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Mouradian Guitars Co – The Store Boston-based Guitarists Trust

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Issue Articles
• Created: January 26, 2017

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If you’re an electric guitarist in the Boston area and you need your go-to instrument repaired or modified, you take it to Mouradian Guitars.

It’s just that simple.

Sure, there are other perfectly competent technicians and luthiers in the area and I don’t mean to take anything away from any of them or their abilities, but for decades now pros and hobbyists, alike, have trusted Jim Mouradian and his son Jon with the care and maintenance of their most prized possessions.

I’ve had my own guitars fixed, tweaked, or otherwise tricked out by Jim and Jon since the late ‘80s (when I’m not making whatever – frequently ill-advised – modifications, myself…), as did my father. When I was working as an assistant engineer at Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Fort Apache Studios in the late ‘90s, I was not at all surprised to learn that the likes of Juliana Hatfield, Tanya Donnelly, and members of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones also swore at the altar of Mouradian. A platinum album from Aerosmith hanging on the wall of Jim’s office is yet another high-profile testimonial to the Mouradian team’s abilities.

Jim’s own history in the business goes back to at least the ‘70s, when his creativity and curiosity led him to first tinker with fretted instruments. “I used to design electric guitars and their components to entertain myself at night when my boys were babies,” he recalls. “I would draw and build all sorts of gizmos for fun – but, being in my twenties, I was very serious!”

YES, Please!

“I was, and still am, a deeply devoted fan of the band YES,” says Jim. “My son, Jon, is named after Jon Anderson [singer – Ed.], if that indicates the depth of my devotion!”

Jim’s fandom would evolve to become a personal and professional relationship with the RnR Hall of Fame inductee progressive rock group. “It’s a whole other and long story of how I became friends with the band,” he explains. “One night while dining with Chris Squire, I showed him a drawing of a bass guitar design which I felt had real merit since, while looking so unique, is also ergonomically very successful. He just said, ‘Cool, make me one and paint it green and put my initials on it.’ Well! While I never got past drawing any of my stuff, to have your Idol make a request was to face a real challenge. It took three months, but it came out so well that for the rest of his life he played it every show and it became his number-one recording instrument!”

The design of the Mouradian ‘Chris Squire’ bass is instantly recognizable to fans and even casual observers of YES and examples of the instrument now fetch top-dollar on eBay and other sites, but Jim’s ideas were borne out of zero previous “luthier-ing” experience: 

“I did it in a void ‘cause I had no former training, but all through my teens I built engines for drag racing and knew the importance of proper geometry and how physics dictates everything.”

A True Love of Guitars

“I think the real reason I’ve done well in the world of repair is I really do love guitars – and I mean all guitars,” Jim offers by way of explanation for his long and continued success. “I still study them now and read as much as I can to better understand what goes on inside them; what makes them sound the way they do. And, really, I love people, too. I hope to impress the owners of the guitars that I work on and show them just how much potential lies within them.”

While I already name-dropped just a few of the many well-known artists who’ve turned to Mouradian Guitars when they’re in need of assistance, Jim himself is far too humble to engage in such activity. “From the start I have avoided discussing the ‘big names’ that I’ve worked with,” he says. “My experience is that they are, as a group, no more gifted or demanding than any other segment of the musical community. They’d say the same thing if you asked them. They were just at the right place at the right time and were good enough, smart enough, and in the right position to ‘take off.’”

A Family Affair

In the summer between 10th and 11th grades in high school, I experienced the unique gut-punch of being turned down by Jim when I asked about the possibility of apprenticing with him. I’ve long since gotten over the momentary (though severe!) disappointment, and can also attest that his reason for turning me down – that he was already being assisted by his then-similarly- aged (and already far more accomplished and skilled) son, Jon – was unquestionably the correct move on Jim’s part. In the years since, I’ve entrusted Jon with fairly advanced work on my 1969 Dan Armstrong, my 1963 Gibson Melody Maker, and my… um… 2007 lefty MIM Fender Strat (strung righty. Don’t ask – it’s a Joe Perry fanatic move…) and have never been less than thrilled with the work he’s done. The dude is every bit his father’s son – and his work on cars also makes me want to pull the trigger on that 1973 Plymouth Duster I’ve been eying (as with guitars, I’m confident that when I screw up on whatever automotive “fix” I’m attempting, Jon and Jim can “undo the damage”).

“The most gifted and exacting craftsman I know happens to be my son, Jon,” Jim observes now. “His work is a joy to behold and to this day when I’m doing a repair I ask myself if Jon would accept It. How wonderful is that? Since the age of nine he has been thoroughly immersed in this craft. Besides, unlike me, he’s a sharp businessman. And a killer auto mechanic and a world class sharpshooter!”

Jim’s praise is absolutely well-founded, as Jon’s work has become as celebrated in the Boston area – and beyond – as his father’s, and he’s also proven to be a valuable business partner in the operation the two now share. “Between the two of us we can handle pretty much anything that comes in,” says Jim. “The exception is painting. Jon has done great paint jobs in the past, but we have no spray booth and no desire to build one. There are a small handful of great finish guys out there so we ship stuff out to them.”

New Digs, Expanded Service

Waaaaay back when (I do mean way back), I was first exposed to the good folks at Mouradian when they were the de facto “repair shop” for the much-missed (and former MMR cover subject) Cambridge Music Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Porter Square. Of course, when that mini-chain closed in the early aughts, Jim and Jon had to re-assess their situation. “We loved the guys at Cambridge Music and were sad to go, but Jon and I were sharing a 12’X12’ room and he, being young, wanted to spread his wings,” Jim recalls. “So we moved to Winchester. It’s only less than 15 minutes away and our clientele loved the move. Now, besides repairing, we have almost 200 guitars and basses for sale on the wall. It’s meaningful to witness this side of things too. We went from 250 sq. ft. to 2,200 sq. ft. in one jump. Since all our inventory is used it constitutes a bit of everything and it changes every day.”

If there’s a father-son team in guitar repair/design/MI retail with more hardearned experience, skill, and passion for what they do, I’ve yet to see it. Whenever I have the time, I like nothing more than to make the trek to the new (well, still “new” to me) Mouradian Guitar over in Winchester, even if only to drool over some of the newly arrived vintage six-strings on the wall or to shoot the breeze with Jim and Jon.

“Each day when I walk in the shop, I thank God for granting me yet another day to serve the musical community and at the same time do what I love,” says Jim when I ask him to sum up his feelings about the career he’s pursued for so long. Speaking as just one small participant in the local musical community, I’ll say that I (we) are immeasurably thankful for the role Jim and Jon continue to serve – hopefully for decades to come.

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