I've shared details about the “Mother of Brazilians” (AKA “Dirty 30 Gold Top" or a “Lanahan Special”) in the past but never posted the long version before. I know there are a lot of us who enjoy tracking the history of special guitars. If you have anything to add, please do!
This is a '99 McCarty. It was originally built at the behest of Jeff Lanahan, the manager of Artist Relations for PRS Guitars (at the time). The guitar was slated to be given to a professional guitar player (for promotional interests) as part of the Artist Relation program. Somewhere along the way, it took an alternate course.Flash forward to December of 2003, the guitar was listed on eBay (Item #2368271511) by Micheal D. Green (eBay ID: xochytl). Two of the fellas from BaM (Bruce O'Donnell and Glenn Braddy) were suspicious of the guitar - so they started investigating.
The eBay seller, Michael Green, originally claimed that he took the guitar in on trade from a guy named “Duncan” (supposedly from Dallas). Green claimed that he traded Duncan a 1988 PRS mixed EG3/Custom employee model for it. Green ended up having a run-in (around 2004 or 2005) with PRS, the PRS Artist Relations Department, and the Feds. It turns out that many of the guitars Green was selling on eBay (to include this Brazilian Rosewood Gold Top McCarty) were stolen from the PRS factory and were coming from the hands of Lanahan. News articles published after the eventual lawsuit between PRS and Lanahan report that Green claimed to be “unaware” the guitars were stolen but that he was “always a little suspicious.”
So how did Bruce and Glenn know something was amiss?
The first source for concern was the seller’s claim that the neck was Brazilian Rosewood – despite a MODCAT code that suggests the neck is actually East Indian Rosewood. While the color and texture of the neck are clearly Brazilian, it is still a red flag. Discussions with PRS factory suggested that MODCAT system was very young when this guitar was built – a possible reason for the discrepancy. More likely, however, was Lanahan's need make sure the guitar didn’t get any attention on the internal paper-trail.The second source for concern was the fact that this guitar pre-dates the limited run of solid Brazilian Rosewood neck McCarty guitars (250 signed and numbered) which are known, formally, as the “Brazilian Rosewood McCarty” model - not to be confused with the Brazilian Limited Edition McCarty which only had a Brazilian Rosewood fretboard.
Provenance of the Guitar’s Authenticity
The bridge pickup cavity and original hang tag displays the word “Brazilian”. But, as previously mentioned, this instrument pre-dates the limited run of 250 Brazilian neck McCarty guitars. Upon closer inspection, there is little doubt that the coal-black lumber used for the neck of this guitar is Brazilian Rosewood but there has been no lab analysis of samples taken from the guitar. Assuming we're right, the build date makes this one of the oldest production PRS guitars with a Brazilian Rosewood neck. The only production Brazilian-neck McCarty that I've found that pre-dates this one was made for Howard Leese. Howard's guitar is serial number 9_42,3XX. The MOB is 9_ 43,1XX.
Braddy and O'Donnell attempted to get some verification via PRS and coordinated with Jim Cullen (former PRS Customer Relations Manager) who said the following to O’Donnell in an email:
The serial number would be helpful, also the MODCAT system was fairly new at the time and it does show a Brazilian for the fretboard so... It is difficult to say. Please get us the serial number and we will do what we can to assist you.
After the serial number was given to Cullen, directly by Green, Cullen replied with the following:
I am sorry; our database prior to early 1999 is currently out of service indefinitely; if you would like more information, please email detailed photos of the guitar. I will do my best after receiving photos as well.
There is no more info from Cullen after this last email. As I write this, I cannot help but wonder if it was Lanahan (in an attempt to cover his tracks) who corrupted or deleted the original PRS database. Not knowing anything about the death of the PRS database, this is purely my own opinion.
Here is a news article which brings the story to a close:
“Men sentenced in guitar-theft scheme” Sep 2, 2006 5:00 AM by Megan McIlroy
Anne Arundel County (Map, News) - Two men who pleaded guilty to stealing guitars made by famed guitar maker Paul Reed Smith were ordered to pay restitution in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Friday. Jeffrey Lanahan, 44, of Annapolis, and Michael Kelly, 42, of Arnold, pleaded guilty in June to a theft scheme in which they took guitars made for bands like Third Eye Blind, Incubus and Train and arranged for them to be sold on eBay. “We wrote off $250,000 worth of guitars,” Smith said in court Friday, “Everybody felt kind of betrayed.” Lanahan worked for Smith in Stevensville for nine years. Before he resigned in September 2004, he worked as the director of artists’ relations, promoting guitars to recording artists. He was one of the few people at Paul Reed Smith Guitars who had access to the one-of-a-kind guitars, charging documents said. Smith eventually discovered one of his stolen guitars — one of only 11 — on eBay, charging documents said. The guitar was connected back to a friend of Lanahan’s and Kelly’s.
The friend, Michael Green, told police that he had sold about 20 Paul Reed Smith guitars on eBay. He also said that Kelly had given him about 10 more guitars to sell. The guitars, valued at thousands of dollars, were often marketed as guitars used by recording artists like Nickelback, Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Dunty said. Investigators were able to trace back approximately $40,000 worth of guitars back to Lanahan and Kelly, and they recovered guitars worth about $19,000, Dunty said. Lanahan was sentenced to three months of house arrest, five years probation, community service and was ordered to pay Smith about $21,000. Kelly was sentenced to three years probation, community service and was ordered to pay Smith $5,000.