Nutopians. The Martin D-18 had seen some serious music-making, and called for a new Sitka Spruce Bear Claw top and hand-carved Adirondack Spruce braces.

Due to several partial repairs made over the decades, the guitar was not as playable as it had been, and was lacking tonally due to general and wear tear. Having been re-fretted, its neck reset, and bridge replaced multiple times, as well as hard use in live settings, with the old top removed we were able to find and correct a number of structural issues inside the guitar.

Tom and his band mates were a bit of a nervous wreck about literally tearing the top off this beautiful instrument with so much history. “Will he live, Doctor?” It was a privilege to undertake this major acoustic guitar repair knowing that it had been with Tom all those years. Robby Coffin was concerned about undoing the Martin guitar but in the final analysis both he and Scott Elliot were very impressed with the excellent mechanical and cosmetic installation, not to mention the incredible sound.

We’re not always blowing our own horn here at WR Custom Guitars if you haven’t noticed. We’re just sharing this because we feel it is important for people with valuable instruments in a state of disrepair to know that there is a shop right here in Maine that is fully qualified to take on these advanced, intricate types of acoustic guitar repairs. People are quite reluctant to have someone tear into their instruments, but we’re building a reputation for high-end quality work, and for putting people at ease through the entire process.

Tom’s final word on it is that the seasoned Martin D-18 plays and sounds better than it ever has, and he will continue to write and play on it. The icing on the cake for us was seeing him and the band at The Olde Post Office Cafe for the guitars second maiden voyage, seeing it in action for the “second first time” was really special. There is a lot of potential left in the guitar and Tom says it sounds better than it ever did.

Feel free to call us or stop by to discuss your acoustic guitar repair needs. No job is too big or too small to get your instrument back into playable condition.

Click on photos to advance to next image – or <click here> for the hi-res gallery photos

Tom Dean – 6 & 12 String Guitars, Mandola & Vocals
As a singer, songwriter and producer of the distinguished folk/rock band Devonsquare, Tom’s song “Walking On Ice” helped earn them a coveted record deal with Atlantic Records in the 1990’s. As producer, arranger, singer, multi-instrumentalist and co-leader of The Nutopians, Tom brings a wealth of experience, charm and talent to the stage.

Robby Coffin – Electric and Acoustic Guitars & Vocals
Robby Coffin is one of Maine’s most respected guitarist. He has recorded and toured with such notable artists as Peter Paul and Mary, Jeff Pevar, Dave Mallett and of course Devonsquare. Robby constantly blows away our audiences with his ingenious guitar styling’s, bringing rich and sundry colors to the sound palette of The Nutopians’ concerts.

Scott Elliot on Bass

Denny Breau, WR Custom Guitars, and The Patrick Dempsey Challenge

Denny Breau, WR Custom Guitars, and The Patrick Dempsey Challenge

Here’s a great photo of Denny Breau with his very own WR Custom Acoustic Guitar after performing at a Dempsey Challenge dinner event with his wife, Ann. Patrick Dempsey was in the house of course, and a good time was had by all. I’m excited to see Denny using his custom acoustic guitar at so many live events and I’m pleased that he is enjoying it so much. Continue reading

WR Custom Guitars | Rumford Heritage Day 2013

WR Custom Guitars is pleased to have been a part of the 2013 Rumford Heritage Day Jam during the Crossroads Celtic Festival featuring 10 Strings and a Goat Skin, Silas & Nolan Rogers, and the Gawler Sisters. Here’s a big shout out to Phil McIntyre & The Skye Theatre in Carthage, Maine for organizing the event and inviting us! Visit them on the web at www.NECelticArts.com for show info.

WRC displayed several hand built custom acoustic guitars and brought sample materials from The Builder’s Workshop, where anyone can build a custom acoustic guitar hands-on, one-to-one instruction with Luthier William Russo in Wilton, Maine. Continue reading

Denny Breau playing his WR Custom Acoustic Guitar Live at the Skye Theatre

Here’s Maine’s own Denny Breau playing his WR Custom Acoustic Guitar Live at the Skye Theatre in Carthage, Maine. Denny lays out an entertaining Chet Atkins medley teaching how the style works, and then slips into some of Lenny Breau’s incredibly rich finger work for the grand finale. The tone and resonance in Denny’s guitar is just outstanding, and of course he was very specific about the action and playability. I invite you to call and visit me here at the shop to talk about building your own masterpiece instrument.

Continue reading

WR Standard Series Acoustic Guitar Update

Hi all! This is Bill Russo here at WR Custom Guitars. I’d like to take a moment to share a little about what’s happening here at the shop. The response I’ve received since the release of the website and the recent ads has been fantastic! I’ve enjoyed speaking with many of you, some by phone and some in person. I’ve been overwhelmed by all the inquiries and the high level of interest expressed in the guitars. Since I am getting the greatest response to the WR Standard Series Acoustic Guitar, I’ve decided to make this a primary focus in the next few months. It seems that this is a great price point for many of you.

8-webI recently made a trip to Harrisburg, Pa and was encouraged by all the buzz surrounding my acoustic guitars there. For those of you local to the shop, I offer a full variety of repairs and maintenance for your guitars:

  • General Care and Setup: (includes string change, complete nut, saddle, and truss rod setup/adjustment, fret resurfacing/polishing) $75
  • Pickup and Pre-Amp Installation: (Converts your acoustic guitar into an acoustic-electric). Price varies depending on pickup type.

For any other repair questions, please feel free to call.